In 1826 an undersized sixteen-year-old apprentice ran away from a saddle maker in Franklin, Missouri, to join one of the first wagon trains crossing the prairie on the Santa Fe Trail. Kit Carson (1809–68) wanted to be a mountain man, and he spent his next sixteen years learning the paths of the West, the ways of its Native inhabitants, and the habits of the beaver, becoming the most successful and respected fur trapper of his time. From 1842 to 1848 he guided John C. Frémont’s mapping expeditions through the Rockies and was instrumental in the U.S. military conquest of California during the Mexican War. In 1853 he was appointed Indian agent at Taos, and later he helped negotiate treaties with the Apaches, Kiowas, Comanches, Arapahos, Cheyennes, and Utes that finally brought peace to the southwestern frontier. Ralph Moody’s biography of Kit Carson, appropriate for readers young and old, is a testament to the judgment and loyalty of the man who had perhaps more influence than any other on the history and development of the American West.