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Bonnie and Clyde and Dallas


Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow somewhere in East Texas. The lived their short adult lives on the lam, sleeping in cars. (DPL)

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Ask the average person about Bonnie & Clyde and most likely, any information they supply will be from the ground breaking 1967 movie. So what's true, and what's fiction? Lemme fill you in.

West Dallas 'Hood
The Barrows, a share cropper family from Ellis County, Texas, moved to Dallas in 1921 when they could no longer eke a living off their farm. A very poor family, they didn't fare much better in West Dallas, an unincorporated area in the bottom lands of the Trinity river where they lived in a tent under a bridge in a free campground for a while.  Henry Barrow, Clyde's father, opened a small gas station with the proceeds he received from a lawsuit, and this became the Barrows' home.

Clyde (1909-1934) had already begun his less-than-stellar career as a petty criminal before he met Bonnie, having learned the "trade" from his brother Buck.  Bonnie Parker (1910-1934), whose family moved to Cement City (a company town close to West Dallas) from Rowena (Runnels County, Texas) after her father died, already owned a romantic past as well. She married Roy Thorton, another criminal, when she was only 16. When Bonnie met Clyde at a mutual friend's house (some sources say it was Bonnie's brother's house), Roy was doing time in prison.

Doin' Time
Clyde quickly followed him. Arrested while visiting Bonnie at her mother's house, Clyde was jailed in Waco for several burglaries. Clyde convinced Bonnie to steal a gun and without hesitation Bonnie complied, concealing the weapon under her dress during a jail house visit. Clyde made a break for it but the law soon caught up with Clyde. Sentenced to the Eastham Prison Farm near Huntsville for 14 years, he experienced such brutal treatment that his life changed forever. The prison was notorious for its ill treatment of prisoners. Assaulted by a large trustee whom Clyde later bludgeoned to death, Clyde asked another inmate to cut off two of his toes to avoid the back breaking labor that the prison forced him to do. He was transferred to the Walls Unit in Huntsville, where his brother Buck, who had turned himself in as a favor to his new wife, Blanche, was living. Within weeks, Clyde was paroled, as his mother had been working on an early release since his incarceration.

With the help of his family, Clyde tried to do good - even held a job- but with his prison record, he remained a constant target for the cops. Also, the experience in a hardened prison like Eastham had changed Clyde so much that he couldn't stand doing honest work. He decided to make crime his full-time occupation. He brought together several of his prison associates and West Dallas friends and together, with Bonnie, they formed the Barrow Gang. Several others joined in and dropped out as time went on (most notably Henry Methvin, whose father would help the Texas Rangers track Bonnie & Clyde). The gang had really only one goal in mind: to stage a raid on the despised Eastham Prison Farm. Bonnie became Clyde's constant companion, although she never really participated in the crimes. She lived with him in hideouts and later, after Clyde was wanted for murder, they lived in various stolen cars, constantly on the run. Bonnie wrote poetry to keep herself busy.

Family Life?
In 1933, Bonnie, Clyde, and W.D. Jones set up housekeeping in Joplin, Missouri when Clyde's brother Buck and his wife Blanche came to visit. Buck joined the gang , robbing banks and stores in the surrounding area. When the police caught up with them, a shootout ensued. The gang fled relatively unharmed, but two officers died. The lawmen found several vital pieces of evidence in the apartment, among them the famous photo of Bonnie smoking a cigar, gun in hand. She later told a kidnapped police officer that the picture had been taken as a joke.

That same year, as he drove another stolen car at break-neck speed across the Texas panhandle, Clyde didn't notice that a bridge over the Red River was out. The car plunged into a ditch. Bonnie suffered severe burns to her legs and sides. Devoted Clyde and Blanche took very good care of her, bandaging her legs and allowing her to rest at the Red Crown Tourist Camp in Platte City, Missouri. However, local law enforcement became suspicious of the group and quickly identified them as the Barrow Gang. A disastrous confrontation left the outlaws badly wounded, but they escaped. Clyde found a good hideout in Dexfield, Iowa. When a farmer notified the police about suspicious activity at the campsite, another gun battle took place. Although Bonnie & Clyde escaped, Buck and Blanche were caught. Buck died days later, and Blanche received a prison term because she refused to rat out her kin. W.D. Jones quickly fled from the gang, wanting no more of the lifestyle.

Fame and Death
Their plan to raid the prison farm was accomplished on January 16, 1934. During the siege, in which mounted guard Major Crowson was killed, Clyde freed his associates. Raymond and Clyde became bitter enemies, however, when Clyde accused Raymond of theft.  Both went their separate ways - Raymond later dying in the electric chair. The raid on the prison farm, coupled with the killing of two police officers in Grapevine on Easter Sunday, 1934, sealed the couple's fates.

On May 23, 1934, as Bonnie and Clyde drove down a dusty road outside of Gibsland, Louisiana, the laws ambushed them in a volley of gun fire that shot Bonnie & Clyde to pieces. The loud claps of gunfire awakened this sleepy area of lumberjacks and villages. Hundreds of people came out to see what had happened, and when the crowds realized that Bonnie and Clyde had been killed, they went a little frantic. The newspapers had made the couple out to be larger than life, but in death, they looked tiny and shattered. The death scene became a media circus, with souvenir hunters vying for pieces of the dead couple - including body parts. The "death car", a tan 1934 Ford, still held the pair as they were wheeled into town of Arcadia for the coroner to examine the bodies.  They were brought back home where their funerals were attended by hundreds of curious Dallasites. Bonnie had wanted to be buried next to Clyde but her mother refused. The run of the most romantic and dangerous of outlaws in American history finally ended.

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