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In Arizona, in the 1800s, former sheriff Ben Stride vengefully pursues seven men who murdered his wife during a holdup at the Silver Springs freight office. Stride catches up with two of the men and, when they draw on him, kills them. The next day, Stride encounters Annie Greer and her husband John, Easterners who rode through Silver Springs on their way to California. After pulling their wagon out of a mud hole, Stride travels along with them, as they are heading in the same direction and he knows they are unprepared for the dangers of the trail. Annie, thanking him for his help, admits that they have already had several mishaps on their trip. The grateful John, a salesman by profession, says he has never stayed with a job long, but expects to find satisfaction working in the shipping trade. He also confides that they have run out of money, necessitating his taking odd jobs to pay for the remainder of their journey. A man of few words, Stride listens to John's chatter, but is distracted by thoughts of Annie. In the hills above, Masters, an ex-convict whom Stride has twice arrested, and his friend Clete follow the travelers, without making their presence known. Later, soldiers led by Lt. Collins, who has been ordered to clear out the Chiricahua Indians in the area, ride up from the opposite direction. Stride points out to Collins that the dwindling tribe, which numbers about fifty, is mostly comprised of starving women, but, undeterred, Collins continues on with his mission and warns John that he should turn back for Annie's safety. After they leave, Stride suggests a longer, safer route that would bypass the nearest town of Flora Vista, but John is determined to continue as planned. When they reach a deserted relay station, Stride rides ahead and finds a drunk old man, who says the others left after hearing that Indians were in the area. As the old-timer leaves with his donkey, Masters and Clete ride up, and Masters, who seems to respect Stride, makes it clear that they were not involved in the robbery and murder of his wife. That evening, Annie cooks supper, and while Stride stands guard outside, Masters tells the Greers that Stride lost the last election for Silver Springs sheriff, a position he held for twelve years, because of his taciturn nature. After hearing that Stride's wife was murdered, Annie goes out to console him. At first Stride rebuffs her, but then admits that he feels responsible for his wife's death because his refusal to be demoted to deputy forced her to take the job at the freight office. Later, Masters tells Stride that he has been following him, because he wants the strongbox containing the $20,000 stolen by the gang. Although Stride does not know who killed his wife, Masters points out that he is an easy target, because they know him. As the group prepares to leave the next morning, Chiricahuas appear. Stride orders everyone not to shoot and the group tensely waits while Stride gives the hungry Indians one of their extra horses to eat. Satisfied, the Indians take the horse and leave. As the journey continues, Masters, who is growing enamored of Annie, wonders what she sees in John, whom he considers "half a man." While crossing the desert, they rescue a white man being pursued by Indians, unaware that he is one of the seven outlaws. After the Indians are chased away, the man takes aim at Stride's back, but Masters kills him before he fires. When they stop to set up camp, Masters watches Stride, who he realizes is secretly in love with Annie. Feeling guilty about his wife's death, Stride tells Annie that a man should be able to take care of his woman. Although Annie says she does not love John less for being weak, Stride suggests that she does. That night, during a storm, all take refuge inside the wagon, where Masters tells a story about a woman who left her husband for a rugged man. Later, when Stride suggests that Masters and Clete move on, they leave immediately. By morning, Masters and Clete reach Flora Vista, where Masters finds Pate Bodeen, the leader of the outlaws, and his three remaining accomplices, and tells them Stride is coming. In exchange for his help in killing Stride, Bodeen offers Masters a share of the loot, which he says will be delivered by John. Outside Flora Vista, Stride, expecting to walk into a gunfight, parts with the Greers. While saying goodbye, Stride and Annie forget themselves and almost kiss. Riding on alone, Stride is ambushed by two of Bodeen's men, whom he kills, but he is wounded in the confrontation. Later, the Greers find Stride unconscious. When Annie suggests that John fetch the doctor from town, John tells her that he accepted a job to deliver the strongbox, unaware that he was helping murderers, and the outlaws will be waiting for him. Stride, who has meanwhile awakened, tells them to leave the box and take an alternate route to California. Because he cannot identify the killers, he will force them to identify themselves by coming for the strongbox. The Greers leave, but instead of taking the safe route, John heads for Flora Vista to get the sheriff. In town, John tells Bodeen that Stride is waiting in a canyon with the strongbox and then walks toward the sheriff's office. Bodeen shoots John in the back, killing him. Surprised by John's courage, Masters admits to Clete that he underestimated the man. After following Bodeen and the remaining henchman to the canyon, Masters kills both outlaws and, wanting all the money for himself, also kills Clete. Then he meets with Stride and tells the former sheriff that John died heroically. Although he regrets that Annie will lose both John and Stride, Masters, expecting to win, suggests that they duel over the strongbox. Stride kills Masters in the shootout and later returns the strongbox to Silver Springs via Wells Fargo. Before leaving for Silver Springs to accept the deputy job, Stride tells Annie, who is taking a stagecoach to California, that he will be there if she needs him. She watches his departure, then, changing her mind, unloads her luggage, saying that she will stay a while to see how things work out.