Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
There is much to see and explore in Texas’s most famous city. Houston and San Antonio, even Austin, might take exception to that, but Dallas, if you count the Metroplex, is the most populous in the state, with the most recent head count standing at 6,371,773. Houston’s population is 6,086,538.
Austin is the state’s capital city, and San Antonio is where Texas settlers became bent on defeating Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army. There is more money in Dallas, more real estate, and more things to do more often-from museums to barbecue, the Cowboys to the Rangers, the Mavericks to the Byron Nelson Classic.
Not many tourists put the graves of Bonnie and Clyde on their “to do” list when they come here. First of all, you need local help finding their respective cemeteries and even when you show up at Crown Hill Cemetery (Bonnie) and Western Heights Cemetery (Clyde), there is no guarantee that you will find their grave markers. To get to the burial grounds, we invoked the assistance of friends Kathy and Carl Mayhall, longtime Dallas residents. The first stop was at Crown Hill, where we began a scatter-shooting search, but with an assist we found Bonnie’s marker. More about that later.
It was a little more challenging with Clyde, but with the Mayhalls’ help, we located the cemetery off Fort Worth Avenue on Sylvan Road. The cemetery dates back to the 1850s and is surrounded by a fence with locked gates and multiple signs that trespassers will be prosecuted. Nonetheless, Carl and I scaled the fence, and we searched in vain before concluding that trespassing was not such a good idea.
We began searching for Bonnie’s grave by driving up to the Hughes Funeral Home, which is adjacent to the cemetery. Two men were sitting in a parked car, giving us positive vibes that they would be able to set us off in the right direction, but they disclosed they knew nothing about the whereabouts of Bonnie’s grave.
Suddenly a lady named Stephanie Hughes approached our wives and asked if she could help. Soon she directed us to Bonnie’s marker, which is located next to a hedge. Her husband DeWayne, owner of the funeral home, met us and told us about those who visit Bonnie’s gravesite. They, DeWayne said, leave flowers, coins, and beer cans. Guess they just want to have a beer with Bonnie. There were silk flowers surrounding her marker — a mum, some poppies and lilies. Loose change lay about on one corner of the grave.
Bonnie’s headstone revealed this message: “As the flowers are made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, so this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you.”
A forgiving message for someone who got caught up in such a violent world. There was the thought, could this have been her prose, which she left behind? Buried next to her is her mother, Emma (1886-1944), with the inscription “Loving Mother.”
The dates of Bonnie’s birth, Oct. 1, 1910, and death, May 23, 1934, confirm that she was a little more than seven months past her 23rd birthday when she died. Biographers and historians have a number of theories about the wild robbing and killing spree affiliated with the legend of Bonnie and Clyde that captured the nation’s fancy in the era of “most wanted” criminals.
One Internet viewpoint suggests that without Bonnie, the media beyond the borders of Texas might not have been too interested in the story. With this serious high school student and poet, who excelled at “spelling, writing, and public speaking,” the story had sex appeal.
Clyde Chestnut Barrow had celebrated his 25th birthday by a couple of months when he and Bonnie were gunned down in Gibsland, La. There seems to be no evidence that Bonnie ever shot at anyone, but Clyde obviously functioned comfortably in cold-blooded killings, dating back to his first prison term when he beat a man to death for sexual abuse.
Scaling the fence to make a clean getaway, which Bonnie and Clyde did often during their spree, I had this thought: “Bet Clyde never thought he would wind up in an exclusive, gated community.”
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.