Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bonnie's "Sweet 16"-- Revisited

It seems few matters, have inspired as much comment here on The B&C History Blog-- as those concerning Bonnie's "Sweet 16" shotgun. I received an e-mail from J.T-- who asked about the inventory made at the time, which details 15 weapons from the death car-- which includes 2 shotguns. Apparently this inventory describes these weapons, as being 10 and 20 gauge shotguns.

I can only go by what was said to me directly, by "Boots" Hinton-- who bases his knowledge, on what both his father Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn told him directly. "Boots" has also conversed with the man who says he has Bonnie's "Sweet 16"-- which has apparently resurfaced again recently. According to "Boots", the 16 gauge shotgun in question-- was sitting next to Bonnie Parker in the Warren car when Bonnie was killed. Prentis Oakley was said to have taken this weapon, when Lee Simmons told Frank Hamer-- to let the boys have whatever weapons they wanted from the car. Oakley was then said to have given this shotgun to a friend of his, who kept it all of his life. Upon the man's passing, his wife gave it to a nephew. This man apparently walked into the B&C Ambush Museum not long ago, looking to sell the historic weapon. "Boots" impression, is that this man claims to have a letter of provenance signed by Prentis Oakley-- regarding this shotgun's origin and authenticity.

At the time I posted my article concerning this weapon, I received an e-mail from Historian Jim Knight. He said a good photo of the 2 sawed off shotguns found in the Warren car-- can be found on page 177 of Ted Hinton's book Ambush. Jim points out, the 16 gauge, could have been either a 16 gauge Browning, or a Remington Model 11. During those years, both of these weapons were referred to by duck, quail and rabbit hunters as "Sweet 16's". Thus the designation of this weapon as being "Bonnie's "Sweet 16" by Hinton and Alcorn, appears to have been a blending of this weapons already given nickname-- along with the apparent fact, of it being found by her side at the ambush site. Jim mentioned Clyde may have killed 4 men with a 16 gauge shotgun. Jim and I exchanged thoughts, on why Clyde may have preferred the 16 gauge to a more powerful shotgun. Jim supposed that the 16 gauge when adapted as a "whipit gun"-- could be wielded quickly, but still possessed the stopping power needed. As an aside, there does exist a photo of a captured Barrow Gang weapon-- identified as a Remington Model 11. The Model 11 was produced between 1905 and 1947-- was the 1st auto loading shotgun produced in the U.S.-- and was available in 12, 16 and 20 gauge versions. My thanks as always to Jim Knight for his valuable insights.

"Boots" said both his father and Bob Alcorn independently and on different occasions, referred to this specific shotgun from the death car in "Boots" presence-- as being "Bonnie's "Sweet 16". Both men of course were at the capture site, witnessed the weapons taken from the Warren death car-- and surely would have recognized the gauge of the gun in question. Also, as weapons were said to have been taken by lawmen and possibly others from the car, and at what point is unknown-- I'm not sure its fair to cite the official inventory published, as being an iron clad listing of weapons present within the death car. For example, I personally know of at least one weapon (a 45 auto)-- said to have been taken from the Warren car, by one of the first civilians on the scene. This story was relayed to me by this man's son, who still has the weapon.

within the most famous photo of the weapons displayed from the death car, and within Hinton's 16 MM footage taken that day-- it seems not all weapons said to have been there, are visible in any instance. For example, one of the 3 BAR's said to have been present, is not visible in the photo taken showing the weapons together. And of the "7" 45 caliber auto pistols within the inventory, only 3 can be seen in this photo. Also, Bonnie's pearl handled 45 (currently on display at the Texas Ranger Museum)-- is not visible. In addition, it's hard to tell whether the military issue 45 revolver (said found under Bonnie)-- that ended up in Bill Decker's desk drawer, is the holstered revolver in this same photo-- or whether that's the 380 revolver?? Only 1 of the 2 revolvers is visible. Based on the photo evidence available, if guns were indeed lifted as events unfolded that day-- I would ask how it could it be known, precisely what weapons were within the car-- as it came to rest still smoking in the ditch?? I would think the lawmen who were present, before anyone else got to the car-- would be the best witnesses to that.

So without speaking to the owner of what is believed to be the 16 gauge shotgun in question, I would think there would be little chance of learning much more about it. However, with both Hinton and Alcorn referring to this shotgun as "Bonnie's "Sweet 16"-- I'm not sure there could be much doubt, as to the proper identification of this weapon. This gun having been taken from Bonnie's side within the Warren car-- seems to be the basis for this particular shotgun, being identified in the colorful way that its known. My thanks to you J.T. for your question.

Update: B&C author and historian Jim Knight, has weighed in providing clarification-- regarding the weapons inventory mentioned in J.T.'s question. His comments follow. "Thanks" as always Jim.

"In your comment about the "Sweet 16," you said somebody mentioned the inventory showing a 10 gauge and a 20 gauge. This version of the inventory came from the book "I'm Frank Hamer," by Frost and Jenkins, page 233. In their footnote, they reference the 1935 book "Texas Rangers' by Webb which gives Hamer's inventory on page 543. Like many other things in their book, Frost and Jenkins didn't get this quite right. Either by design or just a typo, they mis copied Hamer's inventory. Webb gives the two shotguns as 16 and 20 gauge. Ted Hinton, in "Ambush," leaves out one shotgun and adds an extra BAR. He also insists that Clyde had a BAR at his knee and actually tried to raise it before he was killed. I'll invite anybody to sit in the driver's seat of my 1934 Ford with a full sized BAR and see how likely that is! There was no 10 gauge shotgun in the original inventory or in any of Hinton's pictures taken at the scene, and all the BARs are full size."

1 comment:

Jim from Atlanta said...

Hey Winston, I found two sources that back up the Bonnie's "Sweet 16" thanks to your article--It's my belief that Clyde had a 12 gauge whipit standing by his right knee, butt up or laying on his lap--of course the weapon would end up on the floor after being shot 20 something times--I remember hearing many times--There are numerous articles stating Officer Davis was killed with a 16 gauge--I believe the source was from WD Jones confession--I think it interesting that the officers were so greedy to split the "loot" so to speak instead of holding everything for thourough investigation--also, there was supposed to be a valise that Jordan took full of cash--eh?

I would truly like to explore the Grace Davies claim--sounds very interesting. Jim