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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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This chapter begins with the men in poor spirits, because of Deets’ death. It isn’t just the loss of the man himself, however, but also the fear of their own fates now that they have lost so many. For Newt, Gus’ strange remark about Call being his father keeps coming back to his mind for him to ponder. Meanwhile, Call takes Deets’ job as scout and comes to the conclusion that the drought is over. He does see signs of Indians, but they never make an appearance to the relief on the drive.

The next day, as they are trailing along Crazy Woman Creek, Dish Boggett’s horse suddenly throws up its head and bolts. At the same time, the cattle begin to turn as well. That’s when they see a huge grizzly bear. Then, the Hat Creek Cattle Company falls into total disrepair as animals bolt, and men are hard-pressed to keep control of the herd. Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, the multi-colored bull that all the men at one time or another had wanted to kill, because he was so mean, comes face to face with the bear and charges. Even though the grizzly first just bats the bull aside, the bull gets up and comes back to fight again and again, until finally they are rolling around all over the place with no one sure which animal will actually win. Finally, they part, neither one dead, and the bear runs off into the trees. The bull is badly injured with a claw wound running the whole length of his back and flesh left hanging open. He’s also missing an eye and one horn. They consider just shooting him, but his courage and tenacity makes them reconsider especially when Po Campo says he can sew him up if the men can hold him down. All together, they manage to do it, but the next day the bull can barely hobble, so the herd allows him to fall behind. They keep looking back expecting to see if there are buzzards flying overhead, but they never do. Eventually, a week after the fight, the bull is in the herd again. However, his return doesn’t make the men any less apprehensive about seeing more bears.


Even though the men are depressed about the loss of Deets, the experience with the bear and the bull is one they can take heart from. In essence, the little bull is symbolic of Deets. He doesn’t look like the other bulls and doesn’t even associate with the herd as well. Deets, being black, was a kind of outcast as well. But the bull and Deets both offered so much of themselves for the rest of the company and that’s how they’re most alike.



The viewpoint of the story returns to Clara’s house in this chapter. Lorena is happy that she has stayed with Clara, but when she thinks of Gus, she misses him with a painful ache. Clara seldom asks her any questions, which allows Lorena time to heal, and she develops a special bond with Betsy. Eventually, one night, Bob dies. When Clara discovers him the next morning, the girls are laughing and playing outside, and Clara wonders if Bob had heard them as he died. She thought she would be happy when he died, but now she is sad, nostalgic, and tired of dealing with the formalities of death. As for any other man coming to be important in her life, July has fallen in love with Clara. Lorena recognizes his feelings, because he acts happier than he has since she first met him. Of course, Cholo also loves her completely, so no matter whether she wants either one or not, she has two men devoted to caring for her. Clara knows how both men feel, but she chooses not to act on it. Cholo recognizes that she has never been happy, because she’s always looking for something that isn’t there. She had married Bob instead of Gus or Jake, because she knew he’d always be there. But her life is not what she would have wanted, because those two, especially Gus, were the ones she actually loved.


Life in Clara’s home is all about change: Lorena learns that she can be happy and respectable, even though she desperately missed Gus at times; Clara learns she can live without Bob even though she sometimes regrets that he’s gone; and July comes to forget Elmira and falls in love with Clara. It affirms that life moves onward, sometimes on strange paths, but onward nonetheless.



Finally, the Hat Creek Cattle Company rides into Montana from the barren Wyoming plain, and everything Jake Spoon said is true. The plains are rolling with grass and flowers, and even the sky seems bluer. Even Call’s spirits pick up, and he decides they will only stop when they are across the Yellowstone River so his can be the first ranch north of the Yellowstone. Augustus is still unsatisfied, because now he has to drink his whiskey indoors, because it will be too cold. Fortunately, they will be near Mile City where they can provision.

The next day an early storm rolls out of the Bighorns, and everyone who has never seen snow is astonished by the sight. It only lasts until the afternoon sun comes out, and then, the weather is hot again for a week.

Gus continues to talk to Newt as if Call is his father, but Newt still has a hard time believing it. When Newt questions Gus about why his father has never mentioned the fact, Gus tells him that Call would never mention anything if he could avoid it. But that’s exactly what bothers Newt the most - he thinks his father should have told him, not Gus. Furthermore, he thinks that Call should have mentioned that he knew his mother. Gus just tells him that it’s not because Call doesn’t like him; instead, Call just has always lived for duty, and that the emotional side of life is impossible for him to deal with. He made the wrong choice not to behave like normal people, and now he can’t admit his mistake. Unfortunately, Newt doesn’t feel a thrill about being Call’s son; he just feels sad.


The snow and the Montana countryside are symbolic here for cleanliness: they wash away their sadness over Deets and offer hope for a future in this new land. However, this upbeat attitude fails to make Newt feel better, because he needs his father to claim him.


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