Role in the film
Travis is Jim and Katie's older son and Arliss' brother. Originally, he was the first-person character in the book. Likewise, he has to be the man of the house for the summer while Jim is out selling steers for current money, as where they live used to be part of the Confederate States, but when it became part of the United States, their money turned useless. To do this, he has to take care of his family and do a man's work.
When Travis sees his father out, he asks him not to forget the horse he promised to bring back for him from Kansas. But his father also tells him that he could also use a good dog as well.
Shortly after, when Travis is plowing the the field he notices Old Yeller chasing a jackrabbit in the field, but when the dog chases it into the garden, it spook's Travis' mule Jumper and Travis end up getting dragged across the garden. As Yeller begins to chase after Jumper, Travis yells at the dog to leave the mule alone, as the dog ends up accidentally ends up destroying the fence. Outraged, Travis tells the dog to get out and begins throwing rocks at him as the dog runs away.
Later that evening during supper, Katie brings up Travis' dog Belle he had when he was little and how she always protected him. Travis states there never was a dog like Old Belle.
The next morning Travis notices a piece of middling meat is gone and sees Old Yeller laying on the ground by the door. Travis is outraged at the dog for coming back and eating their meat. Arliss comes out overjoyed to see the dog, but just as Travis is about to scare the dog off, Arliss gets involved and Katie quickly rushes out to break it up. When she decides to let Arliss keep the dog, Travis objects after what the trouble it had caused, but Katie states that he's not being fair to his little brother, because Travis had a dog when he was little, but Arliss hasn't.
Later on after returning from the woods with a newly shot deer, Travis sees Arliss and Old Yeller in the pond they get their water from and is angrily tells him get out of there and it soon escalates into a fight where Arliss begins throwing rocks at him, until Katie intervenes. That evening while hanging up the new meat Travis tells Old Yeller that if he touches it he'll shoot him right between the eyes and even lowers the meat closer to the ground for the dog to get. The next morning Travis sees the meat has not been touched and is surprised, put also puzzled.
Then when Travis and Katie see Arliss has a hold of a black bear cub, they see the cub's mother charging towards Alriss. As Travis rushes to scare off the bear with his axe, Old Yeller quickly rushes in and attacks the bear, driving her off much to Travis' amazement.
Travis begins to love and respect Old Yeller, who comes to have a profound effect on the boy's life. But later on when his neighbor Lisbeth Searcy tells Travis that Yeller has been stealing meat eggs from their neighbors, he decides to keep Yeller busy so he won't have time to do so. The next day after rounding up their cow Rose (who had just had a calf) Old Yeller is able to keep her at bay allowing Travis to milk her, proving him to be a successful cow dog as well. Later on, Travis meets Old Yeller's owner Burn Sanderson, after trading his dog for a horned and home-cooked meal he in informs Travis of a plague of rabies going around.
The very next day, Travis takes Old Yeller out to help him mark a herd of wild hogs. After Marking one of the piglets from a branch overlooking a small ravine Travis accidentally falls off as one of the hogs bites his leg, Old Yeller attacks the hog, holding them off allowing Travis to get away. After Travis sees the hogs retreating, he calls out for his dog but he doesn't come. Travis quickly rushes to see if Old Yeller alright, he sees him scratched up pretty bad, so he hides him in a small cave and goes back with help. Later on after both Travis and Yeller have been bandaged, Lisbeth and her father Bud Searcy return with one of their dog's pups as a gift for Travis. Travis appreciates the gesture, but says he has a dog; Old Yeller and lets Lisabeth give him to Arliss. When Mr. Searcy comes in to see how Travis is feeling after being hog-cut he begins to explain the plague of rabies going around and certain animals, including wild hogs can have been carrying the desease and that a friend of his died from it once. Katie is a bit horrified from Mr. Searcy's story, but Travis tells her not to let his story frighten her, for he could tell none of the hogs had the symptoms and he and Yeller make full recovery.
A few days later, with Lisbeth helping out they see Rose the cow is staggering around sick and Travis confirms that she has rabies and shoots her. Later that evening while Katie and Lisbeth are burning the carcass, a Wolf shows up and tries to attack them. Old Yeller and the wolf engage in a fight as Travis comes rushing out with his rifle and shoots the wolf and kills it without harming Old Yeller. At first Travis is relieved, but when Kate explains how no wolf would have jumped them at the fire like that, implying that it had rabies too. Travis (refusing to shoot their dog after how many times he saved them) states that they don't know for certain and convinces his mother to have Old Yeller pinned up for a while to be on the safe side.
For the next few days they see that Old Yeller seems alright, until one night when Travis brings him out some food Old Yeller snarls at him as he slowly closes the door and leaves. Travis begins to realize that Old Yeller does have rabies after all, but tries to hide if from the family. But when Arliss goes to let Yeller out, everyone runs out and quickly shuts to door and they see the horrible truth. When when Katie comes out with Travis' gun he begs her not to shoot him, but she says there's no hope for him now. Travis states that he was his dog so he reluctantly shoots his dog and walks away with a heavy heart.
The next day, when Jim comes home with the horse for Travis that he promised asked where he is? Katie tells him the he and Lisbeth are over at North Hill burying Old Yeller. After burying the dog Lisbeth tries to convince Travis that if he could learn to like the pup, being part of Old Yeller. But Travis states that while he may be part of Old Yeller, he's not Old Yeller. After Kate tells Jim about him, Jim talks to Travis and tries to make him feel better.
After returning to the house Travis sees the new puppy stealing a piece of meat a habit he inherited from Old Yeller. Travis then accepts the puppy, as his new dog and names him "Young Yeller" sometime later Taravis and Arliss are out with their new dog who is now a young adult and begins chasing after the same jackrabbit his father chased at the beginning of the film.
In the sequel; Savage Sam Travis returns as the man of the house, he has also grown up quite a bit and is a young man. While Jim and Kate are away visiting their ailing grandmother in San Antonio, Travis is put in charge of the farm.
Travis is first seen preparing bacon and mush for breakfast, much to Arliss' dismay, but then he says if they get done with the chores they might be able to go hunting. While Arliss is out milking the cow Sam gets involved and ends up causing the cow to get riled up. Travis overhears the commotion coming from outside and comes out to settle things down.