Taciturn Faye Dunaway insists upon drilling for oil in her small, unpromising patch of Oklahoma land. Drifter George C. Scott signs on to work the derrick, but only after Dunaway, who for unspecified reasons hates all men, warns him to stay at arm's length. Jack Palance, the strong-arm representative for a huge oil firm, dearly covets Dunaway's land, and when she refuses to sell he sends his hooligans to beat both her and Scott to bloody pulps. Driven from her land, Dunaway can't expect help from the "bought" courtrooms, so she fights fire with fire: together with Scott and her ne'er do well father John Mills, she takes back the land by force of arms. As they sit guarding the derrick, Dunaway and Scott draw closer, and when Mills is killed by a fall, Dunaway turns to Scott as her one last pillar of strength. Just as Palance and his goons are about to rush the land, the long-awaited gusher comes in. The oil surge lasts just long enough for every oil company within two hundred miles to bid for pumping rights. Once the well runs dry, however, Dunaway and Scott are left standing alone in their grimy field.