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In California, Korean War veteran Tully Gibbs shows up at a small mountain town seeking tungsten miner Kevin Russel. Tully claims that Kevin's son Al was a fellow prisoner in Korea and, before dying in a U.S. military hospital, asked Tully to check on his father. Kevin welcomes Tully, as he had received several letters from Al, praising Tully as a close friend and excellent mining engineer. Because Al had lost the use of both hands, he dictated the letters to someone, and Kevin, grateful for a final peace between himself and his difficult, wayward son, tells Tully that he wants to find and thank the unknown writer for those last communications. Upon arriving in town, Tully takes a hotel room and has a confrontation with the wealthy Ben Hodes, the town bully who gets his way through bribes and brute force. That evening at a town dance, Ben and Tully clash again, when Ben becomes jealous of Tully's attention to Sarah Moffit, a woman he dates. He challenges the newcomer to a fistfight, and Tully consents, after Ben agrees to lend him ten thousand dollars. To the delight of all watching, Tully wins the fight, and Kevin, happy to find someone who stands up to Ben, offers him a partnership in his mine. Tully accepts the offer and learns that Ben and his half-sister Beth, who are the chief stockholders of the local bank, have inherited a local tungsten mine, and Ben has been trying by devious means to get Kevin's mine as well. Undeterred by the threat of Ben, Tully uses Ben's loan to pay for equipment and employees to increase production at the mine. They also get support and publicity from the local newspaper owner, Sam Horne. Meanwhile, Ben bribes Timothy Byers, who is a lawyer on the Board of Commissioners, to help him prevent Tully from delivering their mined ore, so that he will default on the loan. At Ben's request, the county officials refuse to build a road to the mine, so Tully rents a bulldozer from a private company several miles away to build the road himself. While the bulldozer is being transported to the mine, men sent by Ben hijack the vehicle and strip it down. Sarah offers to help Tully by phoning in his order for replacement parts, but seeing the list, recognizes his handwriting and realizes that Tully wrote the letters supposedly sent by Al. She confides in Sam, who deduces that she is in love with Tully and suggests that they "wait and watch." Next, with Byers' help, Ben buys property through which the new road runs, and sets up a roadblock. Although Kevin has a right-of-way easement with the original owner, he discovers he cannot prove it, as the county clerk's record of the transaction has been removed. Ben's claim appears legitimate, but Tully is determined to get at least one shipment through, so he, Kevin and Kevin's young employee, Alec Bacchione, destroy the roadblock. Upon realizing that Tully's trucks got through, Ben stations an armed guard to block the road to prevent future attempts. Troubled by Tully's disregard for the law, Sarah confronts him about the letters. After confessing that he took advantage of Kevin to make money, he promises to make good after the problems with Ben are settled. Beth, who is being courted by Sam and has suffered a lifetime of Ben's bullying, uses her connections to learn that Ben paid Byers $5,000, and that Byers owns the company renting the bulldozer. Armed with a falsified report supposedly proving Kevin's easement right, Tully threatens Ben with a grand jury investigation. Ben opens the road, but then leaves town, claiming to have business in San Francisco. As Tully and Kevin are about to make final payments on the loan, they hear mysterious hammering near the mine and learn about a buyout of the local store's explosives. Convinced that Ben is laying dynamite to sabotage their operation, Tully rides off into the mountain in search of Ben and finds him preparing to set off enough dynamite to close the road. They fight, and just as Sarah, Kevin and Alec show up by car, Ben pushes the dynamite plunger. In the resulting explosion, Ben is the only casualty. Tully confesses to Kevin that he wrote letters in the dying Al's name to finagle a partnership with him. Kevin admits that he had already guessed, as the letters were so unlike the antagonistic Al, who never praised anyone. After Tully arrived, Kevin says, he matched the handwriting on the letters to Tully's signature on the hotel register. Untroubled by Tully's deceit, Kevin claims that a man who thinks he is that good should be allowed to prove it. Assuming that the road to the mine has been irreparably destroyed, Tully regrets that he can no longer prove anything, until Sam and Beth show up to check out the explosion, inadvertently demonstrating that the road is still passable.