Ma Barker in the cabbage patch

Surveillance cameras captured this composite photo of Ma Barker laying eggs under the leaves of a broccoli plant in the school garden. She was creating a diversion while one of her sons, probably Lloyd, was chomping a big hole in the leaf of the next broccoli plant [lower right].

The real gang matriarch known as "Ma" had three other nasty outlaw sons besides Lloyd--Arthur, Fred, and Herman. This cabbage butterfly must have hundreds of voracious criminal offspring. They are all Public Enemies Number One in my mind.

Different opinions about how involved Ma was with the Barker-Karpis Gang have floated for decades. Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, who did time with Fred in the Kansas Penitentiary, became the leader of the gang. If you look at the vintage Ten Most Wanted posters in the post office you will see that "Creepy" was a velvety green caterpillar, same as the Barkers.

So I called up my dad. Sometimes I get fiction and memories intertwined. It seems like I heard tales of an outlaw car in Pierce. Did Dad remember ever seeing the shot-up car of Bonnie and Clyde on display at the Pierce County Fair? He didn't, but he did remember that the Anderson Garage had a classy car belonging to an outlaw named Flannery on display in Pierce for a long time.

Dad remembers hearing about the Chicago gangs, Pretty Boy Floyd, the Barkers, and John Dillinger as a kid in the Dirty Thirties. Dillinger changing his fingerprints with corrosive acid was a big story back then. Dad could get the latest news by wandering two blocks down to the Skelly station, and hanging around the cold water fountain at the sidewalk. "The Best Water in Pierce" drinking fountain was also the place to exchange news and gossip.

I'm ready for J. Edgar Hoover's FBI boys to conduct a four-hour shoot-out against the cabbage butterfly and her pesky broccoli gang offspring. I'm a tad irritable because, hey! I resemble that remark about Ma in an online biography:

ARIZONA CLARK "MA" BARKER (1871-1935) Person: In her younger years "Ma" Barker was a rather dumpy fiddle player and Bible reader. In her 50s she was even dumpier, running to gray hair and fat.

But I don't chew holes in the garden plants!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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