Past and present collide in this intense drama, a young manís search for identity attracting the destructive forces of isolation and greed. A high school dropout, seventeen-year-old Travis Shelton suffers the constant criticism of his father, chafing at years of ill-treatment and a profound lack of self-esteem.
While fishing near land marked with a ďno trespassingĒ sign, Travis stumbles upon a field of marijuana. Unable to resist temptation, the boy cuts down some of the crop. The local drug dealer, Leonard Shuler, is happy to relieve Travis of the plants. After a second sale to Leonard, Travis returns for what he intends to be the last time, but it is one too many. His leg caught in the jaws of a bear trap and writhing in pain, Travis rues his impulsiveness.
The crop belongs to Carlton Toomey, an intimidating giant of a man who controls the drug trade in North Carolina. Unexpectedly, Toomey releases Travis and drops him at the local emergency room, but only after a promise never to reveal the existence of the plants or what happened to his leg. Desperate for treatment, Travis agrees.
Unable to tolerate his fatherís continued cruelties after he is released from the hospital, Travis shows up at Leonardís trailer. A former teacher, Shuler allows the young man to stay, although he has another guest: the lackluster Dena, who uses most of the drugs Leonard purchases for sale from Toomey. Leonard notices a curiosity in the young man and encourages his desire to learn more about his family history, especially the Shelton Laurel Massacre, where most of Sheltonís relatives were executed in a leafy glade.
Thanks to Shuler, Travis considers getting his GED and even acquires a girlfriend, but fate intervenes, as it always does, once more in the form of Carlton Toomey. A long-standing animosity has existed between the ignorant Toomey and his ilk and the ex-teacher, but Leonard has remained neutral for the sake of peace. When Travis is caught in the crossfire, Shuler can no longer remain passive, Travisí and Shulerís distant pasts headed for a harsh reconciliation.
Toomey is hardly an anomaly in this part of the country, a bully with no conscience. Leonard has unwittingly nurtured something better in Travis, the beginnings of self-respect and an innate sense of injustice. Such qualities do not thrive where Toomey reigns, and the result is a sudden violence in the rugged hills, the very same place where a generation of Travisí relatives were mowed down.
Regardless of the consequences, Travis can no longer countenance the kind of brutality that defines this world or his own inaction. The natural beauty of North Carolina stands mute before the violence of its past and the current assault of drug dealers who hide behind natureís bounty. Travis, in the throes of becoming a man, takes Leonardís costly lessons to heart.