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A Brooklyn bartender named Mike tells the story of Eddie Tayloe: After receiving an inheritance, reporter Eddie quits a Dallas newspaper job and leaves for New York City to become a playwright. En route, he picks up a beautiful hitchhiker named Perry Dunklin, who has left her family gas station because her brother, a co-owner, got married. After finding two pistols in the glove compartment of Eddie's car, which were left to him by his grandfather, Perry initially believes Eddie is "Red Car," a bank robber who is currently at large. When they subsequently crash their car and take refuge in a nearby house, she poses as his sister. By the time they arrive in New York City, Eddie is in love with Perry, despite her protestations. On the subway, en route to Brooklyn, where she hopes to live on a "ranch," Perry meets Mandy, a middle-aged pickpocket, who faints from hunger. Perry tells the police that the woman is her mother, then takes her in a her stable loft she has rented in Flatbush, where Mandy reforms. The stable is part of the estate of the three Cheevers spinsters named Rudy, Opal and Pearl. Perry's first job is as a Coney Island water nymph, but she is fired after Eddie slugs an audience member for pulling her leg while she is onstage. Eddie, meanwhile, has no luck as a playwright. One night, while drowning his sorrows at his hotel bar, Eddie is befriended by substitute bartender Mike. To cure Eddie's homesickness, Mike takes him to Mr. Gaboolian's mechanical Riding Academy, which is inside a deserted office building. The office is filled with set pieces for make-believe adventures, including hobby horses, a camel, an elephant and a ship. As retired captain Lars Bjorn, a regular, steers a ship through a storm, Mike and Eddie ride the stationary horses. On a lark, Eddie asks Gaboolian to hire Perry, and arranges to pay her salary. Business is terribly slow, however, and Eddie eventually spends the last of his money to buy the place, naming it the Golden Horse Academy. On Christmas Eve, Bruce MacWirther, an academy regular who rides the camel, arrives with the South Brooklyn Santas, who fill the academy and get drunk on wassail. After a beat cop named Carmody enters, Eddie tells him to call headquarters, and the resulting publicity turns the academy into a lucrative business. Eddie then sells it to the Cheever sisters, and he and Perry marry and fulfill their dream of owning a Texas ranch full of golden horses.