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Erudite television host Robert Jordan is infuriated when his sponsor, Mr. Swanson of Swanson's Fortified Farina, accuses him of appealing only to viewers with "mental middle-aged spread." Fearing that his show will be canceled unless he can attract a younger audience, Jordan tells his wife Helen that he will learn about children by reading comic books. Helen, who longs for children of their own, gently chides Jordan for his unrealistic notion, then admits that she donated his favorite suit to the local Boy Scout troop for a rummage sale. Jordan marches to the church basement and there wrangles with young Wolf Scout Mike Marshal, who refuses to return Jordan's suit unless he pays for it. Embarrassed by her husband's stubbornness, Helen pays for the suit. The next day, Helen broaches the subject of adoption, but abandons the idea when Jordan is unreceptive. The couple then receives a visit from Mike, who has been ordered by the Scoutmaster to return Helen's money. Curious about Mike's varying stories about his living arrangements, Helen invites him to stay for dinner, and Jordan is amazed by the quantity of food the small eight year old eats. Angered by Mike's obvious fibbing, Jordan disparages him after his departure, and is bemused by how vigorously Helen defends him. Realizing how much Helen wants a child, Jordan agrees to begin adoption procedures and goes to the Reverend Dr. Stone for advice. Although Dr. Stone is unable to offer advice about adopting, he does convince Jordan to become the new Scoutmaster of the Boy Scout troop that meets in the church. With glorious thoughts of becoming the "father to thirty boys," as well as using them as research for his show, Jordan accepts the assignment, and later, is horrified by the boys's rowdy behavior during the first meeting. Jordan temporarily quiets the boys by singing "The Star Spangled Banner," and is congratulated by Mike after the meeting's end. Jordan is again annoyed when Mike lies, telling him that former Scoutmasters allowed him to attend the meetings even though he is too young. Although the exhausted Jordan tells Helen that the boys are hooligans, he dutifully reports to the Weber home a few days later to administer the "tenderfoot" test to three prospective Scouts. Unknown to Jordan, among the boys is Vernon Swanson, the know-it-all son of his sponsor. After a trying evening, Jordan dumps a bowl of melted ice cream on Vernie's head, and is astonished when Swanson later calls and praises him for reprimanding the spoiled Vernie. Helen, who has hosted a Cub Scout meeting at the Jordans' home in place of Mike's mother, who is supposedly out of town, offers to take the boy home, but because it is raining, Jordan insists on driving. Jordan lets Mike out at a luxurious apartment building, but after he drives off, Mike leaves and trudges through the pouring rain to his real home. Soon after, Jordan leads the Scouts on a hike up Mount Sherman, and after they set up camp, Jordan is surprised by the arrival of Mike, who admits that he walked all the way by himself. Jordan allows the youngster to share his tent but insists on driving him home the following morning. Mike is mortified when he must finally tell Jordan the truth and take him to the rundown apartment he shares with his party-loving, irresponsible aunt. Jordan learns that the orphaned Mike mostly fends for himself, and when Mike hears his aunt threaten to return him to the orphanage, he bolts out the door. Jordan chases but cannot catch Mike, and upon returning home, is given a chilly reception by Helen. The next morning, Mike's aunt comes to the Jordans' home and tells them that Mike is still missing. Although she tells Jordan that Mike adores him and had told her that he was going to be adopted by the Jordans, Jordan states that he has been a victim of Mike's lies and feels no remorse over his treatment of the boy. After the aunt leaves, however, a furious Helen reprimands Jordan, telling him that all Mike wanted was to be loved and accepted. Finally realizing that he let the boy down, Jordan goes to Dr. Stone for help. Dr. Stone then rings the church bells to summon the Scouts, who quickly organize a search for Mike. After the boys leave, Jordan muses that if he were an unhappy child, he would return to the last place that he was happy. Without giving Dr. Stone any more specific information, Jordan sets off by himself for the campground on Mount Sherman. While Dr. Stone waits alone, Mike arrives, having been summoned by the bells. Mike, who had spent the night sleeping in Jordan's car, immediately deduces where Jordan has gone, and after the other Scouts return, sets off alone to tramp through the darkness to the campground. Meanwhile, Jordan has settled into his sleeping bag for the night, and upon hearing a noise, realizes that the zipper on the bag is stuck and he is trapped inside. Believing that Mike is nearby, Jordan hops along and falls off a cliff into the branches of a tall tree. Mike eventually finds him and, using the ingenuity taught to him by the Scouts, rescues Jordan. Jordan warmly tells the boy that he will never return to the orphanage again, and later, Helen and Jordan, now Mike's proud parents, present him with a merit badge during a broadcast of Jordan's television show.