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While working on a project in Rockville, Utah, hard-boiled construction boss Jim Burke learns in a letter from his attorney, Horace Toomey, that his twelve-year-old son Jimmy, Jr. can now spend summers with his father as part of a ten-year-old divorce settlement. Although Jim's girl friend Laura wants no part of the boy, as he would interrupt her marital plans, Tess Hardie, the kindhearted daughter of the general store proprietor, convinces Jim to send for his son. After Jimmy, a sensitive and cultured lad raised in Boston, is greeted by his inebriated father, the boy disappoints Jim, who had expected his son to have his rough nature. Jim tries to change his son by showering him with sporting gifts, but the boy, a violin prodigy with soft hands and a gentlemanly manner, retains his mild demeanor. Jimmy becomes friends with Tess, while Laura continues to display her contempt for him. At a father-son picnic welcoming Jimmy, Jim is embarrassed when his son hampers him in several physical contests with fellow construction worker Bill Duke and his son Billy. Learning that he has won a large construction job in Havana, Jim decides, prodded on by Laura, to send Jimmy home to his mother. Told that his ex-wife has died suddenly, Jim resolves to keep his son, who impresses his father by taking his mother's death well. Jimmy, who suffers from vertigo, again embarrasses his father when he refuses to ride a cable bucket across a deep gully at the construction site. After Jim locks his son's violin in a closet so that the boy can concentrate on "becoming a man," Jimmy surreptitiously has Blink, Jim's assistant and housekeeper, teach him some boxing basics. One night, in an effort to regain his violin privileges by proving he can act like his father, Jimmy picks a fight with Billy. After he is soundly defeated, Jimmy's wounds are nursed by Tess. She then confronts Jim at Laura's home and scolds him for what he has done to the boy. When Laura further degrades his son, Jim realizes how wrong he has been and walks out on Laura. Returning home to discover that his heartbroken son has run away, Jim searches for him. The desperate father, forced to crash his car to avoid hitting the boy in the dark, cuts his leg badly. Although a makeshift tourniquet is applied, Jim's condition weakens as Jimmy helps him up to the cable bucket. As his father drifts into unconsciousness, Jimmy ventures into the bucket with his father and sends it across the gully to Jim's co-workers. Recovering in bed the next morning, Jim realizes how much he needs Tess, who acknowledges to herself that she expects him to propose. Jimmy, now friends with Billy, visits his father, who, after palming the closet key into the boy's hand during a handshake, embraces his son.