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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Bonnie and Clyde
Slept Here

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
A 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 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 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 Bureau.
Don 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 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.

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 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 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 school.

© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales"
July 23, 2009 column

More on Bonnie and Clyde:

  • Driving Around with Bonnie and Clyde
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • Running with Bonnie and Clyde
  • My Life with Bonnie and Clyde
  • How Bonnie and Clyde Were Caught.
  • The day Doc Newton robbed Bonnie Parker's bank
  • Rowena Texas - Birthplace of Bonnie Parker
  • The "Red River Plunge" Bridge of Bonnie & Clyde
  • Bonnie Parker's Alma Mater
  • Ina Knowles Has a Brush With Bonnie and Clyde
  • A Lock of Bonnie Parker's Hair
  • Clyde Barrow’s Funeral

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