Cattleman Flint cuts off farmer Sims' water supply. When Sims' son Ted goes for water, one of Flint's men kills him. Cheyenne is sent to finish off Sims, but finding the family at the newly dug grave, he changes sides.
The one thing that John Ford mastered in his career as a director was the telling the story of the winning of the West. His most significant westerns are set between 1865 - 1875, and tends to engage with the native Indian community as in this film. The point that he was trying to get across was the fact that after the Civil War when settlers moved west, they became American. The east coast of America up the Revolutionary War was by and large British. Once they won their independence, they hadn't yet carved out an identity for themselves. It was after the Civil War that an American identity came into its own, and this is personified in the western genre, particularly John Ford's offerings.
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