Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lonesome Dove

I just had another birthday…THE Birthday…60. You can run, but you can’t hide from 60. So I decided to embrace it and in doing so thought about something I wrote a couple of years ago on the 20th anniversary of Lonesome Dove. I read it again and it made me feel better about being old and much better about being a Texan. (Just the opposite of how I feel about being a Texan when I listen to Rick Perry.) So here’s my birthday gift to myself…

Lonesome Dove has been with me since 1985 when I read the book for the first time. As a native Texan whose roots go back to the frontier days, the story grabbed me and I literally inhaled Larry McMurtry’s novel over the course of a summer weekend (getting a wicked sunburn in the process). The fact that he borrowed so liberally from Texas history and real events and real characters did not bother me one iota. Most of Texas history and all the hoorah is part fiction anyway so why not use it. (Just like my kin who swore that my great-great granddaddy, half Indian, rode the trail with Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. Of course he did, that’s their story which makes it my story and I’m sticking to it).

Then I saw the mini-series and heard the music. They go together you know. God said so. By the time the mini-series came out, I was living outside of Texas for the first time in my life. And Lonesome Dove became my touchstone and my connection to home. A few years later I moved to Montana. Driving across the Montana state line from Wyoming and listening to the soundtrack from Lonesome Dove is as close to a heavenly experience as one can ever hope to have on this earth.

I just about wore out that soundtrack for the next few years as I spent weekends exploring the best places in the Last Best Place. And they are right, Montana truly is the Last Best Place, but it was not my place and with a few detours along the way I finally made it back to Texas. With a new Lonesome Dove soundtrack and the latest digitized version of the mini-series, I continue to enjoy and relive the story. It means more to me now as I approach my 60th year. It is the perfect tale about imperfect people in a world that is so beautiful and yet so cruel that it comes as close to the truth as one can get with fiction.

As John Graves wrote in his classic “Good Bye to a River”, I am unabashedly and unapologetically a Texan. Lonesome Dove makes me feel only more so and in a good way. I’ve had conversations with people from other states and nations who say they love Lonesome Dove. I nod and smile and affirm its greatness and its accuracy in portraying what Texas and the Old West for that matter, once was (or at least claimed to be.) But, I also know that no one loves the Lonesome Dove story more than a Texan. And no other Texan could possibly love it more than I do.

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