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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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CHAPTER 58

Summary

Roscoe, Joe, and Janey are trying to sleep amidst their fear that neither July nor Gus will be there to help them if the Indians come back. Roscoe blames Elmira, because she refused to stay with her husband and set these events into motion. Soon, however, he nods off only to awaken to a reality worse than a nightmare. Blue Duck has found them and methodically kills all three with his huge knife. July finds them an hour later already stiff in death. He canít even bring himself to go to the bodies and sits just listening to the blow flies buzzing over the blood. He feels a terrible need to turn things back to the time he lived in Arkansas. He knows it can never be, but his mind fights to make it so. Finally, he takes out his knife and begins to dig their graves. He is still digging when Gus rides up with Lorena. July tells Gus itís all his fault; if he had done what Gus said, they might still be alive. Gus tells him that itís also possible Blue Duck would have killed him, too, and that ďyesterdayís gone on down the river and he canít get it back.Ē He finishes the burying with Gusí help and then assumes that they will pursue Blue Duck. However, Gus tells him they both have more urgent business, and Blue Duck will meet his fate someday, even if itís just a death from old age. July agrees, but continues on north, still in search of Lorie. Gus and Lorena set up a camp under some trees with the intention of waiting there until Call and the cattle catch up.

Notes

The deaths of Roscoe, Joe, and Janey are very tragic and ones that no doubt will be a part of both Julyís and Gusí memories forever. However, Gus expresses the philosophy that most people of that time had to live by to survive: death is an integral part of life and people often died sooner rather than later. The only thing to do is to continue to live. Even Blue Duck, one of the most evil killers on the plains, must be allowed to escape once more so that life can continue. The character of Blue Duck is fully developed by this chapter and it must be noted that he doesnít fit into the same character type as the other Indians. Most of them kill white people, capture and kidnap white women and children in response to the loss of their lands and their forced imprisonment on reservations. Their way of life was destroyed by the push west and there is cause to believe now that they had good reason for their hatred. However, Blue Duck is a killer who murders just for the sake of killing. He enjoys death in its worst form and also enjoys torturing his victims. Today, he might be called a serial killer. He has no revenge or hatred that he expresses; he just kills.


CHAPTER 59


Summary

The Hat Creek Company camps west of Fort Worth, and Call allows the hands to go into the town. It will be a long time before they see a town again, and they need the time to carouse a little. He, however, is very worried about Gus who has been gone for three days. He canít believe that he might be dead, because heís gotten out of so many scrapes in the past. The young hands and Po Campo stay behind as well, and Po Campo tells them that Gus wonít catch Blue Duck. He says the Indian always has the biggest, fastest horse and thatís how he gets away every time. He even reveals that Blue Duck had killed his three sons when he rode south to kill his cheating wife. Call just worries that he allowed Gus to go off alone to do a job that was too big for him.

When the hands return from town drunk, Po Campo is ready for them and serves them a sugary cobbler he made from dewberries. He says the sugar will cut the effects of the alcohol. The hands say they saw Jake gambling, and that he behaved abominably toward them, acting like he was too good for them. Dish Boggett just gets on his horse and says that now the next excitement will be the old Red River.

Notes

This chapter serves to express the worry all the men feel that Gus hasnít returned. It emphasizes the importance he holds among the men, even though he hadnít really wanted to come to Montana anyway. Itís also ironic that Jake acts too good to really speak to men he had ridden with for so long. Here he sits gambling and being arrogant while Lorie and Gus are in a fight for their lives, a fight set in motion by Jakeís refusal to protect Lorie.


CHAPTER 60

Summary

The weather on the plains turns wet again, but the cattle are kept moving. Finally, they come to the banks of the Red River. Theyíre all afraid from stories theyíve heard about this river, but their fears prove to be unfounded. Old Dog, the lead steer, leads the cattle right across, and the sun comes out just as the last one is pulled from the mud. It prompts Po Campo to begin to sing, but the men finally ask him why he only sings about death. He says he sings about life, and life is sad. He says the songs donít belong to him, anyway; they belong to the ones who hear them. Call continues to camp by himself away from the hands, but one night he is startled to hear the sound of his own voice talking to Gus and telling him he should have killed Blue Duck when he had the chance. Heís never been one to talk to himself, but his worry over his longtime partner makes him voice his thoughts out loud.

Notes

Po Campoís sad songs about life and death echo all the tragedies they have faced on this long journey and also echo Callís fears for Gus and Lorie. The relatively safe crossing of the river is in opposition to these ideas and emphasizes that what the men had feared for so long, ironically, never came to past while the realities of life and death that they had never even really considered had occurred.

 

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