Mississippi, the wild American south. Joe Ransom is the unlikeliest of role models: He drinks like a fish, regularly blows his entire income on gambling, and has slipped through the fingers of the police on many occasions. Nevertheless, this ex-convict turned lumberjack takes the 15-year-old Gary, a chance acquaintance, under his wing. There’s a lot about Gary – the oldest child of a homeless family travelling the highways under the rule of a drunk, worthless father – that reminds the old dog of his own past. Joe’s paternal feelings for the teenager soon emerge – at last, he too can be a hero.