In the Broken Saloon at El Dorado, two old friends, each with a reputation, meet again. But Sheriff J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) greets Cole Thornton (John Wayne) with a pointed rifle. Harrah has heard his friend now works for Bart Jason (Edward Asner). Thornton admits Jason offered him good money, but he doesn't know what he has to do to earn it.
Harrah explains that Jason showed up here around the end of the war with a pocketful of money and nobody could find out where he got it, but everybody else around here was broke Having money, he started to grow, but now he needs more water There's only one place to get it; trouble is, somebody was there ahead of him, about 20 years ahead - his name is Kevin MacDonald (R. G. Armstrong).
MacDonald's got four boys and a girl. All worked real hard. They hung together through the rough times; now things were looking up, MacDonald was not ready to sell, so he's holding out and Jason was pushing, and the sheriff was standing right in the middle.