At Verplancks Point, when Tim watches the fishermen, he has another experience of observing new surroundings and winding up being grateful for his own lot in life. The river is wide and sparkling with excitement, and Tim wishes that he could have the chance to live here and work as a fisherman all day on these waters. After watching the fishermen pull in their boats and sit cold, tired, and hungry on the shores, however, Tim realizes that their work is not as glamorous as it seemed initially. Tim begins to identify with his home, work, and family after thinking about it and choosing to do so, rather than unthinkingly, by default. This new thoughtfulness is one of the crucial elements of Tim's developing manhood. Chapter Eight marks a crucial moment in Tim's ability to assume control and responsibility for his life at home. Before the journey, Tim frequently had to make excuses to escape from his father's sight, whereas after the journey, Tim has to be in charge and figure out on his own how to face the reign of war as it closes in upon his town.

Chapter Nine examines the opposing influences of Sam and Father on Tim. While Father rides up ahead and Tim leads the cattle alone, he passes time by naming all the countries in the world, a game that reveals his thought process. Tim acknowledges to himself that if the Rebels win the war, America will be a country, not a colony. Then, however, he thinks of his father's certainty that the Rebels will lose, and so he discards America as a country. This thought process is typical, for Tim often thinks first of Sam's opinions, and then of his father's.

When Tim realizes what has happened to his father, he considers what Sam would do and what his father would do. Tim wants to act bravely, as Sam would, but then he makes the important distinction between being brave and being smart, and he does what his father would have wanted. Although he is influenced by his father, however, Tim forges a solution to his problem using cleverness and ingenuity that are solely his, and not based on Sam or his father. Mr. Meeker speaks evasively and stubbornly to the cow-boys on the journey out, so we can assume he would spoken in the same way on the journey back. Sam would have risked his life to save Father, perhaps getting killed in the process and almost certainly losing the cattle. Tim does neither of these things. When he reads the tracks and instantly understands the situation, it is a turning point. His intuition sharpens, and he begins to come of age. He seals this step in his maturation when he lies easily to the cow-boys, outsmarting them and arriving home safely with the supplies. The cattle trip begins as an exciting adventure, but it turns into a frightening and test of manhood. Tim succeeds by facing the cow-boys just as resourcefully as an intelligent, experienced adult could have hoped to do. Tim's life has lost its playful, imaginary element. He is done with trying to sneak away in search of stories to tell Sam. Without looking for excitement and danger, he has found both. Although it makes him proud to have triumphed, Tim now sees firsthand that the dangers involved are hardly worth the risk.