Monday, May 23, 2022

Seven Things You Probably Didn't Know About Bonnie and Clyde


Photo by Gary Firstenberg
When I noticed that Bonnie and Clyde were shot to death in an ambush on this day in 1934, it brought a number of memories to mind, most vividly the film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the famous (infamous) leaders of the Barrow gang. Here are seven things you may not know about Bonnie and Clyde.

1. They once robbed a bank in Minnesota.

Like the James gang decades, their primary stomping ground was the heartland, but both gangs came North to Minnesota conduct a bank robbery. The James-Younger gang assaulted to First National Bank in Northfield in 1876. More than a half century later the Bonnie and Clyde made their way north to rob a Minnesota bank.

Bank robberies had become a major problem back in the thirties. In 1933 there were 33 bank robberies in Minnesota. On May 1933, Bonnie and Clyde robbed the First State Bank of Okabena on the Iowa border. As it turns out, three other people were arrested and convicted of that crime in two hasty trials. The Barrow gang escaped without being pursued or recognized.

2. Bonnie and Clyde were younger than you'd think.

Clyde Barrow was only 25 years old when he was shot to death in an ambush along with Bonnie Parker on this day in 1934. Bobbie was not yet 24. The ambush took place in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. Bien mean good in Spanish. It didn't turn out so good for Bonnie and Clyde.

3. Though famous for robbing banks, they preferred to rob small stores and funeral homes.

Evidently they knew where the money was.

4. Bonnie Parker dropped out of school before her 16th birthday to get married.

She was born in Texas. Her dad died when she was four and her mom tried to support her family as a seamstress in Dallas. Bonnie quit school to marry Roy Thornton. Their marriage involved frequent brushes with the law and was short-lived. Though Bonnie and Roy never divorced, they never saw one another again after 1929. Bonnie was wearing their wedding ring when she died.

Bonnie Parker with pistol and a cigar.
5. Clyde was living a life of crime before he met Bonnie

Clyde was the fifth of seven kids from a poor farming family outside Dallas. He and his brother Buck had run-ins with the law. His second arrest with Buck was for stealing turkeys. Clyde was skilled at cracking safes, stealing cars and robbing stores. He was evidently audacious.

6. Clyde's first murder took place in prison.

He was first sent to prison at age 21, but escaped. When returned to prison, he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a fellow inmate. In return he cracked his tormentor's skull with a pipe, killing him. Another inmate who was serving a life sentence claimed to be responsible. To avoid hard labor after the incident, he chopped off two of his toes. His mother petitioned for his release and when set free six days later he walked with a limp the rest of his short life. 

It is believed that Bonnie and Clyde murdered nine police officers and four civilians during the next two years. 

7. Bonnie Parker was a poet.

I found this intriguing. She evidently enjoyed poetic verse, composing quite a bit of poetry in her short life. The Trail's End has been called The Story of Bonnie & Clyde. Another noteworthy poem is her story Suicide Sal. Here's the beginning of The Trail's End, with a link to the rest at the end.

The Trail's End
by Bonnie Parker

You've read the story of Jesse James
of how he lived and died.
If you're still in need
of something to read,
here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang
I'm sure you all have read.
how they rob and steal;
and those who squeal,
are usually found dying or dead.

There's lots of untruths to these write-ups;
they're not as ruthless as that.
their nature is raw;
they hate all the law,
the stool pigeons, spotters and rats.

They call them cold-blooded killers
they say they are heartless and mean.
But I say this with pride
that I once knew Clyde,
when he was honest and upright and clean.

But the law fooled around;
kept taking him down,
and locking him up in a cell.
Till he said to me;
"I'll never be free,
so I'll meet a few of them in hell"

Read More 

Replica of Bonnie & Clyde's shot up Ford V-8
on display at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

2022 Duluth Dylan Fest: Day One

Inside the forger's workspace
Saturday morning the 2022 Duluth Dylan Fest opened with two events. The local Forging Community is going to create a gate out of found materials, emulating Bob Dylan's foray into metal sculpture, welding gates out of iron. (I devoted a whole story to this subject here. (The subject: Gates.)

As part of the opening event, people were asked to bring metal pieces that could be re-purposed as a gate... or rather, a work of art in the form of a gate. Or maybe a gate in the form of a work of art.

Initial gate concept.
Bin with decorative material to work with.
The finished Gate. How cool is that?
A previous sculpture project stands outside the Armory Annex entrance.
Who knows what will appear next?

* * * * *

Tonight, Cowboy Angel Blue will be entertaining us
at our kickoff mixer at The Rex. Join us if you're in town.
The full schedule for Duluth Dylan Fest can be found HERE

or here:

Friday, May 20, 2022

RFPs and the Local Scene

Painting from Sarah Brokke's recent DAI show, Embody
I just received an email from the Duluth Art Institute regarding a potential upheaval they are facing. The email has a two-fold purpose. First, to inform members of an action that will effect the DAI. Second, to request help from the arts community. The help sought is two-fold. Contact St. Louis County Commissioners to ask questions and and express support for the DAI mission. Also, you can write letters of endorsement and send to Christina Woods at Here is a portion of the message from the email:

We want to share that the Duluth Art Institute (DAI) is entering into a lease RFP process for our current space within the St. Louis County (SLC) Depot building. The county has implemented this process in short order. Our current two-year lease, which began in January 2022, has been voided, and there are no assurances that we will be chosen to remain at the Depot. The DAI was informed of the RFP process in February, and received the RFP on May 10 to be submitted by June 14. RFP award announcements will occur later this summer, with RFP lease terms to begin January 1, 2023.

Now I personally have a beef with living in a world where the best proposals win instead of the best projects. It seems to me that an RFP should only have a partial weight in these decisions, especially when there has been a long history established. It's especially disconcerting that they have been give just over a month to defend their status or be ousted.

It's my understanding that the St. Louis County Historical Society is facing a similar disruption. I can't imagine the challenge, let alone the expense, of properly moving everything safely, let alone the challenge of finding a new space. I am curious, too, how many people saw the RFP much earlier and have had more time to develop their proposals. 

Events like these can be a test of our ability to turn negatives into positives. They do keep us from resting on our laurels. The short timeline is frustrating because the staff is not sitting idle. There is always more work than there is time, so we're always doing triage with regard to our "to do" lists.  

For more information about the DAI:

Contact our County Board of Commissioners HERE

The 2022 DAI Annual Member Show is coming up fast, from May 26 to June 26 in the Great Hall at the Depot. Opening reception is May 26 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Will you be there? It's a great opportunity to see how vibrant our local arts community is.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Man Was Made To Mourn: Wisdom from the Pen of Robert Burns

It's a common literary device. A story is told in which the wisdom of an elder is contrasted or shared with a younger person. One of my favorite Jack London stories, A Piece of Steak, is about an old, used up boxer named Tom King. As he fights his young opponent Sandel, he reflects on his own career in which he was once the young tough pummeling old boxers like himself on their way to hoped-for future glory. By the story's end Sandel is a symbol of Youth, ever rising.

Jorge Luis Borges has a very interesting story, called The Other, about an older man who sits on a park bench and comes to realize that the young man seated at the other end of the bench is he himself when he was younger. Borges's style of magical realism draws you in as the older realizes they are in two different but intersecting moments in space and time  What would you say to your younger self if you were given the chance. I think of this often.

Robert Burns' poem Man Was Made To Mourn uses a similar device in which an older man strives to communicate something to a younger man who is walking along life's way. I discovered the poem because it contains a line that I have quoted many times since first hearing: "Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn."

The poem begins with the narrator out for a walk noticing an older man walking in a heavy-laden manner. In the second stanza the old man is curious about the young man's purpose. Are you out for a walk to pursue pleasure and excitement or are you beginning, too young, to walk because you feel pressed down by woes?

We then learn that the old man is now 80 years old, and his singular refrain at the end of each stanza is "man was made to mourn." The rest of the poem is the older man's explanation of how things are in this world.

The poem was written in 1784, long before the advent of modern medicine. Children often failed to reach adulthood, so there were many broken hearts of parents who buried their children, just one of the many ways we suffer. Ironically, the author of this poem, Robert Burns, died in his late thirties and never came close to 80.

Man Was Made to Mourn

When chill November's surly blast 
Made fields and forests bare, 
One ev'ning, as I wander'd forth 
Along the banks of Ayr, 
I spied a man, whose aged step 
Seem'd weary, worn with care; 
His face was furrow'd o'er with years, 
And hoary was his hair. 

"Young stranger, whither wand'rest thou?" 
Began the rev'rend sage; 
"Does thirst of wealth thy step constrain, 
Or youthful pleasure's rage? 
Or haply, prest with cares and woes, 
Too soon thou hast began 
To wander forth, with me to mourn 
The miseries of man. 
"The sun that overhangs yon moors, 
Out-spreading far and wide, 
Where hundreds labour to support 
A haughty lordling's pride; - 
I've seen yon weary winter-sun 
Twice forty times return; 
And ev'ry time has added proofs, 
That man was made to mourn. 

"O man! while in thy early years, 
How prodigal of time! 
Mis-spending all thy precious hours- 
Thy glorious, youthful prime! 
Alternate follies take the sway; 
Licentious passions burn; 
Which tenfold force gives Nature's law. 
That man was made to mourn. 

"Look not alone on youthful prime, 
Or manhood's active might; 
Man then is useful to his kind, 
Supported in his right: 
But see him on the edge of life, 
With cares and sorrows worn; 
Then Age and Want - oh! ill-match'd pair - 
Shew man was made to mourn. 

"A few seem favourites of fate, 
In pleasure's lap carest; 
Yet, think not all the rich and great 
Are likewise truly blest: 
But oh! what crowds in ev'ry land, 
All wretched and forlorn, 
Thro' weary life this lesson learn, 
That man was made to mourn. 
"Many and sharp the num'rous ills 
Inwoven with our frame! 
More pointed still we make ourselves, 
Regret, remorse, and shame! 
And man, whose heav'n-erected face 
The smiles of love adorn, - 
Man's inhumanity to man 
Makes countless thousands mourn! 

"See yonder poor, o'erlabour'd wight, 
So abject, mean, and vile, 
Who begs a brother of the earth 
To give him leave to toil; 
And see his lordly fellow-worm 
The poor petition spurn, 
Unmindful, tho' a weeping wife 
And helpless offspring mourn. 

"If I'm design'd yon lordling's slave, 
By Nature's law design'd, 
Why was an independent wish 
E'er planted in my mind? 
If not, why am I subject to 
His cruelty, or scorn? 
Or why has man the will and pow'r 
To make his fellow mourn? 

"Yet, let not this too much, my son, 
Disturb thy youthful breast: 
This partial view of human-kind 
Is surely not the last! 
The poor, oppressed, honest man 
Had never, sure, been born, 
Had there not been some recompense 
To comfort those that mourn! 

"O Death! the poor man's dearest friend, 
The kindest and the best! 
Welcome the hour my aged limbs 
Are laid with thee at rest! 
The great, the wealthy fear thy blow 
From pomp and pleasure torn; 
But, oh! a blest relief for those 
That weary-laden mourn!"
 * * * *

I hear echoes of Psalm 73 when I read this, a psalm contrasting haves and have nots. M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Travelled similarly comes to mind with its opening sentence stating so plainly, "Life is difficult." The premise here is that when difficulties come along, we ought not be surprised. 

Which brings to mind this stanza from Christina Rosetti's poem, Up-Hill.

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
   Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
   From morn to night, my friend.

If you like poetry, here is another favorite of mine:

Related Link
Robert Burns Biography 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Leon Russell's The Church Studio: One More Reason to Visit Tulsa

The big happening this past week in Tulsa was, of course, the grand opening of the Bob Dylan Center. Much has been written about the event as media folk from around the world flew in to Tulsa to be a part of the million dollar bash and pay homage. Rumor has it that Bob himself was in town and went to a baseball game. 

If you've followed the hoopla you will no doubt be aware that the Woody Guthrie Center is but a short walk from the BDC. It's no coincidence that young Bob Dylan had drawn nectar from the influence of Woody. The single original song on his first album was "Song to Woody".

For music fans of my generation there's a third "must visit" site to take in while you're in town, Leon Russell's The Church Studio. A number of Northlanders dropped by there last week while in Tulsa. The photos here are from photographer Gary Firstenberg.

Related Links
Learn more about Leon Russell Here
Leon Russell on Wikipedia

Monday, May 16, 2022

A Batch of Memes To Start the Week

Sometimes memes make you laugh, 
sometimes they make you think.
And sometimes you don't know what to think.

This one reminded me of My Melancholy Face by Heinrich Boll

Memes for Duluth Dylan Fest. 
Collaboration with Claude Angele Boni & Karley G.

Schedule for Duluth Dylan Fest 2022: 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Was Subterranean Homesick Blues Written in a Laundromat?

Photo: Gary Firstenberg.
Taken at the Bob Dylan Center.
Last night I was siting in my easy chair in the living room working on a writing project. The laundry room in our house is directly below and the washing machine was going through its rinse cycle. The rhythm identically matched the rhythmic staccato of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," so much so that I began singing it. 

Johnny’s in the basement Mixing up the medicine I’m on the pavement Thinking about the government The man in the trench coat Badge out, laid off Says he’s got a bad cough Wants to get it paid off Look out kid It’s somethin’ you did God knows when But you’re doin’ it again You better duck down the alley way Lookin’ for a new friend The man in the coon-skin cap By the big pen Wants eleven dollar bills You only got ten

* * * 

Duluth Dylan Fest is comin' on fast. Here is a link to their website so you can stay abreast of what's happening.

Some of the Northlanders who were in Tulsa last week.
There will be lots of music, naturally, and plenty of other things throughout the week. The May 24 birthday celebration at Bob's first home is always special. This year it's at noon, not mid-afternoon. Just letting you know. The Monday night Trivia Contest will be at Earth Rider in Superior this year. I had the opportunity to create the 40 questions and I tried very hard to not have them be too hard. Come over and play. There will likely be some lovely parting gifts for a few folk.

There will be two John Bushey Memorial Lectures this year. Peter McKenzie will be sharing stories from his book Bob Dylan: On a Couch and Fifty Cents a Day on May 25. Peter's event will be via Zoom, so anyone in the world can tune in. Please pre-register HERE. Paul Metsa will be presenting from 3-4:30 on Saturday afternoon at Wussow's Concert Cafe. That would be Saturday the 28th.

Duluth Dylan Fest opens next Saturday, the 21st with a new event. In the past we've had numerous art shows. This year, there will be a sculpture event. As many of you know, Bob Dylan has been getting into welding iron gates. This year the Duluth Forging Community is planning to create an iron gate throughout the week, beginning Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They are asking the public to bring interesting pieces of iron to incorporate into this community project. 

The rest of the week's schedule can be found on the Duluth Dylan Fest link above.

* * *

As for whether "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was written in a laundromat or not, it's not out of the question. The author has a famously restless mind. It's doubtful that at time in his life Dylan's mind was ever idle. Mine never was, and it seldom is to this day. Some of us are just wired that way I suspect. 

So, when the time comes, if I ever get a chance to ask, I'll share his answer here. 

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

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