Pennsylvania farm boy Andy Burnett, 19, longed to escape to the frontier. Under the tutelage of Joe Crane, a weathered trapper, he learned to survive in the mountains and on the plains. Joe and his party were carrying a message to open valuable trade with New Mexico in the 1820's as Spain's power in Mexico declined and for the first time there existed a chance of commerce between the United States and Santa Fe. The hardy trappers and traders and mountain men were fighting encroachment by the large organized trading companies. Captured by the Blackfeet, Andy tricks his captors, and in time befriends and is befriended by them, and establishes a trade agreement with them before he leaves the tribe. Andy is a believable adventure-hungry homespun youth and his companions are credible, colorful pioneers leading elemental lives.