When her father succumbs to gold fever and leaves his St. Joseph, Missouri, livery stable to follow that ""trail of bones"" to California, eleven-year-old Minnie leaves a note for her proper Aunt Addle and stows away in his wagon. Thus begins a wish-fulfilling tale of adventure, with Minnie and a cozy assortment of new friends making do in lawless, booming San Francisco--selling egss (at $4.50 a piece) and hardtack to ravenous miners, laundering, shirts and petticoats for establishments less respectable than their own, warding off leering males and looting ""Sydney Ducks"" (Australian convicts) with Minnie's squirrel gun--while Pa goes off to the hills. By the time he returns, with a fever and without his poke of gold, Minnie and her new family are comfortably settled on one of the many abandoned ships that clutter the harbor. Then Pa meets young Miss Daisy, the household's sharp, spunky mainstay--""he took her grubby hand in his grubby hands""--and Millie gets a new mother and a new life in California. Too snug by far--but what little girl wouldn't envy Millie?