Lonsome Dove : Top Ten Quotes
1. “The less talk the Captain had to listen to, the better humor he was in, whereas Gus was just the opposite. He’d rattle off five or six different questions or opinions, running them all together like so many unbranded cattle—it made it hard to pick one out and think about it carefully and slowly . . . .”
These are Pea Eye Parker’s thoughts about the way Captain Call and Captain McCrae communicate. Their different ways of thinking and talking cause friction between the men, yet each admires the other; to Pea Eye, both men are larger than life.
2. Jake’s “coffee-colored eyes always seemed to be traveling leisurely over scenes from his own past, and they gave the impression that he was a man of sorrows—an impression very appealing to the ladies. It disgusted Augustus a little that ladies were so taken in by Jake’s big eyes. In fact, Jake Spoon had had a perfectly easy life, doing mostly just what he pleased and keeping his boots clean . . . .”
Gus’s description of Jake Spoon foreshadows the gambler’s effect on Lorena, who, taken in by his suffering mien, suffers greatly for his self-centered ways.
3. “Newt took the gun and slipped it out of its holster. . . . It was not the first time he had held a pistol, of course. . . . But holding one and actually having one of your own were two different things. . . . He slipped the gun back into its holster, put the gun belt against his waist and heft the gun’s solid weight against his hip. When he walked out into the lots to catch his horse, he felt grown and complete for the first time in his life.”
Call solemnly gives Newt the gun to take on their raid into Mexico. The gun is a sign to Newt that Call is beginning to think of him as a man. In fact, Call wonders if Newt is ready to take on the risky assignment.
4. “Sometimes Deets wished that he could have had some schooling, so as to maybe learn the answers to some of the things that puzzled and intrigued him. Night and day itself was something to ponder: there had to be a reason for the sun to fall, lie hidden and then rise again from the opposite side of the plain, and other reasons for the rain, the thunder and the slicing north wind. He knew the big motions of nature weren’t accidents; it was just that his life had not given him enough information to grasp the way of things.”
As Deets guards the remuda at night, these kinds of thoughts fill his mind. They reveal that Deets, an able tracker, a wise mentor to Newt, and a dear friend to Call and Gus, is a thoughtful and intelligent man.
5. “ . . . . Augustus remembered his own love for Clara Allen—it had pained and pleased him at once. As a young woman Clara had such grace that just looking at her could choke a man; then, she was always laughing, though her life had not been the easiest. Despite her cheerful eyes, Clara was prone to sudden angers, and sadnesses so deep that nothing he could say or do would prompt her to answer him, or even look at him. When she left to marry her horse trader, he felt that he had missed the great opportunity of his life . . . .”
Dish’s unrequited love for Lorena reminds him of his own history with Clara Allen, a remarkable woman whom several men come to love in the course of the novel. Gus’s love for Clara shapes his choices, including his actions toward Lorie, throughout the novel.
6. “Men are about as worthless a race of people as I’ve ever encountered. . . . You’re running off to catch a sheriff you probably can’t find, who’s in the most dangerous state of the union, and if you do find him he’ll just go off and try to find a wife that don’t want to live with him anyway. You’ll probably get scalped before it’s all over, or hung . . . . And it’ll all be to try and mend something that won’t mend anyway.”
Louisa Brooks, a widow and farmer, tries to persuade Roscoe to marry her and stay on the farm. Her assessment of Roscoe’s journey is a comment on the many ill-fated and fruitless quests in the novel. The comment also correctly foreshadows what will happen to Roscoe—he will lose his life for no good reason.
7. “The streets of San Antonio were silent and empty as they left. The moon was high and a couple of stray goats nosed around the walls of the old Alamo, hoping to find a blade of grass. When they had first come to Texas in the Forties people talked of nothing but Travis and his gallant losing battle, but the battle had mostly been forgotten and the building neglected.
“‘Well, Call, I guess they forgot us, like they forgot the Alamo,’ Augustus said.”
Call and Gus are treated disrespectfully in a San Antonio bar by young men who neither recall nor appreciate the work the Rangers did to make the city, and the state, safe. A critique of the ingratitude of “civilized” people and praise of the unsung hero appear throughout the novel.
8. “Occasionally Gus would try to get him to claim the boy, but Call wouldn’t. He knew that he probably should, not out of certainty but out of decency, but he couldn’t. It meant an admission he couldn’t make—an admission that he had failed someone. It had never happened in battle, such failure. Yet it had happened in a little room over a saloon, because of a small woman who couldn’t keep her fair fixed. It was strange to him that such a failure could seem so terrible, and yet it did.”
Call’s thoughts about Maggie explain his unwillingness to claim that Newt is his son, the source of a major conflict in the novel.
9. “It’s all right, though . . . . It’s mostly bones we’re riding over, anyway. Why, think of all the buffalo that have died on these plains. Buffalo and other critters, too. And the Indians have been here forever; their bones are down there in the earth. . . . It’s interesting to think about, all the bones in the ground. But it’s just fellow creatures, it’s nothing to shy from.”
Newt is deeply sad after Wilbarger’s death and burial, and Gus comforts Newt with these words, which also reveal Gus’s own feelings about life and death.
10. “‘Dern, Newt,” Pea Eye said, more astonished than he had ever been in his life. ‘He gave you his horse and his gun and that watch. He acts like you’re his kin.’
‘No, I ain’t kin to nobody in this world,’ Newt said bitterly. ‘I don’t want to be. I won’t be.’
Despair his heart, he mounted Hell Bitch as if he had ridden her for years, and turned downstream. . . . Something had been too hard for the Captain, and he had left.”
Call and Newt part as Call heads to Texas with Gus’s body. Call gives Newt the things that are most important to him—Hell Bitch, his gun, and his own father’s watch—yet he cannot give Newt the one thing the young man craves: acknowledgement that they are father and son.