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End of the Trail

End of the Trail(1936)

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In the small mid-western cattle town of Halsey, horse rancher Jim Watrous is concerned with the theft of some of his stock. Sheriff Anderson, busy with preparations for a farewell parade honoring those men who are going off to fight in the Spanish-American War, instructs his deputy, Bob Hildreth, to investigate the matter. Dale Brittenham, the foreman of the Watrous ranch, has already recovered the missing horses when Bob, his longtime friend, stops to talk with him at the Square Deal Saloon. After the horses are returned, Dale plays a series of pranks during the festivities and unexpectedly finds Bob and himself on the departing train. In Cuba, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt discusses battle strategy with Dale and Bob, who is now a sergeant. Dale's suggestions are dismissed by General Sumner, but Roosevelt takes a liking to the daring adventurer. At the battle of San Juan Hill, Dale rescues Bob, but loses the sight in his left eye during the process. As both men recuperate in a field hospital, they meet nurse Bell Pearson, whom the men invite back to Halsey after the war. The veterans return home, to be welcomed by Bell, who has been hired as the local schoolteacher, and her nervous tenderfoot brother, Larry. Bob is rehired as chief deputy, but Dale, now sporting a black eye patch, cannot find any work. Broke and hungry, Dale gets into a fight with a bartender who calls him a tramp for mooching a free lunch. Dale's fighting impresses Bill Mason, a prosperous yet unscrupulous rancher, who offers Dale a job wrangling "wild" horses out of the territory. Instructed to meet Ben Parker and Cheyenne, two somewhat dimwitted men employed by Mason, Dale tricks the pair and steals the eight horses that were moving out of the area. Over the next year, Dale continues to rustle horses and cattle, remaining just one step ahead of the law and Mason. By March of 1900, Dale has saved enough money to purchase the Square Deal, which he reopens as "Little Cuba" and hires Larry to run the new nightclub. With his eye patch now replaced with an expensive glass eye, Dale welcomes Bob as the newly installed sheriff of Halsey. When Dale refuses Bell's request that he give up rustling, she returns the expensive birthday gift he has just given her. Bob is about to ask Bell to marry him just as he comes to the realization that she loves Dale, whom she still hopes to someday reform. Larry tells Cheyenne and Ben, now working as "entertainers" at "Little Cuba", about his discovery of Mason's hidden corral in a canyon near Box Creek. The two men then tell Dale about "their" discovery and the three rustle all of Mason's stock from the corral that night. Mason abducts Larry, thinking that he is responsible for the rustling, but Dale is able to rescue the young man from Mason's ranch. One of Mason's men, Red Allen, attempts to ambush Dale, but is killed himself as Bob, investigating Larry's disappearance at the urging of Bell, watches. Dale warns Larry that his life is now in danger and advises the young man to go to California. Bob, torn between his friendship with Dale and his duty as a lawman, decides to let Dale's killing of Red go unpunished as repayment for Dale saving his life during the war. At the Fourth of July celebration, Dale decides to join Larry and Bell and go to California and grow oranges. Their plans are destroyed when Mason kills Larry. Dale pledges vengeance as Bob asks him to let the law take care of Mason. As Bob and his posse hunt Mason, Dale finds the rancher first and kills him. Bob is then forced to arrest his old friend for Mason's murder. Dale is convicted of murder and bids his final goodbye to his friends as he is led to the gallows.