(1956 b 83')
Based on Richard Poole’s novel, a preacher arrives in a town in conflict between ranchers and farmers. Without using a gun he stops fights, preaches to them, and helps them to resolve their feud.
On a train Terrall Butler (James Mitchell) notices an elderly man drinking from a bottle. He asks if he is a preacher, and Butler says he was assigned to Pembroke. He says that town needs a parson. Butler stands up and asks him if he prays. Butler asks him to pray for him and says he will pray for the man. As Butler leaves, the man drops his bottle, and it breaks.
Butler gets off the train and asks the station master where the center of town is. He carries his bag down the street. He finds two boys fighting in the street while others watch. He intervenes and tells them they both won. A woman thanks him for being a decent man, and she makes the boys go inside. Viggo Tomlin (Jan Merlin) puts his foot on the bag, and Butler says it is his. Viggo warns him that a man can die suddenly in that town. Butler says he is a light in the darkness, though dim and uncertain. He will consider his advice. Ann Davis (Rosemary Stack) introduces herself and her father Sam Davis (David McMahon) to Butler. Sam announces that Rev. Butler is the new pastor, and he introduces Lathe Sawyer (Hugh Sanders), a cattle man, and Ed Halcomb (Jess Barker), a farmer to Butler, who says he hopes to see them in church tomorrow. Sheriff Ben Seale (Robert Armstrong) brings the town drunk Hub Wren (Taylor Holmes), who is carrying Butler’s bag. Wren says he was bringing it to him, but the Sheriff says he was going the other way. Butler asks if Wren if he would continue to carry it for him, and Wren says he would like that. The Sheriff relaxes, and Butler and Wren walk off together. Wren thanks him, and they approach the church. Butler says it is the first church he has ever had. Wren says he built the parsonage and the church, but he has become the town drunk. The gate falls off, and Butler asks him if he can fix it. Butler invites Wren inside.
Wren has repaired the gate. Viggo tells his men to open up fast when he draws. Butler comes out with a shopping list. Two groups of men with guns are separated in the street. Butler walks toward them. Viggo tells Sawyer to step out, and Butler tells them not to touch their guns. Viggo warns the preacher. Viggo draws and shoots at Butler; but another man deflects his arm, and he misses. Viggo notices that Butler reached for a gun even though he does not have one. Butler says he does not need one. Butler tells Sawyer to go home to his ranch rather than have to shoot and bury the dead. Gray Arnett (Herbert Patterson) tells Viggo to move out, and the farmers start to leave. Then the cattle ranchers leave in the opposite direction. Butler thanks Arnett, who says that he and Viggo work for the railroad. Arnett says a church is good for the community and prosperity. Butler invites him to come to services tomorrow. Ann tells Butler he stopped a bad situation. He says he needs coffee, sugar, and other items.
In the parsonage Wren is dusting shelves and asks Butler for the books. Butler asks him why the town has trouble. Wren tells him to ask Arnett, who represents the railroad, Ed Sawyer who represents the ranchers, and the farmer Ed Halcomb and Viggo Tomlin, who nearly shot him. Butler asks about the sheriff, and Wren says he is afraid of the others and waits to see which way things go. Butler asks about the townspeople, and Wren says they are sitting on the fence. The minister was old and tired. Wren warns Butler he may have started on the wrong foot. Butler says they all have things to live down.
Butler goes out with a Bible and enters the church. He looks around and opens his Bible and reads from the 23rd Psalm about the valley of the shadow of death; he will fear no evil because God is with him. He prays for help.
Butler is preaching to a few people and says he expected to see more people there because he is new. He wants to ask questions about what happened yesterday, but he preaches about prayer. As people leave, he shakes hands with them. Butler invites Arnett to have supper with him, but he declines because he is having supper with Ann. Butler then invites Sawyer and his daughter Edith (Dorothy Patrick), and she accepts.
After dinner Lathe Sawyer asks Butler why he has not been preaching. Butler says what matters is what is inside a man. Butler asks about their serious differences with the farmers. Sawyer says the railroad brought in the farmers who bought land from the railroad. The ranchers tried to buy the land but did not bid high enough. He says they will fight for the land with guns, but Edith says guns will not help them get the land. Sawyer asks Butler to take their side, but he says he is on the side of peace. Edith says they keep burning their farms. Sawyer asks him to be practical, and Butler asks if it is practical to use a gun instead of intelligence. He never heard of an argument that was worth a man’s life. Sawyer agrees with that, but he hopes the farmers will not take over the church as they have tried to take over the range.
Arnett is explaining to Butler that the farmers have legal rights to their land. He says the ranchers are breaking the law by attacking the legal owners. Viggo comes in and stares at Butler. Arnett says the ranchers are armed too; he says the railroad wants peace.
Wren has a horse for Butler, who goes to see Ed Halcomb on his farm. Halcomb says it is hard work. Butler asks him if he thinks Viggo and his men are for the good of all. Halcomb says the ranchers elected the sheriff who is on their side. Halcomb says that Sawyer is more stubborn than he is. Butler suggests they get both sides together and talk it out with trust in each other and faith.
A farmer’s house is burning, and men on horses fire their guns in the air. Viggo Tomlin arrives with men and asks if he recognized any of them. Halcomb drives up in a buggy and tells Viggo to wait and asks why he raided Sawyer’s cattle herd. He asks if he knew they would strike back. Viggo says they will make them leave farmers alone. Halcomb says he wants to keep farming, and he tells Viggo not to raid Sawyer’s ranch. Viggo tells his men they are going back to town, and he will buy. The farmer asks Halcomb what they can do, and he says they will count on the parson.
Viggo goes to Arnett, who asks him why he let the ranchers get away with burning the farm. Viggo says Halcomb stopped him. Arnett says he gives the orders.
Two men ask Wren if the parson is there, and Elijah Maddox (Philip Tonge) is angry that Butler is working on a what is not a church matter.
Arnett tells Viggo the farmers have to pay for their deeds. Viggo says he is going to raid Blake’s ranch. Arnett tells Viggo to take care of Halcomb and the parson.
Butler drives a carriage for Ann and gets off at the church for the meeting. Arnett comes up and says he wants to talk to Ann. In the church Butler apologizes to the board members. Elijah complains that there are factions and asks if Butler is a real minister. He heard that Butler was a gunslinger and was in prison. Butler admits this is true, but he says he never killed anyone. He confesses that he fell in with bad men and used bad judgment in regard to using a gun. He says he had to learn the hard way. While in prison he began to read the Bible and found joy. He wants to help men live together without fighting each other. He kept on studying and became a minister. He asks them if they want him to leave while they discuss this, but they say that is not necessary. Wren comes in and says that Ed Halcomb was shot. Butler asks who did it, and Wren says they are saying Viggo did it. Miss Smith suggests that Butler send for Edith Sawyer.
A doctor says it could have been worse, and he thanks Ann for helping. She tells Butler that Halcomb will be all right. Butler says Halcomb stopped Viggo from making a raid. Butler says Viggo is supposed to be protecting the farmers. Ann sees that Edith is there, and Butler suggests they keep her secret. The Sheriff comes in, and Butler suggests that he arrest Viggo Tomlin. The sheriff says he may get around to it, and Butler complains he will not arrest him. Butler says he will do what needs to be done.
Butler sends a telegram, and Viggo shoots at him. He takes the telegram and reads it. Viggo threatens him with death, and Butler slugs him. They fight hard, and Viggo hits his head on the railway. Butler tells the station master to send the telegram to the district judge to send someone there in a hurry. Butler picks up Viggo’s gun and puts it under his belt. He tries to pick up Viggo and finally drags him. Arnett watches him as he carries Viggo home. Arnett gets the telegram and rips it up.
Ann is treating Butler’s injured arm. The doctor asks if Viggo was kicked by a mule. Ann asks Butler what he is going to do about Viggo, and he says he will pray about him. Ann leaves, and Arnett tells her he is interested in her. She says he is hurting her, and he advises her not to be a fool.
Wren with a gun stands over Viggo in bed. Butler comes in and asks if Viggo is comfortable. Wren lets Ann in. She tells Butler that Ed Halcomb and Edith Sawyer want to be married. He goes to perform the service.
In the morning Butler asks Viggo why he did not leave when Wren was asleep. Butler asks him if he ever had a friend. Viggo says he does not understand what he is talking about. Butler asks him why he shot Halcomb when he was hired to protect farmers. Butler says he will have to stand trial even though Halcomb is alive. He would like to be his friend. Wren comes in and tells Butler the church is full today. Butler goes out, and Viggo asks Wren if Butler would sell him out.
In church Butler leads them in prayer. He preaches about God bringing every work into judgment, and he cites the golden rule of doing to others what you want done to you. He says it is their privilege to follow divine guidance. He says the right principle is to love your neighbor as yourself. He says a man’s house was burned, and he suggests they rebuild his house. He asks if anyone does not want to love his neighbor. Sam says he will help, and Lathe Sawyer offers to contribute. They sing a hymn.
Two men enter the parsonage and take the gun from Wren. In church Butler hears a shot. He sees the two men and Viggo riding away. He goes in and sees that Wren has been killed. Butler says he was an innocent man, and Ann cries. Butler picks up the gun, thinks, and puts it down.
Butler goes out in the street and stops a fight. Ranchers complain that farmers burned their houses, and one of them slugs Butler. Sawyer says they will meet at his place.
Edith and Butler help Ed Halcomb walk and sit down. Sawyer comes in and asks Edith why she is there. She says she belongs there because Halcomb is her husband. Butler asks Sawyer to give his blessing. Sawyer does not want anything to do with Halcomb, but Butler says he kept Viggo from raiding Sawyer’s ranch. Sawyer asks Edith to come to her senses, and he leaves.
Arnett rides a horse and visits Viggo, telling him the farmers are meeting at the church tonight. He orders Viggo and his men to raid all the ranches. Arnett says he will be able to buy up their land cheap. Viggo says he wants an equal share as Arnett’s partner. Viggo and his men raid the cattle ranches, and steers stampede.
Butler tells Ann he will see her at the service. She says he is doing wonderful things, and she loves him. He loves her too and asks about Arnett. She says she does not trust Arnett, and she kisses Butler. She wants to be part of his world, and he says she is. He tells her what they can share with people’s problems and burdens. She asks if he is proposing, and he says he is.
Sam tells Butler that half the farmers are in front of his church, and they are carrying torches. Butler asks them what it is about. They say Arnett told them to be there. Butler invites them into the church and tells them to put their guns by the door. Ann runs in too, and Arnett sees her.
A rancher tells Sawyer that they will wipe them out this time. In the church after a prayer Butler says it will be safe for them as their thoughts make it. They are all brothers, but some force is trying to turn their community into a den of lions. He asks who will gain the most.
Outside Viggo tells Arnett it is all done, and he sent his boys away. The ranchers arrive on horses with guns, and they start shooting outside the church. Arnett shoots Viggo and takes his gun. The Sheriff finds dying Viggo, who says that Arnett did it and is behind all this. Butler comes out and tells the ranchers to put their guns down and come inside. The ranchers say they will talk there. Butler asks them why they have to fight for what is theirs. He says they are ranchers and farmers, not murderers. He suggests the ranchers offer a fair price for the land. They say they tried that through Arnett. Butler tells them to do it directly, not through Arnett. Then Arnett shoots at Butler, and the Sheriff wounds Arnett in the shoulder. The Sheriff says that Arnett was going to kill Butler and steal all the land. The Sheriff tells Butler that a friend warned him, and Butler says thanks. Sawyer asks Halcomb where he is going. Halcomb says they are going home, and he walks off with Edith and her father. Butler asks Ann where they can find a preacher.
This western shows a how a skilled preacher can use nonviolent methods to resolve a large conflict between farmers and ranchers. The root of the conflict is revealed as the greed of a railroad man.