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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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CHAPTER 4

Summary

This chapter shows the reader a little more about the characters that live in Lonesome Dove, and how Augustus views them. He straps on his old Colt dragoon with its seven inch barrel, because he never knows when he might have to whack a drunk. Then, he begins to walk down the street of the town toward the Dry Bean in search of a card game. The nights are different in Texas border towns than the way he remembers them in his home state of Tennessee.

Finally, he arrives at the Dry Bean where there is only one horse tied up - the sorrel belonging to Dishwater Boggett, a driver so named because he had returned from a drive so dry that he grabbed the cook’s dishwater instead of waiting his turn at the water barrel. Dish is also a young man who plays terrible cards, so Gus sees this as an opportunity to get a game going. Inside the Dry Bean, Lippy is pounding the piano to his favorite tune - “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” - while Xavier Wanz, the owner, nervously wipes all the tables. Xavier is a Frenchman from New Orleans who had worked in a fine restaurant where there were real tablecloths on the tables, and he also keeps himself dressed fastidiously.

Gus sees Dish sitting at a table with Lorena, glancing at her frequently, probably in hopes of a night of love given on credit. He asks Gus to loan him two dollars, but Gus says it would be a bad investment, given that Dish is moving out the next day on another trail drive. Meanwhile, it occurs to Gus that Lorie still reminds him most of Clara Allen, the woman he had loved most and still loved to this day. She had married a horse trader rather than Augustus.


Lippy finishes his song and sits down with Gus, Lorena, and Dish. He’s another of the strange characters of Lonesome Dove, with a lower lip the size of a saddlebag (hence his nickname), a terrible habit of eating with slurping noises and always breathing through his mouth, and wearing a bowler hat that had had so many things spilled on it that it made everyone gag. Xavier was repulsed by the hat and strove to attempt to find civility within this saloon he ran.

Meanwhile, Dish is becoming frustrated by everyone sitting at his table. He has high hopes of a night with Lorena and having others sitting there is cramping his style. Gus observes that Dish acts like he has a sour stomach and that what he needs is a good, satisfying game of cards. Dish boldly responds that he needs nothing of the kind, glancing sideways at Lorena. Finally, Gus convinces Dish, Wanz and Lorena to get into a game. He loves when Lorena plays, because when she wins, she ceases to be a “sulky whore” for a little while, and the child in her is briefly reborn. They play until the rustler’s moon has crossed to the other side of town, and Wanz has taken half of Dish’s next month’s pay. As they go outside, Gus finds out Dish will be driving the trail with Shanghai Pierce’s bunch, so he hands the boy the two dollars he had asked to borrow. He even offers the front porch of his ranch house if Dish needs a place to bunk down for the night. Dish stammers that he forgot something back in the Dry Bean, and Gus watches him sneak up the outside stairs to Lorena’s room. It occurs to him that it’s “best to help such boys have their moment of fun, before life’s torments snatch them away.”

Notes

This chapter is again a microcosm of the type of people who live in a town like Lonesome Dove, and how despite the hardships of their lives, they, too, have hopes and dreams and need others to think enough of them to look after them. Characters like Lippy do things that are impolite and even disgusting, but at the same time, he is endearing in some ways. Lorena is the town whore, but she is loved by the best of them and the worst of them. Xavier never liked his wife, but still feels the need to honor her memory each year. And Gus is like a benevolent father who watches over them and finds a way to make their lives just a little easier. So, they meet up with each other at the Dry Bean, they play cards together and take each other’s money, they long for what they can’t have, and sometimes receive a little they never would expect. Seeing these characters helps us see life in this post-Civil War part of America, and how people are just people no matter where they live.

 

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