Historically accurate, OLD FIRE EYES is a young adult adventure novel which takes place in the year 1806. An apparent slave, thirteen-year-old Benjamin must leave his plantation and flee for his life, armed only with a knife, a compass, and his keen wits. He also carries the key to a secret strongbox and the burden of a promise made. His artistic eye has caught the details of the stranger whom he has observed murdering his master, and he vows to carve the face of this man in order to bring him to justice. His escape route takes him to the chicken coop of Miss Polly, a clever old lady who devises and carries out a plan to get Ben away from the murderer's bounty hunters.
At nearly the same time, thirteen-year-old John Cooper, a big, row-boned white boy from the backwoods area which would later be called West Virginia, reluctantly leaves with his mother, his father, his baby sister Hallie, and his gifted dog, Traveler, heading westward to the land of promise described by Lewis and Clark. Along the trail, they meet an old Long Hunter named Smelly Jack, who overcomes his fear of people in order to teach the Coopers all about wilderness survival. He parts ways with them a few miles before they reach an Ohio River settlement.
It takes determination and an act of heroism for Ben to join the Coopers on their flatboat. Their adventures together include an attack by a wildcat, sharing the awe of seeing ancient petroglyphs, and moving into a cave whose proprietor, Crazy Sir Edward, offers them shelter. Ben and John bond over hunting, trapping, and building a shelter. They laugh at a bull-boat, riding pelt thief. Their fascination with a huge, hollow Sycamore tree evolves into friendship with a neighboring tribe of Native Americans, Their ultimate challenge comes in the form of an albino grizzly bear the local tribe calls "Fire Eyes." They believe it is a spirit bear, because it can appear in two places at once. Ben learns its secret, however, and the chase is on!