by Jan Barrow Grape
At the end of this article, you'll find a poem written by Bonnie Parker. Someone posted this poem on Facebook and it reminded me of my father, Thomas Lee Barrow. My father often told of how we were probably related to Clyde Barrow. I'm done a little bit of genealogy but never attempted to prove our connection to the notorious Mr, Clyde Barrow. It seemed more fun to just "say" we are related and leave it at that. But is it possible the criminal gene is what prompted me to write fictional crime stories? Who knows?
My father had a wonderful but, perhaps a bit strange, sense of humor and told stories of how he exploited the connection to Clyde Barrow. Let me explain, my father was born in Beaumont, TX in 1911 and was in his early twenties when Clyde and Bonnie were running around North Texas. Dad actually lived in Fort Worth, Texas then. A young man twenty-two or twenty-three in the early 1930s was like most young men of the day, prone to practical jokes.
Dad thought it was funny to walk into the First National Bank and write a counter check for ten or twenty dollars, sign his name, T. L, Barrow, walk over and hand the check to the teller. I know most of you would have trouble understanding but in those years, people didn't have scads of personal checks like we have nowadays. You mostly went to your bank, pick up a printed check form located at the bank's signature island table, wrote out the amount you wanted, gave it to a teller and got the amount you had asked for on the counter check.
Quite often the teller would look either scared or extra hard at my dad, sometimes nod to the bank manager, or ask for identification from my dad. They'd go ahead and give dad his ten or twenty dollars and breathe a sigh of relief that someone with the name of Barrow did nothing more than cash a check. The Fort Worth and Dallas newspapers had almost daily stories of the bad mob known as the Barrow gang. That name was familiar to everyone in the banking business.
A little more involved act of fun happened when two young men got together and took advantage of the Barrow name. Dad and his best friend, Ken Owens, used to go into bars and play their joke. Once inside the bar, my dad would walk down to the far end of the bar and sit on a stool there. His friend, Ken would park himself on a stool near the front door and get the bartender's attention. When the bar man walked up to him, Ken would say, "You see that man down there?" he'd nod towards my father, Tom Barrow. The barman would say "Yes."
Ken would then say, "That's Clyde Barrow's brother and he expects a free drink." The barman would nod and give a free drink to both my dad and Ken Owens. The two young men would drink their free drink and soon they'd leave, leaving the bartender wiping sweat off his brow, thankful that Clyde Barrow's brother had left his establishment. The two pranksters would then head down the street and around the corner to another bar and work it for another free drink.
Like I said earlier, I'm not totally sure of our connection to Clyde Barrow. I do know however, that my father, Thomas Lee Barrow, had a strong influence on my life. My love of mysteries because he gave me my first mystery paperbacks to read, Mike Hammer, Private Eye books written by Mickey Spillane, and Private Eye Shell Scott written by Richard Prather. I think, my mother and father were both quick with funny quips and they passed that gene along. I have a grandson, Riley Fox who lives in Portland, OR who is a stand-up comic. I don't have any bank robbing family members like Cousin Clyde and that's a good thing. I'd much rather write about mysteries and crime that to worry about a sheriff's posse or the FBI coming after me.
And although, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow never had any children she definitely had a gift for writing poetry, and maybe that writing gene was passed to me through osmosis. Besides the poem listed here she wrote several poems which were published in the Dallas newspapers and there was a little notebook of her poems written while she was in jail.
I'll admit that I've always had a strong desire to claim a connection to Mr. Clyde Barrow. Wonder if I can get a free drink or two out of that?
You've read the story of Jesse James of how he lived and died. If you're still in need; of something to read, here's 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 those who squeal, are usually found dying or dead. There's lots of untruths to these write-ups; they're not as ruthless as that. their nature is raw; they hate all the law, the stool pigeons, spotters and rats. They call them 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 taking him down, and locking him up in a cell. Till he said to me; "I'll never be free, so I'll meet a few of them in hell" The road was so dimly lighted there were no highway signs to guide. But they made up their minds; if all roads were blind, they wouldn't give up till they died. If a policeman is killed in Dallas and they have no clue or guide. If they can't find a fiend, they just wipe their slate clean and hang it on Bonnie and Clyde. There's two crimes committed in America not accredited to the Barrow mob. They had no hand; in the kidnap demand, nor the Kansas City Depot job. If they try to act like citizens and rent them a nice little flat. About the third night; they're invited to fight, by a sub-gun's rat-tat-tat. They don't think they're too smart or desperate they know that the law always wins. They've been shot at before; but they do not ignore, that death is the wages of sin. Some day they'll go down together they'll bury them side by side. To few it'll be grief, to the law a relief but it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.