Study Guide

Lonesome Dove Chapters 36-40

By Larry McMurtry

Chapters 36-40

  • After the sad funeral of the previous chapter, we change gears and focus on Elmira, July Johnson's runaway wife.
  • Elmira's on a whiskey boat hoping to find her ex, Dee Boot.
  • One of the traders, Big Zwey, has his eyes on Elmira, though, and when the men fight over her, Big Zwey throws the main troublemaker overboard.
  • As Elmira rides the whiskey boat, Roscoe rides a horse searching for Elmira's husband, Sheriff July Johnson.
  • Roscoe is so incompetent, we can't imagine him ever finding July.
  • Roscoe barely makes it ten miles without getting tired and wondering where he's going to sleep. What was he expecting? A Motel 6?
  • Roscoe finds a woman nearby who is trying to pull up a stump, and she recruits Roscoe to help.
  • Roscoe falls over on his butt, and the woman gets the stump up on her own.
  • The woman introduces herself as Louisa and invites Roscoe for dinner, even though he's completely useless.
  • At dinner, Louisa says she and Roscoe should get married.
  • "If you don't last, you'll be easy to bury" (37.80), Louisa says. Can't argue with that logic.
  • But Roscoe can. He doesn't want to marry Louisa. He's never even been with a woman before.
  • So Roscoe goes to sleep in the barn, but Louisa wakes him up by kicking off his blanket, taking his pants off, and squatting on top of him. If the barn's a rockin'…
  • After that, Roscoe eats Louisa's cornbread (not a euphemism) and decides to keep heading after July.
  • Roscoe says he'll stop by on his way back, and Louisa says that's fine, but she might meet another man by then. Anyone would probably be an upgrade from Roscoe.
  • Joe, Elmira's son who is sulky and doesn't talk, is traveling with July. They're still tracking Jake Spoon, but they haven't found him yet.
  • One day, the guys meet a weird man named Sedgwick, who collects bugs.
  • Sedgwick asks July if he'll leave Joe with him to learn about the animal kingdom.
  • July considers it, but he decides to keep continuing with the boy.
  • Back with Gus and Call's crew, everyone is still depressed over Sean O'Brien's death. That, and they're terrified of crossing rivers.
  • The next river crossing goes fine, although Jasper almost falls off his horse.
  • Newt hopes aloud that no one else is hurt or killed, but Gus reminds him that they can never know what to expect.
  • Lorena is giving Jake the silent treatment because she enjoys traveling and has no plans to head with him to settle in San Antonio.
  • Jake thinks maybe he can drag Lorena's sorry butt off to Austin instead, but Lorena would "rather keep traveling" (40.47).