Lonsome Dove: NovelSumary:part3:chp85-95
Newt and the Raineys find Pea and fill him in on events; Pea is not surprised at Call’s reaction. Gus catches up with the young hands and gives each a ten-dollar gold piece—a bonus. Gus thinks wistfully of his first experiences with whores as he drives the wagon away from Ogallala. When the boys ask Lippy’s advice on whores, he accidentally reveals Gus’s secret tryst with Lorie in Lonesome Dove to them. He decides to get the boys drunk so that they will forget his lapse and tells them that if a man goes to a whore sober, his member will fall off during sex. This information startles the boys, so they drink the beer and whiskey Lippy brings. Lippy leaves to inquire about an accordion he has heard is for sale; now they are drunk and on their own.
Newt staggers upstairs in the saloon, and the others follow. The house prostitutes see the boys and invite them in after Newt flashes his gold. Buf, a busty woman, and Mary argue over Newt while Pete flees. Buf takes Newt into her room. To his shame, he ejaculates while she is cleaning him, but Buf kindly tells him not to mind; he can come back later. Jimmy goes in with Mary while Ben figures out the cost per minute and realizes to his dismay that whores make a lot more money than cowboys do. Leaving the saloon, the boys find Lippy, with his new accordion, and Allen, who buys them more beer. As they head back, something spooks the horses, and Newt and Ben are thrown and must walk back. Back in camp, Newt is so tired that he falls asleep while eating.
Analysis, Chapters 83–86
The hands have been looking forward to a night in town greatly, but they find trouble in the form of soldiers who try to “requisition” Dish’s horse. Readers learn several things from the fight: They see that the hands have become not only co-workers but friends prepared to defend each other; they learn that the usually silent Call has deep reserves of rage that, unleashed, are deadly; and they see the humor of the young hands’ situation, as the boys try to figure out how to buy sex and end up with bags of candy instead. Their initiation into the world of sex is less than smooth, but at least the whores are kind to their young clients.
On a more serious note, readers see in Call’s reaction to Dixon’s attack a clue that he not only acknowledges that Newt is his son but deeply loves the young man and will defend him with a furious strength that goes beyond rational thought.
Clara, looking up from her work, sees four oddly familiar riders approach the house—perhaps Red Cloud coming to purchase horses, she thinks. Earlier, a soldier brought news about the deaths of Elmira and Zwey, and July was weak for days with grief. Clara allowed Sally and Betsey to pamper July in hopes that they would learn a lesson about misguided love.
As Clara comes downstairs, she hears Gus’s voice and feels that years have fallen away. Call is there, too, with a boy and a young woman. Gus has already charmed Betsey and Sally when Clara embraces and kisses him. Lorie looks at the floor, bereft, but Clara welcomes her kindly. July and Cholo come in, perplexed by all this company, and Clara is delighted that Gus has complicated matters as usual. She tells Gus about Bob’s injury while she cooks and Call inspects the horses.
Clara tells Gus about Ellie, and Lorie, listening quietly, is taken by her sassy, spirited talk. Gus teases Clara about her work-hardened hands, and she teases him back; Lorie has never seen this kind of friendship between a man and a woman. The girls fry chicken and talk to Newt, whose resemblance to Call is clear to Clara, while Clara confidently and intelligently negotiates horse prices, to Call’s surprise.
Call tells July about Jake’s death while the girls pack a picnic. They take Lorie with them to dress Martin, leaving Clara and Gus alone. Clara says that she likes Lorie but keeps to herself her resentment of Call, whom she has always seen as a rival for Gus’s attention. They talk of the past and of how she has needed Gus’s friendship over the years, and Gus tells Clara about Lorie’s ordeal.
After a pleasant picnic under cottonwoods a few miles from the house, Clara says that she is done with marriage and suggests to Gus that she ask Lorie to stay with her. She also asks whether Newt is Call’s son, and Gus explains about Maggie. Clara likes Newt and wants him to stay, too—she sees in him what her sons might have been, had they lived. She makes Newt a gift of a good horse, deeply annoying Call because he could not get her to budge on prices for him.
Lorie, Sally, and Betsey play cards as July looks on, too awed by Lorie’s beauty to join them. Clara takes Gus to see Bob; then they talk about their friendship, Lorie, and the loss of love. Gus is willing to throw everything away for Clara, but she does not ask that. They go down to the kitchen, where Clara tells Lorie that Montana is “no place for a lady” and asks her to stay. Lorie is pleased but puzzled by the request. She feels that Clara has restored to her a memory of her grandmother’s house, a safe and loving place long lost in her past. Lorie asks Gus whether he will come back some day; because he sees that she wants to stay, Gus assures her that he will. Later, Lorie confesses to Gus that her desire to stay surprises her and that she will go to Montana if he wants her to. She also says that she now understands why he might still want to marry Clara. Gus lies that he does not. When they part, Clara asks Gus to set aside his travels and stay—there is no sense in going to Montana. But he kisses both women and leaves. Lorie falls silent, and Clara weeps with anger.
Analysis, Chapters 87–88
After Lorie’s long dread of Clara, their meeting is a surprise as the fearful Lorie, like everyone except Call, is first swayed and then soothed by Clara’s graciousness and intelligence. The reunion between Clara and Gus is likewise tender, though tinged with thoughts of what might have been. Clara seems to be a woman who can absorb life’s blows—both those that affect her directly and those that fall on others. The sense of belonging Lorie feels among Clara and the girls is profound; it does not undo the damage to her, but here, she senses, she might one day heal. Clara’s touch gentles people as well as horses, but her own pain is not relieved by her new charges.
Dish is distraught to hear that Gus let Lorie stay with Clara. Newt is thrilled because his new horse, Candy, is the first real gift he has ever received. He praises Clara to all who will listen. Gus’s mood is sour; he has left the two women he loves behind to chase Call’s dream, just as Clara predicted he would. In the summer heat, the hands turn the lethargic herd northwest toward Colorado and away from the river, rousing Po’s fear of drought and reminding him of his sons, buried by a river now far away. Po becomes stingy with water and less careful with his cooking.
Conditions are indeed dry by the time the herd reaches Wyoming, and Deets and Call ride ahead to find water. The desert is white with dry heat, but Call locates Salt Creek, eighty miles from the herd, and rides back to tell the crew. The hands start the drive to the creek at night to spare the animals; the next day, a ferocious sand storm hits, ending in an eerie red and black sunset. The thirsty, exhausted cattle stray as the men, who drank their last water ration at noon, attempt to keep the herd moving, leaving the weaker animals behind. Allen becomes delirious with thirst, and even Call, who has not slept in three days, begins to doubt whether they will reach the creek alive. He half-sleeps in the saddle, dreaming odd dreams. But when the cattle get close enough to the creek to scent the water, they begin to trot. In the end, only six animals are lost to thirst. Now the herd can follow the Powder River until it reaches the Yellowstone, about three weeks away.
Call lets the crew and herd rest for two days. He himself, though exhausted, finds sleeping difficult. The last few hundred miles seem to him to have been more trying that the whole journey from the Rio Grande. When Indians silently raid and take twelve horses, Call, Gus, and Deets go to retrieve the animals. Worried about grass, Call tells the anxious crew that if he is not back by tomorrow, they should move the herd to better pastures.
The meager Indian camp is home mostly to women and children; they stole the horses to eat. As the people flee, a blind child is left behind, crying. Smiling, Deets picks the child up and carries him toward the people. When a young Indian misinterprets Deets’s actions and rushes at him with an old lance, Deets feels a flash of “deep respect” for the boy’s courage and loyalty. Call and Gus, however, see that the boy intends not to threaten but to strike Deets. They shoot him, but not before he drives the lance into Deets’s chest. Deets asks Call to take the child so that it is not in his blood. He feels deeply sad—about the boy’s death, about coming north at all. Gus kneels by him as he dies. Call and Gus leave three horses to the people and carry Deets’s body away. Call underestimated the poor, hungry Indians, a mistake he would not have made in the past.
When Call and Gus catch up with the herd, Newt weeps, yet he feels that somehow Deets knows what a beautiful morning is breaking. Pea Eye’s legs shake with weakness, and all the hands are sober. Allen sings his sad Irish songs as they bury Deets, the lance still lodged in his chest. Call takes more trouble with the grave than Gus has ever seen him take, even making a marker for it. Gus calls Newt over to see what “your father” wrote on the marker. Newt is not sure he heard Gus right and fears to ask what he meant. Gus ties the service medal he earned as a Ranger to the marker as a tearful Lippy wishes he had stayed in Lonesome Dove rather than see this day.
Subdued, the crew moves the herd along the Powder River. The nights grow cold. Newt turns Gus’s words over in his mind: If Call is his father, why has he never mentioned it? Call is now riding ahead to scout in Deets’s place, so Newt sees him less. The grazing is good as the herd turns away from the river, and though the men see signs of Indians, their fears of an attack recede. One day, Dish’s horse suddenly bolts, and the cattle become unmanageable. The animals have scented a grizzly bear. The panicking remuda runs; only the blue pigs seem unafraid. The Texas bull, whose aggressive attitude has always made the crew fearful, charges the grizzly. They fight till the grizzly, gored but still strong, runs. Five hands chase the bear, firing uselessly at it, while the other hands round up horses and cattle. Dish ropes the enraged, badly injured bull. Po sews the gashes in its hide; it has lost an eye. As the herd moves on, the Texas bull falls behind, but it survives the fight.
After the grizzly attack, Jaspar becomes so anxious that he cannot keep his food down and pledges to take the first train back to Texas—if they should ever come across a train.
Analysis Chapters 89–91
It seems, to the crew and especially to Call as he struggles with his doubts, as if the most stringent challenges of the drive have been saved for its end. Deets feels more and more that coming north was wrong; but though the thin light of the northern skies disturbs him, he will not leave his friends. Deets’s deep faithfulness and compassion make him such a sympathetic character that readers may find, as Call and Newt clearly do, his death the hardest to take so far. The loss of Deets reveals two important details about Call. First, the unusual and unprecedented care Call takes with the burial indicates that this silent man, so begrudging with his words, nevertheless feels deep attachment to his friends. Second, Gus chooses this moment to identify Call to Newt as “your father,” raising new questions in the young man’s mind.
Certainly, the loss of their able scout and the appearance of a new threat unnerve the crew, yet their destination is now within reach. The drive from the southern border of Texas to the northern border of Montana is nearly done, yet the end of one journey will be the beginning of another.
Sally and Betsey quickly come to “idolize” the beautiful Lorena, who gently evades their questions about her past. Lorie does light chores as she adjusts to a clean room, ample food, and caring people. Gus’s absence causes her pain, but Martin, the “darling” of the ranch, brings her joy.
Clara, freed from some of the household chores, spends more time working the horses, a task Bob thought improper for a woman, though she is better at it than he was. Two weeks after Gus leaves, Bob dies. Clara hears the girls’ happy laughter downstairs and hopes that the sound somehow reached Bob and made up for their sons’ deaths. She tells the girls that Bob has died and sends Lorie to tell July. Clara knows that July has fallen in love with her; his passive devotion annoys her. He helps Clara carry the coffin to the grave Cholo has dug. Clara thinks of Bob’s boyish simplicity—the reason she married him, though she later resented it. Cholo, who also loves Clara, watches her for signs of grief and wonders if she has ever been happy. After the simple funeral, Lorie, who sees that July loves Clara and who loves her as well, comforts her.
Analysis, Chapter 92
The complex character of the woman whom Gus loves so much that he wept when passing the spot where they picnicked on the Guadalupe River is further revealed in this chapter. Clara is the hub of her household; not one person in it, from the aged Cholo to the slowly-recovering Lorie and July, fails to love her deeply. Yet Cholo’s question—whether Clara has ever been happy—captures the sense of regret that tinges even her most positive daily actions. The loss of her sons, in particular, has never left her. Clara’s relationship with July becomes more fraught as he transfers his devotion to the worthless Ellie to the capable Clara, yet he seems trapped in a boyish state and is a drag on Clara’s energies. What will become of their relationship is one of the unfinished stories of the novel.
At last, the herd reaches Montana, a place as beautiful, green, and vast as Jake claimed. Game is abundant. Call’s spirits rise at last; he wants to claim land north of the Yellowstone. Gus is less pleased. They are fighters, he says, not ranchers, though he is proud of his pigs, the first to walk from the Rio Grande to Montana.
The next day, an early storm brings the first snow the men have seen, but the sun melts it quickly. One day, as Newt rides with out with Gus to scout, Gus admits that he is glad he came to Montana but does not want Call to know. He confirms that Call is Newt’s father and says that it is not Call’s way to acknowledge their relationship. Newt thinks that Call must not like him, but Gus assures him that Call takes silent pride in him because he cannot admit to an old mistake. Rather than feeling loved, Newt feels a new and puzzling sorrow.
The crew looks forward to the Yellowstone River, the end of the trail. Jasper worries, though, that he survived all the previous crossings just to drown “in the last dern river.” He wants to go home and see his parents, but Gus tells him that he signed on for life. The other hands long for the comforts of a town. Call, however, wants to press on; there might be better land further north. He sends Gus to scout ahead. Gus takes Pea Eye, who would rather stay with the herd. A day and a half out they come across buffalo herds; then they reach the Yellowstone. Gus chases buffalo just so that he can say he has done it, perplexing Pea. A few days later, Gus rides apart from Pea to “test the view.” Soon Gus rides back hard, two arrows in his leg, Indians chasing him. Gus and Pea take shelter by a creek, hiding behind a saddle. Gus kills six horses and three Indians; the others withdraw and then split up to surround Gus and Pea. Gus extracts one arrow from his leg, but the other is jammed deeply. Distracted by the pain, he forgets to protect the horses and loses them. He kills two more Indians in the brush, just before one of them fires on Pea.
Gus and Pea retreat to a steep creek bank, digging into the clay and building a small breastwork. The Indians fall back to wait, and Pea realizes that Gus has also been shot in the back. It takes all of Pea’s strength to wrench the second arrow from Gus’s leg; Gus faints, then wakes and packs the dangerous wounds with mud. Pea, he says, may have to go for help. They hear the Indians yelling to each other. When Gus adds his own cry, they fall silent.
By dawn, Gus is feverish. Thunderstorms blow in, and the creek rises toward them. Gus tells Pea that he can float past the Indians in the rising creek and go for help. Pea is stunned by the realization that Gus may die. Other men die, he knows, but Gus and Call have always been exceptions in his mind. When the Indians fire on them, Gus kills two more of them.
After dark, Pea Eye bundles his clothing and rifle, shakes Gus’s hand, and leaves, feeling that he will not see Gus again. In the creek’s icy, rapid waters, Pea loses his clothing and rifle and nearly drowns. Naked and freezing, he wants to lie down on the bank, but he begins to walk south, terrified of pursuit. When day comes, there is nowhere to hide, so he keeps walking, stumbling on battered bare feet. For a while he sleeps in tall grass. He has no food and, sometimes, no memory of Gus. At other times he talks to Gus or to Deets—perhaps they are ghosts, he thinks.
Pea Eye manages to kill a prairie chicken; he eats it raw. His feet are swollen twice their normal size, yet he stumbles on, feeling that he is floating. At last he sits down, and there Dish spots him, nodding and sobbing that Deets led him through the night. Call covers Pea with a slicker as Pea reports Gus’s situation. Dish and Call lift Pea onto a horse and bring him to Po Campo, who feeds him till he faints. Call rides Hell Bitch to find Gus, leaving Dish in charge of the nervous crew.
Analysis, Chapters 93–94
Their land in view, the herd growing, and the hands competent after months of work, the Hat Creek outfit is near to its destination, and the novel is nearing its close. Yet another tragic event unfolds as Gus is injured. In the same way that Call’s overconfidence with the hungry group of Indians leads to Deets’s death, Gus’s lapse in vigilance leads to his injuries. Fears of Indian raids had faded among the crew; and readers, too, may have been lulled into a sense of complacency. But Montana is still wild land, and danger is still present.
Pea Eye suffers in these chapters: Emotionally, he cannot grasp that Gus, who with Call has led him so many years, is likely to die. Physically, he endures cold, hunger, pain, and delirium, believing that Deets, always the scout, has led him through the night. Readers may have the sense, by this point in the knowledge, that the old guard—the former Texas Rangers—is gradually giving way to the new.
As Gus waits, he hallucinates about Clara. His wounded leg is now yellow with black stripes; he knows he must get to someone who can help him. Using a gun as a crutch, he leaves the shelter of the creek. The Indians have left; Gus is now pursued by a new enemy, death. After struggling for a while, Gus falls and dreams of Lorena. He wakes to find an old man beside him—Hugh Auld, a trapper. Hugh is preparing to amputate Gus’s leg with a knife, but Gus says that a knife will not do the job. Hugh ties Gus onto his horse and sends them off to Miles City, following on foot. In the city, Gus stops the horse in front of a saloon but is too weak to untie himself. He fires his gun to get attention; but before he dismounts, the horse throws him and races back to Hugh. Gus passes out.