Stone Fox is a short children's novel by John Reynolds Gardiner. It is the first and best known of Gardiner's books. Stone Fox was acclaimed and very popular when it was published in 1980. It sold three million copies and was turned into a television movie starring Buddy Ebsen, Joey Cramer, and Gordon Tootoosis and directed by Harvey Hart in 1987. It was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 1980 (Nov. 30, 1980. p. BR4), and was included in 100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey.
The book is about a boy named Willy who enters a dog sled race in order to win $500 to pay the back taxes on his grandfather's farm. It is written in simple prose and is set at an indeterminate time in the American Old West. The book was inspired by a Rocky Mountain legend that Gardiner heard when he visited Idaho. Gardiner originally wrote Stone Fox as a screenplay, but turned it into a book at a producer's suggestion.
Willy and his dog Searchlight find Willy's grandfather lying in bed. Doc Smith, the town doctor tells Willy that his grandfather no longer wants to live. A tax collector sneaks into Willy's house and, with a rifle in his hand, demands to know how much his grandfather owes the state. After seeing some papers he tells Willy that they owe the state of Wyoming
500 dollars. The next day Willy enters a dog sled race that has a reward of 500 dollars. Willy sees a sled being pulled by five Samoyeds
(fast dogs used for sled racing). The man on the sled signs up for the race, and Willy learns it is Stone Fox, a Native American who doesn't talk to white people and has never lost a race. When the race starts, Willy instantly takes the lead and as they race past Willy's house they see Grandfather standing up watching them. At the end of the race Searchlight's heart bursts and she dies instantly about 10 feet from the finish line. Stone Fox makes a line on the ground with his boot and warns that if any other racers cross the line, he'll shoot. He then lets Willy win with Willy carrying Searchlight across the finish line to everyone's amazment.