Lonsome Dove: NovelSumary:part2:chp56-65
Gus has lost Blue Duck’s trail and has had to backtrack. Frustrated, he fears that Lorie’s suffering will break her before he finds her. As he travels on the flat plains, he is ambushed by the Kiowa. For cover, he slashes his horse’s throat. The smell of the blood frightens the Kiowa’s horses, and Gus crouches in a wallow behind the carcass and fires on the Kiowa as their horses bolt, killing four. A Kiowa forces his horse to charge the wallow, and Gus kills him and then another. Six Kiowa remain, waiting, till they are joined by one of the buffalo hunters. Darkness falls, so Gus moves out, using the saddle as a shield. He picks up a dead man’s rifle and hears a shot ring out and then the Kiowa riding away. Gus follows the sound of voices—an argument in a small camp—and steps into the firelight to say that he was the man being shot at. He has come across July, Roscoe, Janey, and Joe. They talk of Jake, and Gus explains his pursuit of Blue Duck. He asks July to assist him and gives him a gun. Feeling obliged to leave his own quest for now, July rides to the river with Gus and Roscoe, toward the Kiowa’s campfire. Gus borrows July’s horse and says he will handle the Kiowa. Gus’s confidence astonishes Roscoe, but July insists on going with Gus, because he thinks Ellie might be with them. Both Gus and July are worried; July has never had to kill a man before.
In the hunters’ camp, Dog Face is dying of gunshot wounds as Blue Duck interrogates him about July’s camp. Dog Face wants to look at Lorie as he dies, but Blue Duck intentionally stands between them. Dog Face begs Blue Duck to shoot him and end his misery, but Blue Duck refuses to waste the bullet. He kicks Dog Face and Lorie and urges the remaining Kiowa, dispirited now that Ermoke is dead, to cut Lorie up so that they will have the courage to face Gus. Lorie listens to Dog Face’s moans and vomits in her distress. Dog Face begs Monkey John to help her, but Monkey John fears Blue Duck too much. The angry Kiowa castrate Dog Face, then scalp him, yet he still lives. Monkey John goes silent as the Kiowa rage on; then Lorie hears hoofbeats and gunshots. Monkey John is shot, as are all but one of the Kiowa, and Gus is in the room, asking where Blue Duck is. Lorie can only nod to indicate that he was here but now is gone. Gus kills the last Kiowa, a task he expected July to handle, and orders July to race back to Joe, Roscoe, and Janey to protect them. Before he takes Lorie away, he ends Dog Face’s suffering.
While July and Gus are away, Roscoe and Joe wait fearfully. There are no trees to hide among; they try to keep watch, but Roscoe dozes off. He wakes to see Janey standing in front of him, lifting a huge rock, which she flings at a large man. As Roscoe gets to his feet, Janey drops to her knees and shouts for Roscoe to shoot the man. Before he can react, Roscoe feels a shove—a knife blade in his chest, though he does not register it—and drops his pistol. Confused and oddly warm, he watches the big man strike Janey down. Roscoe weakly calls for Joe. “Was that his name?” the man asks. By the time July reaches the little camp, Janey, Joe, and Roscoe are all dead, and Blue Duck is gone.
July feels entirely unequipped for these events. He did not even stay and die with his people; instead, he chased a ghost. He had no reason to think that the hunters had Ellie. And he never even fired his gun—Gus did all the killing. July begins to dig graves with his knife.
In the morning, Gus rides up with Lorie and tells July not to blame himself because he can never know what might have happened. He lets the stunned sheriff sit by Lorie while he tends to the dead. July wants to pursue Blue Duck, but Gus says that the murderer has outrun them this time. Death will find him one day, and it is useless to try to repay pain. Instead, July should go back to seeking Elmira. July heads for Kansas, and Gus cares for Lorie as they wait for the herd to catch up.
Analysis, Chapters 54–58
These chapters are among the most exciting in the novel as Gus catches up to and rescues Lorie, displaying his rangering skills and bravery. By contrast, July seems ineffectual, yet in the end, the combined abilities of both men cannot keep Janey, Joe, and Roscoe from dying at Blue Duck’s hands. What is interesting to contrast is the two men’s reactions to Blue Duck’s escape. Gus is able to drop the pursuit, knowing its futility; July has to be talked out of pursuit, and when he does leave, it is to take up a pursuit just as futile.
Lorie’s strength of mind is revealed in her ordeal. Despite her bruised and abused body, she develops coping techniques such as learning not to hear and tucking away hope where events cannot touch it; and she does not become so numb to feeling that she cannot sympathize with Dog Face, who has at least tried to defend her from the worst of the abuses.
In these chapters readers meet memorable characters—not only the horrid men who “own” Lorie but also the odd Aus Frank, whose piles of bleached buffalo bones are a symbol of the rapacious use and abuse of nature akin to the repeated rapes Lorie suffers.
As the herd continues north, Call begins to worry about Gus. They camp west of Fort Worth, the last real town till Ogallala, Nebraska, so that the men can go into town. The boys stay with the herd, as does Dish, in case Gus returns with Lorie. Po Campo argues that Gus will not catch Blue Duck—no man is more evil except the devil. He recalls his life on the plains, where Blue Duck killed his three sons. Call thinks guiltily that he and Gus should have taken care of Blue Duck together. If Gus dies, Call may never know.
The hands return from Fort Worth hung over, as Po knew they would be; he has prepared a dewberry cobbler to settle their stomachs. The men report that they saw Jake in town but that he pretended not to recognize them.
Two days south of the Red River, storms hit and morale is low. Dish is angry at Jake, the cause of Gus and Lorie’s absence, and Newt is pained to hear Dish’s insulting talk. Dish still plans to marry Lorie—or to grieve her forever. When they reach the Red, they are glad to see that the water is not too high, but they worry about the river’s notorious sand bogs. Deets finds a good crossing, and the herd gets safely over. The men are happy, but Call’s concern for Gus grows. He finds that, when alone, he talks aloud to Gus—not always kindly.
Analysis, Chapters 59–60
These chapters provide further back story on Blue Duck, whose reputation for murder spans several states and territories, and on Po Campo; readers now know that not only his wife but also his sons are dead. Readers also learn about Call’s concern for Gus—mingled as always with irritation at his old friend’s ways.
Gus and Lorie travel slowly to Adobe Walls to find the meager buildings abandoned and in ruins. They find a mostly intact room and build a fire. Lorie still cannot talk or let Gus out of her sight, but he is patient. Stuck inside because of rain, they play cards. Suddenly, Lorie tells him not to cheat, or he will not get a poke. Gus tears up at the sound of her voice. Once, she even laughs a bit. She tires quickly, but her appetite returns. Lorie now fears being around men and does not want to join the crew, but Gus promises to keep the men away from her. He says he will get her to San Francisco yet. Still, when a herd approaches, Lorie begins to tremble and goes silent.
The herd is Wilbarger’s outfit. Gus explains Lorie’s situation to the big trail boss, who sympathetically agrees to send food to their camp and gives them a tent, too, so that Lorie can have privacy. She hides in it immediately. Gus and Wilbarger drink and enjoy each other’s conversation. Before the herd moves out in the morning, Wilbarger’s cook brings breakfast to the tent. Gus and Lori, too, cross the Red and set up the tent to wait for the Hat Creek outfit. Lorie washes in the river—her first bath since before Blue Duck kidnapped her—and weeps at the sight of her bruised body. Gus tells her to cry it out. “They shouldn’t have took me,” she sobs.
Analysis, Chapter 61
Wilbarger is an interesting minor character in the book. Intelligent, a fine leader and judge of men and horses, confident without being cocky, Wilbarger crosses paths with characters often, always to their benefit. Here, his compassion for Lorena is touching. His gift of a tent—seemingly such a small gesture—improves her life greatly, giving her privacy when she most needs it.
Gus, too, shines in this chapter. His patience with Lorie, his delight at any small improvement, and his attempts to give her hope endear him to Lorie and to readers. Gus’s admiration for Lorie is partly why he cares for her so tenderly; he later tells Call that her ordeal would have broken many women, yet he believes that she is strong enough to survive it.
In the Oklahoma Territory, Newt, Allen, and Pea Eye worry about Indians; and the Spettle boys long for home. The herd crosses east of Gus’s camp; the men miss his constant talk and advice. Po Campo, mysterious as ever, keeps spirits up with his cooking. He also whittles small wooden women for each hand.
As they approach the Canadian River, fierce storms come, causing a stampede. By the time the cattle stop running, the herd is in two parts about six miles apart. Call keeps the herds moving out of fear that the Canadian will soon be too deep to cross. Hail pelts the hands as they cross—in the nude, to try to keep their clothes dry. Afterward, Pea spots Gus riding toward the herd.
Gus teases the hands about their nudity but tells Call quietly that Lorie has had “an ordeal” that she will never forget but might outlive. He and Lorie will travel near the herd to Nebraska. He reports Blue Duck’s latest crimes and tells Call about July’s pursuit of Jake. Call says that he will not defend Jake and that Bill Spettle and thirteen cattle were killed by a single bolt of lightning.
To cheer the men up, Po Campo makes candy out of the hailstorms. They all wonder whether Lorie is still pretty, and Dish is desperate to see her; but she remains cloistered in the tent. When Gus is not by her side, she is overcome by fear and wishes she could die so that she could stop remembering.
The crew rests, glad to have Gus back. Privately, Gus advises Call to sell the herd, pay the hands, and go with him to find Blue Duck; but Call wants to see Montana, choose some land, and settle down.
Analysis, Chapters 62–63
Jake is having a fine gambling run at Bill’s Saloon in Fort Worth and enjoying the company of a whore named Sally Skull, who runs her own house. Sally drinks all day and sets a loud alarm bell to keep clients to a twenty-minute maximum at ten dollars a throw; she is a hard-headed businesswomen. A tall, skinny, coarse drug addict, Sally likes her men “muddy and bloody,” which both disgusts and attracts Jake. He still thinks of Lorena’s beauty with loss and anger.
When the Hat Creek hands come through town, Jake is cold to them because they let Lorie be kidnapped. When word gets around about what really happened, Sally accuses him of letting Lorie be abducted. Jake says that Lorie deserves her suffering because she would not obey him, to which Sally tartly replies that she will not, either.
That night, Sally shoots a man who overstays his time, wounding him and ending up in jail. While there, she takes drugs, seduces a deputy, and tries to get his gun. In the scuffle, Sally and the deputy die. The deputy leaves behind nine children, and Jake decides that it is time to leave town. He finds $600 in Sally’s room, loads up the frightened whores, and relocates them to Dallas. There, Jake hears that July is on the way. Jake joins three brothers—Ed, Dan, and Roy Suggs—in a card game; they invite him to come with them to Kansas as a “regulator,” taxing the herds that come through. When Jake observes that such taxation is not the law, Roy says that it should be. The brothers know about Call and think they can outwit him because, they argue, cowboys are not fighters. Neither are settlers; they will make the settlers pay to keep the cattle out of their fields, too.
Jake disapproves of these plans, yet three days later he finds himself riding north with them and a cold, frightening African American man called Frog Lips—an excellent marksman. Jake tells himself that he is riding with them only to Kansas, where he will find a saloon and settle in.
Analysis, Chapter 64
This chapter introduces another set of dangerous types (not counting the colorful Sally Skull, whom readers meet only briefly): the Suggs brothers and Frog Lips. But more than that, it narrates the missteps that are clearly walking Jake Spoon into trouble. Still missing and hating Lorie, Jake continues to try to shift blame for his selfish decisions. Readers may find it hard to believe that Jake was, at one time, a Texas Ranger who inspired enough confidence in Call and Gus that they made him a business partner.
July rides alone for days. He knows that towns are far apart but is uneasy on the open plains. He constantly remembers Roscoe, Joe, and Janey and thinks his life pointless. How can he go back to Fort Smith, given his failures? Four days out, his horse is lamed by a cactus spine; July dispatches the animal and walks on, crying when he looks back to see buzzards circling the carcass. He runs out of water and thinks what a joke it would be if, as a lawman, the only person he ever kills is himself. Suicide seems sensible, not cowardly; but first, he must tell Ellie about Joe’s death. Then he can “join his dead.”
July comes across a tiny spring; the water keeps him going, but he no longer feels part of the living world. He sees the dust of a herd approaching. The trail boss sells him the worst horse in the remuda at a high cost. Riding bareback, he reaches Dodge City four days later.