Thursday, April 11, 2013
ANOTHER NOTCH FOR PRETTY BOY
4/9/1932 - Oklahoma loses an outstanding lawman when bounty hunter Ervin Andrew "Erv" Kelley is gunned downed by bank robber Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd on a small farm outside of the town of Bixby.
Pretty Boy Floyd
Putting bad dudes behind bars for over a decade as a McIntosh County sheriff and the Checotah police chief, by the time Texas born Kelley retires at the young age of only forty-six to run a gas station, he has put together a law & order resume which includes arresting scores of miscreants ... moonshiners, escapees, car thieves, six killers, and fourteen bank robbers ... all without firing a shot (and he dresses the part too, famous for the white cowboy hat and cowboy boots he wears while on the job). The Depression makes things hard though for even gas station owners, and with visions of collecting the $4,000 in rewards offered for the capture of the twenty-eight-year-old Floyd, Kelley comes out of retirement to chase down one last criminal.
With the cooperation of the Oklahoma State Crime Bureau, using information gleaned from informants as to the movements of the bank robber, Kelley puts together a plan that he believes will have an excellent chance of success ... he will nab Floyd while he is at his most vulnerable and making a sneak visit to see his former wife and their seven-year-old son. Accompanied by one of his former deputies, William Counts, the pair covertly follow Ruby Floyd and her son from their residence in Tulsa to the home of Ruby's parent's, the Hardgraves, near the small community of Bixby. After identifying Ruby's destination, watching the Floyd's park on the property of Cecil and Gladys Bennett and then walk to her parent's place, believing she might possibly be at the isolated farm to secretly meet her husband, the two men quickly contact waiting reinforcements for the coming confrontation with Floyd.
By evening, along with Kelley and Counts, the group surrounding the area includes Crockett Long, an agent with the State Crime Bureau, A. B. Cooper, a private detective operating out of Oklahoma City, Sheriff Jim Stormont of Okmulgee, Tulsa police detectives M. L. Lairmore and J. A. Smith, and two deputized local farmers. The nine men are a formidable group and by 8:30 in the evening they are all in position, with Kelley, armed with a silenced sub-machine gun and .38 pistol, taking what he believes is the most dangerous spot, behind a chicken coup about fifteen feet away from a corral gate leading on to the property.
Ready to receive Floyd, the group waits, and waits, and waits ... and waits. "Looks like a washout," appears to be the posses reward for spending a cold night outdoors with the frogs and hoot owls of Oklahoma and at about 2:15 in the morning, Cooper, Stormont, Lairmore, and Smith are given the okay to go into Bixby for coffee and sandwiches at the town's all-night diner. And as Fate often moves in these situations, no sooner are their positions abandoned than a dark green Chevrolet drives down the road leading into the Bennett Farm ... a Chevy containing outlaw George Birdwell, and his outlaw partner, Pretty Boy Floyd.
Thompson with silencer
Slow motion seconds to death, when Floyd gets out of the car to open the gate on to the Bennett property, Kelley steps out from his hiding place and into the Chevy's lights, exclaiming "Stick 'em up!" Caught cold, with most outlaws the command would end with a peaceful surrender, but Floyd is not a typical criminal and he reacts as a rattlesnake would, striking in less than the blink of an eye. Drawing and firing before Kelley has even finished with his order, Floyd gets off seven shots with his .45 automatic, and hits the bounty hunter five times ... once in each knee, a round below the lawman's right arm, and two lethal slugs that explode into Kelley's left side. Dead in a pool of his own blood, Kelley goes out game though, firing a fourteen bullet burst from the twenty-one shot magazine of his machine gun even after crumbling to the ground. It is a dose of lead that almost kills Kelley's quarry ... Floyd is hit in the right hip by a round that could have caused serious damage if it hadn't been deflected by a pistol the outlaw is carrying, a second slug almost takes off his privates, nipping his scrotum and coming to rest in his right thigh, a third bullet slams into his right calf, and a fourth bit of metal pierces his left ankle. Picked up by Birdwell and put in the car, the desperadoes vanish down the road, heading southwest, by the time the closest posseman, Counts, can make it over to the gate, over a hundred yards away from his position (the two farmer deputies claim both their weapons jam, and neither gets off a shot).
Moving through a state filled with hundreds of very upset lawmen, bounty hunters, and vigilantes, the pair manage to find a doctor in the town of Seminole willing to do patchwork on underworld patients for a nominal fee. Stitched up (the doctor will leave the bullet in Floyd's ankle) and given meds for his many pains, Floyd is well enough by the 21st of the month to move on to his next robbery, assisting Birdwell in removing $800 from the small First State Bank of Stonewall, Oklahoma. Wanted for multiple robberies and multiple murders, the reward for the outlaw is increased to $7,000!
Rest in Peace
Four days after his murder, the well loved Kelley goes into the ground at a funeral officiated by a Baptist preacher and attended by over 3,500 mourners (reported by newspapers of the time as the largest gathering for such an occasion since Oklahoma became a state), including law enforcement contingents from Okmulgee, Tulsa, and Muskogee, the entire county attorney's office of Muskogee, and a host of Indians that drop coins into Kelley's casket as a sign of friendship. Still remembered to this day in various Oklahoma locales, Kelley is survived by his wife Dessie (who receives $50 from the Oklahoma Police Officers' Association, a far cry from the $4,000 her husband was after), two daughters, Edna and Marie, three sons, Donaly, John, and Erv, Jr., and his brother Harve.
Floyd has a little over two years left to live