Friday, April 12, 2013


4/6/1934 - Fleeing the Grapevine, Texas, double homicides of the week before's Easter Sunday, shortly after midnight, Clyde Barrow finally tires of hours of the day's driving through torrential rains and pulls off on the shoulder of State Road near Commerce, Oklahoma, a thoroughfare that links that city's downtown with a local mining district.  Then he, his girlfriend Bonnie Parker, her rabbit Sonny Boy, and their traveling companion Henry Methvin, settle in for some much needed sleep ... so needed that the tired group is still there on Friday morning when local authorities drive out of town to investigate a report of drunks parked on State Road, near the Lost Trail and Crab Apple mines.

                                              1930s Commerce, Oklahoma

Drunk miners sleeping off binges a common occurrence in the area, Commerce Chief of Police Percy Boyd and Town Constable Cal Campbell expect their trip down State Road to result in nothing more than a ticketing that will result in the coffers of the town being increased slightly.  Thirty-five-year-old Boyd is a law-and-order professional, a year into his duties of watching over Commerce, while the sixty-year-old Campbell is but one more example of a citizen struggling with the nationwide effects of the Depression ... a widower, when his lucrative contracting job fails, needing to support five children, with the help of his neighbor's votes, he takes the $15-a-week job as town constable to make ends meet.  Sadly, both men are very wrong in their estimation of the morning for instead of confronting harmless drunks, they will be coming face-to-face with extraordinarily dangerous outlaws.

                                  Bonnie Parker                              Clyde Barrow

At roughly 9:00 am, Clyde spots the lawmen approaching and takes the option he actually prefers to gun fighting when encountering local authorities ... flight.  Starting the group's latest ride, a stolen new black Ford V8 Deluxe sedan, the outlaw throws the car into reverse, intent on gaining some distance for a rapid U-turn which will allow him to power away from the authorities, but the road, turned into a muddy bog by the previous day's downpour, will have none of it and sliding off the slick track and into a ditch, the car sinks into grasping mud up to its wheel rims.  

                                        1934 Ford V8 Deluxe Sedan

Amused by the driving debacle they have just witnessed, the lawmen park their car and casually walk toward the Ford ... unconcerned as to its occupants until Campbell thinks he spots someone in the vehicle pointing a pistol in his direction and makes the fatal mistake of drawing his weapon and firing, an action that sparks an extremely one-sided firefight.


Following the lead of his companion, Boyd also pulls his gun and as he does the doors of the Ford fly open and Clyde and Methvin, both wielding deadly BARs (Browning Automatic Rifle), unleash a hail of slugs at the lawmen.  In the gunfire that lasts only seconds, Campbell is killed instantly when he is hit in the chest by a bullet that severs his aorta, and Boyd is knocked unconscious when a round hits him in the left side of his head.  Immediate threat responded to, the problem that must next be solved is how to flee the group's just concluded most recent killing.  And once more, Clyde finds a weaponry solution to his difficulties!  


Boyd lifted to his feet (his head wound is superficial) and thrown in the back of the Ford, using his rifle as a recruiting tool, Clyde forces a group of onlookers, drawn by the sound of gunfire from the mine and nearby farms, to help free the car from the mud.  Push-pull-push for forty minutes, Clyde threatens to kill everyone if his ride is not freed, but the armed intimidation and muscle provided are powerless against the grip of Mother Nature until a truck driven by Commerce resident Charlie Dobson arrives on the scene.  Using a length of heavy chain and foot to the floor truck torque, the filthy Ford is finally liberated and the very agitated gang, with Boyd their latest backseat hostage, heads off for the Kansas border.

                                                             Scene of the crime

On the road again, Friday's drive away from Commerce includes Clyde and Methvin having to stop, only three miles away from where they've left Campbell in the mud, to help a pair of farmers move their road blocking vehicle out of another Oklahoma bog (as Bonnie watches Boyd with a shotgun), a stop at a stream so Bonnie can clean up and bandage Boyd's head wound, Clyde honestly discussing the Joplin shootout of the previous year with his captive (though he lies about his involvement in the Grapevine killings), compliments given on the accuracy of the lawman's shooting (Clyde tells Boyd he almost brought him down with a bullet that just buzzed by his head), worries about a plane flying overhead pursuing the group (it isn't), a stop for gas, a stop so that Clyde can steal the change out of a gum machine (though Boyd offers the bandit the $25 he is carrying), Fort Scott diner food bought with the gum loot, and Boyd's bloody attire being replaced by a Clyde shirt and tie, and a suit coat from Methvin.  The full day for Boyd finally ends around midnight when the lawman is released in the country to the southeast of Fort Scott.  Pleased that he has survived his ride, and knowing the killing of Campbell and his kidnapping will be front page news, before the outlaws drive off Boyd asks Bonnie what she'd like him to say to the press about her.  "Tell them I don't smoke cigars," she responds ... and that message is indeed passed on to reporters once the lawman is safe and the interviews begin, pleasing Bonnie immensely when the information is featured in almost every story dealing with the Commerce shooting and it's aftermath.  It is one of the few delights the young twenty-three-year-old Texan has left.


Unbeknownst to the outlaw couple, they have only forty-eight more days before they will join Campbell in death ... betrayed on a lonely Louisiana road for a pardon by their trusted traveling companion and his family, thief and multiple murderer, Henry Methvin.  


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