A five year old child is in the back of a wagon headed across a sandy landscape to their new home. When they arrive, the child gathers that the house is a boarding house and that the men from the mines will eat there. The roof is leaky and there are rats running along the floor, but the child does not mind. While living there, the child befriends a girl named Elva who helps in the kitchen but is not much good at cooking. One day Elva does a poor job of peeling the potatoes, and the child's mother gets mad at her. The child and Elva go on a walk together and Elva is acting strangely. She leaves that night and the child never sees her again. A new cook named Big Brown Bertha comes to help instead, and the mother likes her much better. She is loud and full of energy and strength. The child grows accustomed to living in the house, but there are still difficult moments. Their father rings a dinner bell on the front porch and dirty, wild men come pouring into their home, ready for a meal. The child doesn't like the men sometimes because they upset the mother. Sometimes the child goes to buy cigars with their father. One day the child is alone, and the cigar man invites the child to a back room. They listen to the phonograph and the child tries to look at a doll sitting on the man's shelf, but he doesn't want the child to look. The child isn't allowed to go to buy the cigars anymore. One day, a fat old lady named Mrs. Rawls comes to the home to make jelly rolls for the men for dessert. She prides herself on them and tells them how she used to win awards. She ends up talking for so long that the jelly rolls burn and are ruined. The mother and her helper, Bertha, begin acting crazy and the child watches uncertain of what is going on. They put Mrs. Rawls in a cage constructed with the screen door from their porch and don't let her out until the men arrive for dinner and she marches back to her tent home up the hill with her husband. Later that night the child sees a doctor in the Rawls' tent when she follows her mother out to it. The next morning, Mrs. Rawls is dead. The mother is quickly growing tired of the wild living. Saloons are popping up everywhere and she is tired of all the dirty wild men all the time. THey pack up and head for the train depot. The child feels sad and unsettled and wishes she could stay, but her mother drags her impatiently up to the station to head to their new home.