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The Lonesome Trail

The Lonesome Trail(1955)

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When Johnny Rush returns to Lonesome Valley after working for the Army escorting Apaches back to their reservation, he finds that his land is cordoned off by barbed wire and his cabin has been burned to the ground. As Johnny is surveying the damage, two strangers shoot at him. Johnny then goes to visit his old friend, Crazy Charley Bonesteel, who explains that Harold "Hal" Brecker, Jr. is behind the burning, and that since Brecker's father died, he has taken over the valley. Johnny is confused, as old man Brecker had planned on changing the incorrect valley survey that placed his, Charley's and Dan Wells's land inside the Brecker area. The old man died before he could change the survey, however, and Brecker not only has attempted to evict Charley, but, along with his gunmen, whom he calls "deputies," has been running the nearby town of Tyrone. Charley is weary of fighting and intends to hide in his dugout near the Apache reservation, but Johnny is determined to regain his land. Johnny then visits Dan, his wife and daughter Pat, who was Johnny's childhood sweetheart. Although Dan and Pat are delighted to see Johnny, who has been away for a year, Dan, an invalid who is mostly confined to a wheelchair, admits that he has struck a deal with Brecker for them to stay on their land. Johnny is angry when they explain that the "deal" is for Pat to marry Brecker, but Pat defends her father's decision, stating that it is their only weapon against Brecker. Johnny persuades Pat to stall the marriage until he can find a different resolution, then shows her an Indian brooch he found in the smoky debris of his house and tells her that the brooch belonged to his mother, who died when he was born. Johnny rides into Tyrone, to the saloon run by his friend, Dandy Dayton, and becomes involved in a fight with one of Brecker's men, Larry Baker, who then alerts Brecker that Johnny is in town. When Brecker enters the saloon, the two, who are longtime enemies, argue about the land. Brecker insults Johnny, calling him a "half-breed," and orders him to leave Tyrone. A gunfight ensues in the street, but Johnny manages to escape on horseback. Baker follows Johnny, however, shoots him and leaves him for dead. Gonaja, an Apache Indian who is friends with Charley, finds Johnny and takes him to Charley. The men use a pallet to carry Johnny to Charley's dugout, where Charley tends to the still-unconscious Johnny. Charley is curious about why Gonaja would help an Army scout like Johnny, and so Gonaja explains that he found Johnny clutching the brooch, which Gonaja had made long ago for a young Apache Indian girl named Morning Star, who left her tribe to marry a white man. Gonaja now realizes that Morning Star was Johnny's mother and hopes that someday he will acknowledge his Indian heritage. Johnny begins a slow recovery and is disappointed that, because he was shot in his right shoulder, he has difficulty drawing his gun. Impressed by Charley's archery skills, Johnny asks him to teach him to use a bow and arrow, hoping to rehabilitate his arm. Meanwhile, Brecker has sworn out a warrant against Johnny, although Baker assured him that Johnny was dead, in order to ruin Johnny's reputation in case he is alive. Brecker also begins to pressure Pat about their marriage. Later, Gonaja goes to see Pat and give her a message from Johnny. Pat is thrilled to learn that Johnny is alive, but Johnny is unhappy to hear that Brecker is attempting to hasten the marriage. Determined to stop Brecker, Johnny prepares to go to Tyrone, despite Charley's pleas that he did not nurse him back to health in order for him to get himself killed. At the Wells home, Dan is telling Pat that he is aware of her feelings for Johnny, and that he is going to town to confront Brecker. After Johnny departs, Charley prepares his ancient rifle and heads to town to back him up. Unknown to Charley, Johnny goes first to see Pat, but she is not at home. Mrs. Wells explains that when Dan did not return, Pat went into town to find him. As he then rides to town, Johnny sees one of Hal's men, Jed Hartel, dragging Dan's dead body into some brush, and kills Hartel. Meanwhile, Pat has gone to the saloon and gotten into a fight with Mae, Brecker's slatternly girl friend. Pat and Mae both storm off, after which, Charley, brandishing his old rifle, enters the saloon and forces Brecker at gunpoint to sign a contract transferring ownership of the land back to Charley, Johnny and Dan. Charley escapes with the contract, which is written inside his Bible, but is followed by one of Brecker's gunmen, Walt Driscoll. Driscoll catches up with Charley and shoots him, then takes the Bible. Johnny soon finds him, and when Pat comes upon them, Johnny tells her that one of Brecker's men has killed her father. He instructs her to stay with Charley and rides back to town, armed only with Charley's bow and arrow. After shooting Driscoll and Baker with arrows and retrieving the Bible, Johnny fights Brecker, bow and arrow against a gun, and kills him. Gonaja, accompanied by Pat, then comes into town carrying Charley. As the townspeople gather, Charley instructs Johnny to tell Pat that "there's nothing wrong with being part Indian." Johnny acknowledges that he has known that he is part Indian for a long time and that he is now happy and proud of it, and Pat lovingly accepts his mother's brooch.