Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bonnie and Clyde's Louisiana connection

The infamous Bonnie and Clyde had a Louisiana connection. Although, the pair was originally from the Dallas, Texas area, they made several robbery sprees and had hideouts in Louisiana which is where they eventually met their end at the hands of Texas Rangers.

My mother remembers hearing stories as a child of how they had been reported to have been in the area of her hometown of Plain Dealing, Louisiana. My research revealed that the couple did in fact land in Plain Dealing on several occasions and had a hiding place for passing notes between themselves and other members of the Barrow gang.

My mother says that she heard the "Old folks" talk about how Bonnie and Clyde rode through Plain Dealing one day, and as they drove through town, they commenced to throwing money (bills)out of the window of their car. She was told that people was scrambling to pick it up since this occurred around 1933-1934 during the height of the Great Depression. My mom said that people talked about it for years. In fact, she said that one of my great grandpa's said he and several other negro men were standing around the vicinity of the present day Piggly Wiggley and they initially thought the money was counterfeit and once they picked it up and started comparing it to the few dollars they had between them, they confirmed it was real. One man went a step further and went into the Turnley store to buy something to see if any "eyebrows raised" and they took it with no problems.

Bonnie and Clyde met their actual demise in Gibsland, Louisiana after being tipped off by the father of one of the Barrow Gang.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were killed in their car on May 23, 1934 by 4 Texas officials and 2 local Louisiana officers at the tender ages of 23, and 24. There were 167 rounds fired into the vehicle they were driving and about 50 rounds that went into their bodies.

Years later, while plowing his field, one of my grandfather's friends found a bag of money that had been buried and turned it in to authorities.

Could that have belonged to Clyde? Very, possibly since we now know that he was in fact in that area.

As well, my mother shared that in the 1940's, my great-grandfather whom we called "Big Daddy" who was a sharecropper on the Old Bass Place in Plain Dealing, was awakened by the sound of shovels and men digging in the wee hours of the morning. As he peered through the curtain with the lights still out and he witnessed 4 men feverously digging on the side of the property with several lanterns and guns in hands. He related that the digging went on for about an hour until he heard one exclaim, "there it is!" He watched silently as they jointly lifted a big black steel trunk out of the ground. He continued to peer at them and saw them pry it open and to his amazement, they pulled out a LOT of money. He watched as they counted it out and divided it up amongst themselves. Once done they started filling the massive hole back with dirt but soon tired and abandoned that effort. The four climbed into 3
1940's style cars and sped off.

My great-grandpa waited until dawn and then went to alert the Sheriff who came with some other law enforcement officers and took down his story and surveyed the hole that resembled a freshly dug grave. My mother had stayed the night and although asleep at the time the actual event occurred, she did view the hole.

It was theorized by officials that the men were probably members of the Barrow gang that had been released from prison or some other ban2k robbers maybe Charlie Frazier or his crew who had robbed the Plain Dealing Bank some years earlier who had buried the money and come back for it. It is unknown whether anyone was ever apprehended but at that time, they were long gone.

In the case of Bonnie and Clyde, it was a tragic end to two young lives. However, their story though tragic and violent serves as a lesson for future generations of right and wrong and illustrates the hard lessons learned when following the wrong path.

Their decision to live a life of crime with total disregard for the lives of 12 other human beings was ultimately why they got about 5 times what they gave since they received almost 5 bullets into their own bodies for every one of the 12 people they had shot.

At a time when the country as a whole had sank into the worst economic times in US history, during the Great Depression, people overall were suffering and trying to feed their families. However, most did the best they could with what they had including taking on extra jobs, planting and tending their own crops, whole families pitched in from young and old to ease the stress of hard times. Even with that, a lot of bellies went hungry.

Both Bonnie and Clyde grew up very poor. Bonnie was raised by a single mother with 3 kids so times must have been rough. They both undoubtedly received a lot of taunting from those who were maybe a little more fortunate than themselves maybe about their living situations or their clothing or lack of food. Maybe their decision to commit robberies by any means necessary was not only to satify their own needs but they may have viewed it as a means of gaining what they percieved to be respect especially since they were also notorious for their stylish ill-gotten clothes. Nice clothing at that time as is now to a certain degree was a definite status symbol. However, there is NO respect for someone who takes the life of another to satisy his or her own needs or psyche, even during hard times.

There were many other people in the same financial situation as they were but unlike Bonnie and Clyde, they did not all resort to stealing from and killing others to satify their personal own needs. Others chose to work hard and do their best to make ends means. These are these real heroes and much respect goes out to all the men and women who roughed out the Great Depression which includes my own ancestors who chose the honest path whatever the consequences and in doing so passed down some honest values to their children that can be further handed down through the generations. Their "high road" choices illustrates that that even when times get hard, you still have to choose the the right road to follow by using the talents God gave you to alter your circumstances and not preying on others to improve your standing in life.

Still my heart goes out to the families of Bonnie and Clyde since history has it that Bonnie's mother especially grieved greatly at the loss of her young daughter.

The bible best tells us:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

This holds true throughout the generations yet it is also up to each of us young and old to choose the right paths to follow.

And so ends the story of Bonnie and Clyde and their encounter with the small town of Plain Dealing, Louisiana.

Karen Burney
Louisiana Lineage Legacies

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