Skip to comments.Reality less romantic than outlaw legend (Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow)
Posted on 04/19/2003 9:25:30 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP
Reality less romantic than outlaw legend
It all looked so romantic in the movie: Warren Beatty, a handsome hunk in wingtips and a fedora, dashing about the Southwest with sultry siren Faye Dunaway as two star-crossed lovers caught up in a confused time of violence and passion. It's the way most of the world has come to remember Bonnie and Clyde.
But that's not how Doris Edwards remembers them, though she admits she tries not to remember them at all.
"I had to put it out of my mind," the 92-year-old Mrs. Edwards said. "I can't grieve all my life. That doesn't change things."
Mrs. Edwards was only 23 on Easter Sunday 1934, the young bride of Texas Highway Patrolman Edward Bryan Wheeler. She remembers eating breakfast with her husband. Then, at Mr. Wheeler's suggestion, she left to go to her parents' home. Just because he had to work didn't mean she should spend the day alone, he told her.
"When I got back to our apartment, the funeral director was waiting," Mrs. Edwards recalled. "He said, "Mrs. Wheeler, I have some bad news for you.'"
Her handsome man in uniform was dead. The young bride was now a widow. Death from Dallas
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met in January 1930 through a mutual friend in West Dallas. Bonnie was a struggling waitress and the estranged wife of an imprisoned thief. Clyde was a small-time hood and glass worker who had already developed a reputation for stealing cars.
Their life of crime together began just two months later when Bonnie smuggled a pistol inside the McLennan County Jail in Waco, where Clyde was being held on charges of burglary and auto theft. Clyde used the gun to make a run for it -- all the way to Ohio -- where he eventually was captured and returned to Texas.
Clyde served a short but difficult stint at the infamous Eastham Prison Farm near Crockett, Texas, before his mother's efforts to win his pardon succeeded. He emerged from prison a more hardened, bitter criminal. With a small cast of accomplices in tow, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker set a course for infamy.
A Hillsboro storeowner was the first to die, robbed while making change for two late-night callers who claimed to be looking to buy guitar strings. Then came an Oklahoma deputy sheriff, gunned down outside a rural dance hall. A Sherman butcher, a Temple lumber salesman -- they all died at the muzzle of the Barrow Gang's arsenal.
Four years and at least 12 murders later, Bonnie and Clyde met their own bloody fate on a rural Louisiana road, ambushed by a posse of six lawmen sworn to bring down Dallas' most infamous outlaws. But the 167 bullet holes left in the couple's stolen Ford V8 did little to comfort a grieving widow back in Texas. Wrong place, wrong time
Patrolman E.B. Wheeler, a four-year veteran of the highway patrol, and his partner, H.D. Murphy, who had been on the force for six months, thought they were going to help a stranded motorist when they turned their motorcycles up a dusty road near Grapevine. A car parked at the roadside had caught their attention. They had decided to check it out.
According to most accounts, they probably never knew what hit them. Not a single shot was fired in their defense. The car sped away, leaving the officers' bodies lying in the dirt.
Historians disagree as to who actually pulled the triggers. Some say Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker carried out the attack together, with Bonnie personally delivering a final vicious shotgun blast to Patrolman Murphy at point-blank range. Former Barrow gang member Raymond Hamilton and his girlfriend also have been fingered for the crime, and Bonnie Parker's sister actually was arrested in connection with the deaths at one point.
Still others say Clyde and Barrow gang member Henry Methvin were the guilty parties.
"That deal up at Grapevine was a goof," said L.J. "Boots" Hinton, the son of Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Ted Hinton. The elder Hinton, along with fellow Deputy Bob Alcorn, spent months tracking Bonnie and Clyde until joining in the May 23, 1934, ambush that ended the couple's run from the law.
The younger Mr. Hinton said his father later learned from interviews with Bonnie and Clyde's families that she was asleep in the back seat of the car when the highway patrolmen approached. Clyde and Methvin were keeping watch for former gang member Hamilton, with whom Clyde had a score to settle.
"Henry misunderstood something Clyde said," Mr. Hinton said. "Clyde said, 'Let's take them,' referring to kidnapping them. Henry thought that meant, 'Let's snuff them.'"
Clyde Barrow had kidnapped peace officers before. Deputy Sheriff Joe Johns was abducted near Carlsbad, N.M., and released unharmed in San Antonio in August 1932. In January 1933, motorcycle officer Thomas Persell was kidnapped and then released at Poundstone Corner, Mo.
"Clyde did have a sense of humor, strange though it was. He thought it was great fun to take a lawman captive and turn them loose eight hours later," Mr. Hinton said.
But Henry Methvin was relatively new to running with Clyde and failed to understand the veteran kidnapper's intentions as he watched Patrolmen Murphy and Wheeler drawing near.
"Henry fired the first shots and all Clyde could do was join the concert," Mr. Hinton said. Life after death
On that Sunday afternoon in 1934, it didn't matter much to Doris Edwards who was responsible for the shooting near Grapevine. The tragic result was the same.
"I was so busy feeling sorry for myself," she said, recalling the many painful days that followed her husband's death.
Mrs. Edwards said she had never feared for her husband's safety, despite the inherent dangers of police work. She knew he had been the type to want to help people, and she observed from their frequent hunting trips together that he was a good shot. She naively had believed those characteristics would be enough to bring her husband home each night.
"As long as we were together, I had a happy life," she said.
As hard as it was to imagine in 1934, life did turn happy once again for Mrs. Edwards. The highway patrol had no survivors' benefits, but she began earning a living as a secretary for the Department of Public Safety. She even went on to assist the Texas Rangers as an undercover officer infiltrating illegal gambling operations across the state.
Mrs. Edwards remarried in 1940. Children and grandchildren followed. Her second husband died in 1950, but Mrs. Edwards found love again with a third husband in the 1970s.
Time eventually healed the emotional wounds Bonnie and Clyde inflicted on Mrs. Edwards.
"I've buried three husbands, so I must be pretty tough," she said.
But Mrs. Edwards said she's never understood the public's fascination with E.B. Wheeler's assailants. Bullets and banjos
Most historians point to director Arthur Penn's 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde" as the chief suspect in the perpetual glamorization of the movie's namesakes.
Eventually hailed as a masterpiece by film critics, "Bonnie and Clyde" was targeted for several lawsuits by the families of the outlaws and the lawmen alike. The movie's historical inaccuracies were as plentiful as its bullets and banjo strains, they said, but the moviegoing public has clung to the film's portrayal of Bonnie and Clyde as tragic heroes.
"There was no glamour, no glory there," said Ken Holmes, a local historian who has amassed a sizable collection of Bonnie and Clyde paraphernalia that includes a replica of the duo's "death car" used in the filming of the 1967 movie. "I'm not really sure why everybody thinks so much of them. I've known some people who would sell their souls to be Bonnie and Clyde. I don't know why."
Mr. Holmes said the couple's life on the run was anything but romantic.
"They lived miserable lives. They used to sleep in the car. They'd bathe in a creek," he said. "They knew they couldn't really hide out in a place of comfort."
And the couple's heists were never as lucrative as those they pulled off on the big screen.
"They actually never really had any money to speak of," Mr. Holmes said. "Most of the money they stole came from people who didn't have much -- mom-and-pop stores and gas stations."
Still, local interest in the exploits of Bonnie and Clyde remains high in the city that served as the center of the couple's twisted world. The Dallas Historical Society's 2001 Bonnie and Clyde exhibit at the State Fair of Texas recorded 104,000 more visitors than an exhibit the following year that was devoted to the memory of President John F. Kennedy, who was slain in Dallas in 1963. And the organization's tour of Bonnie and Clyde hangouts continues to sell tickets by the busload.
Among the stops is a granite marker just off present day Highway 114 that pays tribute to the memory of Texas Highway Patrolmen E.B. Wheeler and H.D. Murphy, but Mrs. Edwards said she has no need for stones marking where her first love fell in the line of duty.
"I have a monument in my heart," she said.
Here is the picture from the Dallas Morning News lead-in:
By actors who would like the federal government to be more like Bonnie and Clyde.
If there's something noble about blowing a highway cop's face off with a shotgun, I must have misread my mythology. Bonnie and Clyde were two-bit punks, and the blazing deaths they got were just what they earned.
Proving that "Bonnie & Clyde" was a better movie than "JFK".
That lead me to do a GOOGLE SEARCH for Buck & Blanche Barrow
(Clyde's Brother, and Sis-in-law).
Have a good Easter y'all!
How right you are! And let's not forget this movie ("Bonnie & Clyde") was hardly a rarity. Two very famous one's that leap to mind are "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid", and "Mutiny on the Bounty", w/ C. Laughton (sp?).... let's not even start with "Roots"!
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