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Cowboy Jim Ward spends his life savings to buy a map of a lost gold mine in the California mountains. After a long journey over the desert, Jim encounters miner Silas Bagley and his daughter Joan. The Bagleys' initial suspicions are assuaged when Jim carries Silas, who has a broken leg, to his cabin. When the Bagleys learn that Jim has been following a map to a mine, they show him an identical map that they bought ten years ago and inform him that it is a fake. Silas adds that even though the map is phony, there is gold in the mountains. A few weeks earlier, the Bagleys made a small strike and are now waiting for the assayer's report. Like a man obsessed, Jim works from sunrise to sunset. Later, Slim arrives with the assayer's report and the Bagleys learn that their strike is very low grade. Despite the sparse content of the claim, a syndicate offers to buy it from the Bagleys. Joan suggests that she travel to San Francisco to close the deal, and Jim offers to accompany her. While Joan talks to the syndicate, Jim takes some ore samples to the assayer, only to learn that he has found fool's gold. Joan receives $5,000 for her claim, and Jim offers to keep the money in his money belt. Joan convinces him that they should spend some of the money celebrating. Furious because he is broke after years of struggle, Jim insists that Joan marry him, and when she refuses, he tries to drag her out of the bar where they have gone for a drink. Steve, a sailor, intervenes, pretending to recognize Jim as a famous wrestler. While Jim demonstrates his strength to the amused customers, Steve introduces himself to Joan. Joan is insulted by his attempt to pick her up and leaves in a huff. Meanwhile, Jim gets very drunk and is robbed of Joan's money. Later, Jim spots the woman who stole the money and kills her. He pretends not to have found the money, however, and keeps it for himself. Because Steve feels responsible for losing the Bagleys' money, he returns to the mountains with Joan and Jim, intending to work until he can pay them back. After a while, Joan falls in love with Steve, but he believes that she is Jim's girl and spurns her advances. Then, Steve makes a big strike. When he tries to show it to Jim, he learns that Jim has the Bagleys' money, and Jim knocks him unconscious. That night, Jim rides into the city to the assayer's office and discovers that Steve's strike is very rich. The next morning, alerted by the assayer, the sheriff comes looking for Jim, who is wanted for murder. He joins Joan, Silas, and Slim in a search for the missing men. They find Steve, weakened by the sun, who tells them that Jim has taken the gold and is looking for an old miner's trail through Death Valley. Steve follows Jim, intending to capture him and retrieve the gold. A gunfight ensues and, when both men run out of bullets, they fight each other. Steve is overcome by the much stronger Jim, who then wanders into the desert. After the Bagleys, the sheriff and Slim find Steve, the sheriff follows Jim and Steve proposes to Joan. Later, Jim is bitten by a rattlesnake and dies.