Adapted from MacKinlay Kantor's novel, a dog-lover kills his unfriendly neighbor, whose daughter loves his son.
In Missouri Spring Davis (Lionel Barrymore) explains the fox hunt to Mr. Tanner. Spring finds six new pups, but their mother dies. Spring helps his wife (Spring Byington) feed them, and he calls the runt Bugle Ann. Their son Benjy Davis (Eric Linden) applies his college studies to farming. Spring says there is no voice like Bugle Ann's, and he learns that his new neighbor Jacob Terry (Dudley Digges) bought wire and is going to raise sheep. Spring and his neighbors call on Jacob about the fence he plans to keep hounds out. Jacob persists and warns Benjy, who has met Camden Terry (Maureen O'Sullivan). Benjy goes out with Camden in her car. Spring looks for Bugle Ann inside Jacob's wire fence. When Jacob points his shotgun, Benjy takes it away. Jacob tells Benjy to stay away from his daughter Camden. At home Jacob quarrels with Camden, who asks if he ever loved her mother. Jacob slaps her, and she leaves in her car. Cal Royster (Charley Grapewin) hears Bugle Ann yip, and Spring and his neighbors look for the dog. Jacob denies he killed the dog and threatens Spring, who shoots him.
In court Camden testifies. Spring admits he killed a man over a dog, because a dog is man's most unselfish friend. Cal visits Spring in jail, and Spring is sentenced to twenty years at age 71. Ma Davis hears a voice like Bugle Ann, and so do Cal and Bake Royster (Henry Wadsworth). Spring dreams of her. Benjy plows. Camden tells her uncle that she won't sell the farm, and she hopes to get Spring out of prison. At night Bake and Cal show Benjy the remains of Bugle Ann in a wire fence. Benjy and Ma tend the dog's grave and wonder if Camden is coming back.
After four years Spring gets a pardon from the governor. Benjy, Ma, and neighbors welcome home Spring. Benjy tells him where they found Bugle Ann. After dinner Spring organizes a hunt. They hear a horn and find Camden with a pup of Bugle Ann's called Little Lady. Camden tells how that night she picked up Bugle Ann and then lost her. Spring and Benjy realize that she got the governor to grant the pardon. Spring blows his horn to call in Little Lady.
This sentimental drama seems to justify murder out of mistaken revenge for a dog by portraying Jacob as mean and Spring as otherwise kind. Yet Spring does serve time, which is shortened when the victim's relative asks his pardon, yielding a humane result since Spring does not need to be in prison.