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Well, I Guess I’ve Been in Love Before, Once or Twice and on the Floor: Jake Spoon
I love the Paul Simon song, “Late in the Evening,” from which that line comes. Jake’s the kind of fellow who’s good with lines. Heck, I think he slept with every woman in the book. He can’t love any woman more than that.
Gus says of Jake, “he liked Jake, but felt him to be too leaky a vessel to hold so much hope.”
That’s what Jake is, a leaky vessel. Newt “practically worshiped” Jake. All the hands like him. Lorie put so much hope in him that she left Lonesome Dove because she believed he would take her to San Francisco.
When we meet Jake, he’s already running from the law for shooting July’s brother, a dentist. His proud days of rangering with Gus and Call are in the past. He’s let himself drift. He drifted into Lonesome Dove. He drifted into the Dry Bean saloon and Lorena’s arms. He drifted onto the cattle drive, then he drifted into Austin to gamble, and then he drifted into the company of the Suggs brothers, a bunch of murdering horsethieves.
“It’s his dern laziness,” Call said. “Jake just kind of drifts. Any wind can blow him.”
Gus is wise enough to know that he and Jake are cut from the same cloth. He’s only a few shades removed from ending up like his old compañero. After all, Gus likes whiskey and women, just like Jake. Gus likes a game of cards, just like Jake. Gus doesn’t particularly like to work, just like Jake. The difference? Gus has spent his entire career with Captain Call. Jake left, then came back, then left again. The company a man keeps makes a difference.
Of course, you can’t overlook the fact that the whole reason Call goes to Montana is because Jake had been there and told him it was a cattleman’s paradise. Call risks his own life, the lives of several hired hands, dozens of horses and 3,000 head of cattle based on the word of a gambler. A gambler who deserts them.
When they finally catch up with him, Jake appeals to all of them — Deets, Call, Gus, Pea Eye, Newt — trying to convince them that he didn’t do anything, that he planned to leave the Suggs brothers, that he just said hello to a girl and the rest was just self-defense, that he’s no killer. But then, Jake damns himself.
“Jake, you might like to know that I got Lorie back,” [Gus] said.
“Who?” Jake asked.
And that’s when you’re ready to hang Jake yourself, after all that Lorie suffered at the hands of Blue Duck and his gang.
We’ve all known men like Jake, charming fellows, the kind that both men and women want to be near. The kind with no self-awareness, no conscience. Gus predicted Jake would be hanged when he left the Rangers; he just didn’t expect he’d have to do it himself.
“There was no more likeable man in the west, and no better rider either; but riding wasn’t everything and neither was likeableness. Something in Jake didn’t quite stick. Something wasn’t quite consistent.”