John Tolley is a bumbling college dropout who yearns to become a bowtie-wearing, pipe-smoking historian. When he hears that Andrew Johnson's lost papers may have been preserved by an heir in Tennessee, he grabs his tweed jacket and heads south, convinced that he'll discover the key to a groundbreaking biography on the seventeenth U.S. president and the start of a respectable career.
But things start to go awry when his car breaks down in the town of Pantherville, Tennessee. Tolley rents a decrepit shack owned by a neurotic ex-con and is soon sucked into a world of cockfights, coon dogs, and the politics of Pantherville's good old boys. Surrounded by folks as eccentric as he is, including an alluringly shy mail carrier named Dweena, Tolley starts to feel at home -- even if his quest for academic glory might just prove to be a wild goose chase. Native and newcomer, highbrow and hillbilly cross paths and tangle hilariously in this wry and ribald tale.