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Ranchers in the southwestern town of McLintock try to force a group of homesteaders out of the area, and George Washington McLintock, ripsnorting cattle baron and the town's leading citizen, finds among them a lovely widow, Louise Warren, whom he hires as a cook. With Louise is her small daughter and her handsome son, Dev. McLintock's estranged wife, Katherine, returns from the East to insist on a divorce and to get custody of their daughter, Becky, who is returning from college. Becky finally arrives, bringing with her a Harvard boy, Matt Douglas, Jr., whose father is one of McLintock's old enemies. Young Douglas' presence leads to fisticuffs with Dev, who is also courting her. In addition to the violent arguments of Katherine and McLintock, there is more trouble when a band of Comanche Indians just released from prison arrives in town to make a final stand against the white man. Dev and Becky announce their engagement when this crisis subsides, but McLintock, roused to an exasperated fury by Katherine's jealousy and stubborness, chases her through the town and, upon catching her, gives her a solid spanking, much to the delight of the onlookers. After he tells her to go ahead and get a divorce, Katherine throws herself into his arms, and the McLintocks are together again.