powered by AFI
Staggering out of the Wyoming high country, Jubal Troop, an itinerant cowhand, collapses from exhaustion and is found by Shep Horgan, a crude but big-hearted rancher, who gives the unconscious cowboy refuge at his ranch. Still suffering from his ordeal, Jubal awakens in the bunkhouse and there meets Shep's ranchhands: the honest, violin-playing Sam, the pernicious Pinky and Carson. When Jubal comments that he is dogged by bad luck, Shep advises him to stop running and offers him a job. After Jubal proves his mettle by breaking a cantankerous bronco, Mae, Shep's comely Canadian wife, flirts with him, but Jubal rebuffs her advances out of loyalty to Shep. Mae's interest in Jubal infuriates Pinky, her erstwhile love. Pinky becomes even more incensed when Shep offers Jubal the job of foreman. While riding the range one day, Pinky comes across a band of religious pilgrims known as the Rawhiders and tries to intimidate them. When Shem Hoktor, the group's leader, explains that several of their members are ill and need to rest, Reb Haislipp, a cowhand riding with the pilgrims, attests to the group's benevolence, and Jubal grants them permission to camp on the Shep's land. Jubal then offers Reb a job rounding up cattle. Back at the ranch, Pinky taunts Jubal about being attracted to Shem's pretty daughter Naomi. Overhearing their conversation, Mae reproaches Jubal for showing interest in another woman. When Jubal reiterates his loyalty to Shep, Mae venomously expresses her repulsion for her coarse husband, whom she married believing that he was a cattle baron. Appreciative of Jubal's hard work, Shep gives him the day off and suggests he visit Naomi. At the pilgrims' encampment, Naomi and Jubal discuss their mutual longing for a real home and Jubal confides that he ran away from home as a young boy, driven away by his hateful mother, who wished him dead. After Jubal departs, Jake Slavin, one of the pilgrims, rides after him and warns him to stay away from Naomi because she has been promised to him. While on a cattle drive, Jubal and the others set up camp, and soon after, Naomi arrives to tell Jubal that she and the others plan to leave at sunup. After sadly confirming that a marriage between her and Jake has been arranged, Naomi confesses that she detests Jake and asks Jubal to bestow her with her first kiss. That night, Mae rides into camp to deliver a report to Shep. Preoccupied with a poker game, Shep asks Jubal to accompany Mae on the short ride home. Upon reaching the ranch, Mae tries to entice Jubal, and after he rebuffs her and wordlessly rides off, she gazes after him in disbelief. Back at the camp, while the others sleep, Reb saddles up and rides off, after which Pinky awakens Shep to tell him that Jubal has not yet returned. When Pinky insinuates that Jubal is in Mae's arms, Shep, with a jealous, crazed glint in his eye, rides back to the ranch to find out the truth. Finding Mae slumbering alone in bed, Shep kisses her, causing her to call out Jubal's name. To retaliate against Jubal for his rejection, Mae lies that she and Jubal are lovers. Reb finds Jubal drinking at the saloon, and soon after, Shep stalks in carrying a loaded Winchester. Accusing Jubal of cuckolding him, Shep fires and Reb tosses the unarmed Jubal a pistol to defend himself. Wounded, Jubal has no choice but to gun down his friend. The cowhands who witnessed the shootout believe Shep's accusations and spread the word of Jubal's betrayal. Pinky gleefully rides to the ranch to inform Mae of her husband's demise, but when she spurns him once more, he becomes unhinged and savagely beats her. Reb, meanwhile, brings the wounded Jubal to Shem's camp and asks for help. When Jake objects to putting the others in danger by granting Jubal refuge, Shem decides to house Jubal in his wagon and split up from the others. Still bloodthirsty, Pinky returns to town and incites a mob to lynch Jubal. Naomi, meanwhile, comforts the agonized, remorseful Jubal by assuring him that he had no other choice but to shoot his friend. Soon after, Pinky and the mob catches up to the pilgrims' wagons, and Pinky realizes that the group must split up to protect Jubal. Jealous and spiteful, Jake tells Pinky where Jubal's wagon is hidden. Jubal, meanwhile, prepares to leave the wagon when Reb gallops up to warn him that Pinky and the posse are just minutes away. Quickly deciding that his only chance is to return to the ranch and force Mae to tell the truth, Jubal rides off and instructs Reb to lead the posse there. When Jake arrives leading the mob, Shem disowns him as a Rawhider, after which Reb informs Pinky that Jubal is waiting for him at the ranch. After Jubal finds Mae brutalized on the barn floor, she confesses that she lied to her husband and accepts responsibility for his death. When the posse arrives, Jubal walks out of the barn to confront Pinky. As Jubal wrestles with Pinky, Dr. Grant, a member of the posse, goes into the barn to treat Mae. Soon after, the doctor reemerges to announce that Mae is dead, but with her dying breath, testified that Pinky is liable for both her and Shep's death. Just then, Naomi arrives and is joined by Jubal and Reb, and they all ride off together.