Henry Stamper, the patriarch of the Oregon Stampers, nailed a plaque to the wall over his oldest child's bed. It read, Never Give A Inch. Hank Stamper, following in his father's footsteps, aspired to be the hardest, toughest man in the Wakonda district.
Hank's mother dies when he's 10 years old, and his father remarries. His new young wife, Myra, is educated, urban and totally unsuited to life in the northern Oregon logging town. Henry ignores Myra's son, Lee, and he's raised by his mother. In contrast to his older brother, Lee is sensitive, intellectual and unhappy in this tough family of loggers. When Hank turns 16, his father's young wife Lee's mother begins a sexual affair with him. Lee, peeking through a hole in the wall, sees them.
When Lee turns 12, his mother takes him east to go to a private school and eventually to college. He remains in the east until he's 24, when a postcard from his cousin, Joe Ben Stamper, calls him home. A strike by loggers against Wakonda Pacific Lumber is a bonanza for the Stampers. As independent loggers, they negotiate a contract to supply logs for WP, allowing the company to avoid settling the trike. In order to fulfill the contract, all Stampers are being urged to come west and work the forests.
Lee returns, hoping to take revenge on Hank for in his view ruining his life. When he meets Hank's wife, Viv, he decides he will steal her from Hank. To put Hank off guard, he learns to work the forests with assumed eagerness. As Hank tries to teach him the trade, Lee almost gives up his view of Hank as evil and his plan to do him in. One night, Lee provokes an argument. When Hank loses his temper, Lee determines to go ahead with his revenge.
Throughout the story, Lee consistently misinterprets Hank's response to the pressures of the strike and his increasing alienation from the town, as a reaction to his attempts to get close to Viv. Eventually, Hank sees this closeness developing, and he begins to lose his edge. The loss of concentration leads to a fatal accident in the forest that finally brings Hank down. For the first time in his life, he gives up on a project he has been determined to complete he is sure he can't fulfill his contract with Wakonda Pacific.
Yet, he is not totally defeated, and as the story concludes, he is headed toward a final showdown with Lee and with the people of Wakonda.
This report prepared by David Gordon