One of Rowdy's drovers is killed and another wounded trying to stop a lynching. Looking for justice for his men, Rowdy runs into a town run by a power hungry sheriff and deputy, who are protecting the father and son who did the shooting.
Jed convinces Rowdy against his better judgment to hire Danny Hawks who is riding an expensive stallion. Danny proves to be a capable drover but when Nat Benson wants Danny and the stallion handed over, Rowdy finds himself in a bind.
Rowdy is a week late to start a drive with a tight deadline. If they make the it, a big bonus awaits. However, Rowdy has to take Lash Whitcomb as his Segundo. Lash drives the men hard but near the end Rowdy learns why Lash is on the drive.
While checking a mine, it caves in on Quince and Blake trapping them. One of the drovers noticed old explosives nearby. He and his friend offer to blow the mine open for $500. However, the two men prove to be as unstable as the explosive.
Short on men Rowdy encounters Cherikowa Indians led by a white chief. Against the advice of his men, Rowdy hires them to help drive the herd to the river for a few cattle. Unsure of his new hands a band of Pawnee add to the intrigue.
Rowdy makes a deal to buy horses from the Gufflers. When he finds the horses are poor quality and wants his money back, Ma Guffler wants her money. She takes Rowdy hostage threatening to hang him at sundown if she doesn't receive $3,000.
The men buy 200 cattle to take north so the drovers can make some cash for themselves. However, Col. Vasquez takes the cattle giving them 40,000 pesos from a rogue government. Jud tries to recover their money but ends up with Mrs. Vasquez.
The herd needs cover from a potential storm but the only cover is owned by a widow who is a suffragette. She is in a battle with the bar owner and mayor of Broken Bluff. They want the drovers to vote against the women in return for help.
After he is shot at, Jud returns to camp to find a US Marshal wants him for murder but he was cleared. Jed decides to run so the Marshal arrests Rowdy for helping him. Jed turns himself in to clear Rowdy but his fate is less certain.
Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood), was ordered to sell a hundred prime beef by an Army Regiment but he refused to give them up without payment in gold, landing him in a fight with the Lieutneant who having the drop on Yates winged him with disabling effect. Later, when the Lieutenant returned with with his Captain, Jed Colby (John Ireland) as next up boss sold them 100 head accepting a signed requisition under duress and was told to redeem it at a Fort Broxton 40 miles ahead. Turns out the whole regiment was a bogus cattle rustler outfit and our drovers had to fight it out...
When a detachment of army cavalry requisitions a hundred head of cattle from the drovers, Rowdy attempts to get reimbursed by the army. To his chagrin, he discovers the cavalry officers are really cattle rustlers.
Rowdy hires a drunk to lead the herd across a dangerous river. The man is afraid, fakes an injury, and tries to sell a third of Rowdy's herd to a conman. Rowdy helps the young son to cope with his father by talking about his own father.