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Old Pop Kwimper is a vagabond who lives on his relief checks, his son Toby's Army disability pension, and the government allowance he receives for sheltering four homeless orphans, one of whom, 19-year-old Holly, has long loved the girl-shy Toby. One day, while driving his brood through Florida, Pop runs out of gasoline, and the Kwimpers are forced to spend the night on a strip of beach just off a new highway. When Toby discovers the nearby waters are filled with giant tarpon, the family decides to homestead on the land and build a fishing dock. Their little enterprise flourishes, and since the beach is outside municipal jurisdiction, the area is soon filled with other homesteaders, including two rowdy gamblers, Nick and Carmine, whose trailer conceals a floating crap game. When the gamblers become a source of annoyance, the other settlers elect Toby sheriff of the community, and he succeeds, albeit accidentally, in driving them off. Further trouble looms when Alicia Claypoole, a state welfare worker, tries to have Pop declared unfit to care for the children. But, spurning legal counsel, the Kwimpers present their own defense and so impress the judge that he throws the case out of court. And all ends happily when Holly is at last able to convince Toby that he really does love her.