He’d spotted it around town and sometimes in a field on a low hill across the street from the BULLS-HIT bar just outside of Houston. He’d check on it every day after the rodeo that he was currently competing in let out, but never seemed to catch the owner. This time the windows were rolled down, so he decided to wait to see who showed.
Compared to his own "pickup bitch," which was five years older, he figured this one had a few hundred more miles left in it than his own did; maybe even a thousand. The thing was caked with dust, which was unusual for someone trying to sell something. About the only conclusion he could come up with was that the dirt probablyhid more rust than it revealed.
After about half an hour of waiting, he climbed up on the driver’s side bedrail, leaned his back against the cab and crossed his feet on the fender skirt.
As the bright sun started creeping towards evening, he pulled his jacket closer and buttoned it up as the breeze began to chill.
Across the way, a tall trim muscular man in his late twenties came out of a black tavern door that had a life-sized shapely pink silhouette of a naked girl painted on it. He looked both ways for traffic and limped across the street towards Jack. Reaching this side of the road, he paused to size up the smartass fool that had the nerve to park his scrawny ass on the man's truck and moved forward towards Twist.
The stranger’s face was handsome in a sort of Native American way. A loosely woven straw cowboy hat covered long braided straight black hair that trailed down the back of his leather jacket in a single thick ponytail almost to his hips. He had a full noble nose parked above lips that seemed to be deciding between a friendly smile or a threatening scowl.
Their eyes met and Jack jumped down to meet him halfway.
Glancing down at his left foot, he asked, "You okay?"
"Rodeoin’," he muttered.
Twist grinned, "Me too!," and extended his open hand. "Jack Twist," he added, "Lighting Flat, Wyoming."
The big man smiled, "Gene Autry; Riverton, Wyoming…" he replied shaking hands. To Jack’s raised eyebrows, he added, "And no; I ain’t related to the singer."
The man gave off mixed signals; he seemed to make friends easily, but there was a dangerous side to him that made you leery of ever coming up against him in a bar brawl; even with his gimp leg.
Gesturing behind himself, Jack asked, "How much ya askin’?"
Autry wordlessly hobbled past him, opened the door and sat down in it without pulling his legs in, wincing as he kneaded his left ankle. Looking up he answered, "Four hundred."
Twist blinked at that and frowned. Looking it over quickly again, he replied, "At the risk of screwin’ myself out of a good deal, friend; you could probably get a lot more’n that out of it."
To Gene’s amused smile, Jack gestured toward the front and asked, "Ya mind?"
"Be my guest."
Jack raised the hood and found a relatively clean bone stock in-line 6. Checking further revealed no oil leaks at the valve cover or off the pan. No carbon around the manifold either.
Dropping the hood loudly back into place, he detoured around the other side taking a second look. The lights were all there; the fenders looked straight so no frame damage from whatever dented it.
He gradually came back around to the open door.
To Jack’s mystified frown, Gene explained, "I’m leaving town tomorrow so I’m looking for a quick sale. My father’s buying a new Chevy pickup. He wrote 'n said I could have his three-year-old one if I wanted it, otherwise he’s using it as a trade-in day after tomorrow." He shrugged and added, "Rather than leave my baby here abandoned on the side of the road, I’m selling it for train fare and expenses to up north."
Twist skeptically asked, "Why don’t ya just drive yerself up, won’t it make it?"
Autry looked pointedly down at his ankle, "She’s got a brand new and very stiff bitch of a clutch."
Twist nodded realizing.
"I’ve been a’fixin' her up since I got her. She’s mechanically sound 'n just needs a few things like mirrors, another door, a radio, seat covers 'n a paint job.
Jack nodded, considering, and then dug a wad of bills out of his jeans to show the man he was serious.
"One condition," the handsome Indian said.
Distracted, Jack met his eyes and thought to himself, "Here it comes."
"I’m asleepin' in it tonight so I gotta keep it till tomorrow… 'n because it’s such a good deal, ya have to drive me to the train depot in the morning."
Jack smiled, handed him a hundred in twenties in good faith, shoved the rest of his money back in his jeans, and offered his fist, "Deal. I’ll see ya right here early tomorrow morning with a ride 'n the rest."
They shook hands and Jack turned to leave. As he began walking away a cold breeze chilled him. Something the handsome Indian said when they first met bothered him, but he couldn’t remember what.
He’d made it almost to the road and turned tail back to the truck.
Reaching the man, he asked, "Where’d ya say you were from?"
"Might’n ya know a guy name of Ennis del Mar?"
Surprised eyebrows shot up, "About 21-22 there-abouts, dirty blond hair, dating a homely chick named Alma, don't say much ‘less he knows ya good?"
Twist nodded getting excited.
"He lives over a bar I useta go to a lot. We useta play poker 'n drink 2-3 times a week," he added. "How do you know ‘im?"
After quickly explaining about them working together up on Brokeback and finding out that Ennis was still strapped for cash without a car or a job, Twist came up with a plan.
"Follow me in yer truck."
Gene trailed Jack all the way to the train station, watched him lock his pickup in the parking lot and then came up to his door, opened it and said, "Slide over partner; I reckon I’m a drivin’."
To Autry’s puzzled frown, he explained, "Ya ever do somethin’ fer a someone, just fer the sake a doin’ somethin’ nice ‘n not wantin’ nothin' in return?"
The Indian nodded to Jack, who was busy concentrating on the road while trying to figure how much give he had in a very very tight budget.
He was flat broke, but still devoted to Ennis and would do anything to help… including spending nearly every last dime he had.
Twist dug another two hundred dollars out of his jeans before he could change his mind and handed it to his new friend.
On the way north after stopping for supplies, supper and gas, Jack made a new deal as they drove on through the night.
For three hundred, he’d buy the truck. Of the remaining hundred, $75 would go towards Gene’s poker antes and the rest would partly go towards train fare for Jack back down to Houston.
Just to be clear, Twist explained that he was now buying the truck not for himself, but for Ennis, only del Mar wasn’t to know about it; instead Gene would lose it to him by throwing a high stakes game of poker where Autry would get in over his head and put up the pink slip on his truck.
Gene happily nodded understanding what a wonderful thing Jack was doing for his friend, but he insisted that they split the remaining hundred so Autry would feel like he was going in on the gift too.
Jack told his new buddy about Ennis’ reaction to him trying to loan him money the last day they were on the mountain.
Autry agreed to keep his – now their - secret and grinned to himself and at Jack for about the next twenty minutes of traveling the dark highway north.
To Jack’s mind, everyone won. Autry got the money for his truck, plus getting his daddy’s used Chevy pickup free.
Ennis would get something that he could fix up to drive around in and keep his pride.
It’d take Twist months to recover financially, but that was the last thing on his mind right now.
Autry pondered the scheme for a while and objected, "Only one little problem with that plan o’yer’s."
"Yeah; What’s that?"
"Ennis knows I’m a damned good hand at poker."
Jack nodded, "I’m a countin’ on that, ‘cause you gotta overplay everyone off and away from that table exceptin' Ennis, whilst still lettin’ him win enough not to get suspicious…
He entered the tavern via its back door and was immediately hit with a wall of loud cowboy tunes and cheap cigarette smoke.
He greeted his tall old buddy with a very rare grin and a slap of shoulders, then took a seat with nine other men waiting at a big stained bright green felt-topped poker table and called the barman over to buy some gambling chips.
As usual the guys who wanted to play blackjack were overruled.
Betsy’s on E. Monroe Avenue was a typical cheerful dimly lit hole-in-the-wall joint on a Friday night. It had all the usual obligatory western tavern features; old pickup trucks lining the street out front, a half-drunk singing cowboy at a dark table wedged between the pinball machines and a jukebox blaring country ditties.
Below-average women with over-the-top over-curled hair, over stuffed bras and overdone makeup haunted below-average middle-aged cowboys with socks uncomfortably crammed in the front of their underwear crotches and too much cologne, bouncing cue sticks on the worn wood-plank floor to the beat.
Every single one of the men bragged about how they thought they had more of a chance with the girls than anyone else. In turns, they clumsily attempted trick-shots at the billiards tables and held brown glass bottles whilst burping out the melody of whatever tune was blaring out of the overhead speakers and laughing at themselves.
Neon beer signs glowed everywhere while a friendly barkeep with a handlebar mustache served watered drinks while watching/refereeing an ongoing poker game that by now was in full swing in the far corner. This was a mid-month Friday payday, so money was flowing more than usual and he'd have to play close attention for cheats and thieves.
A fat bouncer/doorman was usually brought in for such occasions and most of the cowboys laughed when the young man tried out his "tough" looks on them.
A lone chatty blond cowgirl waitress with the usual blond cowgirl smile and the usual cowgirl hat, wove through the room wearing shorter-than-short cowgirl denim "Daisy-Maes" revealing too much of a young average cowgirl ass, and sported an unbuttoned tight white cowgirl top barely tied together beneath an ample blond cowgirl bosom designed to earn her better tips from the usual horny flirtatious cowboy patrons who usually didn’t stand a chance with her.
She had a habit of usually bending over low while delivering the usual pretzels, chips and drinks to the usual tables.
As things progressed the women grew surer that they were getting sexier with each succeeding cocktail.
With each beer that was downed the men got bolder and thought themselves more and more irresistible to the girls.
The singing cowboy eventually began running low on coins after about three hours, and had by then played all of his favorite songs at least twice and now had resorted to less popular B-sides; much to the chagrin of the regular patrons.
As the night wore on, the cigarette haze began building under the imitation stained glass lights hanging over the two pool tables, while the drunks got drunker and pissed off voices got louder at the over-sized poker table.
Flirting couples talked over the thunderous music and shuffled in and out of worn and stained imitation cowhide booths to writhe clumsily together on the dance floor.
After a while, the singing cowboy finished his chore of dutifully caterwauling the wrong slurred lyrics to entertain what he thought was his regular audience. He gave up feeding coins into the jukebox and eventually fell asleep at his table under his black hat amongst six empty beer mugs and a half consumed bowl of pretzels.
The bartender glanced up at the big Budweiser clock and yelled out, "Last call!"
After tallying her take for the night, the blond cowgirl waitress blew a big exaggerated blond cowgirl kiss to everyone and left; her cowgirl hips swaying a blond cowgirl goodbye.
One by one the cowpoke poker players folded their hands in disgust and got up to watch in hushed whispers over the shoulders of the two left sitting at the table.
One player was a decent looking careworn blond guy under a tan cowboy hat, with an impressive pile of chips in front of him. He'd had a couple too many beers but he didn’t care unless he later stumbled on the steps outside on the way upstairs to his fleabag apartment.
Ennis, who was usually a very quiet soul, spent the night bragging to his old friend the Indian across the table about how he was "final-lally... ally" going to clean him out for his change, uh no… for a change.
He’d just raised Gene Autry more than the handsome Ute had in chips and smiled at the jackpot in the middle of the table like a cat eyeing a canary.
The big man looked over-assured and pulled out a folded piece of paper, calling the bartender over to hand the title for his old truck to him in exchange for a hard-negotiated $400 in chips.
Unphased and in half-drunken overconfidence, del Mar raised everything he had, $417, saying, "All in, Bud," and the Indian angrily cussed to himself for a long minute and then folded three jacks, demanding to know what Ennis held that would make an unemployed ranch hand so bold.
Ennis flipped three cards on top of the kitty one at a time… a deuce of spades, a deuce of hearts, and a deuce of diamonds.
The table flipped spilling pretzels, drinks and chips everywhere as one man jumped the other. After a brief flurry of fists and yelled accusations, the other men broke up the fight.
The bartender cashed in the chips, paid del Mar enough to pay six more month's rent with money left over for supplies (and now gas,) and declared loudly that the cowboy had won it fair and square to cheers of everyone present for their underdog.
Ennis tipped the barman $20... a more than generous amount in those days, while Autry reluctantly signed over the title, handed over the key, and described the truck.
The young bouncer made an angry Gene wait while he ushered the loud and cheering crowd out, pushing hero Ennis with them to the curb to claim his prize conveniently parked right at the front door.
Now that the two were alone, Autry gladly shook the barman’s hand and thanked him, explaining what had actually just happened, gesturing over towards the pinball machines.
From the dark corner next to the jukebox, the drowsy cowboy woke up, burped loudly from all the warm ginger ale in beer mugs that he’d been drinking all night, looked around, walked over to the Indian and gave him a big bear hug.
After being introduced, Jack Twist reached over, shook the bartender’s hand and thanked him too.
Looking into Gene's eyes, he said with a grateful grin, "Yer my kind of Indian giver," and slapped his shoulder with the palm of his hand.
Hating to have to go, Twist looked down and said, "Well I hate for this to end, but I got a train to catch."
Autry tossed him a set of keys and said. "I got other business to transact. Be right with ya."
Jack shrugged and after making sure Ennis had already taken his new truck and pulled it out back, he left alone and began walking east.
From somewhere out behind the old building came the unmistakable voice of Ennis del Mar screaming, "Yahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-hoooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! at the top of his lungs.
Smiling to himself as he walked the block and a half down East Monroe to Autry's pa's truck, he got in on the passenger side, sat to wait for his buddy and began crying from the sound of Ennis' joy.
Five minutes later the Indian came down the sidewalk and got in, grabbed the key from Twist and started up the motor, getting the heater going. "Did ya hear 'im?"
Jack burst out laughing, "I think all of Riverton; hell all of Wyoming; no all of tarnation heard that boy!"
They drove off into the night towards the train station in silence.
In the depot parking lot, Jacked jumped out muttering his thanks, and Autry quickly limped after him, leaving the motor running.
A few paces away, the tall Ute tugged on Jack's arm to stop him before Twist went in to buy a ticket.
Standing there in the dark, Autry said, "Ya recollect how ya said you was countin' on my expertise as a poker player; right?"
Twist frowned and nodded, "Right."
Gene dug a thick wad of greenbacks out of his pocket, split it into what he figured was about half, and pushed the rest into Jack's hand.
Jack scowled at it and opened his mouth to ask... but was interrupted by the big man who warned, "Shut up and put it in yer pocket - Now!"
While Twist quickly complied, Autry explained, "For hours, every hand I won; I harvested fifty bucks in chips all night long into my pocket. By the time we got to the last hand, the only money left in the pot was from them nine other guys who lost their shirts. By doin' that Ennis consistently had more money than me on the table, 'n that's how he was able to out raise my last hand."
Jack's eyes widened and his face grew a huge grin causing the big handsome Indian to laugh at him.
..."After ya left, I cashed in all them chips."
With a knowing grin, Autry added, "Now who says no good deed goes unpunished?" then pushed Twist towards the front doors of the station with a warning not to thank him.
Jack watched a real man among men drive out of the parking lot, and then he strolled grinning and shaking his head into the warm lobby.
At the ticket teller's cage, he paid his fare back to Houston with what little money he had left in his wallet.
The spare cash his new hero'd given him was probably enough to buy a tank of gas and a good meal once he got home and he was grateful for it.
Sitting down with a groan, he prepared to wait about an hour for the train and curiously pulled the wad Autry'd given him from his jeans...
His jaw dropped after counting out $625... he counted it again in awe... yep; $625.
One afternoon after a successful day, he stayed to watch her go through her paces, retrieving her hat afterward when it’d blown off as she passed him on horseback.
She returned his flirting grin.
Five minutes later one of the bullriders gave him the very same seductive look and for a moment his breath left his lungs.
He spotted her again across a crowded dance floor in the local tavern that evening while celebrating a shiny new first-prize belt buckle in his event. After catching her looking at him a couple of times, he turned to the barkeep to ask about her and was told that she had an expensive horse, an expensive car and cheap tastes in men, fortunately for him. He also learned that her daddy L.D. Newsome Jr. was rich and sold expensive farm equipment.
Just then the bullrider that had caught Jack’s eye earlier sauntered up to shake his hand and offered to buy him a drink.
In the midst of trying to decide which held the most promise of getting into his bed that night, she strolled over and startled Twist along with half the people in the tavern by loudly yelling over the jukebox, "Hey Cowboy, what are you waitin' for - a matin' call'r somethin'?"
The muscular rodeo stranger shrugged, let go of Jack’s hand reluctantly and headed towards the billiards table.
He married her the following month after finding out he’d gotten her pregnant in the back of her father’s new Thunderbird that night. Lureen Newsome’s daddy did indeed own a company that sold very pricey farm equipment.
It gave him pause when he found out her grandfather used to be some kind of traveling preacher, but he’d passed away several years ago, so he didn’t give it a second thought.
A couple of months later he found out Lureen wasn't really pregnant and was furious. He spent more and more time out on the rodeo circuit and seriously considered leaving her after being tricked into the marriage.
L.D. started hinting around that she should divorce him on the grounds of abandonment. Instead, she traveled out to her husband, and then joined him on the rodeo circuit continuing her barrel racing. Both delighted in how infuriated her father was at the turn of events.
In January of 1965 Jack Twist got notice that he’d been drafted just after his 21st birthday. Newsome said he had political contacts that’d help his son-in-law avoid winding up in Vietnam. He promised his daughter he’d try.
Senior never lifted a finger; the best thing that could happen would be for his little girl to be widowed overseas by that loser. L.D. was secretly real pleased to potentially have a dead war hero in the family and immediately bought a large life insurance policy on his son-in-law... with himself as the beneficiary.
Jack reported to the draft board for his physical and failed because of the rodeo injuries to his back. Of course, Deke took credit for keeping him out of the war, but a more resentful tone crept into his voice whenever he called him "Rodeo" from then on.
In late 1966 Lureen was pregnant for real and moved in with her parents while Jack tried to support her on what he earned in prize money.
In the late spring of 1967 Jack was out rodeoing when the baby was born. It was an unnamed boy, and Lureen's father fell madly in love, bragging that the infant looked just like his grandpa.
Weeks later, his son would've been hastily christened Lucas Deke Newsome Twist III before Jack returned, if Twist hadn't been injured and come home two days early.
He angrily informed the preacher that his son was to be baptized Ennis Jonathan Twist. After compromising in outraged hushed tones with Lureen at the back of the church, Jack decided that a suitable alternate would be to name his son after one of his heroes… Bobby Kennedy. His son was dubbed Robert Lucas Newsome Twist on his birth certificate...
...L.D. defiantly added a "Sr." to the end of his name anyway.
Everyone called the old man "Deke" or L.D... He never let Jack feel comfortable calling him anything but Mr. Newsome.
Senior wasn’t too happy that Jack stayed out on the rodeo circuit for a couple of years after the marriage. After some prompting from his daughter, L.D. offered Twist a position selling expensive combines and tractors to rich farmers and ranch owners if he’d agree to quit bullriding.
As it turned out, the job kept him on the road as much as riding bulls ever did.
Twist instantly bought a new car for her that Lureen picked out, then he bought a big modern new house that his father-in-law co-signed the loan for and proclaimed it was the only place in all of Texas worthy of his little girl, and then reluctantly got used to her mother Fayette being around all the time - butting in and "making suggestions."
Within a week she'd chosen a gaudy dining room set with lavender chair backs and he had to put his foot down and assert his authority by refusing delivery when Lureen ordered a dark pink couch and chair for the living room.
Lureen’s nickname for Jack was "Rodeo" and he became comfortable with it until Deke started using it in an insulting tone as if it was the ultimate put-down.
Twist came home one day in July after a long trip to find his mother-in-law Fay and Lureen painting their bedroom pink.
L.D. came up behind and passed him in the doorway, ignoring him as he entered the room to pose in the middle of the floor.
Just as Jack was about to raise hell about her choice of color, Lureen grinned at her daddy and gushed, "Ain’t this the prettiest shade of pink ya ever did see?"
Newsome nodded approval before Jack could voice his objection.
Jack’s head dropped in resignation to stare at the floor as their infant started loudly screaming. It was then that he knew he’d never be happy here and started longing for what he’d shared with Ennis.
Twist wandered out to pull his pickup into the garage, only to find his spot next to Lureen's new Lincoln Continental was taken up by a car under an old heavy fabric tarp. Frowning at it, he discovered a beautifully preserved brown 1938 Packard deluxe coupe, probably stored there by his father-in-law.
Deke was implying in a not-so-subtle and lopsided way that there was no room for Jack in his own home.
The next day, he started making inquiries in Riverton, but only found that the del Mars had married and moved away a year or so ago but no one seemed to know where.
Jack became miserable living under his wife and father-in-law’s thumbs, despite the new modern home, a newer red company truck, a bigger new Cadillac for her, and the even larger salary.
With the increase in income came a way to "tune them out" when he was home; he became an audiophile, buying the latest stereo equipment and collecting record albums. By constantly having his headphones hooked up to his reel-to-reel tape deck in his den when he was home, he didn’t have to listen to his wife and mother-in-law plan out his life for him.
With the advent of the audiocassette, he began making homemade music tapes to listen to on the road and had a brand new player mounted in the dashboard of his truck, and carried another portable in with him to his sales office.
Three whole years had passed since the marriage and Jack’s parents never visited once; not for anniversaries, their grandson's birth, nor for his christening, because his father didn’t approve of his marrying out of their faith. Hell, his parent’s had changed denominations so many times he had no clue what religion they were anyway.
Jack still reluctantly drove north alone once or twice every year since 1964 to help out around his parent’s ranch after his mother would call and plead with him to.
Lureen and Martha would gab on the phone and exchange photos in the mail, but never met eye to eye.
He heard once that somehow L.D.'s preacher father knew Twist's dad when he was a rodeo champion years and years ago, but could never confirm the rumor.
L.D. no longer had any use for Jack now that he had a grandson. His attitude towards him at the office showed that he'd make life as miserable as he could for his son-in-law. Once he offered Twist $5,000 in severance pay if he'd leave the company and find another job, but it was obvious Deke meant if Jack left the marriage.
Without bothering to explain why, the cowboy stopped making love to his wife and moved into the spare bedroom. Hearing this news from his daughter, L.D. offered an even better deal to help Jack start a new life for himself if they separated, hinting he might foot the bill for the divorce if it came to that.
It was then that Jack started making regular business trips to a little town in Mexico just south of the border where he found men that reminded him of del Mar and were willing to fuck him all night… for a price.
The return trips to Texas were emotionally painful and he usually sulked the whole way over how much his life sucked without his true love and the lack of hope that he’d ever find him again after discovering that he went through with marrying Alma and they'd moved somewhere north.
Deke Newsome stopped doting on his grandson and started calling him Rodeo Jr. instead of just "Junior," and didn’t seem to visit as frequently as he used to after that.
Lureen began keeping the books for her father and became good at running the day-to-day operations of Newsome Farm Equipment Company.
Jack contented himself to drive around the surrounding states in his new red and white Ford pickup away from her. It was then that he came up with a long-shot idea of how to find Ennis using general delivery postcards and guessing at towns the handsome ranch hand might have moved to.
He used up a lot of postage on his Newsome expense account, but if it eventually paid off, it'd be worth it…
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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.
Reproduction in any form or use of unique characters is
forbidden without permission of the author.