Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bonnie and Clyde: Romeo and Juliet in a Getaway Car

Brother Buck

"Your cares and troubles are gone
There'll be no more from now on"
Happy Days Are Here Again

B. Meroff

Immediately after the latest killing it was now the fourth notch in Clyde's gun the Barrow Gang hightailed back to their home base in Dallas. They knew the noose was about to tighten and it might be a long time, they told their families, before they could come home. As was customary, the bandits gave their families money to get by.

Men on trial for harboring the fugitives Bonnie and Clyde (CORBIS)
Men on trial for harboring the fugitives
Bonnie and Clyde (CORBIS)

Much of the freedom of Bonnie and Clyde's movements throughout northern Texas had been due to the allegiance and shielding of its people, those who had themselves lost their property or had seen others lose theirs from the Depression and who thought the government needed a comeuppance. Bonnie and Clyde were their crusaders. But, ever since the killing of the patrolman in Springtown, law enforcement agencies throughout the combined borders Texas/Oklahoma/Louisiana/Missouri had enforced their manpower. Highways crawled with police.

Evidenced by this was a near-miss by Texas police to corral the Barrow Gang on the streets of residential Dallas, a trap from which Clyde, Bonnie and W.D. shot their way out, leaving the trio unscathed but another policeman mortally wounded. Throughout the ensuing weeks, the Barrow gang held up a number of banks improving their methods each time and had broken into a government armory, getting away with revolvers, sub-machine guns, gas bombs, and a cache of Browning Automatic Rifles (popularly called BARs).

Cutting through Springfield , Missouri, the gang car doing its usual 70 mph, a motorcycle cop decided to pull them aside. "Let's have some fun," Clyde winked at Bonnie, and as the patrolmen neared their car, Clyde aimed a BAR point-blank at the man. The surprised policeman instinctively raised his arms "Don't shoot!" he pleaded.

They placed the officer named Persell into the back seat beside W.D., who cradled a shotgun in his lap; and drove quite a distance to the burgh of Orogono where their battery died. While Bonnie watched the car, the three men went to a local store where Clyde not only made the officer steal a battery but carry it back and install it. Laughing, the Barrows thanked him for his help and drove away, leaving him there dirtied by battery grease. Writes E.R. Milner tongue-in-cheek in The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde: "The officer, who by this time had guessed his captors' real identity, expected to be murdered. When Clyde drove away into the night, Persell wiped his forehead and said softly, 'Much obliged.'"

It was in March of 1933 that Clyde's brother Buck was finally released from Huntsville. As his parole officers feared, Buck disappeared from Dallas and joined up with his brother. He brought along his pretty but high-strung bride, Blanche.

Ivy
Ivy "Buck" Barrow, Clyde's brother, with wife Blanche

During his incarceration at Hunstville, Buck had managed to jump the walls and made his way across Texas. As a fugitive, he had met and married red-haired Blanche Caldwell. Discovering he was a prison escapee, Blanche convinced him to surrender and "get it all behind". Now that he had been paroled she hoped that Buck would consider her father's offer, to help him work his farm. Buck hesitated. "Later, honey," he told her. "I just want to see my baby brother it's been so long." Through his sister Nell (who was kept apprised of Clyde's moves for the benefit of both the Barrow and Parker families), arrangements were made for her brothers to rendezvous in Joplin, Missouri. Buck, with Blanche lit out in late March to find Clyde, ignoring the advice of a friend who told him, "Don't get into that car with him. You'll never come back."

The "Terrible Barrows," not in each other's company since that dismal enterprise in Denton, whooped and hollered it up. The reunion provided an excuse for Clyde and Bonnie to take a desperately needed vacation. Their last several bank jobs had proven lucrative, their pockets jingled, and more importantly, they believed Joplin to be outside the perimeter of the law's concentrated "hunting ground". What better way to relax than by renting a place where the Barrows, together again, could renew acquaintance, share funny stories, play cards, drink and be merry?

They chose a well-furnished apartment over a double-garage in the quiet Freeman Park area where they intended to reside for a couple of months before moving on. Neighbors, watching them move in, were alarmed when they spotted a couple of the young men carrying into the flat what appeared to be quite a large arsenal of guns from a car with an out-of-state license plate. Rumors rampaged. Police were at last summoned as the strangers' activities drew attention; better said, as their non-activities drew attention, for the silent newcomers rarely stepped outside their new sanctuary. Window curtains remained closed throughout the day and night.

The place was put under surveillance. Police notated that one of two cars a green 1932 Ford Sedan very occasionally left the premises, once in fact on the night of a local bank robbery committed by two men (fitting the Barrows' description) "and a woman." Wiring for information on the Ford's license plates, the cops learned the car had been stolen near Topeka, Kansas, several weeks back.

At mid-morning April 13, Joplin police and county detectives rolled up in front of the garage doors to prohibit any escape with either of the two cars inside. In the flat above, Bonnie was cooking lunch, Clyde was reading the newspaper, W.D. was dozing in the chair and Buck and his wife were engaged in a game. Blanche's small puppy stretched across her lap. It was Clyde who thought he heard something below the window and instinctively peeked through a part in the curtains.

"It's the laws!" he roared, simultaneously lifting his automatic off the sill. Almost as one, he and W.D. fired through the panes at the assemblage of blue uniforms and government-gray overcoats fanning out in the driveway below. County policeman Wesley Harriman and detective Harry McGinnis fell, in direct line of fire. No sooner had their bodies hit the ground than the dozen other lawmen opened up at the upper windows. Glass shards and bullets slammed the ceilings and walls of the apartment, paint and wood chips spraying like rain. Buck had found his shotgun and sent a blast back in return. Bonnie, with a revolver, was sending her own firepower at the assailants. Blanche, at the first sign of action, had screamed and was continuing to scream running blindly from room to room in a paroxysm of panic.

Clyde motioned to the others to head for the garage below, accessible through an interior staircase, while Thompson machine guns continued to turn the fugitives' quarters into hash.

In the garage, Blanche flailed and bawled and, still uncontrollable, broke free from Buck's grasp to run without reason through the back door and out to the lawn. "We'll pick her up!" Clyde grabbed his brother's elbow, and ushered a reluctant Buck into the back seat of the Ford. By the time he slid behind the wheel, and the rest had gathered into the car, he sensed that the laws' volleys had dwindled; it had dawned on them that their shots were no longer being returned and were probably expecting what was to come. Grinning, he turned the ignition and whooped, "Here we come, boys!" loud enough for the laws to hear, then smashed the gas pedal to the floor. Beside him, Bonnie ducked and held onto Clyde's waist. The Ford bolted forward and burst at full speed through the doors. The government's black coupe and the policemen gathered around it all gave way to the force ramming them. Clyde hallooed as the cops spilled across the driveway cursing.

The escapees could see Blanche now, across the street, still running, still screaming, arms still waving. It was the first time Clyde noticed she had her dog tucked into the large pocket of her apron. Bullets whizzing from behind, he braked just long enough for Buck to pick them both up, wife and dog, before speeding west, away from Joplin.

Inside what had once been their apartment, the police found items linking to Bonnie and Clyde photographs of the couple taken with one of those new box Kodak cameras, as well as wanted posters and snipped newspaper headlines they had trophied as part of their brag collection. But, the identity of that other couple had been a mystery until now. Remaining behind, covered with sawdust and broken glass, were Blanche's purse and Bucks' parole papers.

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