Lonsome Dove: NovelSumary:part1:chapter2-10
Call watches by the river for a while, but there’s little to worry about in “tame” Lonesome Dove: The Comanches are “whipped,” and horse thieves are wary of Gus and Call. Call is tired of being in charge, of having to set the example—responsibilities Gus could share but doesn’t. His work of running the livery stable is dull compared to his rangering days. These, Call thinks, are the thoughts of an old man.
Meanwhile, the others sit on the porch, debating the merits of knives. Bolivar and Gus trade insults, making Newt nervous. From town they hear the faint sounds of the piano in the saloon, the Dry Bean, which turns Newt’s thoughts toward his unspoken love for Lorena Wood, the town whore, who arrived a few months ago with a gambler who ditched her as bad luck. Newt has never spoken to Lorena but infers from her beautiful face an equally beautiful personality.
Newt asks Gus why Call goes off alone at night. Gus first says that Call is pretending to fight Indians but then admits that Call can’t stand all the talk and needs time to himself. Also, Call likes to “out-suffer” everyone else. This puzzles Newt, to whom the Captain is as great a mystery as Lorena. Call returns and suggests driving stock to buyers up north, but Gus objects to the labor. As they go to rest, Gus calls to Newt, “Night, son,” and looks meaningfully at Call. As Gus heads to the Dry Bean to play cards, Call warns him that he won’t stand Lorena around, so Gus had better not marry her.
Analysis, Chapters 1–2
The novel’s opening chapters describe the tiny town of Lonesome Dove and introduce the novel’s central characters, Augustus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call, captains in the Texas Rangers. Business partners and long-time friends, these men have such different natures that their friendship may surprise readers. Yet this friendship will dominate the novel, shape other characters’ actions, and motivate the story’s final chapters in particular.
This chapter interrupts the chronology of the plot to give Lorena Wood’s history. Lorena is not quite 20 and wants to go to San Francisco, but for now she is stuck in the heat and dust of Lonesome Dove. Lorie, as Gus calls her, left Mobile with her family, fleeing the Yankees. When she was 17, her parents both dead, she moved in with Mosby Marlin, because he had a buggy and pair of horses, and his mother and sisters. Mosby sold Lorena for “pokes” to pay his gambling debts. One buyer was John Tinkersley, a good-looking man who took Lorena with him to San Antonio. They lived in a nice hotel, but he beat her, and they fought about how much of the “sporting money” she got. Once, she tried to shoot him as he lay drunk in bed, but she didn’t know how to use the gun. They wrestled, and he bit her lip, leaving a scar. They moved westward, gambling, till he abandoned her in Lonesome Dove, penniless but with a reputation as a “murderous woman.”
Xavier Wanz, the saloon owner, lets Lorena cook while she develops a clientele. Lorena becomes a silent woman, which both attracts and unnerves men. Of the men who pay her for sex, she trusts only Gus, who sometimes pays her well to do nothing but listen to him talk. He says that men think they want sex, but what they really want is company. He asks Lorena to tell him her story, but she claims to have forgotten it.
Augustus enjoys the cool night air as he walks to the Dry Bean. At the saloon he find Dishwater Boggett playing cards with the saloon owner, Xavier Wanz, a small man from New Orleans who keeps a clean bar. Dish is trying to win enough money to pay Lorena for sex or to get “a poke” on credit; Lorena, as usual, is distant and detached. Dish asks to borrow two dollars from Gus to buy Lorena’s company, but Gus deems him a poor risk. Dish resents Gus’s competition for Lorena and the fact that he lets Lorena win at cards, which energizes her and makes her more beautiful.
As they leave, Dish says that he plans to join a crew headed north. Gus hands him two dollars, a going-away present, to buy a bit of fun before he leaves. Maybe, Gus thinks as he walks to the house, Lorie will come to like Dish.
Analysis, Chapters 3–4
Lorena Wood is another of the novel’s central characters; these chapters introduce her, tell her dismal story, and describe her effect on various men. Dish moons over her, Gus admires her and tries to draw her out, and others, such as Lippy, despair of her even noticing their existence. Whether Lorena’s remarkable beauty is a blessing or a curse for her is a question readers must ask throughout the book as they see her character develop.
Gus wakes early for his usual morning activities—reading the Bible as the sun rises and making sourdough biscuits and bacon. Call joins him, the pigs close behind him, hoping to eat the Bible, Gus claims. Call faults himself for how slowly he wakes up compared to Gus. As the crew, joined by Dish, gathers for Bol’s uninvinting breakfast, Newt sleeps at the table while Gus and Call argue about money and whether it would be worth the effort to drive a herd north. Dish can hardly eat for remembering his time with Lorena; he considers staying and working for Call and Gus so that he can be near her.
Two horsemen ride up. One is Deets, another Hat Creek hand, returning from making a deposit in the bank in San Antonio. The other is Jake Spoon, a former Ranger whom Gus and Call have not seen in about ten years.
When Newt sees Jake, he is taken aback. Newt’s mother, Maggie, was a prostitute, a profession Newt does not quite understand yet. But he knows that Jake often spent time with Maggie and was kind to her and to Newt. Jake founded the Hat Creek outfit with Gus and Call but did not like the settled life and left. A year later, Maggie died of fever, and Call and Gus took Newt in. Newt has always believed Jake would return and wonders if this “dashing” man might be his father.
Deets is happy to see Jake, but Call shrewdly guesses that Jake must be in trouble. When Jake agrees to help dig a well—hot, dirty work he usually considers beneath him—Call’s suspicions deepen. Jake says that he has been scouting with the Army in Montana. He tells Call that they could make a fortune on Montana’s vast and largely empty grazing lands and suggests that they drive a herd north. Gus is surprised; Jake normally avoids work—he’s not ambitious. Jake then admits that he is on the run because he accidentally shot and killed a dentist in Arkansas. He fled this man’s brother, Sheriff July Johnson, and hopes that Call and Gus will shelter him.
Gus interrupts Jake’s story to ask whether he has seen Clara Allen, but Call, disgusted that Jake’s story is wasting work time, leaves.
Gus and Jake talk on, and readers learn of Jake’s fears of death, his pride, and his regret over Maggie’s death. He has seen Clara, Gus’s old love, and her husband Bob; he tipped his hat to her in Nebraska. They go inside to drink in the shade, and Jake asks whether Lonesome Dove has any whores. Gus does not mention Lorena, but after Jake falls asleep, he walks to the saloon to see her. On his way he argues with Call, who is working with Hell Bitch, about the mare’s suitability and whether they should go north. Gus notes that Call is interested in this venture—and Call is rarely interested in anything. Montana is still wild and open; it beckons Call. Gus considers whether he might see Clara if they went through Nebraska.
Analysis, Chapters 5–7
These chapters introduce two more major characters, Joshua Deets, the trustworthy and intelligent scout and tracker, and Jake Spoon, the smooth-talking “world’s child,” as Gus later labels him. Both have long acquaintance with Call and Gus, and the captains know each man’s worth well. Their judgment of these men—one discriminated against because he is black, the other a ladies’ favorite because he is white, clean, and prettily dressed—reveals that outward appearances and social standards mean nothing to Call and Gus. Only actions matter to them, and Deets’s actions commend him, while Jake’s raise suspicions.
These chapters also introduce the idea of driving a herd to Montana’s grazing lands, the enterprise that will soon sweep most the novel’s Texas characters out of their usual lives and into adventure.
Dish, Newt, and Pea Eye are exhausted from the hot work on the well when Call rides up on Hell Bitch. Dish admires and wants the mare, but Call cuts him off. As they rest, they play at knife-throwing and watch as two distant riders approach. The riders stop to read the sign that Gus made for the Hat Creek Cattle Company, and one, Wilbarger, is clearly amused and perhaps a little impressed by it. Wilbarger is a trail boss who wants to buy forty horses for his remuda, to replace those stolen by Mexicans. One of his hands, Chick—a small, pock-marked man on a broken-down horse—wants to find the town’s whorehouse. Dish attempts to misdirect him, sick at the thought of this man with Lorena, but Chick has heard that there is a blonde in town. Dish claims that the blonde is his sister, and Chick backs down.
Dish leaves for town, preemptively, and ducks behind the store to brush off the dirt of his workday before seeing Lorena. He hears Lorena’s mattress creaking and thinks Chick must be with her. He decides to kill Chick but realizes that Chick’s horse is not outside the saloon. Dish sits by the river for an hour; when he enters the Dry Bean, he sees Lorena, “prettily flushed,” sitting at a table with Jake Spoon. They drink from the same glass—an intimacy that shocks Dish—and Lorena gazes at Jake. Dish’s dreams vanish; he is dazed as both Lorena and Jake ignore him.
Analysis, Chapter 8
In this chapter readers first learn about the sign that Gus made and, over time, improved for the Hat Creek outfit, a sign which makes him proud every time he looks at it and disgusts Call every time he thinks of it. The sign is the first thing people coming into Lonesome Dove see; it lists the owners of the business and, over time, also its key employees. At the bottom of the sign, Gus has adds a phrase in fractured Latin that may mean “The grape changes color when it sees another grape”—perhaps an adage about how the characters’ experiences change them, but perhaps merely a jab at Gus’s pretensions to learning. At any rate, Gus’s sign matters great to him, and annoys Call greatly, almost to the end of the novel.
Gus lets Jake take his turn with Lorena before he himself goes to the saloon. He invites Wilbarger to have a drink in the house. Wilbarger says that he has three thousand cattle to drive north, and Call promises to have a hundred horses for him to choose from by morning, admitting that at that time he has only three to sell. Wilbarger agrees to return at dawn.
Call makes plans to raid the Hacienda Flores, Pedro Flores’s ranch, but his crew is in bad shape. Newt is so scared that he forgets to be glad that he gets to go. Dish is drunk and vomiting, but Call assumes that Gus and Jake got him drunk and so does not fire him. Call gives Newt a pistol and a belt, making him feel “grown and complete.” At dusk they ride out.
The crew rides for hours through empty country, spooking small herds of longhorn cattle. Dish rides behind Jake, jealous and fantasizing that perhaps Jake will be shot (but not killed). Gus chats, as usual, annoying Call with his disregard for the risks of the raid. They split into two groups: Pea, Gus, Jake, and Dish ride to the remuda, while Call, Deets, and Newt investigate two men singing by a campfire. The singers are two Irish settlers who were trying to get to Galveston and are lost in Mexico. They have a mule and a donkey but no food; they argue about whether to eat the mule. Call hobbles the mule silently and accosts the men. The younger of the two brothers—Sean—panics, and the older—Allen O’Brien—calmly explains their plight. Call agrees to return for them once he has horses and escort them across the border.