Thomas Dunson aims to drive cattle across Texas to Missouri to save his failing ranch. Along the way, they face harsh conditions, and the men, including his adopted son, Matthew, are subjected to Thomas’ cruelty and tyranny. Fed up, Matthew takes off, and Thomas vows revenge.


Red River

The Civil War is over and cattle rancher Thomas Dunson is in a hard way. But so is everyone else in his region of south Texas. No one can afford the high price of beef, so his livestock are costing him more and more the longer they graze his land. His only hope for saving his failing business is to drive a herd of cattle across Texas to Missouri, where he believes he will get top dollar.

The drive will be brutal in rough conditions, not to mention the inherent danger of stampede and Indian attacks. He puts together a crew for the perilous journey. Among the cowhands are his adopted son, Matthew and black cowboy, Jack Byrd, whose mere presence is offensive to some of the other men.

One thing they can all agree on is their dislike of Thomas. He’s a cruel brute and his tyrannical ways test the men’s patience at every turn. Matthew often puts himself in a position to defuse heated situations. When one of the men suggests they redirect the herd to Abilene, Kansas where he’d heard rumors of the railroad, Thomas wouldn’t hear of it. They would trudge on to Missouri, no matter what.

Thomas’s extreme means of punishment, low morale, combined with lack of supplies and the hardship of living out on the trail, drive the men to rebel. Matthew joins the mutiny, stealing the herd and turning them toward Abilene. Now, Thomas, who loved Matthew, and raised him as his own son, vows to catch, and kill him.