Young Tom Black Bull (Frederic Forrest) is a Ute Indian who ventures into the world of white men after the death of his parents. He winds up working at the rodeo. When hard-drinking Red Dillon (Richard Widmark) spots Tom's horse-handling skills, he makes him a bronco-riding star (and keeps the money for himself). Tom eventually tires of their exploitative relationship and sets out on his own, eventually winning a championship. Motivated perhaps by nostalgia, he later seeks Red out. Red, who is nearly dead from alcoholism, steals Tom's championship money to have one last spree. When Red dies, Tom genuinely mourns him and gives him Ute death rites before returning, now a seasoned man, to the reservation.