“Barrow”

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker captured the imagination of Depression era America.  Although their actual success at crime was a far cry from the myth, people were starving to be distracted from the dire reality of the dust bowl and economic devastation.

For about three years, 1931-1934, the “Barrow Gang” traveled Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri attempting to rob banks but more often small grocery stores or filling stations.  Clyde was blamed for murders he didn’t commit. Criminal masterminds they were not, but the newspapers built them up into larger-than-life characters; publishing photographs of the couple that had been found at an abandoned hideout.

The portrayal in the press of Bonnie and Clyde was sometimes at odds with the reality of their life on the road, especially for Bonnie Parker. She was present at 100 or more felonies during the two years that she was Barrow’s companion, although she was not the cigar-smoking, machine gun-wielding killer depicted in the newspapers, newsreels, and pulp detective magazines of the day.

In May 1934 Frank Hamer, a legendary Texas Ranger, assembled a well-armed posse around Gibsland, Louisiana on Louisiana SR 154, not far from US 80, and they put over a hundred slugs into their bodies, bringing an end to their short but exciting run.

Barrow
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

He grew up a poor boy in Texas
A little smarter than the rest, and restless
He looked around and didn’t see no justice
The cards were stacked against a poor man
Said, he’d not be poor again

She had honey golden hair and was so cute
Got away with anything she’d do
Loved the movies and said she’d be in some too
The dreams of a poor girl ain’t free
Nothin’ could dent her belief

He stole cars and robbed grocery stores
Then bigger crimes that could not be ignored
Killed a lawman, when they sent him down he swore
They’d not take him alive again
He’d die before he went back to the pen

She was workin’ for tips at the diner
Ain’t the place her prince would find her
She wants to leave it all behind her
And live in a big house someday
Like the movies, make a getaway

When she met him she sure liked his flash
For a time they ran wild and fast
But even they knew it couldn’t last
A Texas Ranger was on their trail
Said he’d chase ’em all the way to hell

Blamed for crimes they did not commit
Magazines ’n’ newsreels reported it
Didn’t matter if the facts didn’t fit
The law was closin’ in
Was just one way it could end

In 1934 folks had so much trouble
They were rootin’ for the fugitive couple
The Ranger staked ’em out with a lot of muscle
They never really had a chance
Those bullets sure made ’em dance

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Missouri”

During the 1920s and ’30s the boll weevil devastated the cotton crop in several Southern states along the Highway 80 corridor.  Many farmers gave up and left their farms since the weevil appeared to be impervious to all attempts to drive it out or kill it off.  Ironically the thing that finally caused the weevil to move on, was a widespread drought in 1930, which farmers did not see as much of a savior.  After the drought the Great Depression caused the remaining farmers who had managed to survive the weevil, as well as the drought, to be threatened yet again with economic collapse.

The West offered a virgin land, a territory full of promise.  The allure was irresistible for some men who uprooted themselves and often their entire families to try their luck “out West”.

Missouri
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

There’s land in Missouri
I’ve heard tell it’s rich and dark
Ain’ nothin’ for me ’round here
I’d like to make a brand new start

Boll weevil killed my cotton
What drove him off was a drought
I’ve had enough of Texarkana
I’m thinkin’ hard of movin’ out

To Missouri – I’ll head west
Where a man can start fresh
I won’t rest until I’ve left
To Missouri I’m bound

Ol’ man Taylor thinks I’m lazy
Says soon it’s bound to rain
I should stick it out and make a crop
No matter where I go it’ll be the same

Since my Julie took sick and died
I’ve got no reason to stay
Texarkana is for Taylor
As for me, I’ll move away

To Missouri – I’ll head west …

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Feel Like Dirt”

Ruby Jones Robison (1955) is Pearl Robison’s aunt, her father’s sister. Ruby met Darrel Haynes (1951) at Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX, and they were quickly married settling into a house in Midland in 1977 where Darrel had gotten a job at Baker Oil right out of college. They were happy for a few years, but when they lost their first child, a girl, it broke the marriage up. Ruby was 32 in 1981 when she decided to leave Darrell and go back to Conyers, Georgia, her hometown. This song encapsulates a conversation she had with her sister, Ruth Ann, told in both of their voices, several years after the events.

Feel Like Dirt
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

She got on the Greyhound with her suitcase
And her little patent leather bag
Had two Cokes, a package of peanuts,
And a fifth of Ancient Age

“I nursed that bottle all across Texas,
But I was sober when I crossed the Georgia line, in fact.
Lord, I cried those first few weeks
But I didn’t look back; couldn’t look back.”

“It was either kill the man or leave
Killin’ was more trouble than he was worth
Gettin’ on that bus made sense to me
First time in a long time I didn’t feel like dirt”

She left everything in the house
And nothing of herself behind
She dropped her keys on the kitchen table
Along with the reason why

It was a matchbook she found in his jeans
A heart with a phone number inside
All those loads of laundry
The dreams she compromised

“It was either kill the man or leave …

She got on the Greyhound with her suitcase
And her little patent leather bag
Had two Cokes, a package of peanuts,
And a fifth of Ancient Age

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). (Hat tip to Dorothy Allison for the image that inspired this song.)