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Wil Anderson (John Wayne) of the Double O Ranch has a herd of cattle he needs to get to market before winter. Unfortunately, all the able-bodied and available men have run off to join a nearby gold rush. His friend, Anse Peterson (Slim Pickens) convinces him that he could hire local schoolboys. Initially reluctant, Anderson is eventually forced to go with the idea. He ends up with 11 boys between the ages of 9 and 15. Joining them on the drive is Jebediah "Jeb" Nightlinger (Roscoe Lee Browne), their Camp Cook, and the first black man the boys have ever seen.
The boys learn quickly to do a man's job, but the group is being followed by a gang of ruthless rustlers....
This show provides examples of:
- Anyone Can Die: Including children and John Wayne.
- Badass Grandpa: Wil Anderson, of course.
- Camp Cook: Nightlinger
- Cattle Drive
- Coming of Age Story
- Dropped Glasses
- Improbable Age
- Miss Kitty: At one point the boys encounter a group of what Nightlinger calls "soiled doves". Naturally, they have their madam with them.
- Pay Evil Unto Evil
- A Real Man Is a Killer: One of the more controversial bits of the movie. Though the film does seem a bit cynical about it.
- Stutter Stop
- Team Dad: Anderson
- Team Mom: Nightlinger
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior
- Would Hurt a Child: He doesn't actually follow through, but Asa Watts (or "Long Hair"), the leader of the rustlers, makes it pretty clear he has no qualms about it.