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Learning that his former bank robbing partner, Clay Lomax, has been released from prison, wealthy Sam Foley hires hotheaded killer Bobby Jay Jones and his two henchmen, Pepe and Skeeter, to track Clay's movements. Clay travels from the Canyon City prison to Weed City, where he meets his friend Trooper, the owner of the town's brothel and saloon, to learn Foley's whereabouts. Trooper expresses puzzlement that Clay should have served the entire seven-year sentence when he could have identified Foley as his partner and obtained an early release. Reminding Trooper that as they fled the bank, Foley shot him in the back and took the money, Clay asserts his determination to deal with Foley himself. Clay then offers Trooper his entire savings of two hundred dollars to tell him where Foley lives, but the men are interrupted by the raucous arrival of Jones and the others. That night as Clay relaxes with one of Trooper's girls, Emma, he grows irritated by the racket made next door by the drunken Jones, Skeeter and Pepe. Clay confronts the brash Jones who is infuriated when Clay slaps him. The next morning Skeeter follows Clay to the train station where the ex-convict is to meet Teresa Ortega, the woman who has held his savings throughout the years. Clay is startled when the train brakeman presents Teresa's young daughter Decky and explains that an exhausted, sickly Teresa died during the trip. Although Decky is nearly seven and knows nothing about her father, Clay is reluctant to acknowledge that she might be his daughter. Nevertheless, clay agrees to take her with him, and the brakeman presents him with the savings from Teresa. Skeeter returns to Weed City to report to Foley about Decky and the men are momentarily puzzled over why Clay would take on a child. When Jones and the others begin harassing one of the brothel girls, Alma, Trooper threatens them with a pistol and is callously shot by all three men. Just before dying, Trooper whispers Clay's name and the town of Gun Hill to Emma. When Clay returns to town, Emma relates the events of Trooper's death and his last message. Clay tries unsuccessfully to board Decky with the storeowners, a schoolteacher and the church, but is forced to take her with him. After buying himself a horse, Clay recalls a kindly couple he knew years earlier, but when he and Decky arrive at the couple's cabin, they find it long abandoned. Meanwhile, Jones forces a protesting Alma to accompany him and the others as they follow Clay and Decky at a distance, with Jones chafing to confront the older ex-convict before reaching Gun Hill. As they travel together, Clay learns that Teresa frequently left Decky with various families in an effort to give her a settled life. Having helped out at a livery stable, Decky admires horses and refuses to part a wild young horse from its mother when Clay catches it for her. Later, Clay buys a tame pony for Decky from a rancher. That night, Jones, Pepe and Skeeter camp near Clay and Decky, then have a quarrel when Pepe refuses to stand guard. When Jones fires a rifle in frustration, Clay is alerted and investigates. Coming upon the sulky Pepe sitting guard, Clay knocks him out, then confronts Jones and Skeeter at their campfire. Although Jones refuses to explain why he is following Clay, a resentful Alma reveals that Foley hired the men. Clay takes all the men's guns and orders Jones to return to Foley and tell him that Clay is on his way. The next morning Clay and Decky move on, but an outraged Jones continues following them, determined to retrieve his guns. Late in the afternoon when a rainstorm breaks out, Clay is forced to seek refuge at a small farmhouse where he is welcomed by widow Juliana Farrell and her young son Dutch. Drawn to the Juliana's warmth and easy-going manner, Clay contemplates asking her to board Decky. After the children have gone to sleep, Clay tells Juliana about his past and Juliana confides the loneliness of her life. The couple's growing intimacy is broken up by Jones, Skeeter, Alma and Pepe. The men burst in and retrieve their guns, after which Jones orders Pepe to stand guard on the main road. Jones forces Decky and Dutch into the room, then begins drinking and orders Juliana to provide food while Dutch tends to the horses outside. After becoming drunk, Jones torments Juliana and when Clay intervenes, knocks him out. Jones then begins shooting various objects off Decky's head and when Alma protests, he strikes her down. Clay revives and, startling Skeeter by attacking him with a hot utensil from the stove, grabs his rifle. Jones fires at Clay but kills Skeeter, then grabs Decky and, using her as a shield, escapes. Clay, Juliana and Dutch follow. Riding hard down the road, Jones's horse pulls up lame and upon meeting Pepe, Jones demands his horse. When Pepe protests, Jones coldly shoots him, but while Jones is changing horses, Decky manages to run away into the brush. Clay arrives moments later, but, unable to find Decky, rides off after Jones. Juliana and Dutch then find Decky and take her back to the farm. The next morning Jones arrives at Foley's ranch in Gun Hill and tells him that Clay killed Pepe and Skeeter, then demands his payment for the job. Foley agrees but upon opening his safe, pulls a pistol on Jones, who kills him. Clay arrives at Foley's to find Jones stuffing his pockets with Foley's money. Outraged by Jones's earlier malicious treatment of Decky, Clay torments the killer by shooting various objects off his head, then placing a shotgun cartridge on his head, forces Jones to draw. Clay outguns Jones and shoots him dead. After sending for the sheriff, Clay returns to the Farrell farm where Decky happily welcomes him.