A simply told, warm, rather melancholy tale of changing times in the small ranch country of Texas. On old-time cowboy Grandad's ranch, old and new generations are uneasily mixed. Second wife Grandma complains and listens to the radio; her vicious son is obsessed with town, care and women. Lonnie, his grandson by the first marriage, likes Grandad, the land, life and its people, but is restless and lonely and ambiguously drawn to the easy-going Negro women, Helmea, who is the real mother of the household. Many tensions erupt and when Helmea is raped by one of the men (a terrible, pitiful scene), she leaves and the household collapses. The cattle, infected, are shot and buried by bulldozers and the old man, too, dies inside. Lonnie, at loose ends, goes off to the rodeo and returns to find Grandad in a ditch, terribly injured, later to be shot in a "mercy killing". Lonnie, finding that the old way of life is lost, sets out to drift... The isolation and the homely, tangible beauty of small ranch life removes the taint of melodrama from this tale. The people (especially Nelmas), the country, the cattle are real. Grandad's way of life is strong-and can only be killed violently - so that it is a fitting end that he meets.