The setting of the novel is the 1880s in the Badlands of Dakota Territory along the Little Missouri River. There is great excitement in the town of Medora (North Dakota) as young Theodore Roosevelt from New York plunges into the ranching business at the same time that a wealthy Frenchman, the Marquis de Mores, is investing three million dollars into building a slaughterhouse and the new town of Medora (named after his red haired wife). Three young wranglers, Val Steffanson, a Canadian, Lincoln Long, a Scotsman, and Fred, from Wyoming get jobs as riders for the Maltese Cross Outfit, Roosevelt's ranch. Val, under the name of Will Stevens, is hiding out in the Badlands from three revenge seeking brothers of Blacky Jean La Pierre. Val killed Jean in self defense in a gunfight in Calgary when he confronted Jean about stealing Indian children and selling them into sexual slavery in the wild and lawless far North. The La Pierres are an outlaw Mtis clan and want blood for blood. Val's hideout is eventually discovered and he must fight to the death each one of the three brothers. Val does not share this part of his arduous life with young Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln Long, as he fights the battles alone. Two beautiful sisters of Icelandic heritage come into the men's lives when Val marries Sonja and brings his bride and Tanya, her sister, to the Badlands. These wonderful women bring zest and also complications to the Maltese Cross Outfit. Outlaws, killers, and horrific Dakota winters also bring adventures and complications to Mr. Roosevelt and his men. Finally, the great blizzard of 1886-7, causing huge losses of cattle, ends Roosevelt's ranching days, but not before he finds health, vigor, confidence, and love of the "strenuous life." Sixteen years later, Theodore Roosevelt became the President of the United States.