Charlie Strong wants to join the ""Klondike or Bust"" stampede along with the rest of 1897 Seattle. His photographer father, no gold fever victim, does agree to take pictures for the Chamber of Commerce and to let Charlie help him out. For 4000 dirty miles, the boy dreams of striking it rich despite wretched conditions -- cold, hunger, storms, crowded quarters; he even defends Lucky Billy's theft from their precious food supply. Paying $5 for beans and $1 for two minutes of dancing are shrugged off; then he gets to the stake of two real grubbers and sees the negligible take for such tremendous risks. ""There was something about the atmosphere up there that changed people's values,"" is all that Charlie says, but he goes to school on what he has seen. He chooses going home to going along with the parasites while Mr. Strong wonders at the intricacies of the fourteen-year-old mind. The tension between them, diverted into incidents with others at the beginning and channeled by their long winter together, is finally dispelled but not by pretending to bridge the generation gap. Ma is the only female present for any length of time but girls will follow with just as much attention.