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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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Newt notices as they begin to ride that once you’re grown up, time doesn’t pass as slowly. He rides in the middle of the company, and it occurs to him that he should try to keep some idea of where he is in case he gets separated. However, they further they ride, the more lost he feels.

They finally rein up when they spook a herd of longhorn cattle. The Captain decides they’ll try to pick them up on the way back, because there are probably 400 in the herd. Gus and Call also argue about how to approach the out camp of the ranch. Call finally insists they’ll be cautious and bear around it in case there are vaqueros watching nearby.

Meanwhile, Dish has ridden off most of his drunkenness and at the comments about the vaqueros, he hopes that if they’re in a gun battle, Jake just might stop one of the bullets.

Captain Call thinks about the jocularity of the men in this group and believes that they should be just a little more serious. He wonders how much he can rely on them, given that one is a little more than a boy, and another is drunk sick. He knows he can count on Gus who has a reputation for being cool under fire; he’s not sure how much he can rely on Jake whose been known to be worthless in battle; the only one who is really much help in the planning is Deets, who seems to have almost a sixth sense in these matters. He decides to rely on Deets and keep Newt close by him in case of danger. Newt is thrilled.

About a quarter mile from the camp, they dismount, and Deets listens carefully in the silence. He hears white people singing, so he goes to reconnoiter the camp. He comes back with the news that it is two white people singing, and they only have a mule and donkey. Call is perplexed, because it makes no sense that two white people - Irishmen to be precise - would be singing in an out camp of a Mexican ranch. Gus and Call go towards the camp to see for themselves, leaving Newt alone near the horses. The boy is nervous and worried that he won’t live up to Call’s expectations, so, pistol in hand, he too begins to walk toward the camp. The two Irishmen are debating their next meal, and whether they eat the mule or the donkey. Call steps in the middle of them, and they begin to scream, “Murderers!” One of them runs for the mule, and Call does nothing to stop him, because he sees that the mule is hobbled. The Irishmen finally step forward and introduce themselves as Allen O’Brien and his brother, young Sean. They had been looking for Galveston and overshot the mark. They decide to ride with Call and his men, because they know Pedro Flores will hang them if he finds them. They agree to wait there at the out camp until the other men return with the horses. However, they fear Call won’t come back until Deets assures them that the Captain is a man of his word.


The men of the Hat Creek Cattle Company have come within a quarter mile of the Hacienda Flores. Along the way we are privy to thoughts of Newt, Dish, and Call. In each case, we see their fears, their regrets and their hopes. This ride is both exhilarating for some in the group and fearsome for others. Newt is just now seeing the awesome responsibility that has been placed on him. Dish still fears that Jake is too much of a rival for him to handle. We especially see more of the character of Woodrow Call. He is obviously a man of integrity even though he plans to steal another man’s horses. He accepts that stealing herds of horses and cattle back and forth across the border is a way of life and has no morality attached to it. However, when he gives his word, he keeps it. He also looks out for Newt even though Newt feels the Captain holds something against him. Call is a man who holds his thoughts close to the vest and his plans for Newt, although not yet known to the boy, are good for Newt’s future. These feelings about Newt are ironic because they are part of his denial of a boy who he knows is his son.


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