Based on the novel by Marjorie Rawlings, a boy raises a fawn as a pet and learns he has to work hard to survive.
In 1878 Penny Baxter (Gregory Peck) farms in Florida with his wife Orry (Jane Wyman) and their son Jody (Claude Jarman Jr.). Penny lets Jody ramble, and Jody sees a raccoon family; but Orry won't let him have a pet. Penny and Jody hunt a bear that killed their livestock. Their dogs chase and attack the bear. Penny's gun malfunctions twice. They treat a wounded dog, and Penny sleeps with Jody. Penny and Jody take a dog to trade with the Forrester family. Lame Fodderwing Forrester (Donn Gift) shows Jody his pet raccoon. Penny tells the story of the bear, and Lem Forrester (Forrest Tucker) calls him a liar about the dog being no good. Lem trades a good gun to Penny for the dog. Fodderwing tells Jody he wants to fly.
Penny and Jody go to town. Oliver fights Lem and other Forresters, and Penny helps Oliver. Penny has a black eye and tells Orry he is saving to buy tobacco seeds for a money crop to buy bricks and mortar for a well. Orry says the hogs were stolen. Penny gets his gun but is bit by a rattlesnake. He shoots a doe to treat his bite and sends Jody for a doctor. Penny recovers. Jody asks Penny if they can raise the fawn. Jody chases away vultures and finds the fawn. Jody runs after the fawn, and he sleeps with the fawn.
Jody goes to see Fodderwing, but Buck Forrester (Chill Wills) says he is dead. He says Fodderwing called the fawn Flag. At the burial Penny speaks about Fodderwing and his way with animals. During a rainstorm Penny and Jody put animals inside. After telling stories they harvest the flooded crops. Orry hits the fawn, and they quarrel. Finally the rain stops, and spring comes.
Penny and Jody plant crops. Orry finishes her dress for the wedding of Oliver. Perry sees that Flag crushed the tobacco plants, and he says he is a yearling. Penny and Jody dig out stumps to plant cotton. Penny strains himself and is laid up. Jody comes back from hunting and is told that Flag ate the corn plants. Penny tells Jody to plant corn and build a fence. Jody works hard, and Orry helps him finish the fence. At night Flag leaps over the fence. Penny tells Jody to shoot the yearling, but Jody lets him go in the woods. Penny tells Orry to shoot Flag and then tells Jody to finish him. Jody cries and kills him. He runs into the woods and falls asleep in a canoe. A ship picks him up, and Jody returns home. He tells Penny that he went three days without food. Relieved Orry also welcomes him home.
This family drama depicts the challenges of rural life
in the 19th century. The boy's growth toward manhood is reflected
in the fawn becoming a deer that causes problems with difficult