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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1019

Tex McCormick loves his horse, Negrito. He returns home from school and is surprised that his older brother Mason is also home. Mason is a senior, the star of the basketball team, and is hoping to get into a good college, possibly with a basketball scholarship. Tex knows that, if...

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Tex McCormick loves his horse, Negrito. He returns home from school and is surprised that his older brother Mason is also home. Mason is a senior, the star of the basketball team, and is hoping to get into a good college, possibly with a basketball scholarship. Tex knows that, if Mason skipped practice, either he is sick or something is wrong. When Tex confronts him, Mason admits to selling Negrito and his own horse, Red. Their father, Pop, is out on the rodeo circuit and has not written or sent money home in four months. Mason had no other choice. They needed money to pay their bills.

Tex is outraged when Mason breaks the news. The brothers argue, and the fight turns physical. Mason is angry that their financial situation has gotten this bad, and he takes his anger out on Tex. When the fists stop flying, Mason tries to apologize. Tex insists that he is going to get the horses back, that their father never would have allowed this to happen. Mason is amazed that Tex does not see that he was forced to take drastic measures precisely because Pop is not home.

Tex vows to find the horses and get them back. He leaves the house to search for them. He meets up with his best friend, Johnny Collins, and Johnny’s younger sister, Jamie. He tells them what Mason did. They try to talk him out of looking for the horses, but Tex will not listen. Mason comes looking for Tex and drags him back home.

That weekend, the fair begins. Bob, Johnny’s older brother, drives Tex and Johnny to the city and drops them off at the fair. The boys meet Jamie and her friend. The girls talk the boys into having their fortunes told. The fortuneteller reads Tex’s palm, telling him that he will be one of the “people who stay” and that he will not get Negrito back. Tex is not sure what she means by “people who stay.”

Tex and Johnny continue to get into trouble, both in and out of school. Cole Collins, Johnny’s father, deems Tex to be a bad influence. Mason takes offense at Cole’s judgment because Johnny is just as much of a troublemaker as Tex is. One of Mason’s old friends, Lem Peters, stops by to announce the birth of his son. Lem wants to share his good news with the Collins kids, so Tex sneaks him into the Collins house. The boys are happy to hear Lem’s news. Jamie is the realist of the group and doubts raising a baby will be easy. When she makes a wisecrack about Lem’s parenting skills, it does not go over well. Tex comes to her defense. Tex struggles to understand why he has begun to look at Jamie differently. He is starting to notice girls, and Jamie is becoming more than his best friend’s sister.

Tex and Mason take a trip into the city. Mason has to go to the doctor for some tests. Mason learns that he has an ulcer, likely caused by the recent financial stress. The brothers visit Lem while they are in town and find out that he has been dealing drugs in order to support his family. On the way home, Mason lets Tex drive the truck. Tex stops to pick up a hitchhiker, unaware that the man is wanted by the police.

The hitchhiker pulls a gun on Mason and tells the brothers that he has shot someone to finally settle an old score. Tex notices that they are being followed by the police and drives the truck into a ditch. The hitchhiker is shot and killed by the police. The boys’ adventure with the hitchhiker makes the evening news. Pop sees the story on television in Dallas; he calls the boys and tells them he is coming home. Tex is thrilled, while Mason is angry.

Pop returns and gets into an argument with Mason almost immediately. Pop starts making promises, including promising Tex that he will get Negrito back. Pop comes through with the money eventually, but when Tex and Mason try to buy Negrito back his new owners refuse to sell. Tex is angry with Mason all over again. Tex says some hurtful things to Mason and realizes for the first time that hurting someone can feel good.

Tex gets into more trouble at school. Pop shows up late for a meeting with the principal and another argument with Mason ensues. This time, Mason airs some dirty laundry, proclaiming that Pop is not Tex’s biological father. Pop does not deny the accusation. Tex is shocked by the revelation and leaves school.

Tex runs into Lem. Lem asks him to tag along while he clears up a misunderstanding with one of his customers. Tex agrees to go along because he does not want to go home. They arrive at an apartment. Lem tries to smooth things over, but it is not going well. When Tex tries to leave, one of the men shoots him. Tex grabs the gun and prepares to shoot back, but he cannot go through with it. The two escape, and Tex tells Lem that he was shot. Lem panics. If he takes Tex to the hospital, the police might find out about the drugs. Tex calls the Collins house for help. Lem calls his wife and tells her to get rid of their drugs. Tex loses consciousness as Lem pleads for him to hang on. While Tex is in the hospital, Pop tells him about his biological father. Tex also learns that Cole called the ambulance and saved Tex’s life.

In the spring, Mason decides not to go to college, but Tex tells Mason that he has to go. Tex does not want Mason to resent him for the rest of his life. He believes he can take care of himself now, and he already has a summer job lined up. Tex accepts the fortuneteller’s prediction: Mason will go because he needs to, but Tex will stay.

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