The central character in the novel, sixteen-year-old Hattie Inez Brooks, does not spend much time describing her physical features. She is not perceived as a beauty, but is not unpleasant to look upon either. Hattie does mention that she has inherited her father's straight nose and her mother's crooked smile. She is hardy and athletic, boasting the ability to throw a left-handed fastball as acurately and as forcefully as any boy. Hattie has tremendous gumption and courage, as is evidenced by the way she sets out on her own for the vast, unsettled Montana plains and attempts to fulfill the homestead requirements for the land left to her by her uncle. She is hardworking, and impetuous; it does not take her long to decide to go to Montana, even though she knows nothing about proving up on a homestead claim. Hattie is intelligent and has a gift for writing, managing to secure a job writing for a newspaper on the merit of the letters describing life on the prairie which she sends home to her Uncle Holt. She is also giving and capable, providing aid to the Mueller family in times of crisis on many occasions.
Perilee Mueller, in Hattie's words, is
"what Aunt Ivy would've called plain. Her long nose (sits) at odds with her round face. Rusty brown hair scramble(s) every which way on her head, and she walk(s) with an ungraceful limp."
Outwardly, Perilee "would not turn heads," but she has a smile which expresses the full depth of her giving heart. Perilee is a loving and capable wife and mother, a hardy pioneer woman who manages the household even though a beating she received at the hands of her first husband left her with a handicap. She quickly and unquestioningly takes Hattie under her wing, anticipating her needs and providing help and support in whatever ways she can.