Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry|
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LONESOME DOVE CHAPTER NOTES
Gus keeps his pistol cocked all night in fear of the Indians, but by morning,
he begins to think about escape. He has always preferred an active instead
of a passive course, and he knows that his wound is going to kill him
if he doesn’t get help. He makes himself a crutch with his rifle and begins
to hobble toward Mile City. The next morning, a man by the name of Hugh
Auld finds him and tells him it was the Blood Indians, not the Utes, who
had attacked him. He also says that Mile City is about forty miles away.
Hugh ties him on his horse, and they begin the long trek to Mile City.
Five hours later, they arrive, and Gus finally gives in to unconsciousness.
Gus is once again rescued, but his leg has turned black and his life is in
serious danger. The feeling is one of foreboding for the reader.
In his unconscious state, Gus imagines he sees people long dead. When he finally does wake up, he sees that his left leg is gone. The doctor tells him that the blood poisoning has spread, and that they have to remove the other leg as well. However, Gus refuses. He can’t imagine himself with both legs gone, because that would mean the end of his days on a horse. Instead, he gives the doctor money to buy him whiskey and tip the girl who plays the piano in the saloon nearby, so that she’ll keep on playing. The doctor brings back a big man to hold Gus down while he cuts off his other leg; however, Gus levels his gun at the young man, who then beats a hasty retreat. So the doctor brings him pen and paper to write his will, because there is no way to save him now.
That night, Gus awakes in a sweat just as Woodrow Call walks into the room. Call tries to convince the doctor to try the amputation now that he’s there, but Gus cocks his pistol again, and the doctor says to leave him alone, because it’s much too late to even try. Call is deeply affected by the sight of Gus dying. He had expected to see him wounded, but his coming death is more than he can bear, and he has to sit down. Now all he can do is carry on a death watch.
In one of his waking periods, Gus asks Call to take his body back to Texas
and bury it in Clara’s orchard, the special spot where he had shared picnics
with Clara many years before. He says to just preserve his body over the
winter and take him home in the spring. He also says that it’s his gift
to Call. Taking Gus home will be another year in which he can keep busy.
He asks him in another waking period to stop on his way to Texas in Ogallala,
Nebraska, and tell the women that he’s died. He’s to leave his half of
the herd to Lorie, and he reveals to Call that he told Newt he is his
father. Some of Gus’ other thoughts include: his embarrassment that he
was taken down by an arrow; his fear that Call will mistreat Newt (a quarrel
which Call notes is the same one they’ve had all these years together);
his warning to Call not to seek revenge on the Indians who attacked him,
because they have taken their land for years, and they have the right
to their anger and hatred; for Call to place the Hat Creek Company sign
over his grave; to deliver to notes to Clara and Lorena; and to give his
saddle to Pea Eye, because he cut his up to make a crutch. Then, Call
falls asleep listening to Gus breathe. When he awakes, his lifetime friend
Just as with the deaths of Jake and Deets, this chapter is filled with poignant moments. It is just like Gus to refuse to lose his other leg when it means a certain death. His pride in what he is and the job he does won’t allow him to live out his life expecting others to wait on him. And in the end, his thoughts are for all those he cares the most about in his life: Call, Lorena, Clara, Pea Eye, and Newt. Then, he quietly allows death to take him in his sleep without any fanfare or trouble to anyone else.
Gus’ desire to be buried in Texas is foreshadowing of Call’s last great journey. Gus knows that he’ll never be satisfied to just ranch. He always has to have a duty to fulfill and so Gus gives him one.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Lonesome Dove".
. 09 May 2017