Lonesome Dove, part 8. Gus: Love’s a Curious Thing

HI 80 / LO 55

Love’s a Curious Thing: Gus McCrae

No one names their kid Augustus anymore (although we do have a few older gentlemen by that name here in Fredericksburg). I’m not sure I’d want to name my child after Gus. But he sure gets all the best lines:

“But yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back.”

And, “The earth is mostly just a boneyard. ‘But pretty in the sunlight,’ he added.

And, “I’m sure partial to the evening,” Augustus said. “The evening and the morning. If we just didn’t have to have the rest of the dern day I’d be a lot happier.”

He reads the Good Book from time to time: “I only read it in the morning and the evening, when I can be reminded of the glory of the Lord. The rest of the day I’m just reminded of what a miserable stink hole we stuck ourselves in.”

And later, “What got you on the Bible?” Call asked. “Boredom,” Augustus said.

Robert Duvall was the perfect choice to play Gus in the miniseries. He’s half scoundrel, half scamp, all style.

“Your goddamn style is your downfall, and it’s a wonder if didn’t come sooner.” Truer words were never spoken by Call. Except maybe this one, spoken in the same scene: “You always was careless.”

The other person who sees Gus clearly is Clara (it’s always Clara). She calls him “a rake and a rambler” — twice. She’s right.

“I’d smother Bob for you and send Lorie to perdition.” [Gus joked]

Clara sighed, and her anger wore out with the sigh.

That’s the effect Gus has on people. They sigh and get angry at him (even when he’s joking), and the anger goes out with the sigh and then they go and do extravagant things for him. Like Clara taking in Lorie. Or Call carrying Gus 3,000 miles back to Texas to bury him.

Gus is the true man of vision, not Call. He certainly has better actual eyesight, a point made many times when it comes to spotting Indians. But more importantly, he knows his friend better than his friend knows himself.

Ultimately, we love Gus because he’s human, which means he’s the opposite of Call (“I’m told I don’t have a human nature,” Call said.”) Gus is a warts-and-all kind of guy. He knows he’s flawed, so he doesn’t judge flaws in others unless they refuse to admit them.

“Though you’re human, and you did need one [woman] once — but you don’t want to need nothing you can’t get for yourself.”

Yep, that one’s for Call. Gus says some things to his friend that hit the bullseye as surely as if Gus were shooting his gun. His words and his bullets have pinpoint accuracy.

The best thing he ever said, though, in my opinion, he said to Lorie, who was worried about meeting a fine lady like Clara.

“She may know what I am, though,” Lorena said.

“Yes, she’ll know you’re a human being,” Augustus said.


  1. Hmmmm……maybe Clara is the Jesus figure in the book? Lorie stays with her because she feels the heaven of forgiveness and redemption, but Gus just can’t quite make himself go in, even though he’s mighty attracted. Call moves on to make his own heaven in Montana. Clara was definitely an oasis.

  2. I read Laura Brown’s article at Slate, and when I got to the part about her mom wanting her to read Lonesome Dove, I thought about your Lonesome Dove posts right away!!!