Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Bad Weather Trap-- That Wasn't "Revisited"

Sometimes, it just takes one formerly secret Bonnie & Clyde document-- for things to get interesting. At 1:20 AM on April 8th, 1934-- Dallas Bureau of Investigation SAC Frank Blake received a telephone message. This communique' was from A. W. Miller, a Texas State Highway Patrolman-- who was calling Blake from the Sheriff's office at Clarksville, TX. Miller stated he was working the territory between Texarkana and Paris, Texas-- watching Red River crossings along with another Hwy Patrol officer named J. W. Chapman, under instructions from Capt. Hamm.

The weather had apparently been bad-- in having rained for days. Officer Miller said the Red River was 2/3 up it's banks, and since that past Thursday-- crossing had been impossible and would be impossible for 3 or 4 days more. The ferry at Texarkana and all ferries in that vicinity had ceased operation because of heavy rains. The only possible crossing would be at Texarkana, and that would be unlikely. The bridge 25 miles east of Clarksville was also washed out, however the officers had reported keeping an eye out there as well.

Miller relayed information that a man from Detroit, Texas who said he served time with Clyde and claimed to know him personally-- said Clyde was in Detroit, Texas on Wednesday April 4th and was headed east. Officer Miller stated he and officer Chapman could be reached at Sheriff Smiley's in Clarksville, in order to provide more information regarding this Clyde Barrow sighting in Detroit-- and also requested this info be passed onto Capt. Hamm. Miller again goes on to detail how the roads, except main highways are still very muddy in Clarksville, and everywhere in between Paris and Texarkana.

Often, those interested in B&C History will ask-- why lawmen failed to employ this tactic or that, in trying to apprehend The Barrow Gang. This memo from a highway patrolman on the ground or should I say in the mud, with info concerning a Barrow sighting and good reconnaissance regarding the weather and roads-- begs the question, as to why no one followed up on the obvious?? Within his phone call, Texas Highway patrolman Miller eluded to what "could" have been a creative trap set for B&C-- or at least an enhanced effort to help in sighting them. Mother nature it seems, had provided a unique opportunity-- to aid law enforcement in their search for Bonnie and Clyde. With the back roads impassable, along with the bridges and ferries knocked out-- given some deployment of manpower, the highway patrol and Bureau of Investigation may have had the chance to set a bad weather trap-- to try and snare Barrow and his devoted paramour, within the soggy Texas countryside.

From interviews known to the Bureau and particularly from W. D. Jones-- the Bureau knew Clyde preferred to travel the back roads. With only the main roads passable, this would force Clyde onto the main roads where lawmen could be stationed. Or instead, if Clyde and Bonnie hunkered down until the rains stopped, they might have emerged later on the back roads again-- where the Hwy Patrol could have been stationed as well. Also with so few crossings of rivers available in those days, and the existing crossings being watched-- at some point or another, The Barrow Gang would need to cross a river and be spotted doing so-- which they "had" been before.

This is one of those "what if" Bureau of Investigation documents. Info was known, the opportunity may have been there-- but seemingly no one thought to complete the idea. Or if they did, perhaps it was felt, with Clyde being so elusive-- this strategy would be too cumbersome to employ. Maybe this is an instance, where Clyde's reputation indeed protected he and Bonnie. The thought could have been-- with the distances Clyde was capable of traversing in any given car trip, along with the unpredictability of his actions-- B&C may not have even been near there at that point-- therefore this strategy was deemed futile to attempt.

Perhaps if the lead time regarding Clyde's Detroit, Texas sighting had been just 2 days instead of 4-- this idea would have been considered?? However there "were" instances detailed in the Dallas FBI Files, where the Barrow Gang was later discovered to have been hold up or stranded at times-- "very" near where lawmen "could" have pursued and perhaps captured them-- but didn't. That was apparently the case after the Red Crown incident, and who knows-- could well have been the case here. Clyde could have stopped due to the heavy rains, only to emerge again when the roads were more passable. Seemingly all the authorities had to do, was station enough well armed men at the river crossings-- and along a select group of main and back roads of the area noted-- and wait for the weather to clear. A little time in the rain-- perhaps may have paid off. It appears, some officers in the trenches may have had a good idea. I find it interesting this bad weather trap wasn't even attempted. How about you?? I welcome your comments.


From Paris, TX said...

This post completely fascinates me, for obvious reasons. Thank you so much for posting this again, Winston.

To add a little personal flair to this post, people from Clarksville don't exactly have a reputation for being the most intelligent folks in the world. And I can pretty much guarantee that not much has changed since 1934 in Red River County. I know a lot of people from there, and some of them still don't even have a telephone, much less a computer. It is also notorious for unsolved murders.

Clarksville and Detroit are as rural as rural gets, with plenty of places to hide, and Red River County is definitely not one of the more populated areas in Northeast Texas. I don't doubt that Clyde could have found a suitable hideout, even in the bad weather.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I think that in this case, Clyde's reputation served him well! Everyone knew that if Clyde spotted so much as one officer, the game was pretty much up - Clyde had a reputation of being able to shoot his way out of even the most hair-raising situations, and perhaps the idea of sitting around IN BAD WEATHER hoping that Clyde would go by was considered to be just foolhardy, in the end. If Clyde could not maneuver well, neither could the officers; besides, Clyde was an expert at getting out of nasty situations in an automobile, and was known for driving "like a demon." Considering the fact that no one could predict Clyde's movements, or even know for sure whether he was in that part of the country, I can see how this plan never panned out.

For such a small man, Clyde did manage to inspire a lot of fear in the hearts of law officers...