Study Guide

Wilbarger in Lonesome Dove

By Larry McMurtry


A BA in Cowboy Science

We can totally picture an alternate version of Lonesome Dove following the adventures of Wilbarger. He's like Gus, but without the sense of the humor. He's like Call, but with a personality. He's an intellectual and a cowboy.

He also crosses paths with all our characters, and often. He loses his horses, and the Hat Creek boys get them back. He wants Call's horse, Hell B****, but Call is like, "Yeah right, bud." He bumps into July Johnson and points him in the way of Jake Spoon. He offers Joe a job. And finally, when Jake Spoon falls in with the Suggs Brothers, he's partially responsible for Wilbarger's death.

The Suggs Brothers fatally wound Wilbarger while Jake watches. This leads to Jake's hanging, because Deets is able to track Jake's horse from the spot where Wilbarger was shot. It's a sad end for a nice, smart guy. As Gus observes, Wilbarger is "[p]robably the only man who ever went to Yale College who was buried under a buffalo skull" (72.121). It just goes to show you that no one is safe in the West.

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