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When Clay Halliday tracks down his fugitive brother Daniel with a request from their dying father, Big Dan, to return home for a reconciliation, Daniel, who has come to loathe his tyrannical father, refuses until his brother mentions that Big Dan has granted Clay permission to marry half-breed Aleta Burris. Believing that his father has changed, Daniel follows Clay home. Before entering his father's room, Daniel recalls the events that led up to their estrangement: Big Dan, the iron-willed sheriff of the territory, proudly presents Daniel, his favorite son, with a set of silver-plated pistols and begs him to reconsider his decision not to become his deputy. Content to manage the family ranch, Daniel refuses, and Big Dan then recruits the weak-willed Clay for the post. When rumors begin to circulate that Jivaro Burris, the Halliday's head wrangler, has a mistress, Big Dan rides to investigate and enters Jivaro's cabin to find his daughter, Martha, embracing the wrangler. Outraged that a half-breed would dare fall in love with his daughter, Big Dan orders Jivaro to leave the ranch. Soon after, Jivaro becomes implicated in cattle rustling and murder when he tries to turn back a stampeding herd after a gang of cattle thieves murders a neighboring rancher. Despite Jivaro's pleas of innocence, Big Dan arrests him. As an enraged mob assembles outside the jailhouse, Big Dan rides off and leaves the jail unguarded, thus allowing the mob to break in and lynch Jivaro. Jivaro's hanging alienates both Martha and Daniel from their father, and after denouncing him, Daniel forsakes the ranch and rides to tell storekeeper Chad Burris of his son's death. While consoling Aleta, Jivaro's sister, Daniel begins to fall in love with her. Soon after Daniel rides off, Big Dan comes looking for his son. When Chad accuses him of murder, Big Dan goads him into drawing his gun and then shoots him down. Hearing gunfire, Daniel returns and vows retribution on his father. Although Aleta attempts to calm him down and begs him to stay with her, Daniel, embittered and vengeful, departs. Deprived of all those dear to her, Aleta falls ill and Martha takes her home to nurse her back to health. At the ranch, Clay falls in love with Aleta, but she returns home once she has recovered. Meanwhile, to retaliate against his father, Daniel defies the law by stampeding cattle, torching buildings and robbing banks, declaring that he will not desist until his father resigns as sheriff. Although the townspeople beg for his resignation, Big Dan, obsessed with bringing his son to justice, refuses to abandon his quest and continues his search alone. Finally coming face to face, father and son engage in a violent fistfight in which Big Dan suffers a crippling stroke. As his thoughts return to the present, Daniel enters his father's bedroom and Big Dan pulls a gun from under the covers and aims it at his son. Martha, armed with her own pistol, pulls the weapon from her father's hand and slips it into a drawer. When Big Dan rescinds his permission for Clay to marry Aleta, declaring that it was just a ploy to bring Daniel home, all three children, now completely alienated from their father, turn their backs and leave him to die alone. Crawling from his bed, Big Dan retrieves his gun from the drawer and hobbles after them. When Daniel dares him to shoot, he collapses, unable to fire, and then dies.