After wandering the countryside for four years, Lucas McCain and his 10-year-old son, Mark, arrive in North Fork, New Mexico Territory, looking to settle down. Seeing a sign promoting an upcoming turkey shoot with a $500 prize, Lucas decides to enter, hoping to win money that will put a nice dent in the price of a ranch on which he intends to make an offer. Lucas is subsequently backed into a corner when the town bully, Jim Lewis threatens Mark's life in order to force him to throw the contest.moreless
Johnny Clover, an artistically-talented orphaned young man is raised by his abusive Uncle Gus, who refuses to allow Johnny to attend school. When a frustrated Johnny wrecks the schoolroom, Lucas seeks out the uncle to pay damages, beginning a domino-effect of life-changing events.
The McCains try to be tolerant of their embittered neighbor Abel MacDonald, who tells Lucas to keep off his land and won't allow his son to become friends with Mark. However, they decide he's gone too far when he won't allow his injured boy to get medical treatment.
Although a drought has forced local cowhands to seek work on a railroad construction project, railroad executives are afraid that their workers will desert them if they believe an old man's claim to have found a way to make rain.