Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The August Bonnie & Clyde Polls-- A Surprisingly Challenging Batch Revealed

Well I guess you never know with the Bonnie & Clyde Polls. What to me were a group of B&C queries which took no more time than usual to form, and seemed benign to many-- ended up as perhaps the most challenging group of B&C polls to date. Admittedly, some of these latest B&C questions were built around well known perceptions-- which may have different realities than many believe. But that's so often the case with Bonnie & Clyde History. Some have commented that the B&C polls, help them learn about or clarify B&C events. As that seems a fitting sentiment for this go round-- lets have fun with this edition of The B&C Polls.

The Dallas FBI Files formed the basis for 4 of the August poll questions. As much information exists within this priceless archive which remained unseen by the public until fairly recently, I wholeheartedly recommend becoming familiar with this treasure trove of new B&C knowledge. What seemed like "end all" B&C info prior to this file's release, has been augmented and in some cases corrected-- by well documented accounts of B&C History, which date back to the time in which these events occurred.

Within a 6 page handwritten letter to Dallas Bureau of Investigation SAC Frank Blake penned in early May 1934-- Barrow cousin and Bureau informant Bailey Tynes told of his overhearing
Cumie Barrow, her sister and niece speaking of Colorado Springs, Colorado. A Barrow relative Joe Walker was said to have lived there, and Bailey was alerting Agent Blake to the possibility that Colorado Springs may be a place for Bonnie & Clyde to hide out. Bailey also relayed info, that perhaps Clyde had visited Colorado within the previous year.

A May 5th, 1934 report from New Orleans SAC Whitley to Dallas SAC Blake-- provides details on two men named Williams and Drew, who it's believed may have harbored Bonnie & Clyde. Although one of these men was said to have been a bootlegger, it seems both were thought friends of Clyde-- and that info regarding them was deemed reliable.

Another Bureau of Investigation document dated May 8, 1934, tells of renown Agent Charles Winstead having interviewed Raymond Hamilton at the County jail in Dallas. This interview is noted to have occurred on May 4th, 1934. Ray stated that if he ever had the opportunity, he would kill Clyde Barrow. Hamilton also said he knew how to contact Clyde, but wouldn't divulge that info even to save himself from the electric chair. In addition, Ray stated that after separating from Clyde in Terre Haute, Indiana-- he met Clyde about a week before Easter Sunday at a lunch stand on a road in Decatur, Texas. According to Ray, at that time-- Clyde asked Hamilton when they were going to join up again. To which Ray told Clyde, they were never going to join again.

The Dallas Files also document-- that on May 16th, 1934 a San Antonio Texas Salesman named Tommy Anderson, was said to have informed San Antonio police chief Owen Kilday (good police name)-- that Anderson had positively identified Clyde Barrow in a car traveling nearby. This report triggered a series of events which involved L. G. Phares, Chief of the Texas Highway Patrol, an airplane and other common and uncommon police equipment in a manhunt-- which culminated in the capture of 2 brothers, Paul and Robert Amick. After being questioned, it was determined that the Amicks had nothing to do with The Barrow Gang, and they were released. Even before the apprehension of these men erroneously believed to be Barrow and an accomplice-- the Bureau noted that local San Antonio papers had reported that Barrow had escaped the police trap, and were being hotly pursued in the area of Thelma, Texas and points south of San Antonio.

September 12th, 1934 was the date Henry Methvin was added to the warrant for the murder of Cal Campbell.

And the best answer concerning the Buddy
Goldston question-- was that his account of the ambush, made a shielding scenario of B&C by the wood pulp truck unlikely. That's because contrary to I think all other eyewitness accounts, Buddy claimed he was driving this famous logging truck north to south, "not" south to north. That's the same direction B&C were headed, as they approached the Sailes waylay. In fact when interviewed years later, Buddy claimed B&C had passed him prior to his coming upon the ambush scene. Therefore according to Goldston, he was "behind" B&C-- not facing them from the other direction. This discrepancy concerning the ambush, is one of the more fascinating aspects to this mysteriously less than well documented event. Also according to Goldston, there were 2 men riding on the load of the wood pulp truck-- not just one as other witnesses claimed, making for a total of 3 men on the truck-- not 2. To my knowledge, neither of these other 2 men were ever positively identified.

The way I look at this, surely Buddy Goldston knew which direction he was traveling that fateful day. Jim Knight advances the theory, that either some of the witnesses to the ambush were unsure of their facts-- or perhaps there could have been 2 trucks present that day, one coming from each direction?? Or to believe Ted Hinton's account, perhaps the cover up story got twisted around and told wrong-- and by that time the story stuck?? That's surely a possibility as well. As always with the ambush-- there seem to be many more questions than answers. In his account of the ambush, Henderson Jordan has the B&C death car coming to rest on the west side of the road. And Frank Hamer has the Warren car still moving at a fair rate of speed, as Ivy Methvin was supposed to have been talking with Bonnie & Clyde through the open window-- of a vehicle later found in 1st gear. Many aspects of the ambush accounts as we know them, don't make sense. So why should the direction the wood pulp truck was traveling-- be any different??

Regarding the Grapevine killings-- many B&C authors have described the 2 differing eyewitness accounts from both Mr. and Mrs. Fred Giggal and William Schieffer. Both Jim Knight and John Neal Phillips do a commendable job in sorting out this event. John Neal Philips points out that based on having viewed the Grapevine scene from a considerable distance, during the time of the investigation-- Mr. Schieffer was never able to identify Bonnie or Clyde from police mugshots, not to mention Henry Methvin. In fact remarkably, Schieffer would later identify Bonnie's sister Billie Mace and Floyd Hamilton as being the shooters.

John goes on to criticize Schieffer's account as stated within the controversial book I'm Frank Hamer. By the time the Hamer book was published, Bonnie & Clyde were clearly fingered by Schieffer, who had miraculously improved his vantage point-- from his porch where he was originally noted to have been, to get close enough to overhear Bonnie Parker's words in allegedly finishing off one of the officers and joking about it. Many inconsistencies have been observed, concerning that perhaps self serving chronicle of Frank Hamer-- where the Schieffer account, is but one example of some seemingly blatant literary inventiveness.

And finally page 160 of Winston Ramsey's book, was the location of the text from the Kansas City Star article, concerning Buck Barrow. According to this news account, Sheriff Bash of Kansas City was told "The Wounded man said he was shot in the head Thursday morning in the battle at Platte City while firing from inside one of the cabins." So contrary to popular belief, movie portrayals and other known accounts-- Buck being hit while making a dash for the car at the Red Crown, seems to have had a contrary version told. Even though claimed to be the words of Buck Barrow, as this account seems to contradict the statements of others and B&C lore (whether true or untrue)-- I would like to find a corroborating piece of evidence to back this account, rather than just a second hand report.

So there you have it-- the August B&C Polls. A challenging batch, concerning some well tread B&C misconceptions. Even the most seasoned B&C experts around here, had trouble with these. Look for more polls to be posted for September. As always-- thanks for your participation in the B&C Polls.


Shelley said...

I must admit, this was the most difficult batch of questions I've seen you come up with yet, Wins. But I don't know about them being "surprisingly" challenging; I think they were that way by design! Some of the answer options seemed too deceptively simple, and I knew from the start that there were going to be some snags there. And I was right--even though I managed to reclaim my "champ" status, I only did so with the lowest number of correct answers--ever!! Those were some real toughies, but then, I didn't have a lot of time this month to do much digging to get more right.

In any case, I do have a some comments regarding a few of these Q&As.

For one thing, I can't wait now to read that Agent Winstead interview with Raymond Hamilton. So Ray said if he ever had the opportunity, he'd KILL Clyde, huh? Wow, that's a revelation! I know they had a pretty nasty rift, but never heard that one before. This was on May 8th. I keep thinking of Ray's often-quoted reaction, upon hearing the news of their ambush, just a few weeks later: "We was still friends, no matter how it looked". To me, Clyde & Ray had a sort of "love/hate" relationship, I think. Whereas Clyde was the undisputed leader of anyone who rode with him, I believe Ray was the only real "thorn in his side" to challenge his authority. I think they may have started out "like brothers", of sorts, but then "locked horns", so to speak, one too many times. And I also think Mary O'Dare probably nailed that coffin shut, considering how much B&C--Henry--and I think just about everyone else--thoroughly despised her.

Buddy Goldston's account of driving the log truck almost into the ambush in progress, has always puzzled me. The only documentary he was featured in happens to be my most favorite of all (and I have many!)-- "Remembering B&C", from 1994. Frankly, he was seemed quite inarticulate (but a real sweet guy nevertheless)--and very very old! I need to look up and revisit written accounts of what he had to say, as translated through others. As the only "known" witness besides the posse members (and other than the deceased), it is indeed interesting to note that his account is in direct contradiction to theirs. I think it most likely what you say Hinton said: that the "cover up story got twisted up and told wrong".

Grapevine was another of many incidents fraught with inconsistencies and inaccuracies. And you are right, John Neal Phillips did a most commendable job in sorting it all through to get at the truth (as he did in all aspects to the story). Unfortunately, I do not own "I'm Frank Hamer", but I have had it in my possession long enough in the past, to know it is filled with pure BS throughout. I do, however, own the "Myth or Madness" (AKA "The Other Side of B&C") documentary, which tells the story, based on Hamer's book's recollections. "Perhaps self-serving chronicle" is putting it politely, indeed--what a load of crap! In the Hamer version "reenactment" of the crime, it is BONNIE who shoots BOTH motorcycle officers (point-blank in the face, no less) as Clyde sits by watching--and there is NO Henry Methvin whatsoever in the picture! Then, after Bonnie blows their brains out, she shoots their dead bodies some more, kicking one over and laughing, "Looka there--his head bounced just like a rubber ball!!". And all the while, Schieffer is peering through the bushes at them, just a few feet away. YEAH RIGHT. That's Hamer's version of Grapevine for ya!

This month's polls, as always, were most thought-provoking. With Bonnie and Clyde, it is more often than not extremely challenging to try and separate the many variations of "reality"--from the downright absurd. Thank goodness research has come a long long ways since "The Dillinger Days"--and "I'm Frank Hamer"!

dave said...

Speaking of the discrepancies at Grapevine, in one of your B+C polls you had a question about the shell casings found at Grapevine. I was shocked to find out that two different gauges of shotgun shell casings and some 45 acp shell casings were recovered, and no 30.06 shell casings were found. Plus the police never fired a shot. I had read that a BAR and a shotgun were used. As a matter of fact when Billie and LC were arrested for this crime, it was supposedly after doing ballistic tests(lands and grooves)on the BAR'S recovered from the death car, that they were cleared of the crime and released. People will believe anything. They certainly didn't do a ballistic test on buck shot from a shotgun. There are no lands and grooves on a shotgun. I feel they falsely arrested and charged them for the crime hoping to flush Clyde out of hiding. "The long arm of the law" could pretty much do anything it wanted.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Shelley--

No not difficult by design-- although B&C misconceptions based on habit, will likely be hard to think of in different ways. It always pays to focus on the wordings for the B&C poll questions-- as these prompts, do lead to definitive answers. I feel there's a lot of good info within these questions-- which I hope all will enjoy. I recommend the Dallas FBI files to all, as being a quite important addition to B&C historical knowledge. These documents fill in many gaps within known B&C accounts, and add much information never realized before.

Some of the Buddy Goldston info has never been published. Buddy was interviewed twice in person, by someone we both know and respect. I'm not sure why Buddy Goldston shouldn't be believed. But his account of the ambush, leaves more questions than answers-- especially in comparing his version, with accounts from the posse members who did make their stories known. Somehow, I would side with the civilian as a witness to the ambush. It seems too many others may have had issues to protect.

The Bonnie cold blooded callous murderer perception-- did gain a lot of traction within the Hamer pieces. But interestingly, I believe most if not all of these Hamer points of view-- were published after his death. It's curious to me, how Mr. Schieffer kept edging closer to the action, in order to witness the events of that Easter Sunday at Grapevine. I originally heard he was about a mile away-- then a couple of hundred yards away-- then all of the sudden, he was right there peering through the bushes-- so he could not only see but also hear Bonnie. But it seems Schieffer couldn't ID Bonnie, Clyde or Henry Methvin in reality-- a man and a woman yes, but apparently and not specifically B&C-- although we know it "was" them.

I feel it's clear Henry Methvin killed at least 1 of the 2 motorcycle officers. According to Emma Parker, Henry admitted to killing them both. With all respect to those who would do anything to get a result, whether right or wrong back in the day-- to me, Henry's admission is better testimony than Mr. Schieffer's eye witness account-- as it's not exactly clear-- how close Mr. Schieffer's eyes really were??

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Dave--

I agree with your analysis, that in the 1930's the law could pretty much do as they pleased. In my view, the law and outlaws were much more evenly matched then-- as compared to now.

One way to look at this, may be to think of time frames. The people, laws and moral codes of the early 1930's were in reality, closer in years (just 50)-- to the wild west mentality of the 1880's-- than we are now, close to 80 years removed from the '30's. Indeed a lot has changed.

Shelley said...

Dave, it was Floyd Hamilton, not LC, who was falsely arrested with Billie Jean for the Grapevine murders. And yes, I also believe these were trumped-up charges from the get-go. I have always wondered how they could've possibly gathered even one shred of so-called "evidence" against either one of them in that case! It seems to me, just one more tactic they used to "put the squeeze" on them (as known associates)--like those infamous "Trinity Valley Confessionals" were another means of doing so. Whatever works! That was that "Wild West" mentality, as Winston so astutely observed.

Guns are certainly not my forte in this history, but your comment, Dave, brought to mind something you might find interesting.

About 6-8 years ago, I taped a mini-documentary type of show called "History Detectives", which aired briefly on PBS. This particular installment of the show centered, of course, on B&C. I hadn't seen it in years, but after reading your post, I dug it out and watched it again, taking notes.

A woman in northern Wisconsin by the name of Cassandra Goss had possession of 5 rather gnarled-looking bullets, passed down to her from her ex-grandfather-in-law, the late J.D. Goss. These bullets "supposedly" came from the bodies of B&C after the ambush. She was hoping this bit of family folklore could be confirmed for her. Also in her possession were large, original forensic copies of many B&C death photos, which gave her story more credibility.

The "history detective" team first turned to preeminent author/historian John Neal Phillips for answers. Together, they went to the Bienville Parish Courthouse to search through records, but could not find anything there to link J.D. Goss to the case. Moving on to Dallas, they scoured the microfilm archives (as I have done a few times myself!), and eventually--BINGO! There in the ancient newspaper articles, was the name J.D. Goss.

But come to find out, he was NOT involved in the ambush after all. He was the BALLISTICS EXPERT who was called upon to test the bullets from B&C's guns, after the ambush, to solve the Grapevine case!

Turns out, Goss' ballistic evidence saved Billie--and Floyd. He analyzed test bullets fired from B&C's guns, and they matched the bullets that killed Murphy and Wheeler at Grapevine. Goss' evidence meant Billie Jean and Floyd went free, and the double murder was pinned on Bonnie & Clyde. As a sidenote here, they also showed a contemporary newspaper headline, reading "BARROW BULLETS FREE BILLIE MACE". I couldn't read the date, and the "banner" was not visible due to the camera angle, but I could pretty much tell by the style of it, that this was from the Dallas Dispatch, not the Morning News or some other paper.

Other tidbits on this program included the information that: 5 .45 caliber automatic shells, 3 16-gauge shotgun shells, 3 12-gauge shotgun shells, and one rifle shell were found at Grapevine.(I too remember that poll question, but found the answer from another source). The show also reported that B&C had 7 Colt .45s in their car when killed. They said 3 have been lost, 3 belong to private collectors, and one is (or was at the time) at the Northern Illinois Police Crime Lab, where they went to do tests on that particular gun.

This was a short, 30-minute show--and it focused in on just that one aspect to the story. Your comment jarred my memory, and reminded me that it was time to see this one again. Thanks, Dave!

A. Winston Woodward said...

It's been noted within a modern review of Dr. Wade's Coroner's inquest, that most of the bullets that struck B&C at the ambush were left in them when buried.

Also, I believe there were more than (7) 45 autos within the death car. I am aware of the location of a 45-- said to have been removed from the Warren car, prior to the rest being inventoried.

I'm not sure the ID of Billie Mace and Floyd Hamilton by Mr. Schieffer, would have stood up when push came to shove. The other witnesses (The Giggals)-- said they observed a shorter man and taller man standing over the bodies. That would have been Clyde and Henry Methvin. Plus Henry may have been pressured to confess to at least one of those killings-- as they had him on another capital charge already. And don't forget about Emma, who I think would be damned-- before not protecting Billie after having lost Bonnie, by telling of Henry's confession to her that he killed both officers at Grapevine. Plus Emma knew full well, who was thought responsible for setting up B&C. I feel she would have gladly hung Henry out to dry.

It may be the case by that time, that the test firing of recovered weapons would've been routine-- in order to match weapons to murders. But I wonder if this particular forensic analysis, wasn't carried out by the law in order to exonerate Billie and Floyd-- as Bonnie & Clyde were dead, and it likely made little sense that Billie and Floyd could have been involved at Grapevine.

dave said...

Shelly, Thank you for the correction. Darn if it wasn't Floyd. I got him mixed up with LC, because at the time LC was released from jail on a $2,500 bond to attend the funeral of Clyde. He had been in jail for months on a $35 armed robbery charge of a Russel Mullins, who in the mean time had signed an affidavit saying he was mistaken on the LC identification, because he was afraid of retaliation from Clyde. Even with that, the police still kept LC locked up until the funeral. Thank you again for clearing out my skull cobwebs. The show about the Goss bullets, I never saw, but I did read the story about it on B+C's Hideout. Where'd did the story of Methvin shooting the officers at Grapevine with a BAR get started?

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Dave--

If I recall correctly, a rifle casing was said to have been found amongst the variety of shell casings recovered from Grapevine. That late in the game, I would doubt any rifle would be present which wasn't a BAR. But that begs the question, why just 1 BAR casing?? That weapon has 2 settings-- one for slow fire and one for rapid fire, but either way-- the BAR is a machine gun not a semi automatic rifle. I'm not sure squeezing off just one shot, is even easy to do-- much less desirable with a BAR.

I myself had a much different perception of Grapevine, prior to having seen the report concerning so many different weapons allegedly having been used-- to kill Texas Highway Patrol officers Wheeler and Murphy. My comment is, if that inventory of shell casings is indeed accurate-- the brutality of Clyde and Henry or Henry by himself in killing those 2 officers was remarkable. Neither motorcycle officer was said to have gotten off a shot.

Logically, you would think the 1st shot or 2 to hit each officer would have killed them. Why then the need, to grab so many different weapons to finish the job?? To me, the number of weapons involved implicates Clyde, no matter what Henry told Emma Parker. It makes little sense to me, that just 1 man would have the ability or need to fire so many different weapons so quickly-- to kill 2 approaching and unaware motorcycle officers.

I feel the Grapevine killings debunk the idea, that The Barrow Gang only killed when they needed to. Those officers that Easter Sunday, were most likely drawn on as they approached. And Bonnie's location within this story is also debatable. Was Bonnie asleep as some say, or did she back into the car with Sonny Boy who had been grazing in the grass at some point-- when she saw those officers approaching??

I always make it a point to remind those interested in this history, that The Barrow Gang were not Boy Scouts. Grapevine apparently turned public opinion against B&C, and seemingly for good reason. I for one, also believe The Barrow Gang kidnapped and murdered Wade McNabb-- which would peg yet another brutal and to some, non-characteristic B&C killing upon them.

Perhaps autopsy or some type of records still exist, which detail the wounds to both officers?? I've never heard of that info being known, but knowledge concerning the deceased officer's wounds-- could be insightful in helping to sort out the weapons debate regarding Grapevine.

dave said...

Hi Winston,
One rifle shell casing? Very odd. Maybe a police plant(to make sure B+C got the blame, they would definitely have plenty of Clyde's spent BAR casings from all over 1933) or some hunter from sometime before the incident. Was it a 30.06? The BAR conversion to fire at 2 cyclic rates did not occur until 1938-1939. Which would make one rifle shell even more ridiculous. I highly doubt Clyde Barrow would have a BAR in his car that only had one bullet in the 20 round mag, (and BARS just don't jam). I think it went down this way, the officers approached, they each had a whippet gun in different gauges, whether Clyde thought Henry wasn't going to shoot or not, they both either emptied each shotgun, or kept shooting until one of them jammed, causing probably Clyde to bring a Colt 1911 45 into play to finish the murders. Someone like Clyde seems like he might not blink when it comes to killing, but would probably make sure that there would be no suffering, if he could help it. There should be a complete autopsy report of these 2 poor motorcycle officers somewhere.

A. Winston Woodward said...

The Dallas Morning News article concerning the Grapevine killings dated April 2nd, 1934 notes-- "Near the spot where the car had been parked were three 16 gauge shotgun shells, five .45 caliber automatic shells, three 12 gauge shells and one rifle shell, all empty." I still say if true, that's a lot of firepower and different weapons, for just one shooter.

Even though this was said to have been Henry's mistake in not understanding Clyde's directive, I'm not sure Clyde wouldn't have had some inkling of Henry Methvin's thought process or propensity for violence-- in the nearly 3 months they had spent together since the Eastham breakout.

Of course the police could have planted whatever evidence they wanted-- but I'm not sure they would've had to in this case. The shells found, do happen to be representative of Barrow Gang weaponry. But that's why I'd like to see the autopsy reports on Wheeler and Murphy-- to hopefully verify the number of wounds vs the number of shell casings found. Now the cigar with small teeth marks attributed to Bonnie?!? I'm not sure anyone can sort that one out.

Shelley said...

Yes, and what about Henry's THUMBPRINT on the whiskey bottle?! First ID'd as Clyde's, later proven to be Henry's, instead.

First, I'd like to quote Emma Parker, from FUGITIVES. She said, "Failing to find Nell, Henry walked on out to find me and Clyde's mother. One of the first things he said to me was: 'Mrs. Parker, I killed those two officers at Grapevine!'. Later that day at Mount Pleasant, Bonnie told me this too, but Henry told me first. My white rabbit was delivered to me that trip. I still have him. 'Keep him away from the cops,' Bonnie said, when she gave him to me. 'He's been in two gun battles and he'll land at Huntsville if the law finds it out.'"

I don't doubt Parker was an honest and respectable woman. I believe that for whatever reason, that's what both Bonnie--AND Henry--told her.

But here is what #1 top expert in all things B&C, John Neal Phillips; "Running With B&C", had to say. I will have to edit some as I go along, but I will quote verbatim what JNP revealed:

"Two of the officers, Wheeler and Murphy, made a wide circle on their motorcycles, as if to turn around. The third patrolman, Polk Ivy, continued on...Bonnie collected the rabbit and walked back to the car to wake Clyde. Barrow rubbed his eyes and peered through the windshield at the two approaching lawmen. With a sawed-off shotgun concealed behind him, he slipped from the back seat and took up a position behind the open car door. Methvin, already aware of the officers, gripped a BROWNING AUTOMATIC RIFLE.

'LET'S TAKE THEM,' said Clyde as the cyclists drew within twenty-five feet of the car. Barrow...meant to catch the unsuspecting officers off guard and take them hostage. METHVIN, however, thought otherwise. Misundersatanding the command, he raised his weapon.

...Giggals passed the dirt road...caught a brief glimpse of the motorcycles moving slowly toward a big black car with yellow wheels...then heard a succession of loud explosions...not far down the road they decided to turn around and take a look.

Grapevine farmer William Schieffer...was standing on the front porch of his house, QUITE A DISTANCE from the car when the explosions shattered the country silence. He had seen the highway patrolmen approach the black Ford.

Wheeler was in front of his partner, Murphy. It was obvious to Clyde that neither sensed any danger--sidearms were plainly holstered. When Wheeler drew within ten feet of the car, Barrow started to leap into view and get the drop on both officers. To his surprise, however, METHVIN opened fire, striking Wheeler in the chest with a line of steel-jacketed slugs.

Murphy, serving his first day in the patrol force, watched in horror as the four-year veteran fell bloodied and lifeless from the seat of his bike. Bringing his motorcycle to a halt, the lone officer dismounted, FISHED TWO SHOTGUN SHELLS FROM HIS POCKET, and started to reach for the sawed-off shotgun strapped to the rear fender of his machine. At first hesitant, Barrow saw that the patrolman intended to fight and raised his weapon, squeezing off three rounds. When the smoke cleared, both lawmen were lying in the dirt.

The Giggals managed to get turned around just as the shooting stopped. The couple strained to see through a line of trees as they approached the intersection. They spotted two armed men standing over the dead and dying motorcycle patrolmen...then saw 'THE TALLER OF TWO MEN', Henry Methvin, fire several shots into the limp, prostrate body of H.D. Murphy. The 'smaller man', Clyde, noticed the Giggals and started walking rapidly toward the car; the tall man followed close behind. Fred Giggal quickly turned his vehicle around and sped away."

As Jim Knight flatly stated in his own wonderful book, John Neal Phillips is THE MAN--no one KNOWS B&C quite like he does! Therefore, this is the Grapevine story I believe is accurate and true. And Schieffer didn't know sh*t! He was too far away.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Shelley--

With great respect for John and some other stellar B&C authors-- "no one" can present a B&C recreation of Grapevine or other B&C events "as they happened". These approximations, are built from the testimony of a few and the supposition of many.

Despite what was told to Emma, it's hard for me to imagine, Henry Methvin morphing into a 1 man wrecking crew-- grabbing 2 shotguns, a BAR and at least 1 .45 automatic pistol-- and in rapid succession within just seconds, felling both motorcycle officers so expertly. It could be true, but I would think the physical evidence says otherwise. Plus having fired a BAR so many times, where were all the .30 caliber shell casings which should have been present after such a carnage?? Maybe B&C picked up all but one of the BAR casings, but left all the other types of shell casings behind??

I don't know-- something doesn't seem to add up from the told accounts of Grapevine, which made it into literary form.

Shelley said...

Winston, perhaps you misread JNP's account. He (nor I) suggest for an instant that Henry "morphed into a one-man wrecking crew"!!!!

What it SAID was...Clyde said "Let's take them"; Henry (who was drinking whiskey, btw) misunderstood--or perhaps was just in the mood to kill that day--and fired upon Wheeler. THEN, when Murphy pulled out a couple of shotgun shells and started to reach for his weapon, CLYDE shot him. Henry shot Wheeler, Clyde shot Murphy. I ask the polite question here--HOW does that translate into me (or JNP) "morphing" Henry into a "one-man wrecking crew"??? Please explain this to me, I don't understand.

Yes, other authors have written other fine books. But John Neal Phillips spent many many YEARS doing the landmark research that paved the way for others to follow. Before him, most research was limited to specific areas, such as the ambush, and it was largely unpublished or very obscure information.

You don't have to believe this account, and neither does anyone else for that matter. I just took the time to share the words of who most experts acknowledge is the one who knows the most. There it is; dismiss it if you like. The families, the Feds, the local lawmen, the newspapers--they all had a limited perspective at the time. John Neal Phillips devoted a lot of years to sorting it all out--based on ALL the evidence--long after it was all said and done.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Shelley--

I don't believe I've misread any of the accounts of Grapevine. My comment focused on the statement of Emma Parker, that Henry confessed to both killings. Henry may have said it, but I personally don't believe that's true-- nor do I understand the reasoning for Henry's admission, "unless" it was to protect Clyde. However, the evidence doesn't seem to support Henry acting alone. That was my point. Many times, I've stated I thought Clyde killed at least one of those officers-- in adding one more to Clyde's total of killings.

By the way, based on any perception that the Grapevine killings may have sealed their fate (which they did)-- I can see Bonnie or the families fibbing, to protect Bonnie & Clyde as well.

I know how much you admire John and his work, as do I. However, there are other points of view-- including now Billie's admissions from events she witnessed, as well as much additional info from FBI documents-- unavailable at the time many of the classic B&C books were written. It seems only fair and logical, that now some updating of this history is in order-- in a variety of places.

Also, with all respect to every B&C author or historian-- I don't know how any one account of any B&C incident could be considered wholly accurate-- without someone who was there, having expressed a comprehensive account of what actually happened. But even then, the story could be tainted by opinion. To me, there are no end all B&C accounts-- as I believe many separate versions contribute useful bits and pieces of the truth.

dave said...

I too believed JNP's book , "running" was the final word, but after the lack of BAR shell casings, well, I kind of now realize there's more to know and mistakes are made. This is one crime, that Clyde refused to acknowledge anything to do with. He blamed it on Ray, and he made it clear it wasn't him and that he wasn't even there. Let's face it, he wasn't going to be electrocuted an extra time for it. It was that bad, that even he realized it was something he didn't want to be remembered for.

Shelley said...

Okay...NOW I get the discrepancy here! Not really being a "gun person" and all, it was easy for this one to sail right past me.

So JNP reported that Henry shot Wheeler with a BAR. Obviously, he had to get that part wrong if there was no evidence of a BAR having been fired! I know next to nothing when it comes to ammo and weapons in general, but the list reads 3 12-gauge and 3 16-gauge shotgun shells, 5 .45 caliber automatic shells, and one rifle (?!) shell.

In search of clarification, I turned to "the files". I'm still reading. What I've found so far is a report filed in Dallas by Agent Winstead (who also was instrumental in Dillinger's demise, btw), on April 14th, 1934, detailing the events surrounding Grapevine and Commerce, Oklahoma, as well as much more additional information.

In part, Winstead writes: "...on a sideroad about 4 miles North of the town of Grapevine, Texas, murdered two Texas State Highway Patrolmen--E.B. Wheeler and H.D. Murphy. These officers saw the car in which Barrow and Bonnie Parker and the other man were parked on the side road about 300 yards(?) off of the paved northwest highway on a hill and evidently rode up to within a few feet of the car on their motorcycles and before stepping off the motorcycles they were EACH SHOT IN THE CHEST WITH A SHOTGUN. A farmer was hauling gravel from a nearby point and he informed some of the state officers that after the two motorcycle officers were down on the ground two persons from the car walked over to them and turned their bodies over with their feet and shot into their bodies with PISTOLS."

There may be more details further along, but I haven't gotten to them yet. Interesting. NO BAR. In JNP's account, Murphy pulled out two shotgun shells, but of course, never had time to load them. So I wonder if these two shells were considered part of the 6 total shotgun shells found? And what about that rifle shell??? Where did that fit in??!

The report did not name Scheiffer by name; just a "farmer". Winstead claims he was "hauling gravel from a nearby point". JNP, however, stated that he was "standing on the front porch of his house, quite a distance away from the car". Hmmm...more discrepancy!

If Winstead's report is accurate, Clyde acted that day in an uncharacteristically cold-blooded manner. Perhaps Henry's inherently violent nature was starting to rub off on him; perhaps he was even taking a few nips of whiskey himself that day--after all, it was a holiday! We'll never really know how it all came down.

Although Clyde and Bonnie DID admit to their involvement in this crime to their families (the only one I know of which Clyde denied to them was the killing of Howard Hall, at Sherman)--it's true he did "publicly" blame Ray and Mary for all of it. Theirs was a vendetta of epic proportions, and I've always wondered how it might have turned out had things gone differently. Clyde and Ray seemed to have "unfinished business" and so many unresolved issues between them.

I think you are probably right, Dave, about Clyde not wanting to be remembered that way, after Grapevine. Unlike many outlaws (Henry included), I DO believe that Clyde felt remorse for his actions. Before Grapevine occured, almost a year had passed since Clyde had killed anyone. He'd had plenty of opportunities in that time to do so, but didn't. He tried to avoid killing. IF the FBI report is true, then I think that Clyde was probably passed-out drunk and caught without his usual sharp wits about him, and that is why he was in the car, "napping", in the first place. Once he sobered up and realized what he'd done, he must have felt a lot of guilt and shame for his actions. And what better way to divert all that negative attention off himself, than to lay blame on the one person he felt most betrayed by?--namely, Raymond Hamilton.

A. Winston Woodward said...

As was noted in numerous reports concerning Grapevine, neither motorcycle officer was known to have gotten off a shot. Thus any shotgun shells dropped by Murphy, would have been full and unfired. All the casings noted in the reports I've seen regarding this incident, were said to have been empty. These empty casings said to have been from a variety of weapons (2 different gauge shotguns, at least one .45 automatic pistol and a rifle-- would thus have been from rounds shot at the officers in the attack.

I feel that based on the difficult nature of gaining reliable info within this history, that most published B&C accounts are necessarily laced with some amount of supposition. Of course and unfortunately, not many individuals directly involved at the time for most of these incidents-- could have commented concerning these events (including Grapevine)-- toward documentation of these stories.

Now contrary to what at least one B&C author feels-- there "are" many facts known regarding these incidents, which when pieced together-- do give us some idea of the realities of these occurrences.

The Grapevine killings seemed bad for B&C, no matter how they were viewed. Clyde blatantly lied about being present there that day, and blamed Raymond Hamilton for these senseless deaths. I wouldn't doubt that the families followed suit, in protecting their loved ones-- as there could be little excuse for such a heinous act of violence-- especially on a religious holiday.

When I read comments which frame Clyde in polite terms, as somehow being less of a killer-- in "usually" exhibiting different or kinder or perhaps warm blooded tendencies instead of cold blooded ones-- I can't find myself supporting those feelings. As I've said before, I would think it entirely appropriate for anyone who feels sympathy in somehow lessening Clyde's murderous ways (as being just a victim of circumstance, with little choice in having to kill)-- to face the families of Barrow Gang victims (no matter who fired the fatal shots)-- and explain these "fine nuances" concerning the deaths of their loved ones to them-- face to face. I'd imagine relatives of B&C victims could be found, with which to experience that reality. Now that would be fair, wouldn't you think??

dave said...

Clyde was a killer no doubt, and I do not condone verbal abuse, let alone murder to get what you want, but I think of all the different occasions he took police and citizens for "a ride" instead of killing them, moving the dead officer out of the way before driving away at Joplin. Buying a revolver for an officer, to replace the one he took off of him. Not shooting his BAR directly into the officers at the beginning of the Dexfield battle or directly into the guards at the Eastham break...etc. Its like he was hoping the noise would scare them away. He had nothing to lose if he would have killed on these instances, absolutely zero to lose. It's not like he was conserving ammo. He was different, and difficult to figure. (that's why B+C have this almost fanatical interest about them. If for 2 years, they had been shooting people execution style because they didn't like the way they looked, they'd barely be remembered) I do have a feeling Clyde would have been much worse if he had not been traveling with Bonnie, it's like he trying to live up to being a sensitive, loving, caring "outlaw" husband.

A. Winston Woodward said...

I would think taking the 2 Grapevine officers for a ride, would have been a far better solution on Easter Sunday 1934-- than the alternative which occurred. I feel most would admit, The Grapevine murders were as close to execution style eliminations of the law-- as The Barrow Gang ever committed.

Yes Clyde was indeed different. Perhaps my view is not a common one, but I feel B&C's unwillingness to part from their mothers and family-- resulted in many of their killings. In needing to stay within close proximity to their families, my feeling is B&C caused pursuing law enforcement numerous encounters with them. Some might call this selfishness. This likely wouldn't have been the case, should they have realized they couldn't have both their families & freedom-- after committing all the killings they had. Logically-- Bonnie & Clyde should have gone to Mexico or somewhere far away.

So in sparing the lives of some, Clyde perhaps cut the Barrow Gang death total from say a dozen and a 1/2 to 12 or 13. I don't know-- I think that's a tough position to both accept and defend. Perhaps if all dozen or more victims were lined up side by side-- some would accept the scope of Barrow Gang carnage, and find fewer ways to sugarcoat B&C.

There were indeed circumstances (social, economic and otherwise)-- which legitimately affected this history and which unfortunately resulted in many deaths. Also B&C were very much human, and deserve credit for their redeeming qualities. But there's also a stark reality concerning this loss of human life by desperate killers, which I don't feel the romanticized B&C can adequately be protected from.

BarefootOkieGal said...

Grapevine was apparently the beginning of the end of Bonnie and Clyde - regardless of the actual facts and details, this murder was the one that settled for once and for all in everyone's mind that Bonnie was a cold-blooded killer as well as Clyde ("Looka there - his head bounced like a rubber ball!") and I have no doubt that the fact that it was Easter Sunday had a big psychological impact on everyone. I can fully accept a scenario in which Henry Methvyn misunderstood Clyde's order to "Take 'em," and began shooting, and then once Henry fired, Clyde began firing, too. It was a stupid thing that didn't need to happen: Those police officers were NOT looking for Bonnie and Clyde and had no reason to expect that they'd encounter them; they were not prepared for a gunbattle and could have easily been kidnapped and dropped off somewhere else, later (which appears to be what Clyde had in mind for them) and it was EASTER SUNDAY, fer cryin' out loud. It's easy to see why the public responded with such outrage to these killings. I can even understand how someone with no knowledge of Bonnie other than what they read in the papers could develop an impression of her from this erroneous report of her killing a police officer in cold blood and with supposed glee could have dismissed her as no more than just another bloodthirsty gun moll. The damage done to the public perception of Bonnie and Clyde was probably deadly to them; while they were already on the run and wanted criminals, this killing reinforced the image of them as bloodthirsty and brutal, killing police officers in cold blood and then laughing about the killings. Public opinion has always been a great way of motivating the police departments into greater action!

Shelley said...

Excellent excellent points, Dave and BFOG! It's true Clyde killed a few lawmen along the way and perhaps even a civilian or two, but...he WAS "different". Ray Hamilton professed to be a "gentleman bandit", but in my perception, that title more aptly belongs to Clyde.

It's never been my intention to diminish in any way the tragic loss of his victims. Clyde himself confessed to his people--it made him feel "sick inside" whenever he took another man's life.

The slain lawmen and others, I might remind some, weren't all Clyde's doing; the others did their share of shooting, too. In fact, I think if not for him, there probably would have been MORE shooting within this trigger-happy bunch of accomplices! Clyde's m.o. was to take them on
"joyrides" as I think he called them. He got absolutely no pleasure out of killing. Though it must have seemed unavoidable at times, I'll bet Joe Johns, Paul Hardy, George Corry, Tom Persell, and Percy Boyd all had one hell of a story to pass down to the grandkids! Not ONE of these officers was mistreated, once taken hostage. Or as Jim Knight put it, "Of B&C's eleven known captives, all of whom were treated well, Boyd seems to have been their favorite". Percy Boyd, in turn, even expressed affection for Bonnie--and admiration for Clyde. Yes, Clyde and Bonnie were different, alright.

As Dave mentioned, I also think it is important to note as well, that Clyde DID like to shoot overhead to warn people to back off--or else! In the early days, when first planning the future Eastham break with Ralph Fults, Clyde said he wanted to go back there and "shoot every one of those damned guards" (and I can hardly blame him for feeling that way, considering what he had to endure because of them). But when the break actually transpired, did Clyde kill ANYONE?! NO, he did NOT!!! He stayed back, and fired his BAR (I presume) to discourage anyone from approaching. Clyde managed to pull off the break with only one man being killed: a sadistic guard killed by the seriously ill Joe Palmer, who had been tormented by this guard for many months. (Later, of course, Joe would be responsible for another so-called "murder" attributed to the "Barrow Gang"; that of Wade McNabb, who in the words of JNP, was "a vicious trustee, who like the building tender Clyde had killed, delighted in the torture and beating of his fellow inmates").

And even more so than the Eastham break, yes I do believe Grapevine really WAS the beginning of the end for them. The artist's rendition in the papers--of the woman with a gun, standing over the dead bodies of two fallen officers--had to make an enormous impact. Easter Sunday; both so young. And if I remember correctly, Murphy was about to be married, and his young bride-to-be wore her wedding gown to his funeral, instead. Yes, I imagine all these elements succeeded in demonizing Clyde AND Bonnie quite effectively in the court of public opinion.

More than 3 months after B&C were ambushed, an article was published in a Shreveport newspaper, dated September 5, 1934. In it, it said: "Officers here said new evidence had led them to believe that METHVIN, and NOT Barrow or the Parker woman was involved in the (Grapevine) killing". I don't know about y'all--but I do believe I have some more reading to do!

A. Winston Woodward said...

It seems I may need to buy someone a case of cinnamon and sugar for Christmas-- so it can be sprinkled all over Bonnie & Clyde History in order to "frame" the truth. I must say from my point of view, whenever The Barrow Gang and Clyde in particular are defended so vehemently-- certain comments "do" diminish the dignities of those killed.

Jim Knight in his comments concerning Barrow Gang hostages for the blog-- made a point to amend his previous comments from his book regarding the safe handling of these hostages, to recognize the gang's capture and murder of Wade McNabb. He and I both believe McNabb was the victim of kidnapping and murder-- likely at the hands of Palmer, Barrow and Methvin.

I'm not into hero worship of these outlaws, the lawmen that pursued them or of B&C authors. Some sense of legitimate balance within this history is "vital"-- so as not to skew the realities which occurred. I can't help but feel that both "extremes" within B&C History are in the wrong-- and that the middle ground likely contains the truth.

Those who know me understand-- my even handedness extends to all, in that I'll be quick to state this same opposition-- to the first Hamer was God and could do no wrong comment I see-- as that certainly wasn't the case either.

Bonnie & Clyde History is a polarizing type of history. There was much hurt and humanity exhibited among it's participants, victims and spectators-- within an exceptionally difficult and unique time in our nation's history. For some within this history-- old wounds somehow still seem fresh, and hurt never seems to go away. Passions run as deep as the deepest river, in support of both sides of a fight-- where each felt they were justified in stopping the other.

"Balance" is key to this history as I see it-- in not giving in to the temptation of "routing" too overtly for your favorites. People were killed-- and loving families forever altered on both sides of this struggle between right and wrong. To be able to walk in each others shoes, and ultimately find some understanding of why this history is important-- is a valuable element.

B&C History involves far more than just it's iconic individuals, and defending their actions one way or another. To me, this history which includes the Depression years and all it's sensibilities-- is about understanding "humanity" at a unique crossroads in time-- when people under great strain and hardship, were perhaps at their worst-- and also, at their best.

dave said...

In a gentle society, no citizen or peace officer should have a gun stuck in their face as they're carrying on with their day's business. It is total violation and a horrible thing to have happen to anyone, at any time in history. Let's face it, Clyde stuck a lot of guns, in a lot of people's faces. Historically wise, it's very interesting reading.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I think that we know a lot more about B&C than we know about many outlaws of any time, mostly due to Bonnie's diary and poetry and the willingness of the families to share this information with outsiders. This may be why to some people they seem to be "heros" - we can read the words of their families, and the words that Bonnie wrote to Clyde when he was in prison, and it makes them seem more real and alive (at least to me, it does) - and when you are able to know people more fully, when you can read their own words about what they experienced and how they felt about it, or read the words of family members describing their loved ones, it's easy to like them. Heck, I probably would have liked Bonnie and Clyde, but I surely hope I would have had the sense not to get caught up in running with them like some of their "friends" did! If you can look at them without looking at their crimes, they seem to have been nice young people - Bonnie has been described as having a bubbly, sparkly personality that attracted people to her, and Clyde has been described as polite and charming.

Trouble is, you really can't look at B&C without looking at their crimes, and their crimes were mostly senseless and not very productive. They were not noted for their flash and their style and living high on the hog after robbing banks - they were noted for robbing gas stations and small stores, sometimes making only enough money to survive and enable them to keep traveling. Bonnie and Clyde didn't have any big plans for their lives - it doesn't seem they had any plan at all, really. In Clyde's own words, all they felt they could do was keep running until they got caught - and he was determined to keep that day at bay as long as he could. Clyde was known for his ruthlessness - granted, Henry Methvyn fired the first shots at Grapevine, but look at the number of bullets that were ultimately fired! Clyde was no shrinking violet when it came to killing a man, and I'm sure that once he realized he was not going to be able to kidnap them, he got out his gun and fired and fired and fired until he knew they were dead. While Clyde may have shown mercy toward some people in some circumstances, in others he was a deadly killer who shot people who got in his way - Doyle Johnson comes to mind, although I've heard differing stories about his death; in one version, W.D. shot him and then Clyde finished him off. (Seems as if every time shots were fired, Clyde had to pick up a gun and get involved.)

Whether Bonnie ever shot anyone or not is moot - under Texas law at the time, she was eligible for the death penalty as a habitual criminal. She did not hesitate to ride with Clyde, although she knew that innocent people could die. She learned to load guns, despite the fact that as a young girl, she supposedly hated and was frightened of them. She did all she could to be a full partner to Clyde in his life of crime, and was so determined to die beside him, as a criminal, that she resisted every effort by everyone who tried to convince her to leave Clyde - and even entered a suicide pact to make sure that she would not have to live without him.

I can see them from both sides - I can see their families' love and fear for them and I feel sorry for two young people who went so far wrong and who rapidly reached a point of no return; I can also see the pain of the families who lost loved ones to Bonnie and Clyde, and I feel genuine sorrow for their pain, and can certainly understand why to them Bonnie and Clyde were no more "heros" than the people who flew the planes into the World Trade Centers. Mike Royko wrote an excellent column about those dead that B&C left behind them, and I think anyone who visits this site should look that column up and read it - it does provide a good sense of perspective.

A. Winston Woodward said...

The George Bernard Shaw quote of the day today on the blog, is perhaps a poignant one--

Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of other men.

BarefootOkieGal said...

Winston - I really enjoy that quote. What is the difference between a criminal killer and a trained police office? They are both willing to kill - but the criminal kills without the sanction of society. The police officer kills with the full weight of the law behind him, having the right to take the criminal's life if that is required in the course of his duties - but ultimately, police officers are only men, who sometimes have to kill other men. Many police officers who have had to kill someone in the line of duty describe the same feelings that Clyde described when he killed a man - sick, sad, but glad that he himself survived the encounter.

Still... police officers are ultimately men (and women) who have been licensed to kill, if necessary. The law gives them that right - but still, when you kill a person, whether or not it is sanctioned by the law, I've heard that it changes a person. Witness the effects of the fatal ambush on the survivors - although they had been on that road specifically to kill Bonnie and Clyde, and knew they had to get them before they had a chance to resist, many of them had difficulties dealing with the whole thing. Killing a woman appears to have been particularly hard on the officers. So - while the "law" killed Bonnie and Clyde, the men who carried out those killings had to live with the memories and whatever their feelings might have been, whereas the "law" could mark it down as one more pack of criminals taken off the road.

(I'm horrified to notice that I misspelled "heroes" throughout one of my above posts... well, that's what happens when you just go with the flow of writing and don't edit!)