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When the formerly peaceful town of Green Valley in the Texas Panhandle becomes the target of a wave of attacks by outlaws, sheriff Tom Stocker informs a group of local ranchers that the governor is sending a U.S. Marshal to help them. Soon after, one of the ranchers, Rance, receives a letter from "the boss" informing him that a rider is on his way with a special message for Tom. Rance orders some of his men to stop the messenger from reaching town, and while on the trail, U.S. Marshal Johnny Mack Brown sees the rider being pursued and shot. Upon reaching Green Valley, Johnny questions Tom, who tells him the outlaws appear to have inside information. Johnny suggests contacting the Transportation Bureau in Kansas City to find out what news the messenger was carrying, but Tom replies that the telegraph wires were cut the day before and are being repaired. However, the repairmen are attacked by outlaws, who chop down the poles. Johnny and Tom ride out to investigate, tracking the outlaws to their hideout. In the ensuing gun battle, the lawmen kill two of the outlaws but learn nothing about the identity of the gang's leader. Tom observes that one of the outlaws who escaped looked like Rance, while Johnny comments that Rance gets a lot of mail. Johnny, however, suspects Fred Kendal, owner of the largest ranch in Green Valley, of being the head of the outlaw ring, but Tom, who is in love with Kendal's daughter Margie, is skeptical. At the post office, Tom receives word that the Transportation Bureau is sending another messenger, this time by stagecoach. Convinced that one of the letters Rance has just picked up contains the same information, Johnny heads out to intercept the stage, and arrives in time to save the messenger from the outlaws. The messenger reveals to Johnny that a new railroad is going to be built through Green Valley, explaining that this information is being kept secret to prevent land prices from going up. In town, Johnny informs Tom that the outlaw leader wants to make Green Valley an unfit place to live so that he can buy up all the land and sell it to the railroad, and notes that two men have been buying up ranches in the area: Kendal and Henry Faulkner. Meanwhile, in the basin where Kendal's cattle have been rounded up, Rance and his men start a stampede, then attack Kendal, shooting him in the shoulder. Johnny asks Margie to spread word throughout town that her father has died, and when Rance comes to the ranch claiming to know someone who would like to buy the land, Johnny confronts him. Rance takes Margie hostage and rides off in her wagon, but Johnny overtakes them and knocks Rance out. Johnny then calls on Faulkner and asks him to accompany him to Kendal's ranch. On the way, Faulkner pulls a gun and admits that he is the outlaw leader. Faulkner shoots Johnny several times, then rides back to his office, where he has the deeds to more than half of the land in Green Valley. He is amazed when Johnny walks in and explains that while waiting earlier in Faulkner's office he replaced the bullets in Faulkner's gun with blanks. Faulkner tries to escape, but Johnny captures him. Later, Johnny stops at Kendal's ranch to say goodbye, promising to return for Tom and Margie's wedding.