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In Tucson, Arizona, in 1910, Emily Hefferen visits attorney Charley Blaine to get a divorce. When Charley objects, saying that her husband Jim is one of his oldest friends, she angrily enters the office of Robert Hart, a lawyer new to town. Emily cites "non-support" as grounds, and Hart is incredulous, as he has seen the Hefferen name on the hotel, laundry and creamery, and assumed that he practically owned the town. Emily then tells him her story: On their wedding day twenty years earlier, when there is not much else in the town other than the church, she learns that Jim, the vice-president of the bank, has given away and lost all his money on bad investments. However, she is not surprised by the news and when they arrive at their new home in the desert on the outskirts of town, Jim finds, to his dismay, that Emily has taken in another honeymoon couple, the Lawsons, as boarders in order to make the mortgage payment. As each of Jim's new ventures fail, Emily takes in additional boarders. When the construction of the town's hospital, which Jim had started in order to accomodate Emily, who is due soon to have a baby, is halted, Jim volunteers the necessary funds to complete it, and at the dedication ceremony, Emily becomes the hospital's first customer, as she gives birth to their daughter Rosemary. Jim then gets an idea to start a laundry, but he is not satisfied with its modest profit, and a few years later, sells it to build a store. He then sells the store to start a creamery, which pays for an opera house, which, in turn, provides money to build a hotel. Meanwhile, Jim and Emily have two more children, and every time Jim starts a new business, Emily adds a new room to the house and takes in more boarders. At Rosemary's high school commencement ceremonies, Jim receives a summons, and the bank takes over the hotel, but Emily, who is successfully running the boardinghouse, is now resigned to her fate. She then relates to Hart that two months before, Jim took out a thirty-day option on an arroyo that he hopes to mine for copper. When Rita Kirby, an attractive, but cheaply attired woman, who is hiding from her husband, arrives looking for a room, Jim, despite Emily's disapproval, insists that she stay because he thinks her husband George, who owns a construction company in New Jersey, might invest in the copper mine. Without Rita's knowledge, Jim sends Kirby a wire from her asking him to come. Jim starts the mining operation and gets Mrs. Lawson's son Geoffrey, who is cajoled by his overly protective mother to build up his body by working for him. After getting waltz lessons from Emily, who encourages him to date Rosemary, Geoffrey summons up enough courage to ask her to the annual Pioneer Ball. When the band plays an upbeat "Texas Tommy," Geoffrey, not knowing what to do, allows Rosemary's other suitor, Harold Crandall, to cut in, to Rosemary's dismay. Crandall, who brags about his distinguished Boston pedigree, annoys Emily, as she is proud of her Southern roots. When Kirby arrives, he refuses to talk business until he straightens out his personal affairs, and dumps his drunken mother-in-law, Minnie Moon, an ex-vaudevillian, whom Rita also left, at the Hefferen's house. Although Emily objects, the $250 check Kirby writes gives her enough money to pay off the mortgage, and she plans to burn it the next day at a party. Jim encourages Rita to make up with her husband by telling her that Kirby plans to give her expensive presents for Christmas. When the man owning the arroyo threatens to rip out the mine unless Jim buys it that day, he secretly takes out a new mortgage just after Emily buys the old one, hoping to buy it back after Kirby invests. However, during Emily's party, Kirby learns that the miners have found water, not copper, and puts away his checkbook. Afterward, banker Sam Howell begins to repossess the Hefferen furniture. Back in Hart's office, Emily concludes her tale in tears, then returns home and finds the furniture being returned. She learns that Jim's friends chipped in to pay off the loan. Jim, ashamed for not realizing that "easy street" has always been right there, packs to leave. On his way out, he overhears Rosemary tell her mother that he is not a failure as a human being, and Emily admit that his failed ventures have been responsible for giving the town a hospital, creamery, laundry, restaurant and hotel. She says she now realizes that security is two people loving each other and going through everything together. When Rosemary reveals that she and Geoffrey, who the previous evening knocked out Harold, are engaged, Emily says she hopes they will be as happy as she and Jim have been. Jim then sneaks up the backstairs, and when Emily hears his footsteps, she joyously runs to his embrace.