Trapping beaver was the major source of income for mountain men in the Rocky Mountain West of the 1820s -- the luxuriant, sought-after pelts could make a man rich. But it was a dangerous way to make a living: winter blizzards, hostile Indians, sickness, and starvation lurked at every point of the compass. Only a special brand of man could survive it all.
After making a harrowing 700-mile journey alone and on foot from the Sweetwater River in Wyoming to Fort Atkinson on the Missouri River and finding a home in the fur trade, young Sam Morgan is becoming just such a man. Followed closely by Coy, his faithful coyote pup, and trapping with a brigade of mountain men, Sam seeks more than furs and wealth. He is searching for the love of his life, the Crow Indian woman Meadowlark, and with his companions -- the French-Canadian Gideon Dubois, the mulatto Jim Beckwourth, and the Pawnee Third Wing -- he heads for the Wind River country and the village of Meadowlark's people.
Sam is put to every test in his journey to the Crow village: fights with Pawnee, Lakota and Blackfeet; captivity and escape from a Sioux camp, buffalo hunts, and the distrust of Meadowlark's family and tribe. He endures the sweat lodge and Sun Dance ceremonies that test his beliefs and self-confidence, and concocts a last-ditch, daring, and foolhardy scheme to win Meadowlark's hand.
For all its page-turning action, Beauty for Ashes is the unforgettable story of a boy who becomes a man by necessity in the cruel, beautiful, unexplored wilderness of the Old West.