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On Christmas Day in 1855 near Jasper, Arizona, a blacksmith's wife dies while giving birth to a son. When the embittered father, John Novak, names the child Cain, three of Jasper's prominent citizens--Mayor Carrillo, Dr. Carter, and Judge Perkins--baptize the boy Joe and practically adopt him. Known as the Christmas Kid, the rebellious Joe grows up; and when the welfare of Jasper is threatened by the unscrupulous gambler and promoter Mike Culligan, he reluctantly agrees to replace the spineless Sheriff Anderson. Culligan, however, uses his girl friend, Marie Lefleur, to charm Joe, and she soon has him under Culligan's control. When Joe's drunken father is killed in a barroom brawl, Joe despairs, hands in his badge, and forsakes guns and killing. As a romance develops between Marie and Joe, he persuades her to leave Culligan and return to her home; but, as she is leaving, she is gunned down by two of Culligan's henchmen, Karl and Burt. The crime spurs Joe back into action and so enrages the townspeople that they burn down Culligan's gambling-dance hall. Culligan then uses Joe's weakling childhood friend, Jud Walters, to frame the Christmas Kid as a killer-thief. With evidence stacked against him, Joe is sentenced to be hanged along with Karl and Burt. When the latter two are swept from their horses to swing in the air, however, Joe's horse does not move, for his loyal friends who know of Joe's innocence have hobbled the animal's legs. At this point Jud comes forth to tell the truth about Culligan's villainy. Though the trapped Culligan kills Jud, he himself is shot to death by Mayor Carrillo. Joe, the Christmas Kid, is now free to bring peace again to Jasper.