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
in July 1878.
Others talked or wrote about their brushes with John
Wesley Hardin, Texas’ deadliest outlaw, prior to his bullet-punctuated
demise in an El
Paso saloon in 1895.
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
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 Bureau.
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.”
His father was West Texas
rancher Claude Raymond Crowley (1908-1992), better known to his friends
simply as C.R.
As the 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
| 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.
The 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?”
C.R. and Jerry turned to see a twisted-faced man holding a sawed-off
12-guage pump shotgun.
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:
“I 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 tent.
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.
“You 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
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 their barn.
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.
Still, it makes for a good story, and it even has a moral: Don’t skip
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" July
23, 2009 column