It wasn’t long before Clyde was involved with criminal activity again, this time recruiting several men, including Ralph Fults, to become what was known as the Barrow gang. After Clyde and Fults had raided a hardware store they later joined up with Bonnie only to be chased at high speed.
Despite Clyde’s driving skills they were reduced to stealing mules to navigate the Texas farm country and both Bonnie and Fults were eventually arrested. Clyde escaped. Bonnie claimed that she had been kidnapped by the gang but, despite a grand jury failing to indict her, she spent two months in the Kaufman Jail, Texas. On her release she was soon reunited with Clyde.
The Barrow gang consisted of Raymond Hamilton, Henry Methvin, Joe Palmer, WD Jones and Clyde’s brother Ivan M. ‘Buck’ Barrow. Over a considerable period the gang carried out many robberies and kidnappings, some attributed to Bonnie and Clyde.
Their exploits fuelled a mythology that relied on little evidence, but much hearsay and gossip. In some ways the gang were admired as latter day Robin Hoods, while others reviled them as common law breakers. However, it was Clyde’s first association with murder that was to garner them greater notoriety.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), then called the Bureau of Investigation, became interested in Barrow and his female companion late in December 1932. What was to become the biggest manhunt in the nation at that time started with little understanding of how elusive and tenacious these young criminals were going to turn out to be.
It was while Bonnie was in the Texas jail that Clyde had been identified as the getaway driver during a raid. Later, when Clyde and Hamilton were illegally drinking at a dance in Oklahoma, they were approached by the local sheriff and his associate. The two lawmakers were shot and killed when Clyde and Hamilton made their escape.
If the public had any sympathy or admiration for the Barrow gang, it was quickly dispelled after the shooting and killing of the sheriffs.
On 22 March 1933, Clyde hid out in a remote hideout in Joplin Missouri, along with his brother Buck and sister-in-law Blanche. WD Jones and Bonnie were also present. By this time tensions were running high as some of the gang argued that Clyde should turn himself in. No doubt Bonnie would have taken Clyde’s side to stay on course. Although there is no evidence supporting the mythological view that the two were lovers, the pair were undeniably inseparable.
The gang was soon disturbed by law enforcers and a shoot-out took place resulting in WD Jones being seriously injured, but not before he and Clyde had shot and killed one lawman and fatally injured another. The gang, including Blanche, then escaped from the apartment leaving behind many possessions including a camera. The developed film disclosed revealing photographs that were to become famous images of Bonnie and Clyde, posing with their guns, and later reproduced in millions of books over the decades.
In reality life on the run for the gang was far from glamorous. They were constantly arguing and rarely had time or the opportunity to spend their spoils from crime. During one incident, Bonnie was hurt when Clyde skidded into a ravine causing her to be caught under the vehicle. She suffered severe burns to her leg and it was then that Clyde decided that they would take time off from criminal pursuits to allow Bonnie to recover.
The respite from chaos was short-lived when Buck killed a city marshal during a botched robbery. Once again the gang had to move on. It seemed impossible for the gang not to leave a trail of destruction behind wherever it went, a trail that was forever being picked up by law enforcers, mainly due to the gang’s suspicious behaviour.
On 18 July 1933 the gang rented two cabins at Platte City Missouri. During the night an armoured car positioned itself outside the cabins. The authorities had been alerted when one of the gang had gone into a Platte City drug store to obtain medical supplies. The exchange of gunfire between the marshals and Barrow gang was ferocious resulting in Clyde’s brother, Buck, getting shot in the head. Miraculously despite the lawmakers’ manpower the gang managed to escape.