Monte Walsh and Chet Rollins are long-time cowhands, working whatever ranch work comes their way, but "nothing they can't do from a horse." Their lives are divided between months on the range and the occasional trip into town. Monte has a long-term relationship with prostitute Martine Bernard, while Chet has fallen under the spell of the widow who owns the hardware store. Camaraderie and competition with the other cowboys fill their days, until one of the hands, Shorty Austin, loses his job and gets involved in rustling and killing. Then Monte and Chet find that their lives on the range are inexorably redirected.