Route 66/Three Sides
Our intrepid young adventure-seekers Tod and Buz choose as their next destination the small community of Grant’s Pass, Oregon, figuring that such a quiet out-of-the-way stop will be the perfect place to find some rest and relaxation after their past arduous adventures. Instead, at the first saloon they walk into, they find themselves in the middle of a brawl.
Local Curt Emerson is fighting with a man named Ted Becker because of the attentions Becker has been showing to Curt’s sister Karen. Curt is getting the worse of the fight when Buz comes to his aid and knocks Becker cold. When the two boys assist Karen in bringing Curt back to their father’s house, the girl’s demeanor abruptly changes from the concerned sister into sarcastic mockery of her brother’s efforts to defend her honor, and it is clear that she provoked the fight to humiliate her brother. It also seems that such an incident is a not at all infrequent occurrence. Curt, in turn, is obviously resentful of Buz’s assistance in what he viewed as his fight.
Mr. Emerson thanks Tod and Buz for helping to bring his son home and makes them an offer. If they will sign on to work at his hop farm, he will put them up in the guest quarters at his estate. His ulterior motive for wanting the duo as boarders is clear. He freely admits to having lost control of his two irresponsible children, and hopes that the presence of two young people of good character around the home will have a beneficial influence on Curt and Karen. Tod and Buz, not without some reservation, accept the arrangement.
Meanwhile Kurt, who is employed as the assistant foreman to his father’s hop farm, shows up late for work the next day, obviously still inebriated and in no condition to work. The foreman, Galloway, disgustedly sends him away. Kurt immediately heads to a local watering hole, where he encounters Becker. Frustrated at his inability to defend his sister’s honor with his fists, Curt challenges Becker to a boat race through the rapids with a $500 stake, despite the fact that Becker is a far more experienced rower than he is. Predictably, Curt’s boat founders in the rapids, and Becker has to save him from drowning. The incident further inflames Curt’s sense of impotence.
Becker arrives at the Emersons that night to claim his reward – not the $500 purse, but a date with Karen. The girl characteristically teases him and then resists his advances when he tries to kiss her, forcing Buz to intervene again. Although Buz certainly recognizes Karen for what she is, he also recognizes Becker for what he is, and a genuine dislike continues to grow between the two men.
The next day at the hop farm, Curt is still searching for a way to prove his manhood. He boldly announces to Galloway and his father his intention to save time on the delivery of the hops by taking a route along the riverside mountain road – one that is shunned by the farmers for being far too dangerous for a loaded truck to negotiate. Curt drives away amid the protests of the other workers, with Galloway jumping into the cab of the departing truck in an attempt to halt the reckless youth. Tod and Buz take off in pursuit in the corvette. Galloway’s attempts to stop the truck lead to tragedy, as the vehicle goes off the road and piles up on the side of the mountain. Curt survives with barely a scratch, but the old foreman is killed in the accident.
This latest antic of Curt’s is the last straw for Emerson’s workers, who leave en masse following the catastrophe. Emerson returns to his factory finding that Tod and Buz are the only ones still willing to work for him. Emerson confesses to the boys his failure as a father to the two children. He relates the abusive upbringing he suffered at the hands of his own father, and how it motivated him to the opposite extreme, to raise his own children without discipline of any kind. Curt and Karen are the predictably disastrous result. Tod tells Emerson about his own upbringing, in which his father managed to teach him responsibility without being dictatorial, by treating the father-son relationship as a partnership in which all potential conflicts are viewed as shared problems.
Meanwhile, Curt, unable to face up to his role in the recent tragedy, seeks to escape his culpability by leaving town. Tod finds him in a bar before he is able to depart and drags him back to his father’s farm. Emerson at first seems willing to do what he always has – give in to his son’s wishes. But, when he attempts to offer Curt money, Tod’s obvious disgust shames him, and he winds up striking his son across the face instead. As Curt drives off, Emerson admits that his action is “too little, too late.”
Karen in the meantime is finally finding some sense of responsibility for her father’s welfare. She attempts to recruit some of her young college party friends to replace the workers at her father’s factory for the remainder of the summer. In this, she is ultimately successful, but the initial ridicule she receives from her fellow fun-and-sun youths lead her also to seek to enlist the aid of the lecherous Becker – who doubtless intends to get something from her in return.
Realizing what his sister has in mind, Curt halts his flight out of town to come seeking for her, finding Becker at his boat dock up to his usual seductive tricks with Karen. Curt is finally coming to a realization that his sister is not entirely blameless in her predicament, but he nonetheless steadfastly prepares for another bout with Becker. Becker, as usual, proceeds to thoroughly rout Curt. But Buz has also figured out Karen’s intention, and arrives on the scene in time to aid Curt. In a rousing knock-down drag out fight, Buz once again emerges the victor over Becker. This time Curt offers his genuine gratitude for Buz’s assistance.
Having finally learned a few lessons about what it means to be a man, Curt returns to his father’s establishment and humbly offers his services as a worker.
Later, Tod and Buz drive out of Grant’s Pass after having helped the Emersons salvage the harvest for the season. Tod relates to Buz a maxim of his father’s – that the solution to any conflict can always be found in the “third side” of the coin – the edge where the opposites meet.