Bonnie and Clyde Slept Here
by Mike Cox
subset of Texas folklore has to do with outlaw
encounters in which the bad guy acts like a good guy, paying generously for food
(usually with stolen money) or despite their reputation as a killer letting someone
go unharmed. |
For a couple of generations of Texans, tales of close calls
with someone on the run from the law usually had to do with the train robber Sam
Bass, whose career ended in a hail of Texas Ranger gunfire at Round
Rock in July 1878.
Others talked or wrote about their brushes with
Wesley Hardin, Texas’ deadliest outlaw, prior to his bullet-punctuated demise
in an El Paso saloon
Then, in the depths of the Great Depression, came Bonnie Parker
and Clyde Barrow, better known simply as Bonnie
and Clyde. A small time Dallas thug
who hit the bit time when he turned cop killer, Barrow and his poetry-penning
gun moll traveled Texas and the Midwest in a new
Ford, robbing, killing and grabbing newspaper headlines.
If the couple
actually spent the night or camped out in every place people claimed they had,
they covered Texas more thoroughly than the Census
Wayland Crowley, an ex-patriot Texan who at last report lived in Marshalltown,
Iowa, tells a great “Bonnie and Clyde slept here” story in his self-published
2005 book “West Texas Tales: Stories About My Father.” |
was West Texas rancher Claude Raymond
Crowley (1908-1992), better known to his friends simply as C.R.
son told the story, on day in the early 1930s during their noon recess C.R. and
his brother Jerry rode their horse from school to nearby Royston for a cup of
coffee and piece of pie at Clark’s Café.
| While the boys savored
their not-so-healthy lunch, a deputy sheriff walked in. |
“Have you two
boys seen some outlaws camping out over here [as in that part of Fisher County]?”
Before C.R. and Jerry could say no, an older café patron allowed as how
he had heard someone report only the day before that they had seen some people
with a fancy car camping near Cedar Knob, a local landmark east of town that rose
over a watering hole that had been used by travelers since Indian times.
deputy thanked the man for the tip and said he’d go check it out, but when the
lawman sped off in a cloud of dust, Jerry noticed he was driving in the opposite
direction of Cedar Knob.
Seeing no need to go back to class that day,
C.R. and Jerry decided to investigate the report themselves. The two boys rode
to a point near the water hole, tied up their horse, and slipped down a gully
to a point where they could view the camping place.
Sure enough, they saw
two wall tents near the water source. A pot of coffee sat over a small fire. And
nearby was a new car.
As the boys took in the scene, wondering who the
strangers could be, a voice from behind said: “You boys stand up with your hands
in the air or I’ll blow your heads off. What are you two doing here?”
and Jerry turned to see a twisted-faced man holding a sawed-off 12-guage pump
Staring down the barrel of that scattergun, which looked as big
as a railroad tunnel, they hastily explained that they had heard some outlaws
were camping there and since they had never seen a real outlaw, they had come
to check it out.
As C.R. later told his son, the man said:
am a real outlaw. My name’s Raymond Hamilton and those two people down
[there] are Clyde
Barrow and Bonnie Parker. March on down to the fire and let’s talk to Clyde.”
Carrying an automatic rifle, a well-dressed young man readily identified
himself as Barrow. Bonnie, he said, was not feeling well and taking a nap in the
Barrow then explained the obvious. Now that the boys knew who he
was and where he was, if he let them go, they might be inclined to tell the authorities.
Of course, if they promised not to tell anyone…
The boys said they’d swear
on a Bible not to reveal what they knew. At that, C.R. told his son, Barrow laughed
and said no one had ever offered to swear on a Bible in his behalf.
boys go back home and never say a word or I will come back to find the both of
you. I hate squealers!”
C.R. and Jerry lived up to their promise. But
while they were safe from Bonnie
and Clyde, who got permanently blasted off the wanted posters by two former
Rangers and other lawmen in 1934, the boys did get in trouble for skipping school.
As punishment, their father sentenced them to a week of shoveling manure out of
Talk about shoveling manure.
The story, of course,
has more holes than Hamilton’s shotgun would have blown in a coffee can. C.R.
was born in 1908. That means he would have been well into his 20s when Bonnie
and Clyde were on the lam in Texas.
it makes for a good story, and it even has a moral: Don’t skip school.
"Texas Tales" July
23, 2009 column
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A definitive history
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