Where They Went Down Together: Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde ambush site historical marker near Gibsland LA (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Bonnie and Clyde ambush site historical marker near Gibsland LA (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The sun had already set, but there was still light oozing through the surrounding forest. My car’s headlights illuminated the mangled historical marker where Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow died together in a fusillade of bullets in their stolen V-8 Ford, Bonnie still holding a sandwich that Clyde bought earlier that morning about 8 miles back up Hwy 154 in Gibsland, Louisiana.

Sitting by the marker with the car engine idling (also when I noticed that I was alarmingly low on gas) I read Chapter 39 – Ambush from Jeff Guinn’s outstanding biography of the couple, Go Down Together ….

“Several of the bullets deflected off the post between the Ford’s windshield and the driver’s door, but one flew straight and true through the open driver’s side window and hit Clyde in the temple just in front of his left ear, plowing through his head and exiting out the right side of his skull. Clyde died instantly….In those few seconds Bonnie screamed, a high shrill wail that haunted the men about to kill her for the rest of their lives.”

If you want to give yourself the heebie-jeebies, read that passage at night in rural Louisiana, alone on an isolated two-lane road where bad things happened.

As a teenager, I read everything I could get my hands on about 1920s and 1930s crime sprees in the U.S. from famous names like John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Ma Barker, Alvin Karpis, and Pretty Boy Floyd. I’m pretty law-abiding so I’m not sure why this era interests me so much, but after reading Guinn’s book I simply had to see this spot near Gibsland.

Everything conspired to make me miss it: bad weather enroute, delays from road repairs on Interstate 20, and even U.S. Daylight Savings Time ending the previous week, making it dark pretty early.

There was no time to stop and see the “Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum” in Gibsland which occupies the diner where Clyde bought their last meal (the museum is run by the son of one of the lawmen from that fateful day in 1934.) Next door to the Ambush Museum is a converted house with a sign tacked on that says, “Authentic Bonnie and Clyde Museum.” There’s not much else in town.

Even the road to the marker is tricky, with a sharp right-and-left section that makes you wonder if you’ve turned the wrong way.

The marker is badly defaced from graffiti and souvenir hunters hacking off bits and pieces, but if you care about the story of Bonnie and Clyde, read Guinn’s book and pay a visit to this spot in Gibsland.

Just don’t do it at night unless you really want an extra dose of crime scene atmosphere.

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