The film begins with the Sergeant family in an Indiana town. They are: papa John, mama Maggie, and half grown children Sarah and Jeremy. John, who spent his youth on a farm, is itching to change his life from a drug store clerk living in a rented house, to a farmer, who owns his own land, and builds his own house. But, he figures Indiana land will always be too expensive for him. Thus, he has decided to fulfill his dream of heading west where land was cheap or free. He took the liberty of buying some railroad land in Nebraska, without consulting his wife or children, who weren't enthusiastic about such a move. They sold everything they could, to buy supplies for their trip and train tickets for Lincoln, NE. From Lincoln, they traveled by prairie schooner, pulled by 2 oxen, with a milk cow in the rear.
When they arrived at their land, they discovered they are regarded as claim jumpers by a group of men and women, who claim they have worked the land for 7 years, thus qualify for a claim to the land. A fight erupts, and John nearly drowns, before giving up. Instead of returning to Indiana, they agree to head west for Wyoming. They stop by a small crossroads , and the proprietor of a store welcomes them to settle on a peace of land next to his wheat farm. John miraculously breaks the sod for a large wheat field, builds a sod house, using the sod he plowed up, and plants his field in wheat, all within a few weeks, this being spring. They are lucky there are a few small trees around to provide roof support.
The first rain storm is welcomed, but reveals a major leak or two in the roof. A much more serious consequence is the death of John, who drowned in a flash flood. Now, Maggie is in a quandary what to do: head back home, look for a job elsewhere, or find a new husband. Neighbor Douglas keeps hinting that he would be agreeable to a marriage. They decide to stay until the wheat is harvested to hopefully obtain enough money for a trip back to Indiana. They almost lose all their wheat, as well as their house, when a large prairie fire nearly engulfs these. They only lost a small percentage of their wheat in making a firebreak... I will stop my summary here.
I'm impressed that oxen, rather than the more commonly portrayed horses, pulled their prairie schooner. Oxen were cheaper to buy, could pull more weight, and could better live off the prairie grasses. Thus, most pioneers used oxen, or mules, rather than horses to pull their wagon.
Several criticisms: That was an awfully big wheat field for John to plant, using primitive seeding methods. Also, how were they going to market their wheat, being far from any population center or railroad. Also, they arrived in very early spring, when there might still be snow on the prairie and they should be wearing cold weather clothes.
As others have mentioned, this film appears to have been regarded as a pilot for a TV series, hence the rather unsatisfying ending. A few years later, another film on the same subject: "Young Pioneers" was released, being 25 min. longer than the present 70 min. film. It too was a pilot for a TV series, which fizzled after 3 episodes: perhaps an indication of what would have happened if the present film had been followed by additional episodes. I would choose this later film over the present one, partly because it's long enough to dramatize more challenges. However, the stories are sufficiently different that, if you like this sort of subject, I would recommend seeing both. Both are presently available on You Tube, or DVDs.