A moving, expertly woven story in which Kate, 13, learns that she has what it takes to be a Kentucky farmer. The drought was bad, but after dogs kill many of their sheep the following spring, the Chiddens face hard times. Kate wonders whether they will still own the farm when she's grown, and whether she has the stomach for such unpleasant tasks as salvaging wool from days-dead sheep. While watching neighbors struggle and fail, she also sees tension mounting in her own family as her proud father resentfully accepts the necessity of her mother going to work in town. Stiles evokes--with equal skill--the excitement of a horse auction, the poignancy of a farm sale, the joy of lambing, and the complex dynamics of a decent, stressed family. Her animal husbandry scenes are as vivid and dramatic as Herriot's; with deeply felt sympathy, she makes clear how farmers (and even bankers) are caught between a rock and a hard place in a depressed rural economy. Kate's strength, ability to face challenges, and (beneath a layer of self doubt) the sense of worth derived from her capable parents are admirable. The novel concludes on a realistic note: through ingenuity and unrelenting work, the Chiddens make their mortgage payment--this year. A sensitive, honest picture of a threatened way of life.