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When farmer Henry Whipple's chickens overtake her schoolroom, teacher Araminta Tootle is fired and retires with her precocious, weakling nephew Gladwyn, who loves to quote the Bible, to Banning, California. There, she purchases an abandoned desert ranch called El Mirage, where a Chinese man once was murdered, from realtor Jameson Forbes. Forbes's secretary, Kitten, sells the same ranch to Henry, and the two new owners meet at the ranch, each claiming to be the rightful owner. Later they discover the ranch has no water. When a prospecting hobo named Barbwire hears from Gladwyn that Henry molested Araminta, he fights Henry and loses his gold tooth inlay in the sand. Barbwire thinks he has discovered gold and causes a gold rush on the property. Among the new arrivals is Madam Bertha Smith and her three "girls," prostitutes who flirt with Henry to get at his money. After Henry fights a prospector to get him off the land, Araminta falls in love with him. She and Henry go into town with the madam and her girls for a drink, which Henry hopes will ease a toothache he has acquired. In the saloon, Araminta scowls when Gertie, one of Bertha's girls, flirts with Henry, so he refuses Gertie's advances. When Jameson and Kitten read of the gold rush, they return to swindle Henry and Araminta out of their property. Henry and Araminta both sell their deeds for $10,000, planning to give the money to each other to bring water to the ranch. A traveling medicine man then tries to pull Henry's bad tooth, and although he pulls the wrong one, he recognizes Henry's gold nugget in the bar as an inlay, and the gold rush is declared a hoax. After Forbes claims to be the new owner, the prospectors attack him for "salting" his land with pieces of gold in order to unload the property. Later, Gladwyn returns to school and proudly fights with the boys. While cheering Gladwyn, Araminta accidentally hits Henry in the mouth, causing him to wince in pain.