The Trail’s End
By Bonnie Parker
You’ve read the story of Jesse James
of how he lived and died.
If you’re still in need;
of something to read,
here’s the story of Bonnie and Clyde.
Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang
I’m sure you all have read.
how they rob and steal;
and those who squeal,
are usually found dying or dead.
There’s lots of untruths to these write-ups;
they’re not as ruthless as that.
their nature is raw;
they hate all the law,
the stool pigeons, spotters and rats.
They call them cold-blooded killers
they say they are heartless and mean.
But I say this with pride
that I once knew Clyde,
when he was honest and upright and clean.
But the law fooled around;
kept taking him down,
and locking him up in a cell.
Till he said to me:
“I’ll never be free,
so I’ll meet a few of them in hell.”
The road was so dimly lighted
there were no highway signs to guide.
But they made up their minds;
if all roads were blind,
they wouldn’t give up till they died.
The road gets dimmer and dimmer
sometimes you can hardly see.
But it’s fight man to man
and do all you can,
for they know they can never be free.
From heart-break some people have suffered
from weariness some people have died.
But take it all in all;
our troubles are small,
till we get like Bonnie and Clyde.
If a policeman is killed in Dallas
and they have no clue or guide,
if they can’t find a fiend,
they just wipe their slate clean
and hang it on Bonnie and Clyde.
There’s two crimes committed in America
not accredited to the Barrow mob.
They had no hand
in the kidnap demand,
nor the Kansas City Depot job.
A newsboy once said to his buddy:
“I wish old Clyde would get jumped.
In these awful hard times,
we’d make a few dimes,
if five or six cops would get bumped.”
The police haven’t got the report yet
but Clyde called me up today.
He said, “Don’t start any fights;
we aren’t working nights,
we’re joining the NRA.”
From Irving to West Dallas viaduct
is known as the Great Divide.
Where the women are kin,
and the men are men,
and they won’t “stool” on Bonnie and Clyde.
If they try to act like citizens
and rent them a nice little flat,
about the third night,
they’re invited to fight,
by a sub-gun’s rat-tat-tat.
They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate
they know that the law always wins.
They’ve been shot at before,
but they do not ignore,
that death is the wages of sin.
Some day they’ll go down together
they’ll bury them side by side.
To few it’ll be grief,
to the law a relief
but it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.
Bonnie Parker loved poetry, and she wrote many a verse. The verse above was written in jail and given to her mother two weeks before her death.
Most of us have heard of Bonnie Parker as half of outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Perhaps you saw the movie with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway that glamorized the couple.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker is still perhaps our most famous female outlaw. She was born Oct. 1, 1910, in Rowena, Texas. She died at the young age of 23 on May 23, 1934. Bonnie dropped out of high school and married her classmate Roy Thornton on Sept. 25, 1926, when she was 15. The marriage was short-lived, but she never divorced Roy and was still wearing her wedding ring when she died .
Her husband Roy was in prison when she died, and he commented that he was glad that they went out like they did; that it was better than being caught.
During the time the Barrow gang was together, it is believed they killed at least nine police officers and many civilians, and robbed at least a dozen banks, many gas stations and small, rural stores. They also stole cars, cracked safes, stole turkeys, robbed grocery stores, and much more.
Bonnie was present at a minimum of 100 felonies during their reign of violence. She was a chain smoker of Camel cigarettes and loved to pose with the occasional cigar and guns.
After Bonnie’s failed marriage, she moved back into her grandparent’s home with her mother in West Texas. At this time, she worked as a waitress in a café and served the local deputy sheriffs when they would come in. One of them was the man who would eventually plan and execute the ambush that was the end of Bonnie and Clyde.
Soon, Bonnie was out of work and still living in West Texas with her mother. She met Clyde when she was visiting and helping a friend with a broken arm. Clyde stopped by the girl’s house, and Bonnie and Clyde were immediately smitten with one another.
Bonnie joined the Barrow gang and began her life of crime carrying out small robberies. Most of the hits were small stores and gas stations which were easy targets.
Clyde wanted to carry out a raid on the Eastham prison due to what he considered to be inequities. On April 19, 1932, Bonnie was arrested for the first time in a failed hardware robbery where she intended to get guns for Clyde’s prison raid. She was jailed but was not indicted, and after a few months in lockup, she was released.
She rejoined Clyde and another couple, Blanche and Buck. They rented a garage apartment and had wild drinking parties and made so much noise that neighbors reported this nuisance to the police.
The police raided the apartment, and the two couples shot their way out using their Browning automatic rifles. They escaped in a hail of bullets, but they had to leave all of their possessions behind.
Among the things left behind was a photo of a cigar smoking, gun-toting Bonnie, and Bonnie’s poem, “Suicide Sal.” The photo of Bonnie and her poem became front page news all across the country, and the Barrow Gang “starring” Bonnie and Clyde were now nationally famous.
We each of us have a good “alibi”
For being down here in the “joint”
But few of them really are justified
If you get right down to the point.
You’ve heard of a woman’s glory
Being spent on a “downright cur”
Still you can’t always judge the story
As true, being told by her.
As long as I’ve stayed on this “island”
And heard “confidence tales” from each “gal”
Only one seemed interesting and truthful:
The story of “Suicide Sal.”
Now “Sal” was a gal of rare beauty,
Though her features were coarse and tough;
She never once faltered from duty
To play on the “up and up.”
“Sal” told me this tale on the evening
Before she was turned out “free”
And I’ll do my best to relate it
Just as she told it to me:
I was born on a ranch in Wyoming;
Not treated like Helen of Troy,
I was taught that “rods were rulers”
And “ranked” as a greasy cowboy.
Then I left my old home for the city
To play in its mad dizzy whirl,
Not knowing how little of pity
It holds for a country girl.
There I fell for “the line” of a “henchman”
A “professional killer” from “Chi”
I couldn’t help loving him madly,
For him even I would die.
One year we were desperately happy
Our “ill-gotten gains” we spent free,
I was taught the ways of the “underworld”
Jack was just like a “god” to me.
I got on the “F.B.A.” payroll
To get the “inside lay” of the “job”
The bank was “turning big money”!
It looked like a “cinch for the mob.”
Eighty grand without even a “rumble”
Jack was last with the “loot” in the door
When the “teller” dead-aimed a revolver
From where they forced him to lie on the floor.
I knew I had only a moment
He would surely get Jack as he ran,
So I “staged” a “big fade out” beside him
And knocked the forty-five out of his hand.
They “rapped me down big” at the station,
And informed me that I’d get the blame
For the “dramatic stunt” pulled on the “teller”
Looked to them, too much like a “game.”
The “police” called it a “frame-up”
Said it was an “inside job”
But I steadily denied any knowledge
Or dealings with “underworld mobs.”
The “gang” hired a couple of lawyers,
The best “fixers” in any man’s town,
But it takes more than lawyers and money
When Uncle Sam starts “shaking you down.”
I was charged as a “scion of gangland”
And tried for my wages of sin,
The “dirty dozen” found me guilty-
From five to fifty years in the pen.
I took the “rap” like good people,
And never one “squawk” did I make
Jack “dropped himself” on the promise
That we make a “sensational break.”
Well, to shorten a sad lengthy story,
Five years have gone over my head
Without even so much as a letter
At first I thought he was dead.
But not long ago I discovered;
From a gal in the joint named Lyle,
That Jack and his “moll” had “got over”
And were living in true “gangster style.”
If he had returned to me sometime,
Though he hadn’t a cent to give
I’d forget all the hell that he’s caused me,
And love him as long as I lived.
But there’s no chance of his ever coming,
For he and his moll have no fears
But that I will die in this prison,
Or “flatten” this fifty years.
Tomorrow I’ll be on the “outside”
And I’ll “drop myself” on it today,
I’ll “bump ’em if they give me the “hotsquat”
On this island out here in the bay…
The iron doors swung wide next morning
For a gruesome woman of waste,
Who at last had a chance to “fix it”
Murder showed in her cynical face.
Not long ago I read in the paper
That a gal on the East Side got “hot”
And when the smoke finally retreated,
Two of gangdom were found “on the spot.”
It related the colorful story
Of a “jilted gangster gal”
Two days later, a “sub-gun” ended
The story of “Suicide Sal.”
Bonnie and Clyde’s death car at Whiskey Pete’s in Primm, Nev. Photos: Leon Worden.
After the group escaped from the raid in their apartment garage, they robbed a bank in Okabena, Minn., and attempted to rob a bank in Lucerne, Ind. They stole a car, kidnapped two people, and lawmen and robbery victims.
Interestingly enough, they gave some of their kidnapped victims a little bit of money to help them to return home. But, if anyone got in their way, they were not as kind; they never hesitated to shoot anyone who got in their way.
With their national fame, life became much more difficult. They were recognized at hotels, in stores and at gas stations. They had to resort to camping and campfire cooking, and bathing in cold lakes and streams. They bickered among themselves, and their driver stole their car and took off, leaving them literally “up the creek.”
It is unknown exactly what happened, but Bonnie sustained a serious injury to her right leg. Sources disagree as to whether it was a fire or battery acid that caused the muscles in her leg to cease up. She could hardly walk. They hid out in Fort Smith, Arkansas while Bonnie was nursing the burns on her leg. Part of the gang bungled a robbery, killing the town marshal. They had to flee despite Bonnie’s injury.
On July 18, 1933, the gang rented two cabins at the Red Crown Tourist Court in what was then Platte City, Mo. This is now within the city limits of Kansas City, Mo. Blanche registered the gang as only three persons, but it was noticed that there were five people going in and out, and five dinners were ordered, and five beers, and the car was driven inside “gangster style” (rear end first) for a quick getaway.
This odd behavior was reported to the local sheriff, who planned a raid on the cabins with their Thompson submachine guns. These guns were more powerful than the weapons the Barrow Gang had in their arsenal. Luckily for the Barrow gang, a bullet hit the sheriff’s armored car and short-circuited the vehicle’s horn, which the sheriff mistook for a cease fire signal. The Barrow Gang escaped. The Sheriff did not pursue them. Buck, however, was mortally wounded with a gunshot to his forehead, but he was still alive. Blanche was nearly blinded with glass shards to her eyes.
Days later, the group was identified in the campground at Dexfield Park, Iowa. Blanche was captured by the posse and arrested. Buck was shot in the back as he tried to retreat. Bonnie and Clyde and their driver Jones escaped on foot. Buck died of his head wound and pneumonia in the hospital.
During the following six weeks, Jones, Bonnie and Clyde maintained a low profile, drifting from Colorado to Minnesota to Mississippi. They existed by pulling off small, insignificant robberies. They then burgled an armory and obtained three Browning automatic rifles, some handguns and a large quantity of ammunition.
They risked a trip to Dallas to visit with their families. Jones parted company with the pair at this point. He was later arrested in Houston without incident.
A raid was set up to capture Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde was suspicious, and drove past the house, and the Sheriff opened fire. Bonne and Clyde were both stuck in the legs, but they still managed to escape.
Clyde finally orchestrated the raid on Eastham prison and several inmates were able to make their escape. Barrow had finally achieved his goal of revenge on the prison system. The date was January 16, 1934.
One of the escapees, Joe Palmer shot prison officer Major Joe Crowson. Joe Crowson was promised by the prison chief that he would hunt down all of those responsible. Texas Highway Patrol officer, previously Texas Ranger Captain, Frank A. Hamer was hired to take down the Barrow gang. For 20 years he had been both feared and respected in Texas and the unbendable, righteous law man with a history of spectacular captures, and 53 kills. On Feb. 10, he became the dark shadow of Bonnie and Clyde.
In the spring of 1934, the Barrow gang shot two young patrolmen. This was followed by a huge public outcry for the arrest of the Barrow gang. It was reported that Bonnie laughed at the way one of the officers’ heads bounced on the pavement like a ball. The young fiancée of one of the officers wore her wedding gown to his funeral.
The press held nothing back. The public wanted the gang exterminated. There were rewards offered for each of the gang members. Public hostility grew as it never had before. For the first time, Bonnie was publicly known as a killer. The Dallas Journal even composed a cartoon showing two electric chairs with signs on them saying, “Reserved for Bonnie and Clyde.”
Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed and killed on May 23, 1934, on a rural road in Bienville Parish, La. They were shot by a posse of four Texas officers led by Frank Hamer.
Hamer charted Clyde’s movements and found that he made the same circle of 5 states over and over again. The posse merely waited for them to show up, which they did. The posse was in place on May 21, and waited until May 23 when the pair showed up at 9:15 a.m. The posse was concealed in bushes. They shot Parker and Barrow with 130 rounds of ammunition from automatic rifles. After that, they used shotguns. Then they emptied their pistols at the car, which was still in motion. The car ran into a ditch and nearly rolled over. The posse continued to shoot at the car, even after it came to rest in the ditch. They were not taking any chances.
The coroner’s report said that Clyde suffered 17 wounds, and Bonnie suffered 26. Several of the gunshots were to their heads, and one severed Clyde’s spinal column. It was said that there were so many bullet holes that the undertaker, a man named “Boots” had difficulty embalming the bodies.
Although Bonnie and Clyde wished to be buried side by side, Bonnie’s mother would not allow this, as she had always disliked Clyde. More than 20,000 attended her funeral. There were so many people that the family found it nearly impossible to reach the grave site. She was initially buried in Fishtrap Cemetery, but she was moved in 1945 to the New Crown Hill Cemetery in Dallas. Clyde was buried in Western Heights Cemetery in Dallas.
The ambush site on Louisiana Highway 154 in Bienville Parish, Louisiana has a stone marker, which has been defaced by souvenir hunters and by multiple gunshots. A small metal plaque was added to the stone monument. It was stolen. Its replacement was also stolen.
Some day they’ll go down together
And they’ll bury them side by side.
To a few it’ll be grief
To the law a relief
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.
Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at firstname.lastname@example.org.