They both thought it appropriate to drive up in the Chevy Silverado that Jack owned when he died, instead of Aguirre's old Buick.
In the months since meeting and falling in love, Aguirre kept trying to get Ennis to call him "Jack" but del Mar wasn’t ready for that yet, but he was trying… Maybe it’d become easier after the task they had to complete today.
A crew spent all last month tearing down all of the outbuildings salvaging the aged barn lumber to be milled down to use for the interior wall paneling and polished wood floors at their planned new house. The men had strict orders not to touch the exterior of the house, other than to board up the windows.
Johnny-Jack got a very good deal for their work in exchange for giving permission for them to keep all of the house's copper pipe and wiring in the walls, and to haul off the cast iron boiler and radiators for scrap.
When they arrived at the Twist Homestead with two hired specialists trailing them in a big Moorcroft city fire truck, they'd only gotten partway down the driveway when the first thing that struck Ennis was that someone had put some work into the exterior of the house since the last time he'd seen it. Tall unmown grass surrounded the old homestead and the place looked so different without the outbuildings.
It was almost as if they had been prepping the home to sell it; not that they'd have had any better luck than the other abandoned ranchers had that surrounded it.
Most of the rotted sections of clapboard siding had been replaced or repaired and a half-hearted attempt had been made to put a coat of white paint on it without scraping down the old first. The weathered wood seemed to have absorbed a lot of it and needed a second coat.
The decorative eaves braces had been repainted a midnight blue bordering on black but whoever did it stopped before doing the window and eaves trim. For some reason they decided they'd spent enough money on it before finishing the job and up and left.
Both he and Johnny wondered again about whether there was an unknown relative that neither knew about who'd expected to inherit it.
Silas Caine had already anticipated that and researched it saying there wasn't. Jack's parents owned it outright with no liens and the lawyer certainly hadn't decided to claim it; knowing full well his aunt's wishes.
Maybe Martha had it done as a farewell gesture to the old place or even possibly John Twist had done the improvements himself before he succumbed to being poisoned by his wife?
Either out of guilt or sorrow, or perhaps both, no one knew that Kurt Kirkwood drove up north after finding out how innocent Jack was, and hired a couple of his roughneck friends to paint the house, while he watched them from the road, not wanting to risk Martha seeing her anonymous and murderous benefactor.
While they all explored the dark interior with flashlights, Ennis was struck by how the Twist home was a lot bigger than he remembered. What especially struck him as odd was that he hadn’t noticed the second floor's midsection with a large dormer-roofed bedroom directly over the living room.
Since there was a large ground floor bedroom in the rear for the elder Twists with the parlor in the middle, he puzzled over why Jack was given one of the tiny upper front bedrooms instead.
Ennis remembered Martha's cruel description of John and shook his head to himself deep in thought.
Johnny remarked what a shame it was that one of the first chores that the two men would have to do after taking possession was to burn it down. They'd waited this long intentionally, keeping a close eye on the forecast.
It was supposed to be sunny all morning and noon, and radar indicated a heavy thunderstorm should hit around two or three in the afternoon... perfect for soaking down any embers that might catch the surrounding fields ablaze.
Lightning Flat no longer had a city office, so they had to go through the Crook County office down in Sundance to get burn permits after presenting a certified copy of Martha's last wishes. In exchange for them and use of a pumper truck and two men from the nearby town of Moorcroft, Ennis allowed the county to come in, harvest Twist’s vast crop fields, and keep the profits.
Silas was a big help with the paperwork and negotiations.
The electric had been turned off, so they'd need light.
With the help of the two off-duty young firemen and their truck's ladders, they set about crowbarring the old scrap plywood back off the windows so they could see to explore the inside of the ancient house safely.
While they were at it, it was suggested that they break out all the windows to give the fire more oxygen and prevent the accumulation of explosive gasses from cooking wood.
With a lot of enjoyment for the release, shattering glass and laughter could be heard all over the house for the next half hour. An excited fireman called out in glee from up in Jack’s room and they discovered a damaged window frame that was leaking a hidden cache of around 500 old coins from as far back as the 1920’s behind it. Most of them were in uncirculated condition and a coin-collector’s dream.
Ennis and Johnny generously gave them to the men to split as a tip for their help with the difficult task ahead.
After they finished the windows, all four men eventually gathered in the middle of the ground floor and moved towards the rear of the home with the firefighters in the lead.
While the two professionals scanned the dimly lit and possibly rotted floor ahead for dangerous holes, Johnny kept giving both young men envious and lust-filled glances, wondering to Ennis what a four-way in bed with them would be like while repeatedly poking him in the side with his elbow.
With an admiring smile forward and a quick jump up and down with his eyebrows, Ennis remarked, "There ain't no such a thing as an ugly fireman, 'cause they gotta stay in such reeeeal good shape to do their jobs."
After a moment and a wicked grin, del Mar whispered, "I call dibs on the brunette!"
Reacting to a barely held back snorted laugh and a surprised look from his lover, Ennis laughingly retorted with a stern expression, "Don't you look at me in that tone of voice ...I ain't dead ya know! - I can look too. If'n ya'll recall; you started this discussion!"
Their two handsome hired hands up ahead in the hallway suddenly both gave them curious frowns backwards and it was a struggle for both lovers to get control of their mirth while tightly clenching their jaws together, ...and desperately attempting to hold serious faces without cracking up.
Ennis and John resorted to turning away, pretending to study a doorframe.
Ennis hadn't felt this... well... "happy" since he was a young boy. Over the last several months he'd loosened up and actually smiled every so often.
It was Johnny-Jack that made him happy and he was a Godsend.
After about an hour's worth of exploring it, Johnny said that with all the family mementos and furniture gone it was nothing more than a cold emotionless empty shell anyway.
Ennis couldn't feel Jack Twist anywhere, nor any of the generations that had lived here through the years; even when they went up to his room and Ennis showed John where he'd found the shirts in the little cubbyhole at the back of the closet.
After discussing it with the firefighters, del Mar was the one who decided to start the blaze in the rear of the house so that the front that he was familiar with would be the last to be consumed.
After some safety instructions, their young hired firemen showed them where to pour for the most efficient effect, then got to work outside, soaking the grass around the house with water.
Aguirre walked all the way back to the rear bedroom and emptied the gasoline can, then Ennis lit the match to the end of a 30-foot cotton clothes line spiked with a small amount of lighter fluid, running for it in case the fumes exploded.
As billowing clouds of black sooty smoke climbed into the gray sky, the firefighters kept an eye on the surrounding wild grass.
After a while, all four men stood next to their vehicles admiring the tall thin scorched red brick chimney, which had somehow defiantly refused to fall as the house gradually collapsed around it. They immediately decided to build one of their new fireplaces with its bricks.
The sad chore was over in a little over an hour.
Right on cue an intense lighting storm arrived with a heavy downpour to quench the embers and insure the fields didn't catch on fire.
Through the rest of the 1980s, they rebuilt the Twist Ranch together.
Thanks to Johnny’s influence, with the help of a tutor Ennis started reading books on horses and business management and discovered to everyone’s delight that he had a talent for both. As they grew closer and closer, Ennis’ manner of speaking began to gradually match Johnny’s… his girls were pleased.
After a joining ceremony on their maiden trip to San Francisco, Ennis saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time in his life and attended his very first Gay Pride parade. He was astonished at how many openly gay and proud people were in one city.
Del Mar was initially embarrassed by all of the festival's flamboyant drag queens everywhere giving “normal looking” gays a bad name until his lover explained that during the historic Stonewall riots, those “normal gays” were the ones who fled from the billy-club wielding police while the very same fairy drag queens bravely stood their ground and fought the cops hand over fist.
Standing among the huge supportive crowd, he felt less isolated from the world Johnny-Jack was introducing him too… the world Jack Twist had tried many times to show him here.
A month later, both went before a Wyoming judge and legally had a hyphen and Twist added to their last names and in the process Aguirre switched his nickname with his first and officially became Jack Aguirre-Twist. Ennis became Ennis del Mar-Twist, but eventually was just known as Ennis Twist...
Their marriage might not be valid in their home state, but they took the extra step of legally adopting each other for inheritance purposes, using Martha’s nephew Silas Caine to complete the procedures.
At a custom jeweler, Ennis had his own old wedding band and the first Jack Twist’s wedding ring melted down and the molten gold mixed in order to make two new matching wedding rings for he and his new husband. The three men were now even more linked in spirit together.
After two years of the Joseph Aguirre estate being tangled up in court, Jack inherited one third of his late father’s business and sold his share, the proceeds going into a joint account marrying their finances too.
They built a fine home together where the Twist’s old horse barn had once stood at the elbow curve.
In 1984 Officer Laura Olsen left the Signal Police Force and moved north to live with them, and the two men mixed their semen and then had her artificially impregnated at a clinic. She became an official live-in part of their family when Jack Edward Twist II was born in April of 1985.
Ennis, like his father before him, enthusiastically started a horse breading business at the ranch and it eventually became famous around the world when one of their mares produced a Triple Crown winner and others began winning international horse show blue ribbons.
After years of getting punched in the arm, slapped in the back of the head and elbowed in the side, Ennis finally took the hint and began calling Johnny "Jack."
Jack started a side business of reclaiming and recycling wood from abandoned barns in the area and discovered quite a demand for it.
The Kirkwood family abruptly moved to his hometown near Tulsa Oklahoma after Kurt was promoted to field supervisor at the oil company he worked for.
Actually he had been having trouble seeing Jack's Silverado all the time with Ennis behind the wheel. In fact it was causing occasional nightmares that would scare the hell out of Alma Junior and the kids in the middle of the night when he'd wake up yelling and thrashing around.
After a couple of months of him being away for long stretches all over the southwest and the Gulf of Mexico, she and the children moved back to the Twist Ranch so that Jack, Ennis and family could help her with their kids while Kirk stayed in Tulsa for weeks at a time. He'd only return home occasionally and after a week or so would be called back.
No one knew that their original move south had also been because Kirk had seen a cop in a bar he’d visited who was showing a police artist’s sketch of a suspect in a cold-case murder in Texas. Kirk had volunteered for the job to get out of Wyoming.
Then he told her when he moved back to the ranch to stay that he didn't like the strain the job was having on their marriage so he gave up his position in Oklahoma. He was put to work for the husbands tending horses.
To Kirkwood's relief, by then Ennis had purchased a brand-new light blue and white Ford F-150 pickup to drive around in.
What really happened was that he'd found that the search was more intense for him in Tulsa where he grew up as a kid, so he felt safer back out in "the middle of nowhere."
Eventually life on the Twist Ranch got back to normal.
Jenny del Mar came out of the closet as a lesbian that year. She moved to Laramie and began attending a community college there studying law enforcement. Jack and Ennis offered to pay for her tuition but she wanted to do it on her own. She met her lover Sarah there.
The Twists hired a tree expert and sparing no expense, flew him in three times a year. As years piled on years, a dual column of 37 well-spaced and well-tended seedlings grew and grew on both sides of the length of the long asphalt driveway to become a magnificent double row of trees displaying cherry blossoms every spring.
There were also two much older ones that seemed out of place and not lined up with the others. They stood proudly side-by-side between the lane and a new horse barn. Including the trees lining the driveway, their number totaled 39; Jack’s age when he died.
Twenty feet to the right of them stood a large black granite monument in a rectangle of tall-unmowed wild wheat saved from the field before they re-terrained and replanted it. Ennis spared no expense and the memorial to Jack Twist measured three feet tall, five feet wide and was a foot thick front to back. It stood with its edge towards the lane, and while the side facing the street was blank, the side facing the house was inscribed JACK EDWARD TWIST.
Martha would’ve been pleased.
Every year the abundant fruit was harvested to be turned into jams, jellies, pies and cakes, and then sold, the money going to an AIDS charity set up in Martha Twist’s name...
…Bobby Twist turned 21 in 1988. He received a registered correspondence from an attorney down in Houston with instructions to take the letter to the United Trust Bank in Childress in order to collect a parcel that had been stored in the vault for him.
When he got there, he was presented with a cotton-stuffed oblong cardboard box of the kind a dozen roses are delivered in with a note for him affixed to the top.
The fancy envelope had “READ FIRST” hand printed on it.
Dear Rodeo Bobby,Bobby opened the box to find the Silverado’s tire iron that Deke had used to strike the first blow across Jack Twist’s face. Young Twist hesitantly picked it up and held it with his eyes closed, trying to feel his dead father’s spirit and a tear fell from his cheek as he whispered “Daddy.”
Enclosed is something very special that I thought should wait until you turned 21. I’ve always been proud of you boy, and now that you’re a man, I know that you can handle this with maturity and grace.
This is the last thing your loving daddy was holding onto when he died. The coroner had to pry it from his fingers. I know that you are mature enough to appreciate it and that you will be careful to preserve it just as it is forever.
Give it a place of pride and honor and display it where everyone can see it and know what it is, in order to honor your father’s memory.
Before you leave the bank, go to the manager’s office and you’ll find $865,000 deposited in a checking account for you. Don't let on where you got it so you don't have to pay no taxes on it.
I know you’ll use it wisely and invest it in the company my daddy started.
All my love & Happy Birthday
Your proud grandpa
Deke Newsome Sr.
After collecting his new checkbooks, he took the tool to a shop in town and had it shrink-wrapped in plastic, instructing everyone there to use gloves after explaining what it was and how the blood got there in an accident.
After carefully trimming the excess plastic off of it, he had a fancy oak plaque with brass hooks made and hung it up in his office at Twist Farm Equipment & Supply and looked at it every day, determined to make his daddy proud of him.
L.D. Newsome was thinking ahead that murderous day. Not only did he decide to rid of himself of his queer son-in-law, but his semi-retarded grandson too. He chuckled to himself for a week after he cautiously wiped the tire iron down, being careful to leave his son-in-law’s blood and hair intact…
…knowing that five years later when Bobby picked it up out of the box, the only fingerprints on it would be his grandson’s.
The unregistered and unreported hoard of cash would look like a motive for his father's death. Within five years Bobby had used it on fast cars, loose women and lost the rest of it in Las Vegas…
...In 1990 Laura met and married University of Texas political science Prof. David Nails and moved to Austin, safely leaving young Jack to be raised by his two loving and doting fathers. By that time, thanks to Jack Twist’s seed money the husbands were comfortable millionaires three times over thanks to good investments and successful businesses.
Jenny claimed that her father was living out his karma balancing out from the first half of his life, and nearly convinced her dad of it too.
With too many Jacks and Twists running around, his two fathers nicknamed their son "J.T."
Jack came up with the idea of giving 5-year-old JT a male rescued and neglected baby Zebra as a gift for his birthday that year.
Ennis swore his lover/husband would float away if he didn’t hold him to the ground with some of his crazy head-in-the-clouds ideas.
As it turned out, the gift had its advantages, teaching their son responsibility at a young age, and people who later became ranch customers came from miles around to see little JT's pet, and before they knew it they had a very profitable breeding program going. Breeding a rescued Zebra meant others weren’t harvested from the wild for zoos.
JT got constant invitations to ride his "funny horse" in parades and to attend friend’s birthday parties. Ennis came up with the perfect name for it… "Balderdash."
Vexing both his dads; JT immediately shortened that and started calling him… what else?... "Balls!"
Not that Ennis didn’t have his own “pie in the sky” dreams of one day going down to Sage, buying back the old del Mar ranch and starting it up again.
The Nails down in Texas eventually had four children of their own and they, Monroe & Alma and their two young children, Jack & Ennis and JT, Kirk & Junior and their six kids, and Jenny & her lover Sarah, all became a huge extended and close family traveling to, and celebrating every holiday, birthday and anniversary on the Twist Family Ranch together.
Eventually around the main house/office, a cluster of nice homes was built and ultimately the families all lived on the ranch on an internal private street they dubbed “Martha’s Circle.”
Ennis liked to call it his own private little "Southfork" after the "Dallas" TV show.
He entered his teens with the sexy build of a slender but muscular horseman tempered with athletic genes from his mother's side that earned him interstate championships on his high school swim team two years in a row, votes of most popular student and Junior Prom King. He would go on to letter on the swim, tennis, baseball and wrestling teams and was the captain of the swim team his sophomore and junior year.
Instead of the usual "fag" jokes around the locker room, his teammates were jealous of his two successful dads and were regular visitors to the ranch for parties and to ride the horses.
Needless to say, he had two very proud fathers.
With the help of one visionary man, Lightning Flat began coming back from the dead, with semi-annual horse shows and traffic coming through from a new expressway. Ennis once joked of renaming the town Monroeville.
Monroe proved his business savvy by buying out a block of abandoned adjoining ranches from the city of Moorcroft for back taxes owed, and then sold the combined land to an International Parcel Service for its new jet refueling hub's huge runway complex. Country roads were paved; businesses, apartment buildings and houses sprang up out of nowhere in (appropriately enough) lightning speed.
Monroe W. Monroe was appointed the first mayor of their newly invigorated town in 40 years, and Alma relished her new role as his first lady. His first act in office was to set tight city boundaries and to dub the outlying ranches around Lightning Flat as Twist Township.
What land he didn’t develop, he sold off at a profit and in no time was a millionaire twice over.
Back when it all started, Monroe took over 60 acres of an unused part of the Twist spread on the main road and opened a commercial office complex from which he ran his chain of businesses. The group of office buildings would eventually become "downtown" Lightning Flat.
Alma had never seen her husband so happy, traveling around the country offering amazing tax deals if corporations would move to Lightning Flat.
Unlike Jack and Lureen’s marriage, Monroe and Alma were equal partners and Ennis loved watching her live the life she deserved that he could never have given her.
Eventually she even warmed up to Ennis and Jack as a couple and more often than not was mothering JT as much as his fathers.
After Johnny-Jack said he preferred them, in the early 90's Ennis switched back to buying big Silverados, but never with the paint scheme that Jack Twist had.
When the professor retired in 1997 Laura, Dave and their four teenagers moved to the Twist Ranch’s main house, and while she helped run the day-to-day operations, Nails opened a successful Lightning Flat Dodge dealership from 25 acres of ranch land adjoining Monroe's, given to the couple as a Christmas present from the Twists.
Their kids that didn't work on the ranch all worked for one of the family businesses, and Ennis and Jack achieved their dream of being completely surrounded by love, family, kids and happiness.
Alma shocked the living hell out of Ennis one day in August by inviting him to a new bar in town that she'd invested in with Monroe. Her ex-husband nearly died laughing when he noticed that above the door was an enormous lit sign with JACK NASTY'S plastered across it.
Lightning Flat had its first gay cowboy bar with Jenny and her lover Sarah in charge of it!!!
Of course she laughingly had to explain what the name meant to a mystified Jack Aguirre-Twist…
The Twist Ranch began running classes in equestrian etiquette, riding and grooming, and the University of Wyoming even opened a branch school of veterinary medicine on a piece of donated land from Ennis and was dubbed the WSU-Twist Campus.
October 12, 1998 Ennis was shattered at the news of the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard; an innocent young college student from Laramie, Wyoming whose only crime was being gay. For that he was kidnapped, brutally tortured and then left to die all alone tied to a deer fence, just like Rich was so many years ago.
Ennis’ temper boiled all night over the news and when he heard some religious asshole named Phelps planned a "God Hates Fags" rally at the funeral in front of the grieving parents, he and Jenny got a bunch of friends together and drove down to stage a counter protest.
When Ennis and Jack arrived, they heard that a group was going to dress up in giant white angel wings to hide the hate-filled picket signs, and the husbands contributed money to pay for the materials the huge wings were made of.
After the sad and snowy funeral Jenny and her friends headed north back home.
The husbands Twist stayed overnight in Laramie, and on a whim Ennis happily decided to drive Jack across state to show him his hometown. After first topping off both of their brand-new custom white 1999 Silverado’s fuel tanks and buying a good road map, they bought four funeral wreaths - two for Ennis' parents and one each for Earl and Rich.
Back in 1962 young Johnny-Jack had been confined to an after-care facility in physical therapy recovering from his suicide attempt on Brokeback when Sage met its fate, and so he had no idea either...
...Much later as the Shepard murder trial stretched on and both men plead guilty and testified against each other to avoid the death penalty, Phelps' hate group would reappear... and so would those angels...
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Important notice about this novel: This adaptation of the original short story was
written by Vernon "Jet" Gardner © 2005-2012 and contains enhanced versions of all of the original's events written by Annie Proulx, Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana in red/black/green.
All text in blue written by Vernon "Jet" Gardner published here ©2005-2013.
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