Texas teenager John Grady Cole finds himself alone in the world after his mother sells the ranch where he grew up, forcing him to leave the only life he has ever known. Joined by his pal Lacey Rawlins, John Grady sets off on horseback for Mexico where the cowboy life still exists. On their way south, the two precocious horsemen encounter a variety of adventures, pick up a sidekick-a 13-year-old misfit named Blevins-and eventually arrive at a hacienda where they are hired to break horses. There, John Grady falls into an ill-fated romance with Alejandra, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy ranch owner. It is a disaster that leads to arrest, Mexican jail and a murder in self-defense-and ultimately proves to be John Grady's greatest test of maturity and manhood.