Through the rolling grasslands of Kansas runs the Smoky Hill River, a rich source of opportunity for those bold enough to risk the dream-killing territory. For Gabe, mountain-man and scout, the river means freedom and a chance to map unexplored territory with the Great Pathfinder, John Charles Fremont. For Lem, an Illinois farm boy in pursuit of gold, it is a cruel foe who robs him of his family and his youth. For Jesse, a young Union corporal, this is the country that took his father and uncle and where he must fight warring Indians.
This is part of The Spanish Bit Saga.
When they mastered the ways of the "Elk Dog," the horse, the band prospered. Yet they knew the old traditional ways must not die. Owl's father had changed the lives of The People bringing the horse from his native Spain. Now the younger son of the legendary chief must make his own reputation by learning the way of the buffalo from an ancient medicine man.
The people gather to listen to a story by one of their young men, Badger. Though originally thought to be foolish and mischievous, he tells a gripping tale of a great shaking of the earth. The big river - the Mississippi - flows backwards, and chaos erupts among the tribes and white settlers of that region.
Before the outsider, now Chief Heads Off, brought the Elk Dogs (horses) to the People, their strategy had always been to flee or hide from their mortal enemies, the Head Splitters. Now the People live in peace, but the young warriors long for war.
"Not the first book in this series."
Don Pedro Garcia believes the drunken Captain Sanchez' claim that the Don's only son is still alive and living among the savages in New Spain's uncharted wilderness.