All great and precious things are lonely. – John Steinbeck
Lonely is the story of Tom Seeley, a young gay cow-herd drover in Texas around the turn of the 20th century. He started droving when only 16-years-old and learned about sex the same time he learned about droving. Each year he would drive the herds up the Shawnee or Chisholm Trial with the same men. There were sex partners everywhere. Even the men who have women at home participate in sex with other men. It is a long three month trek and men have needs. Tom has two regular partners, Matt and Dale.
This year two things are different. Tom is beginning to feel as if something is missing. He doesn’t immediately identify this feeling as loneliness, but that is what it is.
The second new thing this year is the second-in-command Jack Dawe, a man nine years his senior. Jack is very quiet. Jack, too, has been droving since his teen years. He doesn’t participate in sex with the other men due to an unwritten rule that leaders don’t mess around with the workers.
On their second-to-last stop before their destination, Tom watches Jack bathe. The men see each other naked all the time, but this time, Tom watches as Jack strokes his own rear entrance, then penetrates it. Tom masturbates and fantasizes that it is him, not Jack’s finger that is inside him.
Jack requests that Tom take first night watch with him later. While looking into the sky Jack says, “Lonely as God.” Something about this resonates with Tom and he is finally able to put a word to the strange feeling he has been having. Tom and Jack watch each other for the rest of the trip, but neither one says anything about the attraction growing between them.
When they reach their destination and the cattle are sold off, Tom spends the evening drinking, dancing and fooling around with Matt & Dale. Jack comes upon them at the end of the evening and helps them to their hotel. He learns that Tom is sharing a bed with both men and invites Tom to come to his room.
Jack and Tom develop a relationship that includes emotions, in addition to lust. Jack reads poetry to Tom, something he has never done before. The quote “Lonely As God” is from Jack’s favorite book of poetry, “Song of the Sierras” by Joaquin Miller. Both Tom and Jack can relate to the poetry, which was written about gazing west. Together, they decide to go west, see the country and find their way.
The sex scenes are gritty and dirty as one might expect from a cowboy of that era. This is a good story. I would have liked to see the characters fleshed out a little bit more. But as Ms. Chase wrote, “I’ve never found a fellow so unknowable.”
Reviewed by: Tina