Bonnie and Clyde, Last Stop Sailes - Nov 7, 2012

Written by Administrator
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 00:00

I recently learned that Bonnie and Clyde, the notorious Depression-era bank robbers, were shot and killed near Sailes, Louisiana.

If that sounds like the most random remark you have heard today, let me insert a disclaimer here: I did warn you that from time to time I might feel compelled to blog about the strange, the beautiful or the bizarre. Well, today I feel compelled to write about the bizarre because I just happened to read that the guns found on Bonnie and Clyde at the time of their deaths were auctioned off last month for the grand sum of $504,000. The snub-nosed .38 special that 23-year-old Bonnie Parker was wearing taped to her thigh when she died went for $264,000, while the Colt .45, that was found tucked inside 24-year-old Clyde Barrow's waistband, sold for $240,000. The couple died on a lonely stretch of road three miles north of Sailes when they were ambushed by a posse of Texas and Louisiana lawmen in 1934.

As I said, I had no idea that the bandits met their fateful end here in Louisiana. For some reason I had always thought of Bonnie and Clyde as a Texas story. But, no, it seems that during their four years together, they wandered back and forth across five states—Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico and, finally, Louisiana, where their shared life of violent crime came to an abrupt and bloody end. They were tracked down by law officials who knew they were holed up on a farm in Bienville Parish. All the lawmen had to do was hide in some bushes alongside Highway 154 and wait for the pair to drive past. As their 1934 Ford approached, the six lawmen sprang into view and opened fire on Bonnie and Clyde, killing them instantly in a spray of bullets.

There have been many explanations as to why the story of Bonnie and Clyde continues to fascinate us. Many people say it's because they were folk heroes who boldly stood up to the banks at a time that was...well, a lot like now: the little people struggling to hold on, trying to survive hard times.

The few photographs the couple left behind, as they fled from one hideaway to the next, show them posturing before the camera, gripping their weapons, smug and defiant, ready to take on anyone who got in their way. They were the classic underdog. Bound to go down. But we admire their determination anyway.

Or maybe we hold onto them because legend says they were crazy in love. In that now-famous picture of Clyde carrying Bonnie on his shoulder, their eyes are soft, she is resting her hand on his chest. They look nothing like killers. The backdrop of romance is always a powerful element in myth making.

Finally, it's possible we refuse to let them fade away because we know there was something slightly unfair about how they met their end. They lived and died by the sword, to be sure. But the law—we had higher expectations there. Gunning them down without so much as a warning—it doesn't fit our idea of justice.

Whatever the reasons, we simply cannot get over Bonnie and Clyde—as confirmed by the rising value of their memorabilia. The Pimm Valley Casino, in Pimm Valley, Nevada, is the current owner of Clyde's death shirt. It was bought in 1997 for $85,000. The casino also owns the couple's Ford V8, the one they died in. It was bought for $250,000.

In its own modest way, Louisiana, too, has long been involved in the Bonnie and Clyde memorabilia business. In 1972, the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum opened its doors in Gibsland, La. As recently as a few years ago, the museum gift shop was still selling one-inch swatches of Clyde's death pants for $200 a piece. For those with a more restricted budget, offerings included the original bricks from Ma Canfield's Cafe, the local diner where Bonnie and Clyde supposedly stopped for a bite to eat before going to meet their destiny. The cost for each brick? A mere $20. All in all, a pretty good deal when you consider the half a million dollars that was just shelled out for the couple's pistols. Even Bonnie and Clyde would have agreed, someone got robbed.

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