Montelius "Monte" Walsh (Tom Selleck) is an aging cowboy facing the final days of the Wild West era. He and his friend Chet Rollins (Keith Carradine), another long-time cowhand, work at whatever ranch work comes their way, but "nothing they can't do from a horse". Their lives are divided between months on the range and the occasional trip into town. Camaraderie and competition with the other cowboys fill their days. They seek work and take a job at the ranch of Cal Brennan (William Devane), where they meet an old friend, Shorty Austin (George Eads), another ranch hand.