Myra Ritchie watches from her father Henry's general store in Ashley,
CA, as Joe Marsh and his three fellow gunmen ride into town. She tells
her father that the men he sent for have arrived, but it's not too late
to turn back. Ritchie says that he has no intention of turning back and
if Marsh can't do the job, then he wired for another gunfighter. He
gives Myra the gunfighter's card, and she takes it in disgust and says
she's ashamed of her father. She shows Marsh into her father's office
and then looks at the card: "Have Gun, Will Travel."
As Paladin rides into Ashley, he hears the sound of explosives in the distance. He enters the general store and flirts with Myra, who responds in kind until she realizes who Paladin is. She goes to tell Ritchie that Paladin is there, and Marsh makes lewd remarks and acts like he's already been hired. Ritchie orders him out and sees Paladin, who warns that Marsh isn't trustworthy. Ritchie admits that he doesn't have a choice. Nearby Central City is having a dam built that will deprive Ashley of the water for its farms. The city has hired engineer Mike O'Hare to build their dam, and so far O'Hare refuses to be intimidated. Ritchie doesn't want any killing, but Paladin warns that Marsh doesn't understand anything else. Paladin admits he doesn't know how he'll handle O'Hare yet, but he assures Ritchie that in two weeks, the situation will be taken care of. Ritchie hesitates and Paladin, realizing the problem, says he'll break the news to Marsh.
Outside, Paladin tells Marsh that his services are no longer required. The gunman insists that he be paid for his expenses and Paladin agrees. As Ritchie pays Marsh off, the gunman says that he and his men are going to stick around just in case. As Marsh leaves, the middle-aged O'Hare rides into town, alone but armed, to drop off his mail. He tells Ritchie that his crew wants to come into Ashley to buy goods, but Ritchie says that he won't sell anything to O'Hare's men. When Ritchie says he's hired Paladin, O'Hare warns the gunslinger that he'd best stay away from the construction site, and he won't tolerate any of his men being hurt.
Ritchie and the other businessmen, including Eli Gardner, meet with Paladin and say they'll pay him double if he solves their problem without gunplay. Paladin considers blowing up one of the dams to drive O'Hare out. However, when Ritchie insists he take that approach, Paladin says that the man should back off and he'll do what he has to.
That night, a storm comes up and Paladin sneaks into the construction camp. He slips into the storage tent, cuts open the bags of cement, mixes in the ammunition, and exposes the mix to the rain to ruin it.
The next day, O'Hare rides in without his men and demands that Ritchie reimburse him. Ritchie directs him to Paladin, and the engineer accuses Paladin of being a destroyer, while O'Hare creates things. He punches Paladin, who then subdues him without throwing a punch himself. He lets O'Hare go and the engineer rides out of town. When Gardner accuses Paladin of being unable to handle an old man, Paladin slugs him unconscious, much to Ritchie's surprise and Myra's admiration.
That night, Paladin rides out of town while Ritchie wonders what he's up to. The town founder wonders why Paladin didn't beat up O'Hare when he had the chance, and Myra admonishes him for wanting an old man beaten up.
At the construction camp, Paladin walks in and asks for permission to meet. O'Hare agrees to sit with him and asks what Paladin wants. The gunslinger admits that he admires builders, but wonders why O'Hare is so insistent. The engineer explains that he has authorized the payment equal to twice the value of the land to the citizens of Ashley, and has had the California legislature set aside farming land for them upstate. He says that he sent a letter to Ritchie two months ago, but admits he doesn't have a copy. Paladin asks him to get one and O'Hare says it will take a day or two. He explains that he plans to build a new Rome-like as his one great construction project, but needs the water from the dam to make it habitable.
Paladin returns to the general store and asks Ritchie about O'Hare's letter. The man tries to lie but soon admits that he got the letter. Ritchie has no intention of giving up the city that he created, and admits that he's too old to start again somewhere else. Paladin says that's his choice, but he has no right to decide for the other citizens of Ashley. Ritchie says that he tore up the letter and tells Paladin that his services are no longer required. As Paladin leaves, Myra warns him that her father will hire Marsh to take care of O'Hare. She says that Paladin should talk to Marsh, but he warns that Marsh will start shooting.
Paladin rides out to meet with O'Hare and warn him what's going on. The construction crew has little ammo due to Paladin's earlier sabotage. Paladin figures that they can spot Marsh and his men when they ride in.
Later that night, Marsh and one of his men ride past a sentry, carrying two barrels of blasting powder. The sentry starts to send a lamp signal, but the other two gunmen ambush him. When two more of the engineers hear the noise and investigate, the gunmen knock them out, but not before one of the engineers fires a warning shot. Paladin and O'Hare hear the warning and ride toward the nearby dam where they figure Marsh will blast open the structure and flood out the camp.
Marsh and his men plant the blasting powder and light the fuse. With time running out, Paladin has O'Hare cover him with his remaining ammunition and tries to get to the fuse. Marsh attacks him but Paladin quickly knocks him out, grabs the fuse, and tosses it into the dam water. O'Hare and the workers capture the other gunmen once their leader is down.
Come sunrise, Paladin and O'Hare ride Marsh and his three men into town. O'Hare has the copy of the letter and Paladin gives Ritchie the choice of reading it to the citizens or seeing it put up on the town bulletin board. Ritchie agrees to inform his fellow citizens of the offer. O'Hare offers his hand, saying that Ritchie and the others will have a prosperous year selling supplies to his men. Ritchie angrily walks away but Myra takes O'Hare's hand and thanks him. Paladin tells Marsh to ride out of town and keep going.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 21, 2018