Study Guide

Roscoe Brown in Lonesome Dove

By Larry McMurtry

Roscoe Brown

Bad Bad Roscoe Brown

Roscoe Brown isn't bad in an ironic or cool sense. He's just plain bad at being a deputy. At 48 years old, Roscoe proves that with age doesn't necessarily come experience. When July, who is about half Roscoe's age, leaves Arkansas, he's nervous to leave Roscoe behind by himself. Not only might the town get overrun by bandits while Roscoe is napping in the jail, but Roscoe might also "whittle down the whole town" (26.57).

Roscoe likes to sleep, whittle, and play dominoes—and not much else. It's a rude awakening when Peach Johnson enlists him to find July after Elmira goes missing. Roscoe basically points himself in the general direction of Texas and hopes for the best. His whole journey seems to surf on a wave of good luck. He's able to rely on the kindness of strangers for food, shelter, and taking his virginity.

That's right: Roscoe is a 48-year-old virgin. Maybe Steve Carrell will play him if there's ever a Lonesome Dove remake. Of course, many men in this book have no experience with women, and Roscoe is just one more example. However, things change when he meets Louisa Brooks, a woman who eats cornbread and keeps a snake in a barn—which isn't a euphemism, although that is where Louisa has sex with Roscoe in the middle of the night.

If we rewind a bit to when Roscoe first meets Louisa, we see him watch her move a stump all by herself.

"Roscoe lay there and watched the big stump slowly come out of the hole where it had been for so many years." (37.25)

The stump is like Roscoe himself, a man who is as a stubborn as a stump—and who needs something like an assortment of mules to move him.

Roscoe's stubbornness comes in handy, though, because he won't give up until he finds July. He rides his wave of luck until he's captured by bandits Joe and Hutto, who are defeated by July, who shows up in the nick of time.

Roscoe's wave of luck soon crashes on a rock when he is slaughtered by Blue Duck. It's a sad moment. Roscoe may be a helpless stump, but we don't like seeing a dead stump.