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Abandoned in the desert by partners Bowen and Taggart, prospector Cable Hogue swears revenge. After four days of aimless wandering and desperate prayer Hogue discovers water. As its site is the only hole within 40 miles and conveniently close to the stagecoach route, Hogue establishes Cable Springs, an oasis for weary travelers. The entrepreneur, however, shoots his first customer when the client refuses to pay the 10-cent drinking fee. His second visitor, Joshua Sloane, a lecherous evangelist, guards the waterhole while Hogue rides into the town of Deaddog to file his claim. Although the stagecoach manager, Quittner, refuses to stake him, town banker Cushing invest $100. The budding entrepreneur hies to Hildy, the town prostitute, who gives him a bath. Hearing a revival outside, Hogue is reminded of Sloane and leaves abruptly without paying the prostitute. His claim secure and business booming, Hogue offers Hildy sanctuary when she is driven from Deaddog by pious citizens. The two fall in love, but Hildy leaves for San Francisco and a rich husband. Her departure coincides with the arrival of Hogue's former partners, intent on the acquisition of their old friend's fortune. The wiley prospector, guessing their purpose, traps the pair in a snakepit, shooting Taggart and sparing Bowen. When the widowed and enriched Hildy arrives to spirit her lover to New Orleans, he is accidentally crushed by her automobile. As he expires Hogue is eulogized by Sloane.