Hoping for the Faintest Smoke and Mountain Sage

“They were raised on small, poor ranches in opposite corners of the state, Jack Twist in Lightning Flat up on the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from around Sage, near the Utah line, both high school dropout country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoken, inured to the stoic life. Ennis, reared by his older brother and sister after their parents drove off the only curve on Dead Horse Road leaving them twenty-four dollars in cash and a two-mortgage ranch, applied at age fourteen for a hardship license that let him make the hour-long trip from the ranch to the high school. The pickup was old, no heater, one windshield wiper and bad tires; when the transmission went there was no money to fix it. He had wanted to be a sophomore, felt the word carried a kind of distinction, but the truck broke down short of it, pitching him directly into ranch work…”

 
 

 
 

“In 1963 when he met Jack Twist, Ennis was engaged to Alma Beers. Both Jack and Ennis claimed to be saving money for a small spread; in Ennis’s case that meant a tobacco can with two five-dollar bills inside. That spring, hungry for any job, each had signed up with Farm and Ranch Employment — they came together on paper as herder and camp tender for the same sheep operation north of Signal. The summer range lay above the tree line on Forest Service land on Brokeback Mountain. It would be Jack Twist’s second summer on the mountain, Ennis’s first. Neither of them was twenty…”

 
 

 
 

“It was big enough, warm enough, and in a little while they deepened their intimacy considerably. Ennis ran fullthrottle on all roads whether fence mending or money spending, and he wanted none of it when Jack seized his left hand and brought it to his erect cock. Ennis jerked his hand away as though he’d touched fire, got to his knees, unbuckled his belt, shoved his pants down, hauled Jack onto all fours and, with the help of the clear slick and a little spit, entered him, nothing he’d done before but no instruction manual needed. They went at it in silence except for a few sharp intakes of breath and Jack’s choked “gun’s goin off,” then out, down, and asleep.”

Ennis woke in red dawn with his pants around his knees, a top-grade headache, and Jack butted against him; without saying anything about it both knew how it would go for the rest of the summer, sheep be damned. As it did go. They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word except once Ennis said, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours.”

 
 

 
 

“At the north end of the closet a tiny jog in the wall made a slight hiding place and here, stiff with long suspension from a nail, hung a shirt. He lifted it off the nail. Jack’s old shirt from Brokeback days. The dried blood on the sleeve was his own blood, a gushing nosebleed on the last afternoon on the mountain when Jack, in their contortionistic grappling and wrestling, had slammed Ennis’s nose hard with his knee. He had staunched the blood which was everywhere, all over both of them, with his shirtsleeve, but the staunching hadn’t held because Ennis had suddenly swung from the deck and laid the ministering angel out in the wild columbine, wings folded. The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack’s sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he’d thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack’s own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.

 
 

 
 

“The shirt seemed heavy until he saw there was another shirt inside it, the sleeves carefully worked down inside Jack’s sleeves. It was his own plaid shirt, lost, he’d thought, long ago in some damn laundry, his dirty shirt, the pocket ripped, buttons missing, stolen by Jack and hidden here inside Jack’s own shirt, the pair like two skins, one inside the other, two in one. He pressed his face into the fabric and breathed in slowly through his mouth and nose, hoping for the faintest smoke and mountain sage and salty sweet stink of Jack but there was no real scent, only the memory of it, the imagined power of Brokeback Mountain of which nothing was left but what he held in his hands.”

 
 

 
 

“Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminum door and window frames. The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft. He gets up, scratching the grey wedge of belly and pubic hair, shuffles to the gas burner, pours leftover coffee in a chipped enamel pan; the flame swathes it in blue. He turns on the tap and urinates in the sink, pulls on his shirt and jeans, his worn boots, stamping the heels against the floor to get them full on. The wind booms down the curved length of the trailer and under its roaring passage he can hear the scratching of fine gravel and sand. It could be bad on the highway with the horse trailer. He has to be packed and away from the place that morning. Again the ranch is on the market and they’ve shipped out the last of the horses, paid everybody off the day before, the owner saying, “Give em to the real estate shark, I’m out a here,” dropping the keys in Ennis’s hand. He might have to stay with his married daughter until he picks up another job, yet he is suffused with a sense of pleasure because Jack Twist was in his dream…”

 
 

 
 

“When it (the postcard) came — thirty cents — he pinned it up in his trailer, brass-headed tack in each corner. Below it he drove a nail and on the nail he hung the wire hanger and the two old shirts suspended from it. He stepped back and looked at the ensemble through a few stinging tears. “Jack, I swear — “ he said, though Jack had never asked him to swear anything and was himself not the swearing kind. Around that time Jack began to appear in his dreams, Jack as he had first seen him, curly-headed and smiling and bucktoothed, talking about getting up off his pockets and into the control zone, but the can of beans with the spoon handle jutting out and balanced on the log was there as well, in a cartoon shape and lurid colors that gave the dreams a flavor of comic obscenity. The spoon handle was the kind that could be used as a tire iron. And he would wake sometimes in grief, sometimes with the old sense of joy and release; the pillow sometimes wet, sometimes the sheets. There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.”

 
 

In the film’s heart-wrenching final scene, as Gustavo Santaolalla’s strings play one of the saddest slow crescendos on record, Ennis is by himself in his trailer, with the life he chose not to live represented by two blood-stained shirts and a faded picture of Brokeback Mountain hanging on his closet door. Outside, out of his reach, lies a patch of green grass.

 
 

Excerpts from Annie Proulx’s short story

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A Wyoming Story

Close Range: Wyoming Stories. (Scribner, 1999). Hardcover of the first edition. It is the second story collection by the author of The Shipping News. Includes watercolors by William Matthews and it’s signed by both Proulx and Matthews on the title page.

 
 

Brokeback Mountain is a short story by American author Annie Proulx. It was originally published in The New Yorker on October 13, 1997, and was subsequently published in a slightly expanded version in Proulx’s 1999 collection of short stories, Close Range: Wyoming Stories. The story won an O. Henry Award prize (third place) in 1998. The New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for Fiction for its publication of Brokeback Mountain in 1998. The collection was named a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana adapted the story for the film of the same name, released in 2005. At that time, the short story and the screenplay were published together, along with essays by Proulx and the screenwriters, in Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay. The story was also published separately in book form.

 
 

Still from Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

 
 

Two young men who meet in Wyoming in 1963 forge a sudden emotional and sexual attachment, but soon part ways. As their separate lives play out with marriages, children and jobs, they reunite for brief liaisons on camping trips in remote settings over the course of the next 20 years.

Brokeback Mountain is a story told by an omniscient narrator. The narrative is realistic in tone and employs description, metaphor and dialogue to examine the actions, thoughts, emotions, and motivations of its main characters.

The narrative is mostly linear; the story describes events in sequence from a beginning point in time, the year 1963 when the characters are introduced, to the end of the story some 20 years later. Other than the title location, the settings are actual locations in the United States, and the characters are described as real people living in a specific milieu. The story adheres to conventions of modern dramatic fiction; its literary devices serve to present a portrait of recognizable people in familiar situations, without supernatural or metaphysical allusions (while other of the Wyoming Stories do include passages of magical realism).

The story is an episodic examination of conflicts arising from the characters’ interaction with each other and other people in their lives. The story condenses passing years and significant events into brief passages, and employs dialogue to reveal character and conflict:

 
 

They never talked about the sex, let it happen, at first only in the tent at night, then in the full daylight with the hot sun striking down, and at evening in the fire glow, quick, rough, laughing and snorting, no lack of noises, but saying not a goddamn word except once Ennis said, “I’m not no queer,” and Jack jumped in with “Me neither. A one shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours.”

 
 

According to Proulx, her inspiration for the characters did not come from real life, though she mentioned one incident in which she noticed a middle-aged man in a bar, who appeared to be watching only the men playing pool, which led her to consider the life of a typical western ranch hand who might be gay. Regarding the setting, Proulx stated:

 
 

“ Rural North America, regional cultures, the images of an ideal and seemingly attainable world the characters cherish in their long views despite the rigid and difficult circumstances of their place and time interest me and are what I write about. I watch for the historical skew between what people have hoped for and who they thought they were and what befell them.”

 
 

About the story’s main characters, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, Proulx said they affected her long after the story was published, and the film version rekindled her feelings for them — an attachment that she had previously rejected. In an interview in The Missouri Review, Proulx called the notion of falling in love with fictional characters “repugnant”.

 
 

Heath Ledger (Ennis Del Mar) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist)

 
 

Proulx has praised the faithfulness of the adaptation of her story into a feature film. Before the movie was made, she called McMurtry and Ossana’s adaptation “an exceptionally fine screenplay.” Later, she praised the film as “huge and powerful,” writing that she was “knocked for a loop” when she first saw it.

“ I may be the first writer in America to have a piece of writing make its way to the screen whole and entire,” she said. “And, when I saw the film for the first time, I was astonished that the characters of Jack and Ennis came surging into my mind again… ”

Nearly all of the dialogue and descriptions from the original story were included in the screenplay. Few major differences have been noted. Most of the changes involve expansion, with brief mentions of the character’s marriages in the story becoming scenes of domestic life in the film. The narrative sequence is nearly identical in story and film: both begin with Jack and Ennis meeting in 1963 and end with a scene of Ennis 20 years later. One example of adaptation of the story’s dramatic arc arises from a significant memory (of the men embracing by a campfire): it appears in the film as a flashback in the same sequence as Jack recalls it in the story.

Before Ang Lee‘s adaptation, Gus Van Sant had wished to make an adaptation starring Matt Damon and Joaquin Phoenix. Among the reasons it never made it to production included Damon’s refusal to make a “gay-cowboy movie” immediately after starring in a “gay movie” (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Anthony Minghella, 1999) and a “cowboy movie” (All the Pretty Horses, Billy Bob Thornton, 2000). Damon later named Brokeback Mountain as the “movie [he] didn’t do that [he wishes he] had.”

Star-Crossed Lovers

Poster designs by BLT Communications, LLC. BLT is an independently owned advertising agency founded in 1992.

 
 

For the Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) movie poster, the film’s producer James Schamus wanted to emulate the one-sheet for the biggest film of all time, the Titanic (James Cameron, 1997) movie poster. For that reason they similarly used the theme of star-crossed lovers.

When it came time to design the poster for the film, Schamus didn’t research posters of famous Westerns for ideas. He looked at the posters of the 50 most romantic movies ever made. “If you look at our poster,” he said, “you can see traces of our inspiration, ‘Titanic’.”

Like Father… (Artists)

English author, critic and mountaineer Leslie Stephen and Virginia Woolf

 
 

Painter Lucian Freud with his daughter, fashion designer Bella Freud

 
 

Gerolamo “Gimmo” Etro, the brand’s founder and his four children: Jacopo (manages textiles, leather goods and the home collections), Kean (is responsible for the menswear collections) , Ippolito (the CEO) and Veronica (is responsible for the women’s collections).

 
 

Gabriel García Márquez, his wife Mercedes Barcha, alongside their sons Rodrigo (screenwriter, television and film director) and Gonzalo (graphic designer)

 
 

Spanish fashion designer Adolfo Dominguez and two of her three daughters

 
 

Tommy Hilfiger and His son Richard, a rapper who is known as Ricky Hil

 
 

Alex Bolen, her wife Eliza Bolen, Oscar de la Renta’s step-daughter, and Moisés de la Renta

 
 

Jerry Hall, Oscar De la Renta and his adopted child Moisés, who debuted his very first collection (a limited edition T-shirt line called MDLR for a Spanish chain) in 2010

 
 

Ralph Lauren, his wife Ricky and their children Andrew (film producer and actor), David (Senior Vice President, Advertising, Marketing and Corporate Communications at Polo Ralph Lauren) and Dylan (owner of Dylan’s Candy Bar, which claims to be the largest candy store in the world, based in New York City)

 
 

Pablo and Paloma Picasso

 
 

John and Anjelica Huston

 
 

Henry Fonda with his children Peter and Jane

 
 

Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia and Roman

 
 

Alain Delon and Anthony

 
 

Vincente Minelli and Liza. Photo: Bob Willoughby

 
 

Mel Ferrer with Audrey Hepburn Holding Newborn Sean

 
 

Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville and Patricia

 
 

Kelly Curtis, Jamie Leigh Curtis, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh

 
 

de niro and his father Robert De Niro Sr. (painter) and Robert De Niro Jr.(actor)

 
 

Jaime Haven Voight, Angelina Jolie, and Jon Voight. Photo: Ron Galella

 
 

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and their blended family

 
 

Steve McQueen, Neile Adams, Terry Leslie and Chad

 
 

Jean Paul Belmondo and Patricia

 
 

Heath Ledger and Matilda