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Rufus Follet is a 7-year-old boy living in a small town in Tennessee in 1915. His chief delights are the hours he spends with his father, Jay, an easygoing man who takes the child to Chaplin movies, the neighborhood saloon, and their "special place" where they can watch trains go by. Although Rufus' pregnant mother, Mary, is often at odds with Jay because of his drinking and lack of interest in religion, their marriage is essentially a happy one. Following a visit to Rufus' elderly grandmother, Jay receives word from his brother Ralph that their father is seriously ill. Returning home from the old man's house, Jay is killed in an automobile accident. For little Rufus, it is the end of his world. Unable to comprehend the meaning of death, he breaks down after the funeral and races to the special place where he and his father shared so many hours. Mary follows, waits until the boy's emotions are spent, and then takes him in her arms. She tells him that the child she is carrying will always remind him of his father; holding hands, the two return home.