Quint meets Eliab Haggen while out fishing. Eliab informs Quint that he's headed to Dodge to settle a family grudge...by shooting off the "little hangy down part" of Festus' ear.
As Quint and Eliab ride back to Dodge, Festus is involved in a poker game so that he will not have to face Pearl, a widow who considers him marriage material. Festus wins the pot, including a beautiful pair of boots, and goes off to get cleaned up.
Later, at the Long Branch, Festus tries to give the widow to Quint but he's already been warned by Kitty. Quint informs Festus that his cousin is in town. Festus sneaks out of the Long Branch in order to avoid both the widow and his cousin.
The next morning Festus runs into his cousin at the stable. Eliab chases him out of Dodge and across the prairie. Festus, thinking he's lost pursuit, curls up under some cottonwoods for a nap. Eliab, unable to get a clear shot, distracts Festus with a turkey call. Festus gets up and runs.
Eventually Festus runs back into the Long Branch to hide. Kitty tells him to stay at the bar and have a drink. Quint asks why he doesn't just face his cousin with a six iron. Festus says he doesn't want to get close enough to face his cousin and runs out the side door. A few minutes later, Eliab is seen looking under the bat wing doors of the saloon. Quint introduces Eliab to Miss Kitty.
Kitty asks Eliab about his aim and wonders about the risk of hitting Festus in the head. Eliab tells her that a hit is a hit and a miss is a miss. He says he wouldn't shoot unless he was sure he had the shot.
While Festus is hiding from his cousin in the blacksmith's shop, Pearl finds him. She sees Festus' new finery and starts gushing over them. He tries to ignore her but she manipulates him into having dinner with her that evening. Festus slinks away.
That night Quint discusses Eliab wanting to shoot Festus' ear off with Doc. Doc is worried that it will stop being entertaining fun and games and end up with someone seriously hurt. He wants Quint to do something about it. Quint says he thought about knocking Eliab out and tying him up for a while but he won't do it. He doesn't think it would be fair. A gunshot interrupts their discussion.
When Quint and Doc investigate, they find the man has been shot between the eyes. Quint wants to dismiss it as coincidence but Doc implies that they need to consider Eliab as a possible suspect. Quint wishes Matt was back in town.
Quint finds Eliab in the stables and explains that he's the acting marshal with Matt out of town. He wants to confiscate Eliab's rifle and explains that Jake Craig, a man Eliab tangled with earlier, was found shot in the alley. he takes Eliab to jail. Once in the jail, Quint tells Eliab he'll receive a fair trial and Eliab asks Quint to take care of his mule.
In the morning, Quint finds Festus talking to his cousin in the jail. Quint scolds Festus for hiding in the jail where the widow can't find him.
Someone comes in looking for the marshal and when Quint tells him Matt isn't back yet, the man says Doc wants to see him. Quint goes up to Doc's and Doc has something to show him. Doc hands Quint a bullet which came from a Derringer, not a cap and ball weapon. He tells Quint there were powder burns on the wound and that the man's ranch deed was missing. Matt reappears and Quint fills him in on the details.
Matt goes over to the Long Branch and confronts the poker dealer with the Derringer bullet. Matt arrests him for the murder of Jake Craig. The dealer tries to punch Matt but the marshal ducks and returns the punch. A Derringer falls out of the man's pocket. Quint searches him and finds the dead man's land deed. Matt takes him to jail and goes off to sleep.
At the jail, Festus asks if Quint will turn Eliab loose. Quint says he has to. Festus trades his new boots for an armistice with Eliab. He also pawns the widow of on his cousin.