Paladin is riding along the Fort Worth trail, and comes to a sign saying the trail is closed per the O'Bannion Ranch. A ranch hand rides out and fires at Paladin, and he rides after the man. Two men have set up a trap with a rope, knock Paladin off of his horse and unconscious, and catch his horse. The bushwhacker rides back and the leader, Cyrus, tells him to get Paladin's horse while he takes Paladin's gun for his collection.
Later, Paladin wakes up and discovers that suit and gun has been taken. The ranch hands left him some old clothes, and Paladin reluctantly puts them on and walks off. He arrives at the ranch as the chef, Cookie, comes out and tells two men--Pete and Jake-- sitting by the porch to do their chores. They object, saying that they take orders from Cyrus and he didn't say anything about chores. Paladin arrives and they tell him to move on. The gunfighter demands to see the owner, and the two hands figure that he should take a bath first. They drag him the trough, and Paladin distracts them by yelling about his watch. He shoves them into the trough as Cookie, watches, snickering.
Paladin runs into the house and demands to see the person in charge. A woman, Maggie, is sitting there and says that she's in charge. Maggie tells Cookie to feed Paladin if he chops wood. Paladin sees his holstered gun nearby hanging with a collection of other guns. Maggie says that it's his foreman's hobby, and Paladin asks to see him. She tells him that Cyrus left on a cattle drive a week ago, and Paladin admits that he's known better days and says that he didn't know that he was speaking to a lawyer. Maggie relents and says that she'll only appraise him based on what she sees from that moment on. Paladin tells her that she's as generous as she is beautiful, and Maggie tells Cookie to make sure Paladin has a bath.
The next day after a bath and a change of clothing, Paladin helps Cookie in the kitchen and makes wine sauce. She's impressed and figures that Paladin isn't a tramp. She notices the gun hammer callus on his hand, and figures that he's there after someone. Paladin asks her about Cyrus, and Cookie says that he's run the ranch since Maggie's parents dead. He points out that the ranch should have 40,000 heads but there's barely 20 there, and Cookie insists that Cyrus does a good job. Cookie explains that Maggie's parents wanted her to be a lady, and Paladin says that it's the first time he's seen tea and sonnets as a substitute for life.
Paladin takes Maggie her tea and she has him set it on the desk. Maggie tells him that he's done a good job so far, and asks him to stop staring at her. She tells him that good help should be inconspicuous at all time, and asks him for one of the books on the mantle. Paladin suggests Shakespeare and reads one of his sonnets. Maggie cuts him off and tells him to attend to his chores, and Paladin gives her the book and leaves. Once he leaves, Maggie reads the sonnet he was reciting and then angrily slams the book down, goes out into the kitchen, and tells Cookie to have Paladin fired.
Paladin is outside hanging up the wash, and four ranch hands surround him. Maggie watches, smiling, as the hands throw the clothes on the ground and then throws it in Paladin's face. He grabs a branch and defeats them all. He sends them on their way to do chores and tells Paladin that he's found some work for them. Maggie agrees and says that he can oversee her ranch in Cyrus' absence. Paladin says that he's going to check the feed and water since he's noticed some things that puzzle him. Once he leaves, Maggie angrily tells Cookie that she wishes the hands had killed him.
That night, Paladin rides back and talks to Jake as he chops wood. Jake says that he was taking out his anger on the wood pile, and wonders what Paladin determined after checking the range. He tells Paladin that Cyrus makes sure Maggie only hears from him, and prevents anyone from visiting. Jake warns Paladin that if he's going to tangle with Cyrus and his men, he won't get any help. Cookie comes out and tells Paladin that Maggie has been looking for him, and Paladin says to tell her that he's very busy.
The next day, Paladin serves Maggie's breakfast and knocks at her door to summon her. He quickly runs off into the kitchen, and when Maggie comes out she discovers that he's gone. Maggie drops the breakfast tray on the floor and yells for Paladin, saying that she had an accident. Maggie comes in and tells her that Paladin just went outside, and cleans up the mess.
At lunch, Maggie asks Paladin where Cookie is. Cookie says that Paladin has been comparing feed bills against the ranch ledger, and just rode into town. Maggie tells the cook that she's going to ride into town, and admits that she hasn't been riding in a long time.
As Maggie rides out, Paladin rides back in. She smiles and rides off, and Paladin rides off her. He catches up to her when she stops, and claims that her saddle broke. Paladin knows better and grabs her, and tells her that she should read more of Shakespeare. He sits down and figures that when she was young, she snuck out and rode bareback. Maggie complains that she's been leaving in a make-believe world for so long that she doesn't know how to be real, and Paladin tells her that she has to first be honest with herself. She admits that she loved Paladin on first sight, and wanted him to continue reading. Paladin tells her that he plans to be a thousand miles away in a week, and tells her that Cyrus has cleaned out the range. Maggie begs him to continue reading sonnets, and Paladin obliges. Afterward, they kiss.
When Cyrus returns early, he looks at Paladin's card in his clothing that his hand Matt has been reading. Paladin and Maggie come in, and Paladin tells him that he knows Cyrus has been selling stock to buy up the loan on the ranch, and all Cyrus has to do is demand payment. Paladin punches him and Cyrus draws a knife on him in "self-defense". The two men fight and Paladin grabs a letter opener from the desk. He stabs Cyrus in the shoulder and the foreman surrenders. Maggie grabs Paladin's gun and shoots it into the floor, and says that she's hanging onto what's hers. Paladin tells Cyrus' men to get out of there after Matt returns his clothing.
Later, Maggie is having the hands bring in fresh breeding stock. When Pete objects, Maggie tells him to do it or get let go. Paladin and Cookie come out and Maggie says that there are a lot of odd jobs to do. He tells her that she'll have a lot of applicants, and they say their goodbyes. As Paladin rides off, Maggie tells Cookie that she'll never get help like that again.
Written by Gadfly on Jun 16, 2018