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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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LONESOME DOVE BOOK NOTES / SYNOPSIS

CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES / ANALYSIS

PART 1

CHAPTER 1

Summary

This chapter is an introduction to the characters of the novel and the life they lead near Lonesome Dove in southern Texas about ten years after the Civil War. The first character introduced is Augustus McCrae who is part owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company. Besides Gus, there is Woodrow F. McCall, his partner, and Pea Eye Parker, Josh Deets, and Newt Boggs, men who worked on the ranch, and Bolivar, the Mexican cook.

Each man is described through stories and experiences that surround their lives. For example, Augustus thinks of himself as the “thinker” of the partners. Augustus had also worked at one time on the river boats working the Rio Grande. He claimed he quit, because he was so young and pretty that the whores wouldn’t leave him alone!

Woodrow Call is the other half of the partnership and is the complete opposite of Augustus. He is such a hard worker that he finds something to do even when everything appears to be done. He’s tough and has little time or respect for most people, but appears to suffer Augustus, because Gus isn’t any more impressed by him than Call is by himself. He loves a beautiful, but surly filly that he enjoys riding, but which enjoys taking bites out of him. He also appears to be the one who makes all the decisions about raids across the border to steal cattle and horses from the Mexicans and the Indians when possible. He was born in Scotland, so Gus insists, as a way of teasing the man, that he’s no more American than Bolivar or the “Africans” for which the Civil War was fought.

Pea Eye is an older man who is one of the ablest workers on the ranch. He is slow in thought and becomes slower as he drinks more whiskey. He is in awe of Call whom he calls Captain, and will follow him on raids or trail drives whenever he ordered to do so. He’s deaf in one ear from a fight with the Comanche, and Pea Eye uses this as an excuse not to listen to Augustus when he begins his arguments.


Newt is a young boy of seventeen who is full of imagination and romance when it comes to fighting Indians and carrying a gun. Unfortunately, Captain Call won’t allow him to do so until he’s grown up. When “grown up” actually will occur, however, Call won’t say.

Bolivar is a former Mexican bandit who has given up those days since the end of the Civil War. He is believed to steal goats and fry up their meat for dinner, which Gus believes he fries in tar! He only bathes once every two weeks or so when he goes home to see his family. He also likes the sound of the dinner bell, which, because it has lost it clapper, he strikes with a crowbar for a full five minutes.

The chapter also gives us details of the hard life these men live in south Texas. The days are supremely hot and dry with rain only falling once or twice a year, and they are under constant danger from the Comanche and the Mexicans. As a result, these men have deep ingrained prejudices and mistrust for both groups. They often lose their herds to cattle and horse thieves and find themselves raiding across the border to get them back. Except for Gus, they work fifteen hour days and fall into bed late at night, only to rise early again the next day to do their work all over.

Notes

The descriptions of the main characters are important to note as their habits and beliefs are integral to the story. The reader will need to understand what has formed these men into the individuals they are. Call, Gus, and Pea Eye are all Texas Rangers, but life has changed since their fighting days, and now, they seem to just run a livery business and sell cattle and horses when they can. Their lives are hard, and yet, there seems to be a bond among them that is strong and deep from the experiences they have had together.

 

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