John Wayne – showing off a darker side to his screen persona than we'd previously seen – portrays Thomas Dunson, a frontiersman who, with his longtime partner Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan), abandons a westbound wagon train in 1851 to make his future as a rancher in Texas. Doing so forces him to abandon Fen (Colleen Gray), his fiancee – and when she is killed in an Indian raid a short time later, it taints any good that Dunson might find in the future he carves out for himself, destroying any joy he might derive from life. The sole survivor of the raid is Matthew Garth (Mickey Kuhn), a young orphan who is unusually handy with a gun for one his age – and already knows how to channel his grief and horror at what he's seen, as much as Dunson does. Dunson informally adopts Matt as his son, and over the next 14 years he builds up one of the largest ranches in the entire state of Texas. And all of it is worth nothing, a result of the economic ruin wrought on the state in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Sonny Terry started playing harp in his teens, as a blind street musician in North Carolina. After a stint with a medicine show, he hooked p with the popular ragtime singer/guitarist, Blind Boy Fuller. When he was 23 he made his recording debut, backing up Fuller. Barely a year later in 1938, he was wowing New York audiences at Carnegie Hall, appearing solo as part of John Hammond's Spirituals to Swing concert. After Fuller's death in 1940, Terry teamed with Brownie McGhee and the two began a long lived musical partnership.
Fourteen years after starting his cattle ranch in Texas, Tom Dunston is finally ready to drive his 10,000 head of cattle to market.