After Orph's mother takes off with a bunch of people who go around singing at fairs and such, his father Weedy returns to make a survey of his native Fearsome Valley and Orph, small for his age and just recovering from pneumonia, goes along to stay in the adobe hut of his mother's Aunt Em while Weedy is off in the mountains. Orph takes to blunt, tough Aunt Em who is fiercely devoted to the desert area's endangered big-horn population and keeps one ram, her ""king of the mountain"" whom she has raised from a wounded lamb as a pet. Still Orph never does stay put with her, instead tracking his father for a couple of thirsty days just to be with him, and another time trying to retrieve the errant King and a female, Rosie, whom Orph has inadvertently brought together. What Orph sees on his treks makes him suspect his father of membership in a trophy-hunting ring, but it turns out that Em's trusted friend Guvner is the culprit, other seeming friends are villains and vice versa, and not only is Weedy working with the law but mother is waiting at Em's next time they drop by. Ester Wier is so good at conveying the atmosphere of the valley and at making us empathize with Orph's instant admiration for the bighorn that it's a pity she settles for such easy and unconvincing answers to his personal problems (and his suspicions). Nevertheless Em, her ram, and her unique natural surroundings are worth looking in on.