Ed Earl Dodd, the sheriff of Gilbert, Texas, has a relationship of long standing with Miss Mona Stangley, who runs a brothel called the “Chicken Ranch” outside of town. Illegal or not, Earl does not interfere with her business, which has been a fixture in the town for as long as either can remember.
Lovers on the side, occasionally interrupted by Deputy Fred, the sheriff and madam have a pleasant arrangement. Not everyone in town approves of her, but Miss Mona is a public-minded citizen who regularly donates to charity, decent and law-abiding in every respect but her line of work.
A big-city television personality from New Jersey, do-gooder Melvin P. Thorpe, is about to do a segment about the town, so the sheriff travels there to introduce himself to Thorpe, who greets him warmly. He is shocked by Thorpe’s live telecast, in which Thorpe reveals to a huge audience his discovery that “Texas has a whorehouse in it.”
The Chicken Ranch is an institution, where the winning team from the football game between state rivals the University of Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies traditionally is brought to “celebrate” its victory. The negative publicity puts a spotlight on the place, so Ed Earl gets Miss Mona’s word that she will shut the doors until the attention goes away. She shuts it down to regular customers but elects to let the football players have their party, at which point Thorpe and his TV cameras sneak onto the property and ambush them all.
Earl compounds the problem by insulting and threatening Thorpe in the town public square, all also caught on TV. A quarrel and bitter breakup between the sheriff and Miss Mona ensues, punctuated by him calling her “a whore.”
The Governor of Texas, who cannot make a decision on a single issue until he first sees what voters say in the polls, listens to Earl’s appeals to keep the Chicken Ranch open, but when the polls say no he orders Ed Earl to close down the Chicken Ranch. The working girls leave the Chicken Ranch for good. Miss Mona is disconsolate, at least until finding out the effort made by the sheriff on her behalf.
As Miss Mona is departing the whorehouse for the last time, Earl stops her and proposes to her. She turns him down, knowing that his dream is to run for state legislature and that having a wife who worked in prostitution would hurt his chances. He again insists that he wants to marry her and that he does not care about what people will think or say. Deputy Fred, in a voiceover, states that Earl and Miss Mona married and that Earl successfully ran for the legislature. Deputy Fred states that he succeeded Earl as Sheriff.