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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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This chapter begins with a long explanation of the reason why Captain Call walks the river every night. He thinks of it as a time to hone his instincts for any danger that may be lurking around them. He knows that itís unlikely that there are any Indians even 500 miles near them, but itís a habit he has practiced most of his adult life and itís become hard to break. He also seems to need the time for his own privacy as he feels the weight of being their Captain hanging heavy upon him. He had been occupied with fighting Indians for many years, so he knows that the safety of all the men who live with him is his responsibility. However, he has grown tired of being the one to always make the littlest of decisions and being the example for all the others. He finds himself thinking back to the old days and it annoys him, because it makes him feel like an old man. So he walks the river until he stops daydreaming and feels he could still be captain if the need arose. Then, he can return home again.

Meanwhile, the usual activity for the other men after supper is to sit on the porch, talk, and practice the same things they do every night: drink whiskey (Gus and Pea Eye), sharpen a knife (Bolivar), or wonder when the Captain is returning (Newt). Newt is very insecure about who will take care of him if the Captain would decide to leave. He worries over it like any seventeen year old, innocent boy who knows little about the ways of the world. He alludes to the fact that he had come to this business by accident, but the reader is given no details at this point. Newt also dreams about Lorena Wood, a woman whom he knows is the town whore, but whom he loves anyway. Heís very aware that he has few friends in the world and heís anxious not to lose any one of them.

Pea Eye dozes on the porch and only awakes when he hears the word Indians. Heís been afraid of Indians for more than thirty years and hates them, especially because his fear of them has kept him from a decent nightís sleep all this time. He believes that Captain Call is right to walk the river every night, because the Indians could come.

When Call returns to the house, he notes to Augustus that it would have been a good night to ďcross some stock, ď i.e., cross the river and steal some cattle and horses. However, Gus feels it would be a waste of time until the cattle buyers arrive. Newt asks if he can go the next time, but Call still wonít allow it. He remembers too clearly how, during the war, he saw too many boys Newtís age fight and die. The two partners remain the last two on the porch and for a moment they sit silently listening to Lippy Jones play the piano at the Dry bean Saloon. Eventually, however, Augustus tells Call that itís time for him to let Newt cross the river with them. Call chooses not to respond to that comment, so Augustus heads toward the saloon, saying he thinks heíll play a few hands of cards. Call though knows that Gus is going to see Lorena and warns him that if she suckers Gus into marrying her, Call wonít allow her to live there. Augustus just laughs, and so ends a typical day at the Hat Creek Cattle Company.


This chapter continues to flesh out these interesting characters. There is much alluded to that we donít yet know, such as the reason Newt ended up with these men on the ranch. However, each comment they make and each action they take gives us a much deeper look at what makes them tick. We discover that Call is not a sociable man, is in fact a loner, and feels the weight of his responsibilities too heavy at times to bear. We learn that Bolivar has a deep seated love for his wife and nine daughters and would kill Gus if he tried anything with the three who remain unmarried. We find out that Newt has a crush on a whore, but is so innocent that he constantly thinks about the right words to say to her if he ever meets her and doesnít even know what to do with her if she would let him! This information not only fleshes out the characters, but it further reinforces the bond between them. In spite of the way they mock and tease each other, in spite of how Newt fears they might leave or kill each other, the reader can sense that they would probably die for each other.


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