Andy and his family are taking a flatboat a thousand miles down the Tennessee River to a new home at a place called French Salt Lick. The boat is supposed to be safe – that’s why the women, children, and animals are all put on board, while Ralph and Uncle Az hike cross-country through Indian Territory. But not before Andy’s uncle gives him a buffalo hunting knife.
Yet the big boat hits all sorts of trouble. It runs aground again and again, plunges through rapids and waterfalls, and is attacked by bands of Chickamauga Indians – first in broad daylight, then by cover of night using flaming arrows. What with all the surprise, Andy almost forgets about his buffalo knife – which disappears when he needs it most.