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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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The men from the Hat Creek Cattle Company have now found the herd of horses at the Hacienda Flores. They pull out two horses from the herd which is smaller than Call had first thought in order to take them to the Irishmen at the out camp. Once the horses are culled from the herd, Augustus realizes that they’re the horses with the H I C brand, the very same ones stolen from Wilbarger. They’d had set out to rob Pedro Flores and now find themselves in a position to return stolen property to Wilbarger. As a result, it seems like a wasted night until Call comes up with an idea to make it as profitable as he had hoped. He assigns Jake, Deets, and Dish to take the Wilbarger horses back to Lonesome Dove and then send Gus to fetch the Irishmen. That leaves Newt, Pea Eye, and Call himself to find the profits.

An hour later, Call’s group finds the main herd in a narrow valley several miles north. It is definitely over 100 horses strong and will be worth the evening’s work if they can get them home under Pedro’s nose. Call decides that they’ll take them all, and when Pea comments that such a large herd means they won’t have to come back for awhile, Call says they’re never coming back. They’ll sell some and head north with the rest. Newt realizes then that life is finally starting for him. He looks forward to this next phase in his short life and especially looks forward to seeing snow.

As they circle the herd and head it northwest, Newt has a perplexing irony to sort out: Captain Call is very stern when it comes to dealing with horse thieves in Lonesome Dove and yet, feels no guilt about stealing horses across the border. It occurs to him that what Call finds perfectly acceptable in Mexico would be a handing offense in Texas. He soon puts the thought aside, however, because in his heart, he feels the Captain would not do anything that was illegal. He soon has another fear to contend with: he no longer has a whole company of men around him as he herds the horses, and if caught, he can expect no mercy from the vaqueros. Eventually, he begins to relax as they ride many miles from the hacienda, and he thinks about how much more of a man he will appear when they ride into Lonesome Dove with over 100 horses.

Suddenly, shots ring out behind Newt which cause the horses to pick up their speed. He loses all sense of where he is and what’s happening. Now, he’s engulfed in a mass of moving animals and sees a rider who is neither Captain Call nor Pea Eye Parker. Newt immediately realizes that he’s caught up in a herd of horses being stolen by Mexicans and headed south along with his herd which is headed north. Soon all the horses are headed northwest and Mouse, his big gelding, is in charge as Newt can do nothing to control the flow. He hears shots to his left and ducks, and then nearly loses his seat as Mouse jumps a chaparral bush. From then on, he concentrates on staying in the saddle with his head low. He’s surrounded by dust which chokes him but also affords him cover from any vaqueros who might decide to take a shot his way. He is reassured when he hears shots close by from Captain Call’s big Henry and keeps riding and praying to see dawn in the sky.

Eventually, the sky begins to lighten and Newt finds himself at the old Comanche crossing of the river, only a mile from Lonesome Dove. When the light becomes stronger, he realizes that they now have both herds of horses and waiting on the bank of the river is Captain Call with his big rifle on his arm. He discovers that the Mexicans thought their herd was a roundup by the army and hadn’t put up much of a fight. One vaquero kept trying to turn the herd and Call was forced to shoot him. It is good, in Call’s mind, that Newt has had a little experience with nothing worse than a dirty face to show for it. He’s also very pleased with how his filly - the Hell Bitch, as the other men call her - has performed. Not only has she been surefooted, she’s also resilient and not used up like the other horses they’ve ridden. He heads them for home, looking forward to the money he can get from Wilbarger.


The rite of passage that Newt has begun continues with a flourish. By stealing the horses from the Hacienda Flores and adding the horses the Mexicans were stealing from Texas, he has come through a dangerous moment that is oddly emotional for him. He not only learns how to be a man, he also realizes the importance of home and the security it affords. The irony is that the border is the only real boundary between what is right and what is wrong in his world. Call would have thought nothing of hanging the vaqueros had he caught them in Texas and the Mexicans would have willingly shot Newt if he had been caught in their country. It is the law of survival in the post-Civil War world they inhabit.


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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Lonesome Dove". . 09 May 2017