After an unfullfilling life in farming, Tracy Powell (Wayne) leaves his wife Julie (Henderson) and newborn son to strike it rich in the gold rush of '49 in California. However, Tracy finds six years of failure, picking a plot of desert to mine gold and incurring the wrath of local dictator Willis Haver (Backus). This ends in an exciting and violent final confrontation, in which Powell barely survives to return home, but soon leaves again to pursue his obsession. This pattern continues for years, until he returns home for good a poor, broken man in his 60's. Despite his treatment of his wife and now grown son, they take him back with open arms. Wonderful film with Wayne in a rare leading role, and Backus in an usual villainous role.