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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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LONESOME DOVE CHAPTER NOTES

CHAPTER 94

Summary

The men now begin to talk about the Yellowstone River as not only the end of the world as they know it, but also as the end of the drive. Gus tells the hands that they have been hired for life, and that they’re needed to start the ranch. Texas is no longer in the picture. However, Call wants to look around a little farther north to make sure there isn’t better land near the Canadian border. However, he doesn’t want to push the men any farther until he’s sure,and he doesn’t feel he can leave the herd, so he decides to send Gus and Pea Eye.

A day and half later, the two men ride over a ridge and see the Yellowstone in the distance. Gus immediately wants to race the buffalo and takes off after a herd. He just wants the thrill of running alongside them, because he feels it won’t be long before there are none left. Then, while Pea Eye lopes along to the north, Gus rides over a western rise to see what it looks like in that direction. Suddenly, Pea hears the sound of a running horse, and Gus comes racing down the bluff he had just climbed with twenty Indians hot on his heels. He heads for a creek less than an hour back with trees alongside it, because it is the only shelter nearby. He has two arrows in his leg as his mount runs full out. Fortunately, the Indians are poorly mounted and fall enough behind that the two men find the shelter they’re seeking. They know they’re in for a shooting match.

Eventually, the Indians split up and surround the two men. They also kill both of their horses so they have no way to ride out. However, they move down the creek to a spot with a high bank where they have more cover. They dig themselves a shallow cave as a barricade from any attack. Gus expects a rush from the Indians, but it never comes. So he concentrates on removing the two arrows in his leg, eventually passing out from the pain. When he awakens, he puts mud on the wounds to cool them, not being aware at that time that he is setting himself up for infection and blood poisoning.

It now becomes a matter of waiting out the tribes. Gus, at one point, even whoops a war cry he remembers from the Texas Indians they fought, and it totally confuses the Utes who are attacking them. Unfortunately, in the night, Gus begins to become feverish and heavy rains arrive, which drive away the Indians, but make it difficult for the two men in their makeshift cave. Gus decides that Pea Eye has to take the chance on swimming down the creek by the Indians during the night and find Captain Call in time to save Gus. Gus has become too ill to travel and might lead to Pea’s death, too. Then, the Indians begin attacking again, so that night, Pea decides he’ll go. Just as he’s about to leave, Gus holds out his hand and bids him goodbye. Pea shakes back, feeling terribly sad, because he never thought he would leave Gus in a perilous position.

After Pea Eye leaves, he faces nothing but bad luck. The force of the water nearly drowns him, and he loses all his clothes as well as his rifle. But once he comes ashore, he begins to walk as quickly as he can. His feet become damaged and swollen, and at times, he’s sure he can see Deets leading him on. He kills a prairie chicken with a rock and eats it raw and continues to walk as long as he can. About four days after he leaves Gus, Dish Boggett, who had been sent to do some scouting, sees Pea Eye’s figure coming towards him. He calls to the Captain who comes forward to help get Pea Eye to safety. Pea tells him where Gus is hidden, and Call gets ready to leave. He leaves Dish in charge, but can’t help but notice as he rides away, the fearful looks of his men who have always believed they couldn’t function without him.

Notes

This chapter is the beginning of the end for Gus. His attack is one of the few times in his life he has been surprised by the enemy, and he receives two wounds that will prove to be mortal. However, it’s also important to note the degree of loyalty and respect Pea Eye feels for him when he willingly puts his own life on the line to get Gus help. It’s a chapter filled with suspense a sense of the inevitable. Gus and Call have come north on a journey which would have been difficult had they been younger men. Now it looks like the end of the line for one of the most memorable of the characters in this book.


CHAPTER 95


Summary

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.

Notes

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.


CHAPTER 96

Summary

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 is dead.

Notes

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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