A crow, a 'coon, a fox, a dog are most of young Colin's life and soon the problems that his family and other adults are facing become part of it too. For his sister wants to become a nurse, his brother returns from the war very much apart from the swamp and woods world he has known, and Colin's father has to fight against his sister's victimization when she is widowed and his own trigger fast temper. Colin is helped by Nat Stemline, a buckskin hero who lives off the woods, and by his own ability to take care of himself, while his father, protecting his older children, finds that he can control his instinct to kill when too hard pressed and bring peace, as do the 'coon and the fox, to the great tree, Castle Oak. A ""whole boiling"" of southern lore surrounds an intermeshed family story which touches on violence but which resolves its conflicts with peace -- and pride. Homegrown dialect, customs and inherited ways keep this local in feeling and form, and a deep knowledge of the outdoor world and the humans who have learned its secrets gives it a special attraction.