A Quaker teen finds himself questioning his pacifist beliefs after he is exposed to the politics and violence of the French and Indian War in Pennsylvania.
Noble Butler has finished his cabinetry apprenticeship and is keen to get out from under his stern father’s thumb. He and his brother eagerly answer an ad written by Benjamin Franklin to join a wagon train taking supplies to the soldiers at Fort Cumberland. During the journey, Noble witnesses an Indian massacre and saves an injured trapper. Restless after his great adventure, he leaves the family farm and becomes a runner for Israel Pemberton, a wealthy Quaker who is intimately involved in brokering a peace agreement between the warring Pennsylvania colonists and the Delaware. At Pemberton’s, he becomes part of the treaty process and realizes that the Delaware’s violence rises from their unfair treatment by the government. After concluding that the Quaker nonviolent ways are best, he realizes his dream to become a cabinetmaker. Based on real people and true events, this narrative is straightforward historical fiction with little nuance. The characters’ motivations and the story’s central themes of tolerance and peace are telegraphed obviously and often, and Noble makes several mentions of the titular snake fence, a heavy-handed metaphor for his indecision about the future.
Dry. (author’s note, discussion questions) (Historical fiction. 9-12)