John Wayne, George 'Gabby' Hayes
Oil gushes and members of area Indian tribes are invited to receive funds from the US government for leases on the Indian lands. Nina (Shirley Jane Rickert), a young half-Native American girl whose mother has recently died, must find her white father in order to claim her hefty inheritance of $50,000 by making Chris Morrell (John Wayne) her guardian. Of course, a defenseless heiress seems like easy pickings to some of the Wild West's most dastardly thugs, including Sam Black (Yakima Canutt), who is soon on her trail. Thankfully, Nina has a noble guardian in cowboy Chris Morrell who vows to get the girl safely to her estranged father. While packing for their trip, there is a knock on the door. Chris hides Nina in the closet when the of Sam's renegades enters demanding Nina. Chris tries to tell the outlaws that she is not there, but Nina peeks out from the closet. A fight ensues and Sam fends off the renegades and escape with Nina by breaking the light fixture with a chair.
Chris and Nina gallop away on a horse. Sam and his men are soon in pursuit. Chris stops and gives Nina directions to Bud Moore's ranch while he stays back and stalks Black and his men. Chris hides in a thicket and fires his gun to draw the renegades' attention. Sam Black finds Chris and momentarily stuns him with a pistol whip to the head. Chris awakens, gets up, and knocks out Sam. Chris climbs up on a bluff and lassos Shorty who has stayed behind to tend to Sam's gang's horses. He raises Shorty up like a counterweight as Chris repels down and then chases off the horses, save one on which Chris makes his getaway.
Chris, however, is still suffering the effects of the blow to his head. He passes out at the edge of a stream. Nina makes her way to Bud Moore's ranch only to discover it is owned by someone else. The new owner, Vic Byrd (Jack Rockwell) is gruff and commandeers Nina as kitchen help for a friendly man named Matt Downing (George Hayes) who runs that part of the ranch operation. He is familiar with Chris Morrell.
Meanwhile, in the town of Snake River, Clara Moore is checking on an order of calico when the Snake River Express office is robbed of $6000 by a man in a checkered shirt and black hat. On his escape, the desperado comes across unconscious Chris Morrell and takes his shirt and hat leaving his own on Chris and rides away. A short time later, Clara rides by in her horse and buggy. She finds Chris unconscious and revives him with a damp cloth. She tells the revived Chris that the only thing for her to do is turn him into the sheriff. Chris tries to convince Clara that the clothes he has on are not his. He tells Clara about his little partner, Nina, who he sent to Bud Moore's place. Clara reveals she is Bud Moore's sister, and that Bud was killed in the range wars several months earlier. When he reveals himself to be Chris Morrell, Clara declares that Bud said he was the best friend a man could have. She suggests changing his shirt at her place.
At Clara's home, Chris tells Clara the story of Nina's origins of her Indian mother and no-account white father when her brother Jim (Buffalo Bill Jr.) arrives. Chris recognizes him as the man who changed shirts with him but does not tell Clara because it would break her heart and because "snakes like him usually die of their own poison".
Nina and Matt are feeding the pigs when Nina's real father Tom (Earl Dwire) rides up. Jim, going with his partner Vic Byrd to retrieve the stolen money, find Sam Black s gang's horses that Chris had stampeded. Meanwhile, Sam Black orders a blister-footed Shorty to find his men some horses. He limps off but it isn't long until he meets Jim and Vic riding with the horses and interested in a conversation with Sam Black. Vic Byrd bargains with Sam to cut him in for $10,000 and Chris Morrell s scalp to turn over the girl at his ranch. Matt Downing rides up to find Chris Morrell and takes him back to the Byrd Ranch.
Jim and Vic head to the tree stump where the money is hidden. Once they arrive, Jim retrieves the money only to be shot so Vic could claim both shares. Matt and Chris are startled when they hear the gunshots nearby. They ride up just as Vic gallops off with all the money. Jim tells Matt and Chris that Vic is heading to the ranch to hand over Nina to Sam Black. Chris orders Matt to take Jim to a doctor and heads to the ranch to save Nina. The Black gang find Clara and ask for Chris' whereabouts. Not finding Chris at Clara's home, they force Clara to ride along with the gang. Vic returns to the ranch and finds Tom playing with his daughter. Tom refuses to turn Nina over to Vic who stands to collect $10,000 from Sam Black.
When Chris Morrell rides up, Nina announces his arrival and Tom shoots Vic. Sam Black and gang ride up and take refuge in the barn with Clara in tow. The two sides exchange pistol fire. Meanwhile in town, Matt has alerted the sheriff who speeds with a posse to the Byrd Ranch. Matt and Chris shoot one renegade off the barn roof but are down to their last bullet. Sam waves a white rag and offers to 'trade the woman for the kid" Chris responds, "Not in a million years." Chris offers to trade himself for Clara. Sam agrees. As Chris and Clara pass each other in the exchange, Chris encourages Clara to keep going no matter what happens. Tom shoots their final cartridge and Chris pretends to be dead. Seeing this, Sam orders his men to rush the house.
Chris trips up the last man, and they begin to wrestle. The sheriff and his posse arrive and begin another gunfight with Sam's gang. Sam Black ducks inside the house, shoots Tom, and grabs Nina. He takes a chair, breaks out a window in the back and throws Nina out and follows himself. They mount Sam's horse and ride away as the gunfight continues. Chris gets to the house and learns that Sam has grabbed Nina and ridden off. He jumps on his horse in hot pursuit. Meanwhile the posse overwhelms Sam's men. Matt and the sheriff find the stolen money on Vic Byrd s body. Sam Black and Nina ride off a cliff and plunge into the water below. Chris stands on his horse and jumps into the water as well. Sam pulls a knife, a fierce fight ensues, but Chris is able to drown him in the river.
Later, Nina and Matt open a door where Clara and Chris are cuddling inside. Happily reunited with Nina, Chris returns to Clara's loving arms.