A sheriff and his posse track an Apache killer into an ambush, where they are killed one by one.
In 1875 Sheriff Bill Cummings (Robert Barrat) and his posse in the Arizona desert see Apache Jack kill a man for his horse. The sheriff prevents quarrels. They get water and track the killer. As they ride, they use up their water. They walk their horses and see Apache smoke. They find water and drink. By a skeleton they find silver, but the sheriff keeps all his deputies on the job. Eaton (Robert Coote) tells the sheriff he was court-martialed in India.
The sheriff wakes to learn that Eaton and the horses are gone. Henry (Andy Clyde) celebrates finding silver but is shot dead by Indians. Bob Mulford (Douglas Walton) tells the sheriff that he is a Jonah. The sheriff has Mulford watch and draws to see which two go for help. Lopez (Francis McDonald) was on guard and gets upset. Billy Sweet (Guinn Williams) and Charlie Garth (Francis Ford) lose the draw. A horse arrives with Eaton's dead body. Sweet and Garth go on foot. Mulford quarrels with Lopez and knocks him out, explaining to the sheriff. Chick (Noah Beery Jr.) resents that Mulford was on guard during the draw. Lopez goes loco and stabs Curly (Paul Hurst). The sheriff gives Curly water. Rayburn (Addison Richards) carries Lopez's body back and implies he killed two Apaches. The sheriff says that Rayburn is suicidal and won't let him leave, knocking him out and taking his guns. Mulford tells the sheriff he wants to be someone. The sheriff finds Sweet and Garth dead. Mulford fights with Chick, and the sheriff stops Mulford from killing him.
The sheriff says the Lord's prayer. Chick apologizes to Mulford and then knocks him out with his pistol. Curly sees Chick get water and take the horse, but his shots at Chick miss. Chick is shot by Apaches. Rayburn tells the sheriff and Mulford to go the other way as he draws fire. The sheriff leaves eight crosses for Apache Jack to count. An army patrol approaches but assumes Apaches are fighting each other. Rayburn is killed. The sheriff and Mulford watch Apache Jack and others come in and then shoot them. After the gun battle the sheriff and Mulford walk over. A wounded Apache kills Mulford and is killed by the sheriff. The soldiers arrive and ask the sheriff where his posse is. He points to the graves and mentions the silver.
Men evaluate their lives when faced with likely death.
Ironically they never get to use the silver they found, because
they are killed in their effort to capture one Apache killer.
Other unknown Apaches are also killed in the cycle of retaliatory
violence that shortens many lives. The sheriff as sole survivor
symbolizes that only the law remains.