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Faced with the prospect of having to spend the remainder of his baseball-playing career as a bench warmer, Dan Walker decides to leave his team and return to Amarillo, Texas to be with his wife Susan and daughter Mary. Before leaving, Dan makes a court appearance on behalf of two neighborhood boys he has befriended, Hank and Skippy, who have been treated more harshly under the law because they are orphans. Dan's personal involvement results in the boys becoming his temporary wards, and he takes them to Amarillo with him. Soon after arriving in Amarillo, Dan sends the boys to a rancher friend of his to be put to work as ranch hands. Skippy, the more hardened troublemaker of the two, immediately rejects the discipline of farm living and after refusing to take orders, leaves the rancher with no choice but to send them back to town. Believing that Dan gave them a raw deal, Skippy persuades Hank not to return to Dan's and the two manage on their own for a short time, until Skippy is hospitalized for appendicitis. Dan learns of Skippy's condition from his neighbor, David Banton, who owns the abandoned Tascosa court house where Skippy, Hank and some of their old pals have been living. While Skippy recovers from his illness, Dan persuades Banton to allow him to convert a piece of Banton's property into a ranch for wayward boys. Banton lets Dan borrow the land but stipulates that the loan is for a trial period only, after which he will judge the experiment's success and then decide the ranch's future. Time passes, and the ranch, named the Old Tascosa Boys Ranch, proves to be a great success, with many new arrivals. While one new arrival, a precocious boy named "Butch," does well at the ranch, another new arrival, the recuperated Skippy, continues to show contempt for Dan's efforts to help him and neglects the responsibilities assigned to him. One day, Skippy steals a wallet from the home of a nearby rancher, Mr. O'Neill, and buries it for safekeeping at Boothill Cemetery. When rumors spread that the boys of Boys Ranch are responsible for the rash of thefts in the area, O'Neill and other ranchers try to persuade Banton to revoke the use of his land for the school. Banton's decision to take away the ranch is hastened by the discovery that prize money for a livestock contest has been stolen from his car. By now, all the boys suspect that Skippy is behind the thefts and try to keep their ranch by forcing him to confess, but Skippy refuses and runs away. Hank follows Skippy and when he discovers him unearthing his buried loot at Boothill, a fist fight ensues. During the fight, Hank hits his head on a tombstone and is knocked unconscious. Skippy flees from the cemetery and is about to escape Tascosa by train when he learns about rising floodwaters and realizes that Hank's life is in jeopardy. Skippy has a sudden change of heart and risks his life getting through the fast-rising waters and saves his friend's life. The experience changes Skippy, and after returning the stolen money, he settles into life at the ranch.