Sam Tucker works as a farm hand for one of the larger cotton farming organizations. He instead would rather farm his own land, and thus decides to rent some property down by the river which has been unfarmed for some years. With no savings but excited by the prospect of working for himself, Sam brings his family – his wife Nona, his two adolescent children Jot and Daisy, and his ornery and stubborn paternal Granny – to their new home on that property. Although he figures his hard work will be able to do the work of clearing and seeding the cotton crop despite not having the modern farming equipment, he is unprepared for the fact of the house being run down with need of major repairs, and the well being dry. Regardless, Nona also buys into the dream and they decide to stay. They bring Sam’s mother as well in the spring to help. They suffer some hardships living on that farm, and although Sam and Nona are willing to trade whatever they can, they are going to require the kindness of others to help them through, including from their less than neighborly neighbor Devers, the physician Dr. White, and Harmie the local shopkeeper. The Tuckers learn that to live off the land, they must take what the land and nature has to give back in all its good and bad. During the bad, Sam may feel that the life of his friend Tim, who earns more than a good wage working in a factory, may be a better life for the family.
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