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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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This chapter is presented from Roscoe Brown’s viewpoint. He is lost on his journey to find July Johnson, but soon comes upon a little party of soldiers who are heading to Buffalo Springs, Texas. They share their whiskey with him and he is soon drunk-sick. When they come to the Red River, they pitch him on top of Memphis and send him on his way. They assure him that if he continues riding southwest, he’ll come to San Antonio.

Eventually Roscoe comes across a cabin with an old man sitting on a stump in front of it skinning a small animal. Roscoe acts friendly, hoping for a place to spend the night, but the man is very unfriendly. When Roscoe sees a young girl come out of the cabin, the old man tells him he has to kill his own food, and he’s to leave the girl alone. He had given 28 skunk hides for her. During the night, Roscoe can hear the old man beating the girl with a strap, and even though she seems to put up a good fight, she spends most of the night whimpering. Roscoe has been told by July many times to stay out of family disputes, so he doesn’t go to her aid. But he worries that she seems so young to have gotten herself in such a rough situation.

The next morning, he mounts Memphis and rides off. He’s dozing lightly in the saddle when he runs into a wasp nest and is stung many times. While he’s trying to find out where he’s stung, he sees the girl, who has been following him on foot. She tells him her name is Janey, and she’s run away from the old man. Roscoe eventually allows her to travel with him, because she can keep up on foot with him very well. She also can catch rabbits, cook frog legs, and fix the wasp stings. Nonetheless, Roscoe is still angry at July for putting him in this situation by marrying a woman who runs off. Janey tells Roscoe that her family is all dead and that she had been sold by a man named Bill who was supposed to take her to Fort Worth. So, he decides to allow her to come along until he can find a family willing to take her.


The author’s emphasis on the lives of women and the hardships of living in the west continue in this chapter. In the case of Janey, we see a young girl who became the slave of men who had no concern for what was best for her. They used and abused her, and she would probably have died eventually if Roscoe had not come along. Roscoe is totally out of his element when he hits the trail, having no idea how to find his way. In this sense, Janey rescues him as much as he rescues her. They both face the elements and the lawlessness of the west as they continue on their way.



The viewpoint returns to the cattle drive where the herd has finally left San Antonio behind and has entered land with more grass. Newt has finally gotten the Rainey boys to open up and talk, and he rides along with them discussing whether they’ll see any Indians. Food is a hit and miss situation now that Bolivar has left them, but Call has been unable to find a cook even though he has asked at several settlements. He decides to try Austin, and he and Gus ride off on that mission. On the way to Austin, Gus suddenly swings his horse north instead of west and when Call follows, he finds him by a little spring-fed creek, just sitting there and looking. It turns out that he called this spot Clara’s Orchard and was a place where he and Clara had come on their buggy rides. He reminisces how he’d asked her to marry him there, but she’d refused. She feared he’d try to make her do something she didn’t want. That’s why he’s still confused as to why she surrendered her precious freedom to the horse trader from Kentucky. Nonetheless, this spot reminds him of the time when he was the happiest.

When they turn once more toward Austin, Gus, with his amazing eyesight, sees Lorie in the camp she and Jake had made, and Gus supposes that Jake has left her to go and gamble. Gus suggests that they hire Lorie to cook, but Call refuses, because he thinks she’ll be too much of a distraction to the hands. This, of course, gives Gus reason to bring up Call’s relationship with Maggie and the fact that Newt has to be Call’s son. Anyone with an eye, he says, can see they’re related. Call, however, refuses to discuss it, and soon they come to Lorie and Jakes’ camp. She has just bathed in the creek and is drying her hair. Jake has been gone for two days, which angers Call. He finds it unconscionable that a man would leave any woman alone in such rough country. Gus decides to stay and play cards with Lorie and sends Call on into Austin.

As he rides away, Call vents to himself over how annoyed he is at Jake and Gus. He wants Gus to return to the herd that night if he’s late, but Gus won’t commit. Call hates that he won’t exert the leadership he needs to exert for men who are basically inexperienced. While he works this all over in his mind, the filly he loves suddenly bucks him off. He just manages to hold onto one of the reins or she might have run away. He is not angry, however, at her, because he recognizes her intelligence. She was alert enough to see his preoccupation with his anger and took the opportunity to try to get away. He knows she will try again, too, so he decides to find some braided horsehair reins to make sure she can’t snap one the next time. He tells her, “I aim to ride you across the Yellowstone, and if I don’t, it’ll be because one of us gets killed first.”


This chapter expresses the idea once more of the lives of women. Clara Allen, Gus’ old love, wouldn’t marry him, because she feared he’d hobble her independence. Then, she marries with no good reason a Kentucky horse trader. Gus is bewildered by her decision, but he has never forgotten her. The truth is not yet apparent to him, because he doesn’t think like a woman of the times. Clara may have decided that life with the man she loves would be filled with too many hardships. Or perhaps she realized that his being a Ranger meant the possibility of an early death, a situation she might not have wanted to face. And the horse trader, being wealthy, may have offered her the security that Gus could not. Men would never understand the plight of women of this time, because they were not subject to the whims of the opposite sex for their very survival. The Hell Bitch, Call’s filly, is symbolic of a female under the control of the male. In many ways, she is smarter than he is and nearly gets herself free. However, in the end, she too is dependent on the man who cares for her just to survive. If it weren’t Call, it would just be some other male.


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