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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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STUDY NOTES FOR LONESOME DOVE

CHAPTER 52

Summary

Roscoe Brown is still with Janey who amazes him by knowing her way so well. She still doesn’t want to ride, but she keeps them on the trail and finds them food. Her only problem as far as Roscoe can see is the nightmares she suffers every night. Everyday on the trail, they encounter three or four travelers, but Janey shies away from people and hides in the brush when they come along. At one point, Roscoe stops to talk to some rough-looking customers. They want tobacco from him and accuse him of lying when he says he has none. Fortunately, they ride on, and so does Roscoe. After awhile and while he is dozing, he realizes that Janey hasn’t reappeared. Two hours or so later, she shows up and tells Roscoe that the men he had just met are following him, and she believes they want to kill him. She leads him into a gully to hide and then takes his guns with the intent of killing the men herself. Soon, he hears his own gun go off, so he crosses the creek in the gully and climbs the bank. At the top is one of the men who had asked for the tobacco with a shotgun in his face. They eventually, but only after a considerable tussle, manage to get Janey tied up. They steal anything they can find in Roscoe’s belongings and intend to take his horse. They even make him strip naked and cut up his clothes looking for anything of value.

Meanwhile, because the thieves neglected to tie Janey’s feet, she has been quietly sliding away over the wet grass. Then, she begins to run. The thieves shoot at her, but decide not to track her. Just then, rocks begin to rain down on them, no doubt from Janey, who manages to even hit one of the men in the throat and make it difficult for him to breathe. They decide to load up on buckshot and fire at her when suddenly, in Roscoe’s mind, a miracle occurs. July Johnson appears with his pistol cocked and aimed at the thieves. They handcuff and tie the bandits and get them on their horses, but Janey still refuses to show herself. July tells Roscoe that they’re going to Fort Worth and drop the thieves off with the sheriff there. They take off at a swift trot and about an hour later, Roscoe feels someone jump on his horse behind him. They had been traveling too fast for Janey to run along with them.

When they arrive in Fort Worth, Janey acts like she wants to bolt, because there are so many people. They then stop at a saloon and have a beer where Roscoe tells July that Ellie probably left on the whiskey boat. They return to the livery stable where the woman there agrees to board Janey for three dollars a month. July pays for two months and when the woman offers to board Joe in exchange for the work he can do, July is once again tempted to leave him. It’s only when Joe protests that July changes his mind. As for Roscoe, he’s determined now that he’s found July to never let him out of his sight. The three men head out once more, this time in search of Elmira, feeling that Jake Spoon can wait. The next morning, Janey is sitting by the fire with the money that July had paid to board her. They know that for whatever reason she is with them to stay.


Notes

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.


CHAPTER 53

Summary

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.

Notes

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.


CHAPTER 54

Summary

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.

Notes

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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