The Mystique of Lonesome Dove

Just what is it about the book and movie that has made it such an American Icon? If you read the book carefully, you will find it is a very dark story full of death, misery and human frailty; yet the movie does bring some light into it with a little humor and some humanizing of the characters by the actors who portrayed them.

Maybe it’s the idea that deep down there might be a little cowboy in all of us. Let’s face it; most of us have played Cowboys and Indians at one time or another in our lives. I bet a lot of have had a picture of you made sitting on a pony while wearing a hat and boots in a pair of shorts. I myself, as a youngster did some day cowboying for an old rancher who lived near us.

Up close it was not near as romantic as it was in the movies of the day. I built and mended fence, worked calves and helped with the feeding and haying. But, I loved doing it for I was a cowboy! Later when older I helped with a roundup or two and moving herds from winter pastures over to the summer ones. I really earned my spurs doing that.

Might could be that it’s a story that begins and develops in Texas.  Just saying the word Texas can set a body to thinking about the state. Let’s be honest here, there is no other state in the Union that does that. Texas has an aura about it that is known world-wide. You can ask nearly anyone in the world if they have ever heard of Texas and they most likely will say yes. Let them know you are from Texas and the first thing they will ask you  if you are a cowboy.

Could it be the idea of going up the trail on a cattle drive? Movies after movies have been made about cowboys on cattle drives, ranging from Red River to Open Range. It may look romantic on the screen, but back then cowboying was brutal dangerous work. It was a low paying job that was usually done by the very young and former slaves. It was said a man often became a cowboy because he couldn’t do anything else.

But, for me, the story is what keeps me coming back over and over. Every time I read the book, I find something new. Add to that it’s really a story of two incomplete men made whole by the friendship of the other. They spent most of their lives together and I don’t think they could function without the other. Why else would Gus go off with Call and actually have to do a day’s work when he could do anything he wanted otherwise? Why else would Call put up with Gus’ drinking and whoring for all those years unless, somehow he was able to live a little through Gus? I could go into that yang and yin thing or say how opposites are drawn to each other, but in the end it boils down to two friends who shared a life and vision together.


  1. Heather says:

    interesting piece love the film not read the book but i will now. Their friendship is the key to the whole story seeing it grow and develop, to last their life time

  2. Jane says:

    Spot on. The story is not only about an adventurous cattle drive, but the relationships between the characters. There truly is a mystique about the whole cowboy/Texas thing, but the movie remained just gritty enough to portray an accurate story without overly romanticizing. The book is much darker, but probably even more realistic about the nature of the lifestyle.

  3. Clarence says:

    I think I am drawn back because as you say, it takes me somewhere I really wish I was. Yes it is hard times, hard work and overwhelming with that fact that life is so fragile. It also is about a challenge for a group of rough and rugged men that set out with a goal for new life and a desire to go somewhere they have never been. It shows how through the truth of when we set goals that no road unseen is an easy path. However if we take the road seldom traveled we have but one chance at making it. Stay true to the course.

  4. Phillip Anglin says:

    Bet western ever made in my opinion. I have the VHS and the CD. But one small detail is wrong. The Hell Bitch was supposedly a mare but you look close in more than one shot you can clearly see the horse is a gelding.


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