During the 1886 Montana drought Harvard educated John Quincy Putnam had Federal Law on his side, and desperate angry neighbors surrounding him. A hard 1887 winter follows, and ranchers pay the price for overgrazing. Texas fever, foreign investors and strong-arm cattlemen's associations all mount up against "Quin" Putnam when, under the law, he runs strings of barbed wire along two sides of his range. The Birkenheads cut miles of fence, threatening his beef stock and carefully protected winter grass with stampeding long-horns. He turns to the first woman lawyer in Montana, Nicole Autman, for aid. If he loses his case, he'll have only 20-acres of feed and another hard winter ahead. Quin must also face the threat of losing "Missy," the orphan he rescued years ago from the Indians. A letter arrives threatening to take all he holds dear, and He and Nicole must dig in and fight doubly hard to keep what is his.