Jake’s appearance that sunny morning on the Hat Creek Ranch, accompanying Deets on his way back from town, is the spark that ignites the firestorm of events that affect every character in the Lonesome Dove saga. After ten years of separation from his fellow rangers, the affable Jake returns to his friends, a wanted man himself.
Over breakfast, Jake shares more than just food with the men. Brilliantly played by Robert Urich, he relates that he has shot a dentist by mistake in Fort Smith, Arkansas, who also turned out to be the mayor. And through a grinning mouthful of food, comments that the mayor was no match for a buffalo gun. It was all a mistake, as he got into it with a gambler, shot, and the bullet went through the wall, killing the mayor who was walking down the street. Even though all listening seemed to think it was an accident and could be easily explained, Jake says he wasn’t going to hang around to find out.
Here we see a great example of his compulsive nature, and unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions. But this action has already begun to shift and ultimately change the lives of several of Fort Smith’s townsfolk, such as July Johnson, the sheriff and mayor’s brother and his family, and deputy, Roscoe. Jake also kindles the flame of possible adventure, discovery and great profit when he describes the vast grassy, virtually untouched, plains of Montana. this is the conversation that sets the whole story into motion.
Woodrow, who doesn’t seem to be particularly receptive to others’ ramblings, takes this revelation very seriously, and a dream begins to form in his mind. Later, as the crew begins their workday, Gus and Jake, both legendary (it seems)womanizers, drinkers, and men of more pleasurable pursuits, proceed to pull on a jug together. Gus, suddenly nostalgic, asks Jake had he run into Clara, the sweetheart of his younger years, whom he almost married several times, but who was married to another man. Jake tweaks his interest, telling Gus that he had run into her outside a store in Ogallala,’but she was not as pretty as she once was’. No matter to Gus, as seeing her again would be the dream that spurs him along when Woodrow suggests they drive the cattle to Montana.
As the decision to go to Montana is soon presented by Captain Call, Jake agrees to go along as guide and drover. But, as things, unfold, he takes up with and captivates the heart of the beautiful Lorena, the whore at the Dry Bean Saloon. She is looking for a way out and Jake’s ability to persuade her, not only that he will take care of her, but also take her to San Francisco, changes her future forever.
As the drive begins, Jake’s immature, unpredictable, and undependable nature shows through loud and clear as he begins the trip with Lorie. As his drunken and surly nature takes over, he soon ends up leaving her alone to go gamble. She is kidnapped by Blue Duck and he comes back blaming the boys for her disappearance. Once again he is never able to take responsibility for his part in any of the disastrous events that occur. He leaves the drive angrily, presumably to look for her, but ends up in another town with another whore. After she murders a client, he takes off with a bad band of outlaws ( to get through the territories, he later says). The next time the captains and the boys see Jake, they are fixing to hang him for a string of crimes that he never really participated in–but was there. Was he ever really bad? As he told the boys, at his end, ‘You know me boys, I never meant no harm’. And I really don’t think he did!
What are your thoughts on Jake Spoon?