Monday, March 28, 2016

For Bonnie & Clyde History-- Billie Parker Moon's Poignant Manuscript Revisited. In This Installment.. Sowers As Told From A Red Hot Ground Zero.

The story of The Sowers Ambush has been told and re-told over the years-- but never quite like this. Within her unpublished manuscript, Billie Parker Moon spends considerable time speaking of Sowers. And rightfully so-- for Billie had a unique advantage in relaying her account of this dramatic Bonnie & Clyde event. Not only was she present to witness this November 1933 Texas ambush attempt 1st hand (including being shot at)-- but as an insider with an intimate closeness to Bonnie & Clyde, Billie was privy to many unique details as told by the outlaws after this waylay occurred. Thus Billie's able to fill in gaps previously untold, and provide a "gripping" account from ground zero. I'll say this-- based on Billie's recollections of this story, as Ricky Ricardo would say-- it seems some who've recounted differing versions of this event over the years, may have some "esplanin'" to do-- with Billie's account now known.

The identification of Sowers as the ambush location, has always been a bit of a misnomer-- as Sowers both today as in yesteryear was an unincorporated community. Those who live in this community today, find themselves within the city limits of Irving, Texas. As such, Billie never identifies Sowers by name. Rather she calls this location Grapevine, for the community which was nearby. But there's no mistaking Billie's description of this incident, as being the same episode we've come to know as The Sowers Ambush. In November of '33, the actual location of the ambush was the crossroads of Texas Hwy 10 and Esters Road. Today, with an updated highway system, this spot would be the intersection of Texas Hwy 183 and Esters Road.

So without further delay-- see how many new pieces of information you can find within Billie's account of Sowers. There were just 4 lawmen present for the ambush, as wheeled out for photos by the Dallas Sheriff's Office, right??-- or 6 lawmen as reported by the newspapers?? Not according to Billie-- not by a long shot.

Also pay close attention to Billie's description of the Sowers informant. Although she's reluctant to name "him" by name-- by process of elimination within Billie's account of who was present, along with her explanation of this man's role that evening-- to me Billie leaves little doubt concerning both the identity of the Sower's informant, and her dislike for this individual. This man's  reported participation with the families that November evening, has been confirmed many times by those present over the years.. and within Billie's account, now reconfirmed. 

You'll also learn in fabulous detail, what happened to B&C after the ambush. As told within Bonnie & Clyde legend.. "The kids" as they were called by their families.. were said to have maintained a friendship with Pretty Boy Floyd and or his family.  But that's just unsubstantiated lore right??  Not according to Billie as revealed here.  So here we go, and as always-- I relate these wonderful Billie accounts verbatim. Bonnie & Clyde's quotes are italicized and emboldened.


"The Ford rolled slowly down the road and then faltered, as if the driver momentarily was unsure of himself and the situation. The car's light blinked on and off in a prearranged signal which had become familiar through long use. The flashing lights were answered in kind from a second car parked further down the road. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow had returned home for another visit with their families. The scene was familiar to all of us. We had met them before in out-of-the-way places around the Dallas area. Clyde had telephoned earlier that evening to arrange the Grapevine meeting. As Bonnie's only sister, I took our mother along and we were joined by Clyde's mother, sister and younger brother. A family friend drove the car we were in."

"The Ford, reassured by the exchange of signals, gathered speed as it closed the distance between it and our waiting car. The Ford moved in front of our car and the headlights illuminated the front seat. As usual, Clyde was at the wheel with Bonnie close beside him. The kids had made it back in one piece-- something on which we never could depend. A grin which had been building on Clyde's face turned to a grimmace as the Ford slowly rolled to a stop. A flash of red light erupted from a bar ditch alongside the road. It was accompanied by a popping noise which sounded for all the world to me like firecrackers at a Fourth of July celebration. It was the beginning of a gun battle which Bonnie would say later was  "the closest we ever came to dying."

"It took a few moments for me to realize the ditch alongside the road was filled to the brim with cops of all shapes, sizes and services. The headlights of our car still were trained on the Ford and, pushed by an instinct I didn't know existed, I reached across the front seat and killed the lights, shrouding the Ford in darkness. Flickering gunfire outlined the ditch in flashes of red and the miniature thunder from the guns rapidly became deafening inside our car. Clyde, always an excellent driver even in the worst of situations, shoved the Ford into gear and sped down the road in a storm of gravel and gunfire."

"Bonnie and Clyde escaped that night but not without considerable loss. Clyde had been hit two or three times in his legs and a bullet lodged in one of Bonnie's knees. They almost bled to death before reaching Salisaw, Oklahoma, and the safety offered them at the home of the brother of Pretty Boy Floyd. It was later that we realized the "family friend" who drove the car for us that night had told police of the planned meeting. He sold them out for a used car and a few dollars lawmen were offering for the end of Bonnie and Clyde. They had been betrayed by a man they called friend. A similar betrayal on a lonely road near Gibsland, Louisiana, two years later would cost them their lives."

"There was no glamor in the lives of those kids. Just like there was no glamor that long ago night in Grapevine. Bonnie told me later she had a premonition about the meeting. "When we pulled onto that road, something didn't look right," she said.  Clyde slowed the car and gave the signal. When it was returned from our car, Clyde told her "It'll be alright, honey. We need to see the folks. Moments later, the air was filled with gunfire and both Bonnie and Clyde were bleeding badly from gunshot wounds."

"The newspapers said the next day that six officers were involved in the ambush. But when the air cleared, I counted at least 25 cops-- city, county and state. There never was a time when six cops would attempt to capture Bonnie and Clyde, even from ambush." "That's the closest we've ever come to dying," Bonnie told me later. "They almost killed us right there on that road." Clyde, in an almost superhuman effort, got the car moving and eluded pursuing squad cars."

"They drove to an old well as they headed for Oklahoma. Bonnie told me they pulled the car up to the well and Clyde dragged himself out, trying to get to the cold water which would staunch the flow of blood from their wounds. "We must have passed out about the same time,"Bonnie said. "When I came to, Clyde was lying between the car and the well. He was out cold and his pants were soaked in blood." At the well, they managed to bind their wounds and recover sufficiently to get to Salisaw where Floyd's brother looked after them until they were fully healed."

One thing that's struck me from Billie's account of Sowers, was how close the 2 cars were when the shooting started. I've asked both Jim Knight who owns a well known Bonnie & Clyde replica car, and L. J. "Boots" Hinton who raced cars in his youth and grew up during that period-- how close these cars would have been, for the headlights of one to illuminate the seats of the other. With just a 6 volt battery to power the headlights, which although they looked big-- were mostly reflectors with small light bulbs-- "damn close" was one answer I received.

Plus, it's unclear whether Clyde turned around briskly as he and Bonnie fled the scene-- or just sped passed the family's car as seemingly implied by Billie's account?? Sowers was the incident, which after it's conclusion Dallas Sheriff "Smoot" Schmid issued his order-- that no engagement with B&C would be allowed when civilians were present. It seems that was for good reason. I've heard Clyde was incensed, that the families were fired upon that night. Based on Billie's description, it's a wonder no one from the families were shot or killed.

In his foreword to Billie's book, Clint Kelley explains that the only man Billie really hates is the former friend whom she refused to identify by name. He was the man who drove the family car on a windy night in Grapevine, when Bonnie and Clyde almost were killed as they attempted to meet with their families."That man sold them out for a used car and a few dollars," she said. "His only motive was profit. He didn't have a son to save like Mr. Methvin did."

And for all familiar with those present for the 2 back to back family meetings that fateful November in '33-- Joe Bill Francis was the man believed to have driven the families to their rendezvous with Bonnie & Clyde.  Joe Bill also likely took many of the famous family photos from the night before.. with others taking pics which included him as well.

They'll be more to come soon from Billie's manuscript. My sincere thanks to Stephanie Charlesworth from The UK, who I recall providing this hard to find photo of Billie within a past B&C debate.  A friendly reminder-- Billie Parker Moon's recollections from her manuscript are ©2010 The B&CHB by A. W. Woodward
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Was Billie's account of The Sowers Ambush what you expected?? I welcome your comments.


1 comment:

Jassenia S said...

Thank you, great post. I love hearing the eyewitness accounts. Looking forward to read more from the manuscript. Thanks again for putting the excerpts out. I'm catching up on a few posts, I haven't come by in a while..than I might start back one, as in your first post. Lol, there such great reads. I'm a huge fan of yours, hopefully I can make it out to the B&C festival one year soon. I'd love to come to one of your speakings, that would be a dream come true. Any coming up? Sjassenia@gmail.com