At the sun rises on Christmas Day, 1916, forty-year-old Texas Ranger Captain, Jesse Taylor, and his nephew, 8th Cavalry Lt. Samuel Taylor, enjoy a smoke and a cup of hot, strong coffee on the south porch of the two-story Rocking T ranch house. The quiet house is filled with family, guests from Terlingua, and a cook busily preparing a holiday meal.
The distant sound of running horses interrupts the Taylors. Soon a band of thirty-six mounted bandidos appears between outbuildings and races toward them. Red-shirted Jesús Colorado, a deserter from Pancho Villa’s army, brandishes a shining saber and leads the shooting and shouting intruders. Jesse tells Samuel to make pistol smoke while he runs into the house shouting an alarm. He returns to the porch with his Winchester rifle and helps Samuel disrupt the attack.
When they leave an hour later, the raiders have killed eight people, including women, children, and cowboys. They steal two hundred Rocking T Ranch horses.
The Taylors bury their dead and the raiders they killed. The next day Jesse leads Samuel and a cowboy posse across the Rio Grande in pursuit of the Rocking T horses. They plan to recapture the herd and snuff out some bandido lamps.