A young man in the late 1930s is living in Logansport, Indiana in a rented room when he runs out of money and is kicked out by the landlady. Having no money or physical possessions besides a shaving kit, he sets out hitchhiking. He has no set destination in mind and eventually reaches South Georgia, travelling toward Valdosta with a truck driver. Along the way, he tries to ask several different people for meat and potatoes. He has only eaten scraps thrown out by kitchens and is desperately hungry. Many towns at the time have vagrancy laws, and men who are thought to be loitering and are unemployed can be punished to chain gang labor. In Waycross, Georgia, he approaches a man running a cafe and asks if there is any work he can do in exchange for a meal. The restaurant owner dismisses him and asks him to leave. As he is leaving the restaurant, a cop confronts him, and he lies about his background and tells the cop he is from Valdosta. The cop lets him off but tells him to keep moving and get out of town. That night, still hungry, he knocks on the backdoor of a home. An older woman opens the door and is frightened by him. She tells him to leave and goes inside and calls the police. He realizes he has made a mistake and must think quickly to evade the police who are surely on their way to arrest him. He dashes around the corner and approaches another house. He knocks on the front door and gets no response. He then pushes the door open, finding it to be unlocked. At the table in the entrance there is a man named Mr. Dunfee having an asthma attack. He tries to ask the man if he is okay, but the man cannot speak. The hungry man apologizes, and tells Mr. Dunfee that he is going to go into the icebox to get something to eat. As he enters the kitchen to eat he hears the door open. The policeman is in the entryway but has not yet noticed the man at the icebox. After checking on Mr. Dunfee, he looks up and sees the man. The man runs out the back door but is eventually apprehended by the police officer. He is taken to court and charged with 17 years of labor on the chain gang.