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Free Study Guide for Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

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LONESOME DOVE CHAPTER NOTES

CHAPTER 97

Summary

The doctor tells Call they’ll pack Gus’ body in charcoal and salt to preserve it over the winter, and eventually, they store it in the doctor’s harness shed. Call wants to saddle up the Hell Bitch and just ride off into the country, but instead he makes all the arrangements for Gus’ body to embalmed, buys tons of supplies to take to the men, and gets Old Hugh to bring everything to him in a wagon. Gus rides slowly back to the herd filled with guilt that he didn’t try harder to make Gus lose the other leg and feeling lost and lonely without his old friend. He also feels resentful that Gus left him once again with all the work. He had always done all the work, but now he no longer believes in it. The next afternoon, he spots the cattle, and Dish rides up to tell him that they had seen some Indians. The men are astonished when he tells them that Gus is dead. Once again, Newt cries all afternoon. They all wonder why he wouldn’t allow them to take his other leg in order to save his life, but the Irishman is the only one that understands that no one wants to be half of himself. Dish feels sad and encouraged at the same time. He will miss Gus, but he wants to collect his pay and return to Nebraska to court Lorena. As for Pea Eye, Lippy and the others who had known Gus for so long, there’s nothing more they can say than, “Oh, dern.”

Notes

Gus’ death has a strong impact on all who knew him. In spite of some of his irritating habits, he had wound himself into their lives, and his loss is more deeply felt than anyone of them knew it would be. None of them had ever believed that he would die before them.


CHAPTER 98

Summary

Hugh Auld catches up to the herd with his wagon and soon becomes the same kind of talker Gus had been. Then, they are gratified to learn that the army at Fort Benton is willing to buy two hundred head of cattle. However, Call doesn’t stop to set up his ranch and just keeps them riding farther north.

When they cross the Marais River, Old Dog, the steer who had led the herd all this way, falls back and disappears. Later, they find two grizzlies making a meal of him. It causes a stampede, but they eventually get the cattle under control. Two days later, they cross the Milk River, and Hugh Auld tells them that if they go any farther north they’ll reach the Canadian border. When Call scouts ahead, he realizes that Hugh is right, and that they must build a house and winter right there in northern Montana. That night, camping alone as usual, he dreams of Gus. The voice he hears in his dream is so real that it awakens him. He just can’t get Gus, dead or alive, out of his mind, and he has lost his purpose in life. His old sense of responsibility to his men has also disappeared. Nonetheless, he tells the hands that they will build the ranch between the Milk and the Missouri Rivers, and he will file for ownership in the spring.

Dish Boggett tells the Captain he wants to leave then with his wages for Nebraska, but Call refuses to give them to him, because he needs him to help build. So they begin the carpentry, but within a week, they are hit with a blizzard. They have never felt such cold, but the hands kept on, and ten days after the blizzard, they have a sizeable rough log house erected. Call refuses to live in the house, setting up Wilbarger’s tent in a sheltered spot on the creek. He and Newt watch the herds while the other men continue building corrals, a smokehouse, and improvements on the cabin. They also manage to capture eighteen wild horses for the remuda.

True to his word, Dish Bogget draws his wages and leaves the day after they capture the horses, and of course, they all blame “that whore” for his loss. And for Newt, it becomes more than he can stand as once again someone who means a great deal to him is gone. Call realizes that for the first time, he doesn’t assert himself over his men, because he just lacks the interest in keeping them under his thumb. Instead, he travels to Fort Benton again to deal the army beef. While he is gone, Newt learns how to break horses. When Call returns home a week later, he stands and watches Newt work with the horses. He’s pleased to watch the quiet way his son works.

That winter, Call continues to sell beeves to the army. One time, the tribe of Blood Indians is there at the same time, and Call feels a tremendous sense of revenge, and when he leaves, he feels uneasy to leave the attack on Gus unanswered. Nonetheless, he leaves and allows Newt to stay for a few weeks help the army break horses.


Notes

Call’s deep sense of grief that he won’t deal with reveals itself in how he continues to drive his men and the herd north. He nearly brings them to destruction, however, until he comes to his senses and stops for the winter. They still have to face losses when Old Dog dies and Dish Boggett leaves for Nebraska. The quiet pride Call feels in Newt gives the reader hope that he will eventually claim him as his son.


CHAPTER 99

Summary

The first week of January, July Johnson proposes to Clara. She doesn’t answer him, just asks him if she’s added too much cinnamon to her cake batter. When he’s unsure of that, she points out to him that he’s not too good with sweets, implying that his proposal lacked the romanticism a woman would want. However, July doesn’t really understand. He just wonders if he should leave, since he’s displeased her in some way. However, he can’t stop looking at her or thinking of her. Then, Martin gets ill, and it’s reminiscent of the deaths of her other boys. Clara wonders if she’s not meant to raise boys and turns to July for comfort, embracing him and crying. The next day when the baby’s fever breaks, she’s once again all business with July, angry because she sat up all night with the baby while he went to bed. She tells him that he’s good for nothing where it concerns her, and now he has to wait a year for his answer. He must learn to take command of situations and not wait for someone else to guide him. He’s upset, because he was so stupid, but he has hope that she’ll eventually marry him.

Then, Dish Bogget arrives, and things begin to change. Even though he’s come to court Lorena, Clara takes an instant liking to him, and even offers Dish a job. As for Lorena, she barely talks once she learns from Dish that Gus is dead. Furthermore, Dish is better with horses than July is, and he’s not interested in making friends with him. July thinks he and Lorena are a lot alike: she loves a dead man, and he loves a woman who sees nothing in him.

Clara feels a terrible stab of grief when she learns of Gus’ death and she regrets all the years that kept them separate. He had been her ultimate ally, and with him gone, she feels that much more alone. She also knows about Lorena’s loneliness and despair, because it is so much the way she felt when her boys died. However, Lorena will either die from her grief or live, and it’s all up to her. She feels that perhaps Lorena will die, because the only happiness she knew was in Gus, and the only happiness she knows is in Betsey. She sees nothing of Dish’s love for her, and he is blocked by Gus in death just as he was in life. Eventually, though, Lorie talks to Clara about how she wishes she had gone with Gus, how Dish doesn’t have a chance with her, and why Clara asked her to stay instead of Gus. It helps her begin the healing process to know that even though Clara loved Gus, she knew that they never could have lived together. Lorena goes through the rest of the winter talking only to Betsey who remains as loyal to her as Dish does. Then, when spring comes, Dish thinks he should just go to Texas and forget Lorie. Nonetheless, he takes the job offer from Clara.

Notes

Life in Clara’s home with all these new people is filled with regrets and mistakes. Both she and Lorena regret all the time they lost with Gus, but they each differ in the way they deal with their grief. Dish feels regret that he can’t win Lorena’s love while July regrets that he makes mistakes in courting Clara. However, there is a sense that with the spring, they may all heal even more, and hope is in the air.

 

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