James Oscar Draper, son of a circuit riding preacher, is riding a fast-track train to hell according to his pa. At fifteen, he ran away after coming home drunk and suffering a fierce whipping. Six years later, seeking damnation or redemption, Sergeant Draper has found a home in the U.S. Army, but to Pancho Villa the sleepy Texas border towns are ripe for plunder for his Mexican Revolution. Ill wind has brought Oscar's first clash with the infamous bandit. In 1963, sixty-nine-year-old Oscar breaks a long silence and begins telling James Buddy Draper, his nine-year-old grandson, of battles on both sides of the Mexican-American border. For over ten years, Buddy pushes for more stories. Recruiting his dad, the stories bond the two men and boy. Through Oscar's eyes, Buddy feels heroes like young Lieutenant Patton and General Black Jack Pershing come alive.