In 1889, twenty-five-year old Lemuel Dearce heads for Chicago where he gets swept up in the country's new craze: bicycles. Hiring on as a worker in a bicycle manufacturing plant, he masters the technology and seeks to apply it as a bicycle repairman. This takes him to Minneapolis in 1893, a city in the full grip of bicycle mania. By 1910, married with three children, he watches his dream of a career in bicycles collapse as the automobile takes center stage.
Lemuel then gets caught up in the widespread enthusiasm for scientific farming of dry lands out west. He brings his family to eastern Montana where he files a homestead claim on a desolate patch of prairie. Hardships and separations plague the family. But by 1917 he manages to secure legal title to the land, only to see it devastated by the drought of 1918.
With his dreams in tatters, Lemuel once again searches for a new beginning.