It’s raining, so I’m watching the movie, “Lonesome Dove.” A rainy day is always good for any movie; “Lonesome Dove” is just an excellent choice. We raise a few cattle however I have no interest in being a cowboy, I see myself more like a shepherd, so it’s not the cowboy element that draws me to this movie/miniseries. I think the most interesting aspects of the movie are the relationships, the struggle of life and two old men who want just one more adventure before they are too old to enjoy it. It occurred to me recently that some people might never have seen the show and certainly more have not seen it in the same repeated fashion as I have seen it.
I remember when “Lonesome Dove” premiered as a television miniseries in 1989. I worked with Davin Halvorson then, and he kept talking about what a good western he’d been watching on television. I always enjoyed a good miniseries (I.e. “Roots,” “Rich Man, Poor Man, “ or “the Thorn Birds,”) however I only caught one or two nights of this western based on a novel written by Larry McMurtry. Years later, I found it pretty cheap on video tape and purchased it. I have since watched this lovely, gritty tale told over the span of seven hours since then approximately 20 times, this morning was 21.
“Lonesome Dove” is the story of two former Texas Rangers, Augustus McRae and Woodrow Call, who live close to the Mexican border near Lonesome Dove, Texas. They leave their home for one last adventure trailing a herd of cattle accompanied by cowboys of various skills, the town’s only prostitute, an old cook, a piano player and Augustus’ two pet pigs. Some folks find love on this trip, while others die-some by the noose. There’s so much about friendship, change brought about as people age and the desperate struggle to truly live life in this story, that it could have taken place anywhere and been good to watch. The fact it is a story of two men who risk everything for a dream pulls on that one string in every person’s heart that questions, “what might have I become if I’d taken my one chance?”
I like Augustus more than Woodrow. Augustus reminds me more of myself as he is fun-loving, occasionally pulls a cork and likes his own philosophy. He also sits by the fire and reads the Bible all night and has beautiful, Dutch-oven biscuits ready when everyone wakes up. He’s a little lazier than I am, however he’s earned the right and his friend Woodrow is the only one who calls him on his lack of work ethic.
The story of “Lonesome Dove” is timeless. I know of two people who’ve named their dog after characters in the show and if you search the term “lonesome” on the internet, it is the mini-series that shows up first in its popularity. The qualities of loyalty, love, courage and friendship have not changed over time. These same qualities are the only safe stepping stones upon which the characters in this movie are able to cross a wild frontier that stretches from Lonesome Dove to the then-territories of Montana.
I find myself in this movie each time I watch it, not just in the Augustus character either. Like any well-written story, it takes the very basics of human character and plays them out against a complex world full of characters with great depth. If you saw it back in 1989, buy the DVD (new, about $15) and see it again through older eyes. If you’ve never seen the show the you are truly missing something; don’t wait for it to rain.