Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde-- An Early Version of the Bonnie Classic, Or Rare Copy of the Original??

I thought while we were focused on poems, and as many inquire of The B&CHB re: Bonnie's poetry-- that this would be a good time to break out a rare Bonnie and Clyde artifact from my collection. As I've never shown this unique piece of Bonnie & Clyde History publicly-- I hope this Bonnie poem will be of interest to all who study and enjoy this history.

Many know The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, as being one of Bonnie Parker's most endearing poetic efforts. According to W. D. Jones, Bonnie developed her poems by writing her thoughts on whatever scraps of paper were available-- before apparently discarding her initial ideas for more finished ones. But interestingly-- it's believed almost all of Bonnie's poems were discovered typed, and in complete form. Few if any handwritten versions exist, and how some of the more polished representations of Bonnie's poetry have come to light-- is seemingly unknown. We appear to take for granted, that Bonnie's poems as published today-- are as they were known when Bonnie wrote them.

Marie Barrow provided insight into Bonnie's poems being typed, when she acknowledged in writing-- that Bonnie and Clyde carried a typewriter with them when they traveled. However I'm not sure a typewriter has ever been noted, as having been among the belongings captured from any abandoned Barrow Gang car. And to my knowledge-- no photographs exist showing a captured B&C typewriter.

Both this year and last-- a number of kind and wonderful gestures have been aimed my way, for which I am most grateful. One of these gifts was a Bonnie Parker poem, which came to me via The Estate of Blanche Caldwell Frasure (Blanche Barrow). Based on my knowledge of Blanche's Estate-- I feel there's an outside chance this poem could at one time, have been in the possession of Billie Parker. But as Bonnie's niece (who's also Billie's stepdaughter) was unfamiliar with this Bonnie offering-- I am left to believe this poem belonged to Blanche. Either way-- the family provenance of this olden document is uniquely solid.

You'll note the Bonnie poem shown here, bears a similar title to a poem many familiar with this history know-- however, this title's not the way you remember it. Nor is the content of this poem, the same as published for all these years. The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde by Bonnie Parker, appears to be a rare "working" version-- of what would later become The Story of Bonnie and Clyde. This Bonnie Parker work which is a carbon copy of it's original-- is typed upon 2 pages of 8 1/2 x 14 inch olden onion skin paper. For those perhaps too young to remember the use of onion skin paper-- prior to more modern ways of copying typed documents, this light weight and almost translucent paper was used along with carbon paper, to create simultaneous copies of typed originals. Older guys like me now, remember such things.

I think you'll find some interesting differences, in comparing this seeming early draft of Bonnie's poem-- to the more accepted and complete version of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde. First you'll note there are just 15 stanzas instead of the traditional 16-- and that many of these stanzas are in a different order than most are used to. Alternate wordings, are also present within some of the stanzas. As I view this vintage rendition of Bonnie's poem, I wonder if somewhere along the way-- this poem wasn't altered during publishing, to better suit a modern audience?? I also wonder, how many might prefer this poem's original colorful and descriptive title-- to the more popular one known?? I guess that's a matter of taste-- but I myself like the older title, as it seems more representative of the truth.

This particular version of Bonnie's poem also seems to contain an unusual and enticing clue-- which makes this piece of B&C History even more enticing. The initials vcq which appear at the bottom of page 2, apparently identify the typist of this copy of The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde. As this letter configuration seems so very unusual-- the question must be asked what does it mean?? Did Bonnie perhaps ask someone within their travels, to type this poem for her-- during a time when a typewriter wasn't unavailable?? Or did a clever Bonnie herself, type this poem using a secretarial pseudonym-- to lead the law astray and better protect the gang, should her poem be seized?? Did Blanche or Billie sometime after the fact, have this poem typed from a set of Bonnie's handwritten notes?? Or perhaps this "was" Bonnie's version-- given by Bonnie to Emma or someone within the families-- and adapted after Bonnie's death?? All are possibilities to me-- but without more info which is unlikely to exist, a definitive answer to this most intriguing mystery may never be known.

So please enjoy this gem of a Bonnie & Clyde artifact-- which appears to be an early version of Bonnie's poem The Story of Bonnie and Clyde once entitled-- The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde. But here's an interesting question??-- Could Bonnie's poem in this form have actually been the original and Bonnie's intent, and the version we know best edited and changed by others-- or did Bonnie adapt this earlier version of her work, to hone it into the poem we know today?? Was this poem's title later changed to lessen a negative portrayal of Clyde, and prose edited to make for a smoother delivery?? As this vintage version of Bonnie's poem surely exists with strong provenance, and no other vintage version of this poem to my knowledge has ever been imaged (non-transcribed)-- that's a possibility that intrigues me.

I wish someone who would know, would still be alive to answer that question. It's time for some research. We know The Story of Suicide Sal was 1st published in Joplin, Missouri after the Joplin incident. With this alternate version of Bonnie's poem now known-- I feel it may be important to learn where and when, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde was 1st published and in what form?? Could an alternate version of Bonnie's poem have been published before the version in Fugitives?? It's also been noted this poem was once titled "The Trail's End" or "The End of the Line".

There are just a couple of typos evident, which because their intended words are obvious, I've taken the liberty to correct. As always, with these formerly unseen Bonnie & Clyde artifacts which I'm happy to share with you-- I ask for your consideration regarding copyrights. This Bonnie poem, The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde is ©2010 The Bonnie & Clyde History Blog by A. W. Woodward-- with all rights reserved. Many thanks. I look forward to your comments.



You have read the story of Jesse James,
Of how he lived and died.
If you still are in need of something to read,
Here is the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang,
I'm sure you all have read
How they rob and steal,
And how those who squeal
Are usually found dying or dead.

There are lots of untruths to their write-ups,
They are not so merciless as that;
They hate all the laws,
The stool pigeons, spotters and rats.

They class them as cold-blooded killers,
They say they are heartless and mean,
But I say this with pride,
That I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean.

But the law fooled around,
Kept tracking him down,
And locking him up in a cell
Till he said to me,
"I will never be free,
So I will meet a few of them in HELL."

This road was so dimly lighted,
There was no highway signs to guide,
But they made up their minds
If the roads were all blind,
They wouldn't give up till they died.

The road gets dimmer and dimmer,
Sometimes you can hardly see,
Still it's fight, man to man,
And do all you can,
For they know they can never be free.

If they try to act like citizens
And rent them a nice little flat,
About the third night they are invited to fight
By a submachine gun rat-tat-tat.

If a policeman is killed in Dallas
And they have no clues for a guide,
If they can't find a fiend
They just wipe the slate clean
And hang it on Bonnie and Clyde.

Two crimes have been done in America
Not accredited to the Barrow mob,
For they had no hand
In the kidnapping demand
Or the Kansas City depot job.

A newsboy once said to his buddy,
"I wish old Clyde would get jumped,
In this awful hard times
We might make a few dimes
If five or six laws got bumped."

The police haven't got the report yet,
Clyde sent a wireless today,
Saying "We have a peace flag of white
We stretch out at night.
We have joined the NRA."

They don't think they are too tough or desperate,
They know the law always wins,
They have been shot at before
But they do not ignore
That death was the wages of sin.

From heartbreaks some people have suffered,
From weariness some people have died,
But take it all in all
Our troubles are small
Till we get like Bonnie and Clyde

Some day they will go down together,
And they will bury them side by side,
To a few it means grief,
To the law its relief,
But it is death to Bonnie and Clyde



BarefootOkieGal said...

I believe that Marie was correct when she stated that B&C carried a typewriter with them; it seems to me that I have read mention of a typewriter being found in the car, but I can't remember where. I'm trying to figure out the logistics of this - portable typewriters of the era were HUGE!!! It may be that she wrote in the car, and typed when they had a chance to stop and up camp.

It is great to see a different version of this best-known of Bonnie's poems. (In my humble opinion.) You know, I have read descriptions of Bonnie's poetry that were not very flattering, speaking of her rhymes and basically dismissing her verse as "doggerel" - however, the fact is, Bonnie's poems are very similar to many popular poems and songs of the time, which isn't surprising when I read that she loved Jimmie Rodgers; Bonnie did have talent, and I believe that one reason there are often many versions of a poem is that Bonnie was always working on them and refining them. She may very well have been the one who made every revision.

The line in this poem that always gets me is this one:
"But I say this with pride,
That I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean." Well, when Bonnie met Clyde, he wasn't exactly "honest and upright and clean," but as far as she was concerned, that is the Clyde she fell in love with and that is how she chose to portray him for posterity. In Bonnie's mind, that was true - I truly believe that she thought Clyde would do his time, come home to her, and settle down so they could raise a family. All her early writings to him, all of which seem to have been lost by now, show that she wanted a normal relationship with a " and not a thug..." and that nowhere in her makeup was a desire for such a live as she and Clyde would go on to lead.

Even the "new" title - "...Desperate Clyde." Poor Bonnie - she knew her situation, and she knew that she was doomed because she would not leave Clyde, and Clyde would not be taken because of his desperate resolve to never be taken back to prison. I believe it is in "Fugitives" in which Bonnie tells her mother that she never intended to get so deeply involved with Clyde, once she realized that he would not change... a very touching conversation in which Bonnie reveals to her mother, I believe, that she had thought she could be with Clyde for at least a little while before she had to come back home - just a little while to love one another and then each go their own ways, but that then circumstances became such that she could never go home. Well - I don't know how much of this she meant, given that she did continue her live with Clyde until the end, but it does seem to indicate that Bonnie did not know exactly what she was getting into when she decided to go with Clyde for even just that little while...

KymHix89 said...

I have just recentally over the past months became very interested in Bonnie and Clyde. I am so glad to have came across your blog. I love this poem, to me it hits deep because I have met and still in love and married to a "Clyde Barrow" though I have been in trouble with him and for him, we are fortunate to live in a time that does offer a better way. I love the way your site does not bash them or congratulate them. I beleive you should not judge a situation you have never been in. You can give your opinion, but truly will never know how you would handle a situation til you yourself are in it. And in there case you throw love into the mix and a fight for one more day with the choices you have already made, one could only imagine what you would do. I really just love this poem it just shows how powerful our love for one another really can be.