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In the spring, the boy takes his father's place on the fields, working long and hard. When the farm work is finally finished, the boy decides to undertake a journey to look for his father. Although Mother is initially apprehensive, she eventually relents to the idea. It then becomes a pattern with the boy that each year after the fieldwork is over, he visits road camps and quarries, searching for news of Father. On these journeys, the boy picks up newspapers and magazines from trash barrels and practices his reading.
Years pass, and there is still no news of Father. When twelve men are killed in a dynamite blast in the quarries, the family is afraid he is dead; they are greatly relieved to find his name is not among the deceased. The boy continues his search. One day he stands outside the barbed wire fences of a road camp, hoping to see his father. All of a sudden, something crashes in front of him and a splinter of iron wedges into his skin. The guard, instead of running to help the boy, laughs at his distress. The boy is badly shaken by the guard's callous treatment; he turns tearfully towards home. As he walks, he passes a schoolhouse and is drawn towards it. He goes inside and tells the teacher that he is looking for some water to wash his wound. The teacher is moved to pity the lad and takes him home to bandage his fingers. At the teacher's insistence, the boy narrates his story.
On a late August afternoon, Father returns home. Like Sounder, he is emaciated, and his body is badly disfigured; like the dog, he also seems to have lost his enthusiasm for life. In the fall, Father decides he and Sounder will hunt for coons and possums, a plan that enlivens both dog and master. One night on a hunt, Father dies in the woods. Because of Mother's practicality, the family is able to give him a decent burial.
After Father's death, Sounder becomes even more sluggish. The boy thinks he will die soon, grieving for his master. Before leaving for school, the boy digs a grave for the dog so his mother will not have to do it. Two weeks before Christmas, Sounder dies. The boy is grieved that he has lost his father and his pet, but he knows that the two of them are still somewhere together, the dog stalking behind the master.