Dottie Connell amazed her neighbors in rural Ohio when she announced that she would farm her father's land following his death. She's determined to make a go of the farm despite debts on the property and hard work.
When Dottie's best friend, Zela, asks to leave her six-year-old daughter with her, Dottie is only too glad to oblige. Yet so wrapped up in her farm is she that she doesn't notice the suitcase full of clothing that Zela leaves for what was supposed to be an overnight stay. She doesn't hear the desperation in her friend's voice. So she is unprepared for the suicide fire that kills Zela and her husband and leaves Mattie an orphan. Zela's will calls for Dottie to raise Mattie, and it leaves Zela's money - $300,000 – to Dottie. Dottie neglects to check the will and neglects to use the money to get out of debt. Then her uncle Charlie, who holds the debt, tells her he's giving the farm to his son. The son, who, unlike Dottie, knows the amount of the inheritance, demands $300,000 for the property – far more than the debt and more than the property is worth. Dottie pays it, leaving Mattie without her inheritance.
Dottie's personality has been formed by her hard life and hard work. Without the help of her hired man, Stanley, she would be unable to relate to Mattie at all. Fortunately, Stanley is gentle and understanding with the girl, and his intervention makes her life tolerable if not happy.
Mattie has no desire to become a farmer, and at 17 she has a boyfriend, Travis. Dottie, convincing herself that she only goes with the boy in the hope that he will take her away from the farm, tells this to Travis. What Dottie doesn't know is that Mattie is pregnant. Mattie leaves and marries Travis. She demands the inheritance she knows is coming to her, and is shocked and furious when she discovers it has been spent to keep the farm.
Stanley has worked for Dottie for the full ten years of Mattie's growing up, asking for little or no pay – just a place to stay and useful work to do. Dottie takes advantage of Stanley, never realizing that he has fallen in love with her – or she with him. So when she thinks he is having an affair, she flies into a jealous rage and drives him away. Finally, alone in the world, Dottie realizes the mess she's made of her life and starts taking steps to make amends.
This report prepared by David Gordon