Sissy Spacek plays a divorced mother of two boys who tries to go it alone in mid-1940s Texas small town. We see early her husband cheating on her, causing her to divorce him. Shunned by the "respectable" townsfolk because of her marital breakup, Spacek must endure the unwanted attentions of every man in the community. Being the switchboard operator, she is not allowed to leave her "home", thus adding to her loneliness and her vulnerability. Enter Eric Roberts, a young sailor who becomes both friend and protector to Spacek and her sons. He is kind hearted and grows close to the boys and Spacek. Once Roberts is called to active duty, however, Spacek is supposedly left at the mercy of the menacing Triplett brothers who torment Spacek and her sons. The title refers to a "raggedy man"-a ragpicker, played by Sam Shepard, who seems to keep a careful watch on the house, Spacek and the boys. His intentions are frightening at first, but when the Triplett brothers show up to cause harm to Spacek and her boys, he moves his broken body quickly to help them and ends up saving them, giving his life for them. She realizes the dying man is her ex-husband, the boys' father. Though injured in the war, he returned home to watch over his family. At the end of the film, Spacek buys three bus tickets for San Antonio, quits her job, and boards the bus with her two sons.