On the porch of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, two pigs tear apart a rattlesnake while Augustus McCrae watches and drinks whiskey.
That's one of the few sources of entertainment in the lazy Texas town of Lonesome Dove, a town with one saloon (the Dry Bean), no doctor, and little shade.
Other men of the Cattle Company approach—Capt. Woodrow Call; Pea Eye; and Newt, the youngest, who hopes for adventure.
Bolivar, the cook, whacks the dinner bell, and all the men gather around to eat and argue. This seems to be a regular occurrence in Lonesome Dove.
Call walks the river, thinking, and looking for danger. But there isn't much danger in Lonesome Dove anymore. Gus and Call, former Texas Rangers, eradicated most of the bandits and violent Indians in the area. Call seems to miss the danger.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the men sit around and drink and talk and talk and drink and pee.
Call returns, saying it would be a good night to cross some cattle, but they ain't got no one to sell 'em to.
Augustus is talking about Lorena Wood, Lonesome Dove's number one whore, and Call tells Gus to be careful, making sure Lorena doesn't try to marry Gus. He doesn't want her around.
Gus just laughs.
Lorena, hooker extraordinaire, lives in the Dry Bean tavern, but she dreams of moving to San Francisco.
Lorena thinks of how she got to Lonesome Dove, with an abusive man named Tinkersley. They had a huge fight in Lonesome Dove, and he left her there.
Today, Lorena gets a visit from Gus, who gives her a ten-dollar gold piece for her services. Actually, the service he's looking for today is to hear her life story, which she just told us.
Lorena doesn't want to talk about herself to Gus, so she gives him his money back, and he heads off to play cards.
In the saloon, Gus meets up with Dishwater "Dish" Boggett, a man who got his nickname because he was so thirsty he drank dishwater and never lived it down.
Gus gets a drink from Xavier, the saloon owner, while listening to Lippy play piano.
Dish, like everybody else, it seems, is in love with Lorena.
Gus gives Dish two dollars to spend on Lorena and tells Dish he can sleep at the Cattle Company ranch after, if he sticks around.
The next morning, Augustus makes his world-famous (if your boundaries of the world stop at Lonesome Dove) sourdough biscuits to supplement Bolivar's breakfast.
Call wakes up and heads to breakfast. He's injured because his feisty mare, Hell B****, bit him, but Call insists it's just a flesh wound.
Dish Boggett also shows up for breakfast, and Newt is surprised. Dish Boggett is one of his heroes.
Call offers Dish a job: they're going to Mexico to rustle up some horses.
Deets, the black man in the Cattle Company, went to scout things out.
Dish accepts the job, and soon Deets returns.
But Deets has someone with him: a man named Jake Spoon.