After hauling horses across the country, rancher Tom Hunter and his young son, Dylan, arrive the Arkansas ranch of Tom’s brother, Charlie, and their father, Jeff, who are overjoyed to see them. Meanwhile, a coalmine owner named Pierce Crabtree surveys a coalfield in his private plane with Arkansas Senator Hingle, explaining that a rich vein of coal runs under Hunter’s Valley and he plans to strip-mine it despite the existence of Hunter’s old horse farm. Back at the ranch, Tom helps stow hay while Charlie relates that Crabtree is pressuring farmers to sell their land. However, the farmers have filed a lawsuit and they think they can win. Tom also learns that he has been willed the deed to Charlie’s farm. Later, Senator Hingle and Crabtree argue about the lawsuit in a limousine; although the Senator is worried about his political career, Crabtree bribes him to ensure Judge O’Connor’s favor. Meanwhile, Tom heads to town and sees his former girlfriend, Lorene Maddox, standing outside her mother’s dry cleaning store. After embarrassing Lorene by kissing her in public, Tom drives her home and explains that he is separated from his wife, who is living with another man. Lorene says it’s a good thing she is divorced or there would be a scandal. Elsewhere, Charlie is at home with his pregnant wife, Carolee, who is interrupted from ironing when Charlie seduces her with kisses. As the couple makes love, Carolee remembers the iron and runs to find a burnt shirt. Just then, three men burst into the house; while two men beat Charlie, a third attacks Carolee. She grabs the hot iron and burns his face, but he beats her unconscious. Meanwhile, Jeff hosts a homecoming celebration for his son and a neighbor named Hal Fraser explains how coal mining is ruining his land. Back at Charlie and Carolee’s home, the three killers dress the unconscious couple, pour whiskey down their throats, and put them in Charlie’s car. They drive the vehicle to a quarry and push it over the edge. Despite the eighty-foot fall, the couple survives. Meanwhile, Tom worries that Charlie’s car has broken down and drives to find them, but he passes the wreckage site and fails to see two of the men set fire to Charlie’s car. Hearing an explosion, Tom turns around to find his brother’s burning vehicle. Later, Tom and Dylan go to Charlie’s house, when Tom discovers the iron, which is still plugged in, the burnt shirt, and a bloody towel that the killers used to clean the scene. He goes to Sheriff Len Skerritt with the evidence, but Skerritt is not convinced of a crime, noting that the couple was drunk and the towel was probably used when Carolee cut herself in the kitchen. Although Tom tells the sheriff that Carolee was allergic to alcohol, Skerrit won’t listen. A few days later, Tom and his rancher friends prevent Crabtree’s workers from bulldozing Widow Richie’s property. When the foreman tells Tom that the widow’s house is located on county property and it is illegal to get in his way, Tom knocks him to the ground and drives the bulldozer off the woman’s land. Later, Tom takes Dylan on a motorcycle ride, but they are followed by a pickup truck that forces them to swerve in front of a school bus. As the bus crashes into a playground, Tom chases the pickup with Dylan holding on. Another car gives chase; however both vehicles crash and Tom drives away. Sometime later, Crabtree and his henchmen drive to the Hunter farm, where Crabtree threatens to destroy the ranch by mining up to the property line, but Jeff refuses to sell his land. Arriving at his father’s side, Tom announces that he has taken over Charlie’s ranch, which is also not for sale. When Crabtree shows the men a model of his development plan, Tom smashes it, provoking a fight with Crabtree’s henchmen, but Tom scares them off with a shovel. That night, Tom argues with Loretta, who claims to be preoccupied with her obsession for Crabtree. As Tom storms out of the house, he is attacked by two men, but Loretta beats them with a mallet and tells Tom to come back inside. Refusing her offer, Tom drives away and sneaks into Crabtree’s mining site, where he blows up a dump truck. The next day, after archery practice, Tom and his father post “no trespassing” signs and hear Crabtree’s men back on the widow’s property. When they arrive to help, the police arrest Tom, Dylan, Jeff, the old widow and half the town. After everyone is bailed out, Crabtree berates Skerritt for the arrests, but the Sheriff says that he answers only to the law, not Crabtree’s orders. Although Crabtree is eager to indict Tom for blowing up the truck, Skerritt tells him that they never found evidence. The following Monday, O’Connor rules on the lawsuit; the farmers are compensated for damages, but Crabtree can keep mining. When Crabtree yells at Senator Hingle for not controlling O’Connor as planned, the senator promises to appeal, but Crabtree points out that O’Connor sits on the appeals board and notes that the aged O’Connor could die before the case is heard. Hal Frazer wants to appeal the ruling for the farmers, but Tom disagrees and heads home as bulldozers knock down the widow’s house. A few days later, the men who attacked Tom stab O’Connor as he rides his bike. Although the police deem the crime a mugging, Senator Hingle accuses Crabtree and threatens to take revenge. The summer passes and the appeals court rules in Crabtree’s favor. More farmers sell their land and Crabtree blows up a mountain. When an explosion unleashes boulders that crush Hal Frazer’s house, Hal grabs his gun and confronts Crabtree at the quarry. Hearing the news, Tom tells Frazier’s wife to call the police and jumps in his car, but by the time he reaches the quarry, Hal is dead. Arriving at the scene, Skerritt calls the killing self-defense. As the shooter steps forward to reveal a triangular iron-sized scar on his face, Tom becomes enraged, remembering the murder-scene of Charlie and Carolee. When Skerritt forces Tom to leave, Crabtree reflects that private citizens have the right to protect themselves when the law fails. That night, Skerritt reconsiders the evidence in Charlie’s death and calls Tom, but Tom is at a bar with Lorene. When Lorene announces that she is moving to Dallas, Texas, a man warns Tom that his barn is burning. Tom rushes home to find Jeff leading the horses to safety, but the barn explodes and Jeff dies in his son’s arms. Lorene tries to call the Sheriff, but Tom pulls out the phone cord, grabs a gun and bow, and asks Lorene to take care of Dylan. Despite Lorene’s protests, Tom leaves. As Lorene grabs Dylan and runs to a neighbors to use their phone, Tom confronts Crabtree, who is waiting for him with his henchmen. During the ensuing fight, Tom is wounded. Tossing away his bow, Tom enters Crabtree’s house with his gun drawn. Although Crabtree yells that he is giving up, he takes a gun out of his safe. Tom kills another gunman on the stairs and walks into Crabtree’s study where the two men shoot at each other. When the sheriff arrives, Crabtree is dead and Tom is critically wounded. As Tom is taken out on a stretcher, Skerritt tells a detective that he realized Crabtree’s connection to the Hunter murder when he saw the iron-sized burn mark on the killer’s face and remembered finding a burnt shirt in Charlie and Carolee’s house. Months later, Tom and Dylan go fishing on their ranch.