A strange party of Kentuckians pass through the valley, led by a stern matriarch who instills a credo in her young’uns, “we’uns ain’t like them.” She is keen to hold her own in a fight, “you ain’t never seen killin’ till you kill one o’ us.”
One of her sons “ain’t right in the head” since his wife was killed on the prairie a month before by “a pretty little feller” like Little Joe, who killed his brother in self-defense when the man was clearing land by burning without a thought for the valley. The dead man’s daughter vows vengeance from her kinfolk (who shortly arrive), and is cared for on the Ponderosa.
Ben offers a valley of sweet water and grass, with cattle and horses, for an end to killing, but it breaks out again and the matriarch swears war on the Cartwrights. Her children and grandchildren have had enough, her dead sons were backshooters, her granddaughter tells her what nice things the Cartwrights have, she asks Ben for a look.
“Up on the mesa” overlooking a box canyon, two hundred head of cattle are pastured by rustlers waiting for their partner and his sons. The Cartwright boys are bushwhacked in the canyon and pinned down, Hoss is wounded in the leg.
The family live just inside the Ponderosa line, ignored by Ben till he finds them with a steer hide belonging to him, they didn’t ask. He’s beaten for his trouble, says nothing, but the boys tell him to take it easy at his age, they’ll scout the high country after the rustlers they’ve been plagued with.
Ben rides out next morning, finds the standoff. The partner comes down under a flag of truce, he has a casualty, “ain’t all the cattle in Nevada worth one of our boys.” Dinner is served at the Ponderosa, the rustlers are loaned horses for a trip to the sheriff in Virginia City.