A woman dies. Her husband is in prison, and the sheriff needs someone to look after the boy until the boy's uncle can come to claim him. The Cartwrights begin to take care of the boy at the Ponderosa. When the boy arrives at the ranch, he does not know that his father is in prison. The boy learns the truth about his dad, and news reaches the Ponderosa that the convict has escaped from prison. The Cartwrights deal with the possibility that the boy's father may be coming their way.
- After Billy Allen's (David Ladd) mother dies, Ben agrees to take the boy to the Ponderosa until his uncle can come for him. Billy's father is in prison, though Billy doesn't know that. Billy doesn't want to leave his farm because his father promised to come back for him. Nonetheless, he has no choice and angrily goes to gather his things.
Billy isn't a happy guest of the Ponderosa and refuses all Ben's good will. After Hop Sing says Billy stole a large, dangerous knife from the kitchen, Ben sighs. He's going to have to discipline the boy. Hoss asks to be allowed to talk with Billy. He finds Billy outside trying to throw the knife like a dagger. Hoss explains that it's a carving knife, not a throwing knife. Billy admits he took it from the kitchen. Hoss says he'll return the kinfe and once Hop Sing calms down, Billy can apologize. He offers Billy his pocket knife for whittling. Billy doesn't want charity, but Hoss says Billy will earn it with chores. In the meantime, Billy can keep it. He's won the boy's trust.
That evening, Billy has cut himself with the knife and tries to hide the cut from Hoss, but Hoss knows about it and takes the blame. He shouldn't have given Billy a tool without showing Billy how to use it. Billy really likes Hoss now and shows him a secret. He has a picture of his mother and father. It's the only thing that's his, except for the pocket knife. He tells Hoss that his father will come back for him. Hoss gently tells him that sometimes a man makes a promise that he means to keep, but sometimes he can't.
Two men have escaped prison. Pike (Bob Tetrick) and Billy's father, Vance (Logan Field). They rob a stage and Pike wants to get across the mountains. Vance knows the way, but says he has to go to his family first. He promises he'll be back in two days. If he's not, then Pike can take all the money and go.
Vance finds his wife's grave, then finds Billy at the Ponderosa. That night he climbs through the window and Billy is thrilled to see him. Vance makes him promise not to tell anyone he saw Vance. He asks Billy to gather as much food as he can to to meet him at their secret cave the next night.
Because of the prison break, the Cartwrights are asked to ride posse. Only Hoss stays home with Billy. A neighbor and his young son drop by to sign some papers. While Hoss takes Mr. Sherman (John Eldredge) in to sign, Orville (Philip Grayson) talks with Billy. He tells Billy that Vance is nothing but a convict. They fight and Hoss and Sherman break it up. Hoss is sorry he didn't tell Billy sooner and gives him a hug. Billy is sure his father will come and explain everything.
That night, Hoss hears Billy sneaking out and follows him. Billy gives his father the food and after spending some time together, Vance sends him back to the Ponderosa. He says they'll meet again tomorrow and leave. Billy goes back and Vance returns to the cave. Hoss is waiting for him. He has to turn Vance in. Vance won't go and in a brief scuffle, Hoss shoots Vance. His first thoughts are for Billy.
Ben has returned from his posse very early in the morning. Hoss comes up behind him with Vance's body thrown across his horse. He doesn't know how he's going to tell Billy. But Billy sees his father and attacks Hoss hitting him in the chest and crying "I hate you." It nearly kills Hoss and Ben gently pulls the boy away.
Later, Hoss is outside feeling terrible. Ben tries to comfort him. Hoss says he can still feel the little fists hitting him. He's so big and strong he can do most anything, but he'd cut off both his hands if it would help the boy. He begs to know why God won't tell him what to say to Billy. Ben says there's nothing he can say. Billy will just have to learn to understand.
Hoss and Billy ride in a wagon, taking the body into town. They stop to rest the horses. Pike is there and threatens to kill Billy if Hoss doesn't show him through the mountains. Hoss attacks Pike and yells for Billy to run. Billy runs, but not far. He hides behind a tree and watches as Pike knocks Hoss over the head with the gun. Then he runs on. The Cartwrights are just coming that way and are surprised to find Billy alone. Billy says Hoss is with the man that was with his father and he hopes the man kills Hoss. Ben is very upset but does his best to explain that Vance loved Billy as a father should. Well, Hoss is his son and he loves him. He pleads with Billy to tell him where Hoss is. Billy does.
Hoss is revived and still refuses to show Pike through the hills. They fight again and the gun goes off between them. Pike is dead. The Cartwrights find Hoss collapsed near the wagon. While they check on Hoss, Billy runs off. When they discover him gone, Hoss goes after him. He finds Billy sitting by the lake. Billy is surprised that Hoss is alive. He asks if his father was like Pike. Hoss tells him that his father loved him and that he came back for Billy. This cheers him and Billy asks to stay at the Ponderosa until his uncle comes. He takes Hoss' hand as they walk back.