powered by AFI
While the freight train they are on is stopped in a station, vagrant Bix Dugan watches as another traveler, teenage runaway Danny Winslow, is attacked by two toughs. Before the boys can rob him, Danny throws out his wallet, which is stuffed with the $100 he has taken from his wealthy parents. Disappointed that Danny has no money, the boys knock him out, and when he revives, he is back on the train with Bix, who is holding his wallet. Danny demands it back, and although Bix scorns him as a naïve target for more violence, he returns the wallet intact. During the night, Danny wakes Bix and convinces him to trade physical protection for financial support. Just before the train reaches the town of Sherman, Bix tells Danny to jump off with him so they can enter town on foot, thus avoiding arrest. In town, Carrie Anders, whose father Cal owns the local diner, is discussing her lack of suitors with friend Peggy. When Bix and Danny arrive to get breakfast, shy Carrie is drawn to Bix and agrees to meet him that night for a date. Soon after, Bix rescues Danny from predatory prostitute Sadie, and the two men procure a hotel room. That night, Bix takes Danny to the pool hall, where the local toughs spot Danny's money and insist on fighting the pair. Although Danny is terrified, Bix counsels him that sometimes it is necessary for a man to defend himself. Outnumbered, they plan a mode of attack that gives them the advantage, and soon only two local boys remain in the fight. Danny hides in the alley, but when Bix calls for help, the boy rises to the occasion and fights. They win, but Danny's face is beaten, and Bix misses his date in order to minister to him. In the hotel room, Danny admits that he ran away from his parents after they announced their divorce and asked him to choose with whom he wanted to live, and Bix replies that his father was an abusive drunk. At the diner the next morning, Bix apologizes to Carrie and asks to take her out that evening. They go to a secluded woodsy spot near the lake, where Bix soon realizes that Carrie is a "good" girl who deserves better than a quick seduction. They return to the diner, where Bix discovers that Sadie has lured Danny into her room. There, Bix finds Danny passed out drunk and Sadie about to rob him. Reluctantly rebuffing a pretty blonde downstairs, Bix drags Danny home once again. The next morning, at Carrie's behest, Cal offers Bix and Danny jobs at the diner and they accept, on a short-term basis. When Cal's helper, the hulking Jesse, arrives, Bix notes Carrie's discomfort and insists on walking her home. They end up back at the lake, where Carrie encourages Bix to settle down in Sherman, but he asserts that he is incapable of settling down. After assuring her that she will find real love someday, Bix kisses her and is surprised by the passion of their embrace. When he brings her home, however, he finds Cal drunk and leaves, disgusted, unaware that Jesse has been following them. Back at the hotel, Bix reveals to Danny that his father beat him every night until Bix finally hit him back, and his father, weakened by his alcoholism, collapsed and died. Soon after, Bix, Carrie, Danny and Peggy double-date by the lake, and as Danny realizes he is homesick, Carrie tells Bix that she has fallen in love with him. Although he feels the same, he tells Carrie she is making a mistake, and later announces to Danny that they will leave town at the end of the week. Later, Jesse shows up at the diner looking for Carrie, and Bix throws him out, then goes to Carrie's to make sure she is safe. They return to the lake, where she reveals that she knows he is leaving town. Carrie begs Bix to stay, but he protests that he is a nobody, and if he stayed on, Cal would drink and beat him. Despite her tears, Bix walks away, and as soon as she is alone, Jesse attacks her. Bix hears Carrie's scream, however, and returns to fend off Jesse. Bix plans to leave at ten p.m. the following night, and when Danny urges him to stay, Bix shouts that he cannot be tied down. Carrie awaits Bix to say goodbye, and when he declares that he needs time to think but will return for her someday, she runs to the river to cry. There, Jesse assaults her, and by the time Bix finds her, she is near death. Carrie collapses in Bix's arms, and as he declares his love for her, she dies. A boy nearby runs over and, finding Bix holding Carrie's body, accuses him of murder. As Danny, tired of waiting for Bix, hitchhikes out of town, Bix is arrested. Too grief-stricken to defend himself, he is locked into a jail cell, but Cal leads a gang of men intent on lynching him. As they beat Bix, Danny hears about the arrest and returns to town. There, he finds the courage to force Jesse to confess to the murder, but by the time Cal realizes that he has made a mistake, Bix lies unconscious. Days later, Bix is recovering, and Danny calls his father to announce that he and a friend are returning home.