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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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Augustus and Lorie head for Adobe Walls when the rains come. The old fort where Gus had once seen some nasty men and soldiers is now completely deserted and most of the buildings in ruins because of not enough buffalo. He finds them shelter in a building with a relatively good roof remaining, and they hole up there until the weather changes. While exploring, Gus finds a box of buttons some woman left behind and uses them as money to get Lorie to play cards. It helps her begin to react to life again and even gets her to smile. They only stay there two days, because Gus fears other renegades might show up for shelter there, too, and he doesn’t want to face that prospect. Soon, they see four great herds of cattle along the Canadian River and are surprised to discover that they’re Wilbarger’s herds. He and Gus have much in common and during their conversation, he discovers that Wilbarger had met July Johnson, and that Gus has unfinished business in Ogallala, Nebraska, a reference to Clara Allen. He provides them with food and a tent and then moves on. Meanwhile, Gus convinces Lorie to bathe in the river with him, and when she washes the dirt which had been so long on her body, the sight of it clean again causes her to sob uncontrollably. Gus recognizes that it’s the best thing for her and holds her tight while she cries and says, “They shouldn’t have took me.”


The ironies continue to abound as Gus and Lorie play cards as a way to bring something pleasant into her life and then, run across Wilbarger just when they need food and shelter.

These experiences along with the bath in the river make Lorie begin the healing process through her tears.



Once they have crossed the Red River, the Hat Creek Company is in the Oklahoma Territory, and Newt becomes worried about Indians. The Spettle Boys have become more talkative and confide in Newt that they would run away right then if they weren’t afraid of getting lost. Newt reminds them that they have to drive, because the Captain had hired them to do so. But Bill Spettle says he didn’t know they were coming where Indians were.

Eventually they find themselves into another storm with terrible lightning. One bolt strikes not a hundred feet from Captain Call, and a number of the cattle instantly fall over dead. It sets the rest of the cattle running, and Newt finds himself six or seven miles east of the main herd trying to help the others round them up. Dish finally catches up to them and tells them that thirteen cows were killed and the lightning also killed Bill Spettle. Newt is astounded that once again one of the young hands to whom he had just been talking had died. Call is worried also, because they have to cross the Canadian River, and he’s just lost one of the young hands. He makes the men ride naked across the river to protect their clothes, and then the storm gets worse: huge hailstones begin to fall so that the ground looks covered with snow. Newt is forced to crouch under Mouse and let the horse take the worst of the stones. Others jump back into the river and let the water protect them. Once it stops, however, everyone and all the cattle have made it across and the Captain’s worries can be put to rest. Po Camp gathers hailstones in a bucket and covers each one with molasses as a treat for the men. Then Pea Eye looks up and sees a figure in the distance and announces that finally it’s Gus.


Another death comes to strike the men of the Hat Creek Cattle Company. Bill Spettle is one of the younger hands, and his death weighs heavy on Call’s mind just like Sean O’Brien. However, it is another echo of the idea that within life is death and life goes on. They quickly bury the young boy and the herd moves on.



Gus arrives back in camp with the rest of the Hat Creek Company and relates all that had happened to him when he rescued Lorie. He also tells them that he intends to camp with Lorie away from the other men just like Jake did before him, only this time the intention is to give her a chance to heal. Call, when he hears that Gus met up with July Johnson, insists that the sheriff is welcome to Jake, because he can’t defend a man who allows his woman to get stolen and just goes back to his cards. Newt is so happy to have Gus back and for the storm to be over that he feels like life is a fine thing. Only when he thinks of Bill Spettle and Sean O’Brien does he feel a small sorrow.

Dish Boggett asks Gus if he intends to marry Lorie now, and Gus replies that he has someone else in mind. However, he warns Dish not to run his hopes up a flagpole, because Lorie is apt to be shy of men for the next few years. Gus then rides a little way away from the camp with Call. They observe that the ride has been hard on the hands, and Gus declares that they should have stayed lawmen and left the boys at home. However, Call says he’s done with shooting at outlaws, and he’d rather have a ranch. But Gus says that’s wrong, because he’s brought them all this way for no reason at all. Call will never be happy without an adventure, Gus figures, and so ranching will never satisfy him. Call spends the last of the evening smoking and thinking about how Jake proved a coward, and the rest of the crew and their Ranger days together are really just a memory.


Gus is still astute about the realities of life. He knows that Call is still searching for the adventure which will give meaning to his life. It’s interesting to note that he subtly seems to place the blame for the losses they’ve suffered on Call who just had to follow another adventure instead of staying in one place where they’d made a life. This is reinforced by Call’s own thoughts of nostalgia that the old life and the old gang with the Rangers are gone.


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