A man can break every commandment
And the world will still lend him its hand
Yet, a girl that has loved, but unwisely
Is an outcast all over the land.
The bloody lady of the Dustbowl, the beautiful balladeer of Depression dreams, and perhaps a victim of her own romantic imagination.
How can you not love Bonnie Parker?
Hard times breed hard men. In the 1930s, Tom Joad headed for the promised land of California while Clive Barrow robbed banks and waged war against the Texas Department of Corrections.
Clyde would have just been another backwoods stickup man, probably not even worthy of a song by Woody Guthrie if he hadn’t met Bonnie Parker. At less than five feet tall and featherweight to boot, she possessed intelligence and foresight, and wasn’t afraid to grab opportunity by the horns. Bonnie’s marriage at age16 left her older and wiser when at age 20 she met Clyde and forged a relationship that would captivate a nation.
The romantic version of their story says she fell in love with him the moment they met and probably saw hope when his flinty eyes grew soft, if not of happiness then at least of excitement. The gossip of lesser women say Bonnie was a tramp, but she must’ve been a girl of considerable vision. She seems to have seen the myth even as she was making it.
More than any of the other Depression gangsters, Bonnie and Clyde played to their audience. Clyde wrote a fan letter to Henry Ford — “even if my business hasn’t been strictly legal it don’t hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8” – and Bonnie wrote an epic poem about their adventures as well as other poems about the outlaw life. They took snapshots of themselves posed like movie gangsters.
Most accounts say Bonnie never shot anyone – she was a “great loader” — but Clyde certainly did. He and the other Barrow Gang members killed somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen lawmen, accounts and attributions vary, in what amounted to a tiny, armed insurrection against the state of Texas. The public loved them, and Bonnie and Clyde molded a unique piece of wholly American legend in their brief time together.
When they were ambushed by Texas Rangers in Louisiana in 1934, they had achieved fame in the hardest way possible – in a storm of bullets and unimaginable bravado. By some accounts, 10,000 strangers attended their funeral. The death car toured the south for decades, like a holy relic. In 1967, director Arthur Penn, along with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, ensured their immortality with a movie that merged romance and explicit violence in a way no movie had before.
A perfect legacy for our second dark angel, Bonnie Parker.
A newsboy once said to his buddy;
“I wish old Clyde would get jumped.
In these awfull hard times;
we’d make a few dimes,
if five or six cops would get bumped.”
You can find more of Bonnie Parker’s story and poetry at