06 May 2010

Streets of Laredo

I just finished reading Streets of Laredo, Larry McMurty's sequel to Lonesome Dove. It's an excellent book. Here are some choice passages:

"The harm is not in the beer," Maria told him. "The harm is in men. Drunk men. They beat women. Some of them have beaten me..."

Call was wondering if the man would survive. There was no answer to the question, of course, but it was a matter he always pondered, when he led men into danger. It was also a question he could as well ask of himself. If the years had taught him anything, it was that survival was a matter that could not be predicted with any accuracy. Time and again, on the frontier, men who were well experienced and well equipped rode off one day and got killed. Gus McRae, his old partner, was as competent as any man he had ever known, and yet, Gus had ridden off on a kind of frolic, in Montana, and ended up dead. None of the Hat Creek cowboys had been as competent as Gus, or Deets - the black man who had served him so well for so long - yet, Gus and Deets were dead, and some of the least competent - Soupy, for example, and Jasper Fant - were still alive and flourishing. There was no degree of competence that would tell a commander which man would live and which man would die.

Among his people, the Kickapoo, respect for the gods caused most people to behave well, at least to behave well most of the time. But the same did not appear to true of whites, most of whom behaved as if they knew no god and had no guidance stronger than their own passions, when it came time to decide how to behave.

Gus retorted, "That's your problem, Woodrow, or one of them. You've got no sense of show. Aint' you ever heard of esprit de corps?"
"No, what is it, and how much does it cost?" Call asked.
"I give up! You don't buy esprit de corps, you instill it, and bugler would be a good start," Augustus said.

Maria knew the men would be after her soon. They would be angry because she had stirred up their women. Most men didn't like women being stirred up... Life was much easier when women were broken, when they didn't dare express a feeling, whether happy or sad. It was not something to question; it was just how men were.

Call often picked over battles, in his mind. There were few fixed rules. Once men started shooting at each other with deadly intent, strategies and plans were usually forgotten. Men acted and reacted according to their instincts. Experience didn't always tell; veterans of many battles made wild, inexplicable mistakes. Even men who remained perfectly calm during battle did things that they could not make sense of later, if they survived to rehash the battle.

Lorena said, "If killing is the only reason you can think of to live, then you might as well die."

Lorena's thought: How could men, decent or not, know what made a woman happy or unhappy?

Clara realized she had lost touch, just from not touching.

Charlie Goodnight: "Life's but a knife edge, anyway. Sooner or later people slip and get cut."


  1. You? Reading fiction? :)

    'i God, Woodrow, it ain't dying I'm talkin' about, it's livin!

  2. That was such a good book. Next up on my list is The Only Road North by Mirandette.

  3. the dark and bloody river is the one you want.

  4. Do you have it? I could pick it up when I come home...