Last week while I was rambling around out of the way places, I visited the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum at Gibsland, Louisiana. On a quiet Thursday afternoon, my mother and I joined a couple from Georgia, a family from the local area, and four other adults who'd found their way to the museum when they'd seen the sign on nearby I-20.
I like small town, independent museums because they're usually kind of quirky. If done well, they offer as much entertaining education as museums in large cities. This one was done well.
The museum is operated by L. J. "Boots" Hinton, son of Deputy Sheriff
Ted Hinton, who was one of the lawmen who brought down Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
The story of the ambush of these two ruthless killers is not pretty as you'll see if you take the museum tour. A four-part DVD which includes the actual film shot on the scene by Dallas County Sheriff's Deputy Ted Hinton who'd been given a movie camera by a Dallas newsman, shows the brutal truth.
The museum is housed in the building that was once Ma Canfield's Cafe. My mother said she and my father had eaten there several times when they happened to travel past Arcadia and Gibsland back in the 1940s and 1950s. There's an extensive exhibit of rare photos, taped eyewitness interviews, film footage, and documents from the 1930s when Bonnie and Clyde reigned supreme in the public's imagination. They also have some of the weapons recovered from the death car. And, folks, that's really what it was - a death car, riddled with bullet holes from high-powered rifles and handguns.
The real draw for me was Boots Hinton, Ted Hinton's son. While others watched the DVD, I went outside to the park bench where Boots was enjoying the warm afternoon. I asked him immediately if I could photograph him. Boots said, "Sure, let me get my other hat."
While he went inside and swapped his gimme cap for a nice straw Stetson, I quickly wrote a release for him to sign, granting me permission to use his name and image on my websites and in my mom's memoirs to be published next month. (I thought I might work in a bit about him and his father since my mom wrote about her childhood memories of the infamous couple in an essay to be published in her memoir Memory Lane.
After Boots signed, I snapped several pictures. Then we sat and talked. I had some pressing questions to ask. My mom joined us and told Boots about her father who was acquainted with the Methvin family whose son was part of the gang. Most adults in the Depression South considered Bonnie and Clyde as mythic folk heroes.
Boots was knowledgeable about the event and about his dad's part in the historic showdown. None of the lawmen involved ever planned to try to get them to give up. They went into it knowing it was shoot to kill because Clyde Barrow had publicly announced that he would never surrender. Since he'd already killed at least 12 men, they had no illusions about what he'd do if they cornered him and tried to take him into custody.
Bonnie supposedly never killed anyone herself, but she was a vital part of the Barrow gang. The other members made up for her lack of kills.
Of course, I bought a copy of Ambush by Ted Hinton from the museum gift shop. My mom got a tee shirt that looked as if it were riddled with bullet holes. She thought it was super cool. Boots said his dad's book was the true record of the four versions of the event. He was kind enough to autograph my copy. His dad was the last of the ambush lawmen to die. I'm looking forward to reading the book. After I've done so, I'll review it.
Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum, 318-843-1934
2419 Main Street, Gibsland, LA 71028, daily from 10am to 6pm
If you stop by and it's closed, Boots may be over at the town cafe which serves really good scratch cooking. The aromas floating around the cafe are mouthwatering.
span style="font-weight:bold;">Takeaway Truth
There are some really good museums in unexpected places. Be willing to explore.