The longest free-flowing river in America serves as a questing ground for a careworn but game journey of homecoming and self- discovery. The idea was for Chapple (coauthor, Burning Desires, 1989; Don't Mind Dying, 1980) to kayak the length of the Yellowstone, source to mouth; to break loose from the honk and nonsense of city life; to get reacquainted with a land he'd left many years before; and to find a home for his family. But reality--in the guise of the mean Montana winter--came for an extended visit sometime in September. So the river journey--often tedious, luckless, and fractured--faded into the background, becoming here mostly a narrative device, a mooring around which the author hooks a miscellany of his fascinations: family history; dinosaur digs; bird watching; architectural tours; chats with ranchers and farmers; nature gazing. Chapple has a journalist's instinct for ferreting out background information, and each new town, battlefield, and outpost along his way has a history to be plumbed. These forays into the past make for some of the most enjoyable reading here (e.g., histories of Fort Buford and Fort Union), served forth in true campfire style. Meanwhile, ginger probings among the author's ancestors (including his father, who was 54 when Chapple was born, and who died alone) proved to be psychologically demanding, at times leaving the author in emotional tatters. But despite the vicissitudes of his journey, Chapple pulls off the rare feat of summoning a distinct sense of place: The Yellowstone comes together here as a whole--an ancient, living thing--with personalities as numerous as the types of landscape it crosses. Chapple finds his river of return, and he negotiates the scary parts with real flair. He even manages to reach the Missouri.