He took on this adventure for two reasons. First, he intended to carry freight to the Arctic communities with his newly acquired freight scow, the Lady Greenbelly, and then sell her there for a handsome profit. Second, Bill Sweet, an elderly, retired insurance salesman from Seattle who had read Ken's previous books, had convinced Ken to take him and a young friend, Jack Havens, on a side trip-a wilderness filming expedition up the relatively unmapped Rat River.
During the course of the trip, everything that could go wrong with the Lady Greenbelly's motor did go wrong, and Bill Sweet himself caused more than a few problems because of his unbounded, but inept, enthusiasm-and excessive politeness. The people met on the trip provide their own stories - the Eskimo whalers who cheerfully gambled away their year's earnings; Mike Krutko, a storekeeper in Fort Providence who always remained cheerful - even as provisions for his store sank with the Lady Greenbelly; the priest at the Catholic mission who recalled last seeing Ken when he was only a small child; and the fir trappers, Jake and Izor, who went Outside to find a wife for Izor and instead adopted a 12-year-old English war orphan-and then headed back north with all the supplies any 12-year-old would need. With an axe, their team of sled dogs and the only butcher's chopping block in the North, they were among many who came to the rescue of the notoriously inept Lady Greenbelly. News travels fast in the North, and the Lady Greenbelly's reputation had spread so that impossible to sell-at any price. Stuck with her, Ken had to return south up the many rapids of the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers, facing more adventures and life-threatening situations-always with courage, a lot of luck and never-ending good humour.