Adapted from a novel by Annie Fellows Johnston, a little girl struggles with temper and bridges the gap between her mother and her grandfather.
In Kentucky in the 1870s Colonel Lloyd (Lionel Barrymore) gets angry at his black servant Walker (Bill Robinson) and toasts the South. His daughter Elizabeth (Evelyn Venable) is running away with Jack Sherman (John Lodge), who is from the North. The Colonel tells Elizabeth his door will be closed to her.
Six years later at a western outpost little Lloyd Sherman (Shirley Temple) is commissioned a colonel and gives orders. Jack puts Elizabeth and Lloyd on a coach. Walker tells the Colonel someone has moved into the cottage. He takes flowers; but when he sees Elizabeth, he leaves and throws them away. Mom Beck (Hattie McDaniel) explains to Lloyd why the Colonel is mad at Elizabeth, saying they both are stubborn. Lloyd plays with her black friends Henry Clay and May Lily. The Colonel sees the flowers she picked. Lloyd says she has a temper like him and throws mud on him. Elizabeth sends Lloyd to a bath and bed, and she writes back to Jack.
Swazey and Hull shoot gold dust into a rock and sell the land to Jack. Mom Beck tells Walker that Elizabeth is out of money. At a baptism black folk sing; then Lloyd baptizes Henry Clay. The Colonel takes Lloyd to his house to dry her clothes. She apologizes for losing her temper and taking his sheets. Lloyd sings "Love's Young Dreams" while her grandmother's spirit plays the harp. The Colonel and Lloyd play chess, showing how they would wipe out each other. He takes her home, pulling Henry Clay and May Lily behind. Elizabeth gets a telegram that Jack is coming home. He limps in sick and says they are ruined. The doctor tells Elizabeth he needs nursing and that Lloyd should go to the Colonel's. Lloyd tells the Colonel that they are going to the poorhouse. Walker shows her how to tap dance up the stairs. Lloyd cries for her mother, and Walker brings her dog. The Colonel tells Walker to buy clothes for Lloyd.
A man from the Union Pacific railroad buys the right-away through Jack's land for $5,000. Walker and Lloyd tap dance. Swazey and Hull come to buy back their property, but Jack tells them to get out. They demand the deed and lock up Mom Beck. Lloyd sees and runs for help to the Colonel. He refuses, and Lloyd gets angry. Elizabeth returns from the bank with the deed, and Swazey forces her to give it to him. The Colonel comes in and shoot the gun out of Hull's hand. The sheriff arrives and arrests them. Elizabeth embraces the Colonel, and he shakes hands with Jack. The final scene is in color, and Lloyd kisses the Colonel.
Young Lloyd works on the family traits of anger and stubbornness in herself and others. Shirley Temple's usual charm, and the dancing of Bill Robinson enrich the entertainment.