When itinerant cowboy and drifter Jack Burns hears that his old friend Paul Bondi has been sentenced to two years for aiding and abetting illegal immigrants, he returns to Duke City, New Mexico to Bondi's home. After a reunion with Bondi's wife Jerry and finding he can't visit Bondi in jail the nonconformist Burns sets out to join his old friend in the county jail on a drunk and disorderly charge. Burns gets into a brawl in a local cantina, but when the police decide to release him because of jail overcrowding, he assaults a policeman and is facing a one year jail term. Burns is disappointed to find that his friend does not want to escape and risk a longer sentence but do his time and return to his family. Using two hacksaws smuggled in his boot, Burns and two cell mates break out of jail and Burns heads for the Mexican border. Now facing a five year term for his escape, a sentence he could not endure because of his fiercely independent nature, he and his faithful horse Whiskey race up the mountain range to freedom with the authorities in hot pursuit.