Paladin is heading back to San Francisco via stagecoach and it stops
over in a small town. The coach almost hits an old horse belonging to
the slow-witted Judd Halhoun, who erupts into a fury at the incident.
The nearby locals laugh at Judd and one of them, a troublemaker named Ed
McKay, suggests that Judd put a burr beneath his horse’s saddle to get
it to move. Judd doesn’t know what he means and Ed sends another local,
Mickey, over to show Judd how it’s done.
When the passengers get out to stretch their legs, Nora Borden is among them. She’s returning from a visit to her relatives and runs to her husband, rancher Gil Borden. When Nora drops her suitcase, her petticoats spill out and Paladin gallantly comes to her aid. Gil takes offense and Nora tries to calm down her husband. Meanwhile, Judd takes offense at Mickey’s demonstration and grabs him. Judd works for Gil, who comes over to break up the fight. Mickey explains that Ed put him up to the prank and Gil warns Ed that he’s asking for trouble. The rancher orders Judd back to the ranch, but Ed approaches Judd privately so they can talk.
Paladin is still helping Nora and the two share a laugh, while Gil irritably looks on. Ed points them out to Judd and claims that they’re all laughing at him. Judd doesn’t believe it and Ed switches tactics, suggesting Judd get even with Mickey by putting a burr under his horse’s saddle. However, he points out Gil’s horse, eager to get revenge on the man who fired him. Ed keeps taunting Judd until he does it and then they move off to watch.
Gil and Nora go to Gil’s horse and she asks to ride it back to the ranch. Her husband finally gives in and Paladin comes over and offers to help. When Judd realizes whose horse it is, he starts to intervene but Ed warns him that he’ll incriminate himself and get in trouble. Judd reluctantly stops, while Paladin adjusts the saddle and helps Nora mount up. As she rides off, the horse starts bucking and finally throws her off. As Paladin tries to steady it, the horse stomps on both of Nora’s legs. Judd is horrified at what he does but Ed tells him not to say anything to anyone because Judd will take the blame.
Later, the townspeople gather outside the doctor’s office waiting to hear his prognosis. Judd is ready to flee but Ed tells him that he’ll incriminate himself if he does. Ed notices Paladin checking Gil’s horse and goes over, advising him that it’s dangerous. Paladin doesn’t believe it and finds the whole thing suspicious. Gil comes out and tells everyone that both of Nora’s legs are broken. He know that the horse was gentle and asks anyone if they saw what happened. Paladin finds the burr beneath the saddle and shows it to him. Furious, Gil draws his gun and orders the guilty party to step forward. Paladin offers his card and says that he’d be glad to help. Gil hires him but Ed steps forward and says that he and Ed saw Paladin do it just to hurt Nora. Mickey speaks up, saying that Paladin was adjusting the saddle, and Judd speaks up as well.
Paladin, realizing that everyone is again him, draws his gun and orders everyone to leave except for Gil, Ed, Judd, and Mickey. The gunfighter disarms them and forces them to lie on the ground, and says that he’ll find the person responsible both to protect his reputation and to save Gil from himself. Once he rides off on Gil’s horse, Gil, Mickey, and Ed ride after him while Judd sits nervously.
Seven days pass and Nora is at home in a wheelchair. Gil rides up with a posse and comes inside, and Nora tells him that he should leave everything up to the marshal. Ed and Mickey follow Gil in and tells Gil that they found one of Paladin’s cigars by the riverbed. Nora insists that Paladin isn’t guilty but Ed points out that she didn’t object when Paladin flirted with her at the stagecoach. Furious, Gil knocks him down with a punch and then rides off with the posse. Mickey nervously suggests to Ed that they should both stay clear of Gil, but Ed wants to be there to see Gil when he kills someone by mistake and realizes what he’s done.
Once Ed and Mickey follow after the others, Paladin strolls in. Nora is initially nervous but quickly realizes that Paladin didn’t intend her any harm, then or now. She wonders why he’s there and Paladin points out that Gil hired him to find the person responsible just before he tried to capture him. Plus Paladin wants to see justice done regardless. He figures that Judd knows something and Nora directs him to the bunkhouse. The foreman, Hank, approaches the house and Paladin quickly slips out the back. Hank tells Nora that someone returned Gil’s horse and Nora tries to stall him without success.
Paladin finds Judd and takes him into the barn, and Hank sees them. He goes to find the posse, while Paladin tells Judd to tell the truth. Playing on Judd’s guilt, Paladin keeps verbally hammering the man until he finally says that Ed claimed the horse belonged to Mickey.
Gil and the posse barge in and Paladin tells Judd to tell them the truth. Judd looks nervously at Ed and then repeats his original accusation, and Gil prepares to shoot the gunfighter. Paladin tells him to bring Nora out so she can see her husband kill an innocent man. Ed goads Gil into shooting but Gil gives Ed his rifle and swings at Paladin. As the two men fight, Judd gets increasingly upset and finally blurts out that he put the burr under the saddle. Ed shoots him with the rifle and prepares to kill Paladin. The gunfighter rolls and grabs a discarded revolver, and then guns Ed down. Gil kneels by Judd’s body and wonders what he can do to make it up, and a disgusted Paladin tells him that there’s no easy to make amends.
Paladin and Gil go in to tell Nora what happened. The gunfighter offers to put them in contact with a San Francisco surgeon who should be able to repair her legs. When Gil tries to pay him, Paladin tells him to pay for the surgeon instead... and assures them that he’ll win it off the man in poker.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 31, 2017