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Near the town of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, ex-lawyer "Windy" Gibson witnesses a group of Sioux Indians ambush a covered wagon belonging to homesteaders Charles and Karen Alderson. The couple, who are from Maryland, have brought along Karen's nurse, Maria. When the pregnant Karen begins labor during a snow storm, the doctor is unable to attend, and Maria must deliver the baby girl herself. Karen dies in the process, and they name her baby after her. Nine years later, after Alderson has become a wealthy rancher, Maria convinces him to send Karen to school in Austria. Because of his success, Alderson invokes the ire of newer homesteaders and is forced to rely on his ranch foreman, Glenn Forrester, for protection. By the time Karen returns to Wyoming years later, it has become a state, and she meets and falls in love with Glenn. At a party at his ranch, Alderson discusses his fight against the proposed Homestead Act, which would grant portions of the Wyoming territory to new homesteaders. When a ruthless homesteader named Duke Lassiter interrupts the party to ask for permission to camp on the ranch, Alderson reluctantly agrees, warning him that his ranch is unavailable to homesteaders. Later, Windy, who now works for Alderson, cuts through a wire fence to allow Alderson's cattle to drink at a stream, when Lassiter and his men suddenly pull their guns. Alderson and Glenn then arrive, and Windy informs them that the Amendment designed to counteract the Homestead Act has been defeated. Alderson organizes the ranchers, and that evening, during a blizzard, a man seeking shelter in Alderson's barn informs him that his herd has become backed up against a fence that the homesteaders have built on his ranch property. Alderson and Glenn rush to Juniper Pass and begin cutting through the fence. When a group of homesteaders arrives and claims the fence, Alderson grabs his gun and kills one of them. The next morning, Lassiter arrives with Sheriff Niles and a warrant for Alderson's arrest. When he is called on to testify in court, Alderson claims that he killed in self-defense, explaining that some cattle had already perished by the time he arrived at the fence. Glenn testifies that because of the deafening blizzard, Alderson may not have heard Windy's warning that he was now trespassing. Just then, a rifle is pointed through the courthouse window, but Glenn throws a book at the gunman, deflecting the shot. Later, Lassiter and his henchman, Joe Sublette, fire their guns at Alderson's herd, beginning a stampede. After Windy is shot in the back by one of Lassiter's men, he is buried on his ranch. At the funeral reception, Timmons suggests hiring outlaw Ben Jackson's gang to combat the homesteaders. Glenn, who is against violating the law, pushes for a peaceful, legal settlement, but Lassiter, who has been using the homesteaders' struggle to disguise his cattle rustling, is bent on war. Forced to choose sides, Karen leaves her father to warn Glenn about Jackson's involvement. Despite his peaceful intentions, Glenn is forced to shoot Jackson when he begins fighting. After Alderson accuses Lassiter of cattle rustling, he is arrested. Later, Alderson and Glenn agree to put aside their differences for Karen's sake.