Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry|
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STUDY NOTES FOR LONESOME DOVE
This chapter also presents an interesting irony: July is willing to leave
all of these people in his life behind in order to find Elmira. But each
one finds a reason to make sure he takes them with him and all three will
die because they did.
The story reverts to Elmira as this chapter begins. She is worried that she
is going to have trouble with Big Zwey who wants to marry her. Fowler
tells her that the next town north is Ogallala, Nebraska, but that the
whiskey traders are not going that far. He does tell her that Big Zwey
is willing to take her there if she wants. After a week of scratching
fleas from the buffalo hides and smelling the decaying blood on them,
she speaks to Zwey and asks him to take her to Ogallala. He agrees and
when she asks if it will just be the two of them, he says they can take
Luke, a weaselly little buffalo hunter with an insolent manner. Elmira
agrees and also agrees to drive the mule wagon behind their horses. At
one point, they stop to kill twenty buffalo, and all across the prairie,
she worries about the two men. Eventually, when neither tries anything,
she gets used to driving and just talking to the mules.
Elmira is a driven woman. Her desire to have only herself and access to Dee
Boot has caused her to make some unwise decisions. So far, she has been
safe and nothing worrisome has occurred, but the feeling the story conveys
is that it’s only a matter of time before she comes face to face with
some real danger.
In this chapter, we find Gus tracking Blue Duck and Lorena, and he realizes he’s rusty at tracking. He crosses to the northwest and finally finds a set of three horses’ tracks. He knows now that Blue Duck only tried one trick to fool him - moving through the cattle tracks so that he couldn’t be detected. Now, he’s making no effort to fool anyone, just riding hard to keep out ahead of someone like Gus. He worries for Lorena, not just because of how hard Blue Duck is riding, but also because of any fate she may face once he gets where he’s going.
He is struck by how he had forgotten the emptiness of the country from his days as a Ranger. Blue Duck had been a bandit they had pursued in the past, but he’s always been slippery and avoided capture. The next day, Gus finds the carcass of Lorie’s mare, and he guesses that if Blue Duck wants to trade her to an Indian, he would head farther west through the region known as the Quitaque. So he heads for the big crossing on the Canadian.
Along the way, Gus meets up with Aus Frank, a very strange man who gathers
buffalo bones in a wheelbarrow and piles them up in a series of pyramid
shapes. Gus had also known him as a bank robber who had only spent four
days in prison. Once he meets up with Aus and questions him about Blue
Duck, he realizes he guessed wrong about which way the Indian was heading.
He also learns from Aus that Blue Duck usually rides with six Kiowa, a
piece of very important information since it helps him know what he’s
up against. So he makes camp for the night, only awakened by Aus and his
wheelbarrow and his own thoughts. His thoughts concern the loss of the
buffalo as he remembers how thousands could be seen for miles across the
plains years before. Now they’ve nearly been killed off, and it occurs
to him that he’s between what the plains had been and what they will be
- he’s in a moment of true emptiness with thousands of miles of grass
resting unused, occupied only by the remnants of buffalo, Indians, and
hunters. Now a chain of follies have brought him to this point: Jake’s
refusal to protect his woman, Call’s decision to be a cattleman, and his
decision to save a girl foolish enough to be taken in by Jake Spoon. At
sunrise, he begins to ride east along the road of buffalo bones.
This chapter is a kind of sidebar which shows the reader the results of the white man’s determined drive to the west. The Indians are only a remnant of what they once were, and the ones who are left take out their anger on settlers by massacring them. There are truly hard-bitten evil men who wander through these lands just waiting for innocent travelers to rob and even kill. The buffalo hunters have nearly wiped out the herds, and much of what is left will soon be gone. Finally, there is the terrible toll in human lives, and the even more horrible price women and children must pay. For Gus, it’s all a chain of follies and its outcome is still to be decided.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Lonesome Dove".
. 09 May 2017