If you have never read the book or seen the movie Lonesome Dove you are a very lucky person. Because now, if you read Larry McMurtry’s book (900+ pages) or watch the movie (TV mini-series), you’re in for one of the best experiences of your life. If you have seen it before, maybe it’s time to watch it again. Many people consider this work to be the best story of the west ever done, and others just consider it to be the best book or movie they have ever experienced period. Why?—it’s simply that this is the most realistic portrayal of the real west ever done coupled with characters that were exceptionally well-developed during the long running time of what is basically a six-hour movie.
The book is of course well written (no beyond well written) with a great story and exceptional dialogue. The the movie just takes a fantastic book and adds a cast of exceptional actors that exactly match the characters you visualized when reading the book. The lead actors, Robert Duval and Tommy Lee Jones, really make the movie by endlessly complementing each other’s performance. The give and take between them makes you believe they have been (like in the movie) life-long friends. But see for yourself—get a copy of the book or watch it on Netflix or DVD. I don’t make many guarantees, but I will guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
In this work, McMurtry’s two main characters Woodrow F. Call and his partner (both as Texas Rangers and then cattlemen) Augustus ‘Gus’ McCrae, present two very different outlooks on life. Woodrow is a solemn, all-work-no-play, get-things-done kind of guy. He doesn’t spend much time contemplating the “why” because he’s just interested in the “how.” He reacts instinctively, often with force.
Gus, however, is more laid back, enjoys contemplating most everything in life and finds a bit of humor everywhere. He’s made of the same grit as Call, but sees the world as a lot more than just cattle and ranching. He’s the philosopher and poet.
Nearly all of the great lines in McMurtry’s book and subsequent movie are attributed to Gus:
“The older the violin, the sweeter the music.”
“Yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back.”
“If you only come face to face with your own mistakes once or twice in your life it’s bound to be extra painful. I face mine every day–that way they ain’t usually much worse than a dry shave.”
“I never met a soul in this world as normal as me.”
“I’m just trying to keep everything in balance, Woodrow. You do more work than you got to, so it’s my obligation to do less.”
“I figured out something, Lorie,” he said. “I figured out why you and me get along so well. You know more than you say and I say more than I know. That means we’re a perfect match, as long as we don’t hang around one another more than an hour at a stretch.”
But the quote that has had the most impact on me was, “If you want only one thing too much, it’s likely to turn out a disappointment. The only healthy way to live, as I see it, is to learn to like all the little everyday things.”
To me this means that if you are waiting for the big things to happen (perfect family, fantastic job, luxurious house) you’ll find that you miss out on the little pleasures that occur all the time. If you revel in the small things that make you feel good, smile, or laugh, you will find your days filled with things to enjoy.
For me, it’s as easy as taking a break (writing this blog is tough work), having a good cup of coffee, talking to a few people, reading the newspaper, and calling or emailing some friends. So now, most days around 3 o’clock I head over to the little coffee shop just out my back door and spend a delightful hour doing all of these things at once (multi-tasking?)—I love it. It costs me all of two dollars a day and I even get my card punched (after I buy 10 cups of coffee, I get one free—Oh, the joy!). The moral here: It doesn’t take much to make you happy if you just allow yourself to enjoy every little moment.
Early into retirement, I was searching for something monumental to make me feel fulfilled—I haven’t found that something. But lately, I have come to feel that it may be the little things that spark my day that are the most rewarding. Watching or re-watching Lonesome Dove is just one of those sparks.