Twelve-year-old Alf Smith trembled with excitement when the four cowboys rode past him as he walked home from school. This was Illinois farming country and he had never seen a real cowboy. The big Mexican saddles, the tall boots with the jingling spurs, and the pistols strapped on their sides, they were just like the Texas cowboys he had read about in books and newspapers.
Alf hurried home to tell his parents, but his excitement soon turned to horror when he arrived to find the farmhouse engulfed in flames. Later, when the fire had burned itself out, neighbors found his parent's ashes in the bedroom. Everyone thought the fire was accidental, but Alf noticed certain valuable objects were missing from the rubble. He suspected the four cowboys robbed and murdered his parents, but by the time he convinced the local sheriff, it was too late. The cowboys were nowhere to be found.
Nine years pass and Alf is still troubled by his suspicions of that tragic day. He decides to go to Texas and look for the murderers. Alf begins his journey with one clue; all the cowboys had red stars on their boots and might have been in Hood's Texas Brigade during the Civil War. Along the way, Alf finds more clues, but he also finds love and adventure waiting for him. A ride on a Mississippi riverboat, a search for buried treasure, a beautiful young girl trapped in a life of prostitution, and a cattle drive to Dodge City are only a few of them.
During Alf's long journey to vengeance, he must face many challenges but first he must change from a boy crying over a grave to a man willing to dispense justice with his gun.