The year is 1988. Dave Nash, a 45-year old Viet Nam vet, has just retired after 25 years working as a telephone linesman in rural Iowa. He discovers he’s been left a desert ranch in Southern California by his late aunt. Dave never met the woman—the sister of his mother—and has no idea how he came to be the beneficiary. But having no strong ties to the greater Des Moines area where he grew up, he decides to pack all his worldly goods in the back of his brand new pickup and drive out to California to see if he can make a new life for himself on a defunct 120 acre ranch miles from any paved road.
Upon arriving at the ranch, Dave meets up with a vivacious, Scottish-born heiress named Liz Simmons who owns a ranch not far from his. A woman of considerable accomplishment, Dave feels inadequate in her company, but she’ll have nothing of it, and aims to insinuate herself into his life. His few other neighbors are equally unstinting in their welcome: the proprietor of a bar/restaurant about a mile away named Carl Hurbinger, and a free-lance writer named James Hausman who resides in a small house at the place where the uneven dirt tract that leads to his ranch links up with the closest paved road. Soon, Dave finds himself becoming involved in the lives of his neighbors. It all comes to a head when he’s forced to deal with a crackpot scheme proposed by Seymour Berenger, a friend of one of his neighbors.