In Montana in 1909, Oliver Millison is a farmer raising his three sons: Paul, Damon and Tobey alone since their mother died a year earlier. When they respond to an ad for a housekeeper "Can't cook, but doesn't bite" and send for Rose Llewellen from Minneapolis, she arrives with her brother Morris Morgan. While Rose cleans, Morris becomes the replacement teacher at the one-room school. He's very knowledgeable - educated at the University of Chicago. He quickly recognizes Paul's curiousity and intelligence and teaches him beyond his 7th grade classmates. Rose and Oliver fall in love and plan to marry until a secret from Rose's past is revealed to the boys that threatens the entire situation. The frame for this story, narrated by Paul, is that he has grown up to become a state education official charged with overseeing all the rural schools like the one he grew up in in Marias Coulee, when the state decides to close those schools and bus the students to larger regional schools. Paul must face a meeting with the local school board and announce the closing of their school. This book has lots about teaching and education, information about life on the northern prairie at the turn of the century, and due to Damon's interests, some baseball and boxing history as well.