powered by AFI
When cattle rustlers, led by Dan Slack, the president of a mine company, terrorize local ranches, rancher Longstreet is killed. A rancher named Bart, who is Slack's cohort, learns that his neighbor, Johnny Travers, has sent for his friend, Hopalong Cassidy, a renowned troubleshooter, to investigate Longstreet's death, and informs Slack. As Hoppy and his sidekick, California, ride into town, Slack is apparently shot in the street, but claims to be unharmed because the bullet hit his pocketwatch. Hoppy comes to Slack's aid, and is told that local ranchers have sabotaged the water lines leading to Slack's mine and have raided the trains carrying his ore. Slack offers to hire Hoppy and California to guard the train, but Hoppy turns him down. Hoppy later confides to California his suspicions that Slack's shooting was staged, as the lead in the spent bullet was cold. Hoppy and California then go to Johnny's ranch, the Lazy Wishbone, and meet Longstreet's daughter Sharon, who is Johnny's girl friend, and her little brother Bobby. Later Johnny introduces Hoppy at a meeting of the Cattlemen's Association. Hoppy surprises Johnny when he refuses to help unless he is compensated, and disgusted by Hoppy's attitude, Johnny sends him away. Hoppy later reveals to California that he fears for Johnny's safety, because he believes one of the ranchers is crooked. At the railroad office, Slack informs Sharon, who owns the railroad, that he has hired Hoppy and California to guard his train cars. Sharon's attorney, Harrison Brooke, tells Hoppy that he believes Slack is behind all the trouble and is responsible for Longstreet's death. Hoppy and California check into the Palace Hotel, which is run by elderly proprietor Sooky Withers, who recalls the splendor of the town's mining days, when Sam Bucktoe, who discovered the gold vein, ran the place. Sooky tells them that Sam was killed when a mine shaft collapsed, and that people can still hear him laughing. Late that night, Hoppy sends a telegraph message to a friend in Salt Lake City, requesting verification of Slack's identity. Telegraph operator Lafe intercepts the message, and shows it to Slack, who sends a fake response. Hoppy realizes it is fake when he sees that the codeword is missing from the response. When Lafe refuses to confess to his tampering, Hoppy and California lock him in a storeroom and tell him they will have him arrested. Hoppy and California wait outside and watch as Lafe escapes, then follow him as he heads toward the hills. After Lafe falls to his death when the cinch on his saddle breaks, Hoppy and California intercept Johnny's herd as it is being rustled. Bart alerts Johnny and then accuses Hoppy and California of stealing the herd. Although Hoppy defends himself, Johnny distrusts him and tells him to leave. The sheriff later tries to arrest Hoppy and California, who have been implicated in Lafe's death by Slack, but Hoppy disarms him and sends him on his way. After Hoppy confides in Sharon, she reveals that Bart has formed a posse for his capture. She and Hoppy then follow one of Slack's men into Coffin Canyon, where they discover an empty corral they presume is for the rustled herds. Spotted by one of Slack's gang, Hoppy and Sharon flee, but Hoppy later returns to the corral with California to investigate. When they find a hidden mine entrance, Hoppy sends Bobby, who has followed them, to get Sharon and deliver a message to the sheriff. Hoppy and California go inside the mine, and then hide when Slack comes in. Slack is followed by a ragged Sam Bucktoe, who has been secretly living in the mine for years. Sam is the mastermind behind the rustling, and was hoping to clear the ranchers out of the area and take over their land. Sam attempts to kill Slack for fouling up his orders, but Slack escapes into the mine shafts, so Sam pulls out several support beams, causing a small collapse. Hoppy and California follow their tracks deep underground, where they find the stolen cattle. Sharon, meanwhile, brings Hoppy's note to Johnny and the sheriff, and following Hoppy's directions, they discover that Slack has been butchering the steer in the mines and secretly shipping the meat underneath the ore on the train. Johnny and Brooke join the sheriff's posse and ride to the mines, where Sam has killed Slack, and a gunfight has broken out. Sam starts an underground stampede, and Bobby, who has followed the posse, is nearly killed when he falls into the path of the rampaging cattle. Hoppy pulls Bobby to safety, and when Bart shoots Brooke, Johnny kills Bart. Outside, the sheriff and the posse arrest Slack's gang members, and Hoppy, California and Bobby emerge unharmed. Later, Johnny decides to accept Hoppy's offer to work at his ranch after he sees the recuperated Brooke kissing Sharon.