Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Bonnie and Clyde Q & A-- Who Were the Loggers Who Witnessed Bonnie & Clyde's Deaths??

A visitor from Douglasville, GA has keyed into the blog-- asking about perhaps an eternal Bonnie & Clyde mystery. The identities of the loggers who witnessed a lurid ambush of Bonnie & Clyde that fateful day in May of '34-- has been a maze of conjecture for decades. Some Bonnie & Clyde historical accounts, identify just 2 men being associated with the logging truck-- which it seems to the ambush posse members who talked, was traveling north and in danger of disrupting their waylay-- by passing in between the posse and Warren car. However true to the unique controversy which surrounds the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde, the one known individual who steered the logging rig that fateful day-- told a decidedly different story.

Some seem content to further gossip and lore within Bonnie & Clyde History-- even to the remarkable point of espousing historical fact as guesswork, while at the same time attempting to promote a true story of Bonnie & Clyde. Others question much of this history-- in arriving at little result, by viewing Bonnie & Clyde History as a perpetual Catch 22 of factual mistrust. Thank goodness for the Bonnie & Clyde researchers and authors, who've been most diligent in compiling the best accounts of this Depression Age Saga.

I along with many who care for this history-- are proponents of "truth" within Bonnie & Clyde History. The danger of Bonnie & Clyde conjecture being printed, borrowed and re-published over the years can be obvious. When Bonnie & Clyde lore is advanced and recounted multiple times, the illusion of lore morphing into fact-- can become reality to many. And that danger is well illustrated, within a number of aspects of the ambush.

Buddy Goldston has been identified at times, as having been the lone rider positioned upon the logging rig-- when all hell broke loose that hot spring day in Louisiana. However within more accurately researched Bonnie & Clyde chronicles and based on rarely known conversations, Mr. Goldston confirmed that he was indeed the driver of that renown logging truck. Furthermore Buddy revealed within discussions held with him, that there were "2" men riding on the back of his logging rig that day-- not just one.

That makes 3 individuals in addition to at least Bonnie, Clyde, Ivy Methvin and the 6 ambush posse members-- who were present to witness the carnage that ensued. One motto I've stood by in investigating this history has been-- "get closest to the source". To me, the best source of information which remains concerning Buddy Goldston-- is my compadre' and friend to many within this history-- L. J. "Boots" Hinton. "Boots" knew Buddy, and as it turns out-- spent time in direct conversation with Mr. Goldston concerning Buddy's involvement at the ambush.

At times, stories concerning the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde have seemed a bevy of misinformation-- with multiple conflicting accounts having been told by eyewitnesses who were there. To my reasoning, whether these varying stories as told by trained and experienced lawmen smack of a cover up, some mass hallucination or just honest disagreement under the stress of the moment-- stand a good chance of remaining an impenetrable mystery. Fortunately for us-- there were others present that day who could independently tell what occurred. But unfortunately-- these common citizens with objectivity to spare, would never reveal much of what they knew.

Contrary to what's often been written-- as Buddy Goldston told it, he would've approached the ambush site from the north in proceeding south as Bonnie & Clyde were traveling. This crucial departure from what's been reported by posse members including Ted Hinton, would have the logging truck pulling up to Bonnie & Clyde from behind as the shooting started. Although Buddy didn't use a directional term in his description, to illustrate this point-- Buddy revealed that Clyde had passed his logging rig back up the road. Then presumably, Buddy caught up to Bonnie & Clyde at the ambush location. With Ivy Methvin's truck thought positioned in the southbound lane, in forcing Clyde closer to the posse in the northbound lane-- this scenario would have the logging truck approaching Ivy's truck straight on, with little or no room to maneuver between the 2.

Buddy described what happened next, by saying when the shooting started-- he quit the truck and ran into the woods. Buddy said he dove into a hole, which had been made by the root ball of a fallen tree. He commented that he wasn't concerned with snakes, as he sought that hole in trying to escape
flying bullets-- which he creatively described as "those singing bees". Buddy later made his famous exclamation is saying "that car was shot up-- them people were shot up".

Within repeated attempts, "Boots" Hinton tried his best to get Buddy to reveal the identities of the other 2 men present that day-- who besides trying to save themselves, could have provided much needed independent accounts of the ambush. But at least within the friendly confines of his encounters with Mr. Hinton-- Buddy never divulged his secrets. "Boots" has 2 theories, as to why Buddy would never reveal this potentially monumental information. The first is perhaps Buddy wasn't supposed to have riders on the rig, and thus was protecting his position with the logging company. Maybe these 2 men had hitched a ride with Buddy?? If so, what a rig to choose that day for conveyance!! The other theory is perhaps these 2 men were associated with the logging company, but were supposed at work elsewhere-- when so conspicuously discovered at the ambush.

There's also the straight forward possibility, that those men were meant to be on that truck-- but just never talked about their Bonnie & Clyde encounter. My comment concerning Buddy's reluctance to expound on his story, in either protecting the other men or himself??-- would be to ask what difference would those concerns have made so many decades later??
To my mind it's more likely, someone in that posse under the threat of repercussion-- may have made it clear to these men, not to tell of what they saw. Apparently and unfortunately-- it seems they never did.

Then there's the somewhat obtuse, but to many very real idea-- of a Bonnie & Clyde curse. Many in Louisiana where the West Dallas Desperadoes traveled, are said to be a superstitious lot. Based on tragic events believed to have befallen some who revealed Bonnie & Clyde secrets over the years-- Bonnie & Clyde reprisals from the "other side" are considered by some, to be a legitimate and feared reality. As such, it's thought this "blood money" curse has over time-- prevented many thought to know Bonnie & Clyde secrets, from revealing them. Indeed many a Bonnie & Clyde story, may have gone to the graves of those too afraid to tell what they knew. From having spoken to locals and researchers alike-- I can attest to the existence of this perceived reality.

Unfortunately as Buddy Goldston passed away nearly a decade ago, and it's logical to believe the other 2 men have passed on now as well-- we may never know the entire truth concerning the logger's story. So who were the loggers who witnessed Bonnie & Clyde's deaths?? Apparently the best answer is Buddy Goldston and 2 unknown individuals, who by design or default-- have remained protected all these years. And as to the question of what these men witnessed??-- unless some account is forthcoming from the families of Buddy Goldston and these mystery men from the past-- that knowledge may have forever been lost. It does seem clear based upon info related to "Boots" Hinton, and from Buddy's filmed interview which appears in the documentary Remembering Bonnie & Clyde-- that from Buddy Goldston's perspective, he was behind Bonnie & Clyde's car not facing it as was reported by the lawmen.

According to Ted Hinton, when the smoke cleared-- Bob Alcorn proceeded to the logging truck, which like the B&C car ended up in a ditch. As the rig was still running and noticeably smoking, Alcorn felt the truck might catch fire. Thus as Hinton recalls, it was Bob Alcorn who entered the truck's cab, and shut the truck down. At that point it was noted the 3 men who had quit the truck-- walked out of the woods. One could only assume, whatever these men perhaps failed to see with such a profusion of bullets flying about-- they "could" see when re-emerging onto the scene.
It should be noted there's agreement between Ted Hinton and Buddy Goldston concerning there being 3 men on the logging truck. Apparently they were the only witnesses to say so. So then I would ask-- why the disagreement regarding the direction the truck was traveling?? Or was Buddy's recollection somehow faulty, or unduly influenced by retribution or fear??

Both Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn, related stories of the ambush to "Boots" Hinton directly over the years. But no matter the account, I as many-- have trouble reconciling conflicting stories of the ambush. You would think Buddy Goldston would know full well, which direction he was traveling that day. Also how could Buddy have been mistaken, concerning his account of Clyde having passed him-- in such a conspicuously new and expensive car within such a rural area?!? In a well noted gaffe as told by Ted Hinton in his book Ambush-- Hinton had Bonnie & Clyde traveling east on the Old Sailes Road. However as that road runs north and south, it can only be thought Hinton made an honest mistake-- in believing the road to run east and west.

It seems there are missing pieces to this great ambush puzzle, which are vitally important. What that missing info is??-- has always been the question.
Even in thinking well outside the box, I can see little way that Clyde could have passed Buddy a short time before-- and have Clyde & Bonnie arriving at the ambush site headed south, without Buddy coming in just behind them. In presuming Buddy's story to be true-- that would call into question Henderson Jordan's account, in turning to note the oncoming logging truck arriving at about the same time as Bonnie & Clyde from the opposite direction. But I would ask, even with a lawman's cover up as Hinton described-- how would a misstated direction for the logging truck fit into that contrived story??

Based on the lay of the land around the ambush site, it seems there's just one way for the logging truck to have been passed by Clyde heading south-- and end up facing Clyde heading north. This would involve a convoluted run, with the logging truck turning left atop the final hill before the ambush approach-- coming out on Route 516 (opposite what was likely B&C's hideout)-- then turning right and traveling a mile and a half to the Sailes Corner-- then turning right again-- and proceeding nearly 3 miles to the ambush site heading north. In effect, a nearly 7 mile run to turn the logging truck around without stopping. I believe that possibility to make little sense, and be beyond reason. Plus with a such a heavy rig, it would've taken too long for such an unlikely trip-- prior to the ambush posse opening up on the Warren car. Interestingly, if Bonnie & Clyde had taken that shortcut to their hideout-- they likely wouldn't have been killed that day.

Many ask-- doesn't anyone know what really happened at the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde?!?!? Yet another conflicting account, which may create more questions than it answers. There are indeed indisputable facts we know. As far as the rest-- there are many questions to be answered. As an interesting aside, it was noted that Buddy Goldston thought highly of Ted Hinton-- as Ted didn't show prejudice toward him. "Boots" said that's the way Ted was. As always, I welcome your comments for this and other B&CHB posts. My thanks to L. J. "Boots" Hinton, for his invaluable Bonnie & Clyde knowledge-- truly available no where else.


BarefootOkieGal said...

You know, it's entirely possible that the men on the logging truck were told by posse members to keep quiet or else - I don't know if the other men on the logging truck were black or white, but Mr. Goldston was a black man, and it's rather telling that he spoke of Ted Hinton specifically not treating him with prejudice; the fact that he would mention such a fact just reminds us that back in 1934, black men were often treated badly by the police, and the posse might have intimidated them badly enough that they decided never to tell anyone! That's one explanation...

I can also see where fear of reprisal might have played into it as well. Some people apparently thought that either the Barrows or Parkers would take revenge in some way (some blame family members for the deaths of Henry Methvin and his father, although I don't think there's any evidence) and they may well have kept quiet for awhile for fear that something bad would happen to them - but given the behavior of the families after the killings, I don't think they would have been viewed as much of a threat after just a little while. They didn't act like people who wanted revenge, and in fact Ted Hinton kept in touch with the Barrows - Henry supposedly forgave him for having to shoot Clyde, and Ted helped Clyde's brother LC get a couple of jobs.

Then there is superstition... you're right, in that part of the country people do tend to be very superstitious, and I'm guessing that back in 1934 it was worse! It wouldn't be at all surprising that men caught up in a situation with bullets flying and people dying might decide to keep quiet because the common wisdom about ghosts is that people who die a violent death without resolving their earthly issues tend to hang around where they died, continuing to pester the living. If these men truly believed in ghosts, why on earth would they go around telling the story of what they'd seen and risk whatever horrible haunting the Barrow Gang could muster? I remember reading in one of the B&C books that supposedly, to this day, on moonless nights, you can hear a Ford V-8 motoring fast down that stretch of road...

It could be something as mundane as men not wanting to lose their jobs. It was common for trucks of that era to bear signs, "No riders," because hitchhiking was a common way of getting around. It was also common for a trucker to pick someone up, anyway, with the understanding that they'd drop them off somewhere unseen so no one would get fired. (It was very important, in 1934, not to get fired!)

It's too bad - the very first people on the scene, and no information obtained from them!

A. Winston Woodward said...

The thing I have the hardest time understanding within all the Buddy Goldston info (and thank God we have what we do from him)-- is trying to figure out why all other witnesses who commented, seemingly have that truck coming from the opposite direction as Buddy appears to state he was traveling??

I can sit and ponder that point for some time-- searching for logic that never makes sense. "Boots"' response to my question, is to think perhaps that was part of the cover up. But it was Ted Hinton who revealed his remarkable story of the posse's cover up, and reported agreement-- in letting the original convoluted ambush story stand without benefit of a later revision, until Ted's revelation.

As such-- why would Hinton when presented with his golden opportunity to right a wrong-- also have the logging truck approaching from the south?? In allowing for his directional error, the quote from Ambush is-- "In the opposite direction from Clyde's easterly approach, a log truck had cleared a hill and had apparently rolled into a ditch."

As Ricky Ricardo would so eloquently say-- someone's got some essplainin' to do!!

Not even some diligent sipping of a stellar Bourbon-- seems to make a difference in trying to figure this one out. Had Buddy and the other 2 men on the logging truck been threatened (perhaps at the end of a gun)-- not to talk?? Somehow, I think that's a good possibility. But then why not talk all those years later, after the lawmen were dead?? Perhaps deadly threats early on, followed by fear of the B&C curse later on-- were just too much for these men to overcome, in not allowing us to learn what we needed to discover while they were still alive??

There's still an outside chance one of the other 2 men is still alive??-- but how would we ever know?? Someone 20 years old in '34 would be 97 today.

Sometimes there's much frustration in B&C History-- within what seem to be the impenetrable walls of a maddening lack of knowledge.

BarefootOkieGal said...

There IS always the possibility that these men DID discuss the ambush with their friends and families, who are now also choosing to keep silent! It's mind-boggling to think of all the stories of B&C that might be floating around as part of family history or legend ("...remember the time Grandpa helped that young couple change their tire, and they turned out to be Bonnie and Clyde?") but which are not mentioned to anyone else. If such stories exist, it may be that the people who know them honestly don't think that anyone else might be interested in hearing their old stories about long-dead outlaws! Again, the problem with family stories about meeting with B&C is that you never know if someone actually DID meet up with them, or if someone just made up a story about having met them and the family accepted the story as the absolute truth. Being as how B&C were always in the news, I can see how someone might have decided to perk up an otherwise dull supper by saying, "Hey, you know, I helped this young couple change their tire today - and it turned out to be Bonnie and Clyde!" Once someone tells a story a few times, it takes on the ring of truth and becomes part of family legend, without ever actually having happened!

Between family stories of genuine meetings with B&C and what people might have made up earlier that has now become a family story, it can be difficult to track things down. How to find people whose family members had genuine encounters with B&C, and how to tell their stories from the family stories that are bogus but which the family firmly believes?

It's easy to make up an outlaw encounter story. The only outlaw encounter anyone in my family ever had was when my Aunt Delena spotted Pretty Boy Floyd in some store in Talequah, Oklahoma, and when she pointed her out to my grandma, my grandma told her not to stare at him and to leave him alone and not pester him. Now, my mom's family wasn't given to exaggeration, but can you imagine the details that could have been added to that simple story if they had wanted to impress someone! Aunt Delena could have made it Bonnie and Clyde that she encountered, and she could have made up a story about her actually speaking to them, and perhaps them giving her a dollar or something, and by the time we kids ended up hearing that falsified story and having it presented to us as truth all our lives, we'd probably believe that story as much as we believe the (true) story of her merely seeing Pretty Boy Floyd.

When it comes down to family memories, it's hard to tell what's true and what's false, and because the original tellers are likely dead, there's no way to go to the source of the story for verification! Unfortunately, as the years go by, family stories may become all that there is to go on when it comes to answering certain questions...

A. Winston Woodward said...

There's a possibility that Buddy's family could be approached. Buddy Goldston's recollections as told to "Boots" Hinton, were 1st hand stories related 2nd hand. If Buddy's family have insights to share-- that would be the best we could hope for as well, unless written accounts from Buddy or other interviews with him exist.

BarefootOkieGal said...

It would be fascinating to see if Mr. Goldston left any stories behind with his family members - if indeed his family members could be found! I don't know how old Mr. Goldston was at the time of the ambush - I wonder if it's possible that one or more of his riders were related to him in some way, perhaps a son or nephew or brother or cousin? Back in those days, if you were working and there was extra work available, you often put in a good word for your family members in hopes that they would be hired as well, and if you were a good worker, then often your family members were welcome. Since he never told anyone who the riders were, it could be that they were relatives and he wanted to protect them from the curiosity-seekers and perhaps the police and any potential vengeful Barrows or Parkers!

Again, this is just speculation on my part, but it may be one of the reasons he never gave the identities of the other men on the truck...

It would be awesome to find a family member who might have heard the old stories and who would be willing to share them!

choopes said...

Someone is lying. Someone is covering up. The correct term is CYA. The question is why? I think those cops got a story to protect themselves, due to shame or fear, and they stuck to it.