Junior Bonner is a broke, bruised rodeo rider who returns to his home town Prescott, Arizona, for the Independence Day parade and rodeo and to reconcile with the family he hasn’t seen for years. He is shocked to see that his family is breaking apart and the family home is being demolished by his younger brother Curly who has become a heartless real estate tycoon, selling sections of his parent’s land for quick money
His father Ace is a dissolute dreamer who dreams of emigrating to Australia to rear sheep and mine gold and his long-suffering mother is resigned to her husband’s wandering.
Trying to find a way to regain his self-respect, Junior Bonner is determined to mount and ride an unrideable bull. at the town’s Fourth of July Rodeo. He hopes to stay on the bull for eight seconds, and earn enough to get to next week’s rodeo.
This time he manages to stay mounted. So, he buys his father a first-class ticket to Australia and leaves his hometown, continuing to put off the inevitable end of his career.