Question: There was a quote in Latin on the ranch sign that the Texas rangers took to Montana and back in Lonesome Dove. I believe it was something like "uva uvam vivendo varia fit." I don't believe anyone ever said what it meant and I am quite curious to know. Thank you for your help. Liz C., Tallahassee, Fla.
Televisionary: That's not just "something like" what the Hat Creek Cattle Company sign read on the acclaimed TV miniseries, Liz it's exactly what it said. (Nice memory you've got there.)
Thing is, in the language of the cowboys, it don't mean nuthin' as it's written, anyway. When he made the sign, Augustus McCrae (Robert Duvall) no doubt meant to use the phrase "uva uvam videndo varia fit." That's a Juvenal quote which, translated, says that a grape changes color or ripens when it sees another grape. Larry McMurtry fans seem to think the writer was getting at how each character matured and changed by riding the trail with the others.
As I remember, after Gus admitted to Call (Tommy Lee Jones) that he didn't really know what the phrase meant when he painted it, Call said that for all he knew it might be inviting someone to come in and kill them, at which point Gus said he looked forward to being shot by an educated man. And the rest of the sign included the line "We don't rent pigs" because, as Gus said: "Well, we don't rent pigs, and it's better to say it right up front because a man who does like to rent pigs is well, he's hard to stop."
(For those of you who have no idea what we're talking about, do yourself a favor and rent the miniseries. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the finest things ever to grace the small screen. And then read the book, which is also one of my favorites.)