Barn is a run-away from reform school. He gets a ride from Tobias Brown (Lee Marvin), who takes him to Delphi, the town where Tobias lives. Tobias was a poor sharecropper's son, but he is now the richest man in town. Doyle, who owns the newspaper, is kind to Barn. Doyle hires Barn to "take care of his horse", a difficult, unruly horse that Tobias swindled him with. Barn lives by himself in an abandoned house. Unlike Doyle, Tobias is harsh and mean with Barn. Tobias cheats Barn and takes advantage of him.
Barn is kind, polite and hard working, and the townspeople come to love him. They fix up the abandoned house, so Barn has a nice place to live. Tobias buys the abandoned house, and throws Barn out.
Doyle reveals that he too was a runaway from an orphanage, which is why he has helped Barn so much. Doyle challenges Tobias to a horse race, with Tobias's best horse against Barn on Doyle's horse, Twister. Tobias wins. Tobias and Doyle get into a big fistfight. Doyle gives Tobias a beating. Tobias offers to allow Barn to sharecrop the land Barn was living on, and will sell it to Barn when he turns 18.
Thanks Joseph C!