The "Polka" tavern in the Califomian Cloudy Mountains is the place where the gold-diggers and adventurers meet every evening for a drink, a game of cards or a dance. All of them like Sonora, Trin, Bello, Harry, Joe and Happy are hoping to make their fortune, but fortune is elusive, and scenes like Jim Larkens breaking down over Jake Wallace's song from the old country are not infrequent. His comrades, only superficially "men of iron", spontaneously collect money to send Larkens home. Soon afterwards, the gold-digger Sid is caught cheating at cards, and immediately the mood changes: only the intervention of Jack Ranee, the Sheriff, saves Sid from being lynched on the spot. The Sheriff presents Mr. Ashby to the gold-diggers. Ashby, the agent of the Wells Fargo Transport Coznpany, is after the bandit Ramerrez who terrorizes the country with a band of Mexican robbers, ambushing gold transports and mail coaches. But the main attraction of the "Polka" tavern are neither cards nor whisky, but Minnie, the hostess. She finds the right word for everybody, and is full of understanding for the big and small worries of the men. Most of them are a little in love with her and court her with compliments and presents, a fact which Nick, the waiter, knows to use to his own advantage. Minnie herself knows no preferences. She treats them all as one big family and even manages to hold a bible lesson every evening. Just now Sonora and Ranee had had a violent argument because of her, but Minnie succeeds in calming them down quickly.
Then the long awaited mail arrives. The postman tells them about a half-caste he met on his way and warns them to he careful - the bandit Ramerrez might be around. Ashby gets important information for his investigations through a letter from Nina Micheltorena, a lady with somewhat doubtful reputation. Sheriff Ranee is also courting Minnie, although somewhere bis wife is waiting
for him. Minnie refuses bis advances and tells him about the perfect marriage of her parents; this is her idea of life and she cannot imagine herself at the side of a hard and ambitious man like Ranee.
A stranger appears who says that his name is Johnson and that he comes from Sacramento. Minnie recognizes him - she saw the man some time ago outside the camp and exchanged some friendly words with him. The jealous Sheriff tries to bring up the gold-diggers against the stranger, but when Minnie speaks fur Johnson, they invite him to stay and join the dance. Castro, a half-caste, is brought in. He claims to have left Ramerrez because he hates him and is willing to show the way to the bandits' camp. When he is ., unobserved, Castro exchanges a word with Johnson who actually is the wanted bandit. Castro allowed himself to be caught in order to lure the men away from i the camp.
Minnie and Johnson remain alone. They are increasingly attracted to each other. Minnie inadvertently gives away the hiding place of the diggers' gold which is in a barrel in the tavern. But Minnie's influence has already so moved Johnson that he has given up his plan to steal the gold. When he wants to kiss her, she asks him to wait until after the diggers' return and they arrange to meet in her cabin near the camp.
In Minnie's cabin, Wowkle, the Indian maid sings a lullaby to her baby. She is joined by Billy Jackrabbit, the baby's father, who, upon Minnie's insistence, has finally made up his mind to marry Wowkle.
Minnie enters, soon followed by Johnson, and when they are alone, they confess their love. A sudden blizzard appears to Minnie to be a sign from heaven that her lover should spend the night with her. Their romance is interrupted by Ranee, Nick, Ashby and Sonora - Minnie can just hide Johnson behind the bed • curtains. The men tell Minnie that the stranger with whom she danced was the I notorious bandit Ramerrez, Nina, his mistress, had betrayed him. It takes a photograph of the wanted man to convince Minnie. She maintains her poise until the men leave, and then orders Johnson out of her house. Johnson, full of remorse, tries to explain that he did not become a bandit by choice but that, after bis father's death, he was left with the band of robbers as redoubtable inheritance. Meeting her made him decide to begin a new life, but without her, to share this life, he did not have a chance. He leaves in desperation. Outside, a shot is fired. Badly wounded, Johnson staggers back into Minnie'shouse. In confusion, Minnie hides him in the loft. Presently Ranee, who fired the shot, appears looking for his quarry. As he does not find him, he again tries to make love to Minnie. Again she rejects him and he is about to leave, when blood dips on his hand from above. At gun point, he forces Johnson to descend. The wounded man faints. Minnie, knowing the Sheriff's passion for gambling, proposes a game of poker for Johnson's life: should she loose, both Johnson and Minnie would be at the Sheriff's disposal. Should Ranee loose, however, then Johnson would be free. Ranee agrees. The first round goes to Minnie, the second to Ranee. During the decisive third round, Minnie pretends to faint. While Ranee is looking for some water, Minnie exchanges her bad cards and thus wins the game. Ranee leaves the house without a word, and Minnie collapses beside the unconscious Johnson.
In the Californian jungle, Ranee and Ashby lie in wait for Johnson. Ranee asks Nick whatever Minnie could see in Johnson. While the net closes around Johnson, Nick steals away to warn Minnie. The men are determined to lynch Johnson.
Eventually Johnson is caught. He is questioned briefly, swears that while he did steal, he never killed anybody, and is sentenced to be hanged. His last wish is that Minnie should not be told about the manner of his death. But Minnie herself appears and with a drawn pistol stands in front of Johnson, She entreats the gold-diggers not to kill him and reminds them how she helped every single one of them when he was in trouble. Now was the time to thank her. Johnson was completely reformed, together with her he wanted to start a new life. The men cannot resist her endeavours. Johnson is pardoned and departs together with Minnie.