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January 26, 2006



I also loved the story and the entire collection of short stories it appears in (Wyoming Stories Volume 1, and by the way Wyoming Stories Volume 2 is for some reason nowhere near as good and has such ridiculous character names I'm convinced Proulx was sued between volumes by some real-life Jack Twist).
The story is great and the film is an accurate, although "filled out" to make it full-length, rendering of it. The characters are so believable and inspire such empathy I think (and sincerely hope) it will represent a big step forward for the acceptance of gays.


I downloaded the audio book from iTunes. I couldn't find it at the bookstore either. The audio book is read by Campbell Scott, so it's pretty decent and I think I only paid $4.95 so


I haven't read the story, but my take was that Jack's death wasn't accidental. I saw it as Jack's wife telling the version of his death the family chose to perpetuate, but Ennis knew what it really meant.


I bought a book that contains the story, the screenplay, and essays by Proulx and screenwriters Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana.

*From the story:

Ennis didn't know about the accident for months until his postcard to Jack saying that November still looked like the first chance came back stamped DECEASED. He called Jack's number in Childress, something he had done only once before when Alma divorced him and Jack had misunderstood the reason for the call, had driven twelve hundred miles north for nothing. This would be all right, Jack would answer, had to answer. But he did not. It was Lureen and she said who? who is this? and when he told her again she said in a level voice yes, Jack was pumping up a flat on the truck out on a back road when the tire blew up. The bead was damaged somehow and the force of the explosion slammed the rim into his face, broke his nose and jaw and knocked him unconscious on his back. By the time someone came long he had drowned in his own blood.
No, he thought, they got him with the tire iron.
"Jack used to mention you," she said, "You're the fishing buddy or the hunting buddy, I know that. Would have let you know," she said, "but I wasn't sure about your name and address. Jack kept most a his friends' addresses in his head. It was a terrible thing. He was only thirty-nine years old."
The huge sadness of the northern plains rolled down on him. He didn't know which way it was, the tire iron or a real accident, blood choking down Jack's throat and nobody to turn him over.

*Then later, when Ennis goes to see Jack's parents:

The old man spoke angrily. "I can't get no help out here. Jack used a say 'Ennis del Mar,' he used a say, 'I'm goin a bring him up here one a these days and we'll lick this damn ranch into shape.' He had some half-baked idea the two a you was goin a move up here, build a log cabin and help me run this ranch and bring it up. Then, this spring he's got another one's goin a come up here with him and build a place and help run the ranch, some ranch neighbor a his from down in Texas. he's goin a split up with his wife and come back here. So he says. But like most a Jack's ideas it never come to pass."
So now he knew it had been the tire iron.

*And from the screenplay, after Lureen tells Ennis what happened:


WE'VE left LUREEN, and the screen holds only ENNIS.

ENNIS can't answer right away. He wonders, suddenly if it was the tire iron:



A FLASH--JUST A SECOND OR TWO--ENNIS and WE SEE, in the evening shadows, a MAN being beaten unmercifully by THREE ASSAILANTS, one of whom uses a tire iron.



The huge sadness of the northern plains rolls down upon ENNIS. He doesn't know which way it was, the tire iron --or a real accident, blood choking down JACK's throat and nobody to turn him over.

*So it appears that it was deliberately left ambiguous in both the story and the film. Someone else said to me, "I still do think though that Jack's death was an accident but that Ennis is unable to believe it. I think he actually NEEDS to believe that it was the tire iron -- otherwise he gave up his love for no real reason." I think that hits the nail on the head!

Trevor Martin

I am quite sure that Jack died in an accident.
Proulx as the author states unambiguously in the short story: "Ennis didn't know about the accident until six months after ...."

All future references to the murder idea are from Ennis's point of view. All of this is in Ennis's mind and this is underscored earlier when Ennis tells Jack that if this 'thing' gets them at the wrong place or the wrong time they are 'dead'

Absoloutely no evidence in the story that Jack was murdered.

if an author states "Jill went up the hill and accidentally fell down" then this is exactly what happened to Jill.

If an author subsequently writes "Jack knew that someone had pushed her" then we know that Jack is wrong.

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