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After being roughed up by a Brahma bull, veteran rodeo champion Jeff McCloud retires from the circuit and returns to his childhood home in Texas. Jeff is surprised to discover that his parents' rundown ranch is now owned by the aging Jeremiah Watrus, who indulges Jeff as he reminisces about his youth. Before Jeff leaves Jeremiah's, a young couple, Louise and Wes Merritt, who are interested in buying the place, drive up. When Wes, a ranchhand for a neighboring outfit, hears Jeff's name, he excitedly introduces himself and later helps the penniless cowboy secure a job with his boss. That evening, while dining at the Merritts', Jeff talks about his successful career in rodeo and his reckless way with women and money. Louise, a former waitress, criticizes Jeff's limited ambitions and proudly states that she and Wes have saved $1,100 toward the $5,000 purchase price on Jeremiah's ranch. Later, Wes reveals to Jeff his plan to earn easy money on the rodeo circuit and persuades Jeff to help him train. When Louise discovers that Wes has used $125 of their savings to enter the San Angelo, Texas, rodeo, she explodes in anger, denouncing the sport as too dangerous. Despite Louise's protests, Wes competes at San Angelo and, with Jeff's backing, wins an impressive $410. Flush with victory, Wes then informs Louise that he has quit his ranch job and is joining the rodeo circuit, with Jeff as his coach. Sure that Jeff, who is to get half of Wes's winnings, is behind the scheme, Louise confronts him and calls him a "saddle tramp." Jeff is nonplussed by Louise's insults, pointing out that she, too, "latched onto" Wes to better her life. Unable to dissuade Wes, Louise decides to accompany him, and the three set out the next morning. Upon arriving that night at the rodeo camp in Tucson, Jeff stops a fight instigated by the drunken Buster Burgess, a rodeo performer whose recent goring by a bull has scarred him physically and mentally. Jeff then reunites with his old friends, Booker Davis and his teenage daughter Rusty. The next day, Buster's long-suffering wife Grace befriends Louise, as does trick rider Rosemary Maddox, Jeff's old flame. After Rosemary warns Louise about Jeff's womanizing ways, Jeff flirts with Louise in the shower stall of Rosemary's trailer, but is rebuffed. At the rodeo, Wes enters five events, including bull riding, a stunt he has never before attempted. Louise is terrified when she hears Wes's name announced for the bull riding, but Wes stuns the crowd by winning the event. Later, Wes, Louise and Jeff celebrate at a rodeo-sponsored party, where Wes's success attracts the attention of the seductive, young Babs. Spotting Babs flirting with Wes, Louise kicks her would-be rival in the rear end. Grace then arrives at the party and, distraught because Buster again was gored by a bull, starts ranting about the cruel nature of rodeo. The next morning, an apologetic Grace declares that she and Buster are quitting the circuit and sells her trailer to Wes. Over the next several months, Wes competes successfully in a series of rodeos, quickly building up his savings. Upon reaching the Annual Pendleton Roundup in Oregon, Louise reveals to Jeff that Jeremiah has agreed to sell his ranch for $4,100, the amount she and Wes have saved. When Louise tells Wes the news, he refuses to give up rodeo for the boring life of a rancher and storms off to a party hosted by Babs. Although angry, Louise dons her most alluring dress and, with an admiring Jeff in tow, heads for Babs's. There, she brawls with her rival in front of a drunken Wes and is thrown out. In the hallway outside Babs's apartment, Jeff comforts Louise and admits that he has loved her from the beginning. After Louise gently rejects Jeff, she begs him to do what he can to save Wes. Wes then sees them together and, jealous, calls Jeff a coward for not competing. Jeff slugs Wes, and the next day, enters all the events in the rodeo. Although Jeff amazes the crowd with his enduring skills, he slips off his saddle during the bucking bronco ride and punctures his lung. As Rusty watches tearfully, Jeff dies in Louise's arms. Later, stunned by his mentor's death, Wes announces that he is returning to Texas with Louise. Wes then offers Booker and Rusty jobs on his new ranch, and they happily accept.