powered by AFI
In the small western town of Saddle Rock, a sedate prayer meeting service is being led by horseman Gene Autry and Parson Jonathan Brooks. Former stagecoach driver Jeff Bleeker and his young daughter Judie recall that only two months earlier, things in Saddle Rock were quite different: Saddle Rock is plagued by lawlessness, gambling and wild dance halls, overseen by deceptively mild-mannered purebred horse breeder Doc Lockwood. The only businesses Lockwood has been unable to disrupt are South West Stageline and Gene, who supplies South West with wild mustangs. One day, two of Lockwood's wranglers, Pinto and Hod Evers ride into town shooting wildly, frightening Gene's latest bunch of mustangs. When he demands that the men settle down, they take offense and begin a fistfight, which Lockwood breaks up by declaring he will wrest Gene's contract with South West away from him. Meanwhile, Jeff, the stageline's lead driver who has the reputation as the fastest coach driver in the territory, suffers from increasingly poor eyesight, which only Gene suspects. Later, Gene is ambushed by Pinto and Hod, who are seeking revenge for the earlier brawl. Hod shoots Gene and the men flee as Arlie Williams, who works in South West's office, rides up. Peddler Panhandle Gibbs and the town's new parson, Jonathan Brooks, assist Arlie in transporting Gene back to town. Panhandle tells Hod and Pinto that Gene will recover, and after a few days they disappear. As Gene recuperates, the parson talks him out of thoughts of revenge and asks for his help in arranging a prayer meeting. Shortly thereafter, Hod and Pinto are discovered and brought back to Saddle Rock by townsmen intent on vigilante justice. Gene intervenes, but it is Jeff, careening into town on an out-of-control coach, who breaks up the mob. Panhandle helps Hod and Pinto escape, and the parson asks Gene to provide them with horses after they promise to return to face a legal hearing. On the day of the prayer meeting, Gene and his horses Champion and Little Champ put on a show to raise a crowd. A few days later, Mr. Daniels, the eastern manager of South West stageline, arrives on Jeff's coach and, infuriated by his reckless driving, fires him. Lockwood suggests that the wild mustangs might be the problem and convinces Daniels to consider his purebreds. Gene discovers the meeting and protests that he has not been given the opportunity to counter Lockwood's offer. Daniels suggests that Gene and Lockwood have a race the next time he comes to town and the winner, will provide the stageline's horses. Over the next several days, Gene cannot locate any mustangs, then discovers that another pair of Lockwood's wranglers, Mike Saunders and Duffield, are driving the main herd away. With Champ's help, Gene catches the main herd and splits it off into a smaller group from which he takes the best horses and prepares for the race. A few nights later, however, Saunders and Duffield attempt to release the horses, but Gene chases them away, then follows and attacks them. The day of the race arrives, and Lockwood asks Jeff to drive for the stageline, but he refuses. Meanwhile, Judie hears a strange noise coming from the barn where the stages are kept and, upon investigating, discovers Saunders and Duffield. Duffield strikes Judie, who is later found semi-conscious by the parson and Jeff. When she awakens, Judie has no recollection of what has occurred. Lockwood asks Saunders to drive the stage, but just before the race, Jeff appears and demands to be allowed to drive. Midway through the grueling race, Jeff's vision blurs again, and his coach grazes Gene's, before going off the road completely and crashing. Saunders and Duffield pick up Jeff, who is unhurt, just as Gene notices that one of his coach wheels is about to fall off. Releasing the team, Gene jumps to safety just before the coach crashes over a cliff. Back in town, Judie recalls being struck and identifies Saunders and Duffield as having tampered with Gene's coach. At the sheriff's, Pinto, who is incarcerated with Hod, begins naming Lockwood as the force behind Saddle Rock's problems, when Lockwood shoots him. Lockwood and Saunders flee and Gene, Daniels and Panhandle pursue them. Saunders is shot in the ensuing gunfight, and Gene tracks Lockwood down to the barn and kills him. With Lockwood dead and his gang arrested, Saddle Rock become a peaceful town. As Jeff's recollections come to an end, the parson arrives to inform him that Daniels would like to rehire him to care for the stageline horses, and Jeff and Judie gratefully accept.