In the summer of 1918 in the little town of Brailsford Junction in central Wisconsin, 11-year-old Sterling North saves a raccoon from a lynx, and the two become boon companions. Sterling's father, a widower and traveling salesman, spends much of his time on the road; and Rascal, the raccoon, is often Sterling's only companion. Three friendly neighbors keep an eye on the pair, however: Miss Whalen, his teacher; Mr. Thurman, the new minister; and Mr. Pringle, a kindly merchant. Rascal gets into trouble often, and when he digs up a neighbor's corn patch, Sterling frees him rather than putting him in a cage. Rascal is again almost killed by the lynx, and Sterling must once more save him. On his way home, Sterling takes Rascal to a race between a Stanley Steamer and a sulky, and the presence of the animal inspires Donnybrook, the horse pulling the sulky, to win the race. Sterling's sister, Theo, returns home from Chicago with her fiancé and finds the North home in a terrible mess. She takes her father to task for neglecting Sterling, and, as a result, Mr. North takes an office in Brailsford Junction. Sterling sets Rascal free in the company of a female raccoon, knowing that together the two animals will be able to protect themselves from the lynx.
- Bill Mumy - Sterling North
- The voice of Sterling North - Walter Pidgeon
- Steve Forrest - his father, Willard
- Pamela Toll - his sister, Theo
As with many films, this film differs from its source material, the award winning book Rascal (book). His sister, the poet and editor Jessica Nelson North, is not a character in the film.