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Sixteen is a difficult age, lodged somewhere between childhood and adulthood. In 1755, young Noble Butler has just finished his apprenticeship as a carpenter, and he wants nothing more than to undertake more advanced training as a cabinetmaker (qualified to produce the beautiful furniture characteristic of prerevolutionary North America). But no one in Philadelphia will take him on as a prospective craftsman unless he can provide his own woodworking tools, and for that he needs cash. Noble has no money, and his father has a clear vision of his sons’ futures: expand the family farm and save craftsmanship for the off-season, when the family will need it to help the farm survive.
But Noble has no desire to spend his life under Pa’s thumb. He sees a way out of his dilemma when Benjamin Franklin advertises for farmers to supply the troops fighting French and Lenapé warriors on the frontier. Presented with a moneymaking opportunity, Pa reluctantly agrees that Noble may volunteer and keep half his salary, so long as his older brother Enoch agrees to accompany the wagon. Pa doesn’t trust Noble, at sixteen, to bring horses, wagon, and cargo back safely.
So Noble sets off along a war-torn trail that will test both his Quaker principles and his determination to define his own life, whatever his father’s plans for him may be.
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