Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good guys, bad guys

Oswald Chambers and Bonnie and Clyde are rarely mentioned in the same sentence...this is the exception.

Chambers was so good. Here's a piece of yesterday's entry from his book "My Utmost for His Highest," one of 20-plus books put together by his wife from his notes after his death. Chambers never lets you off the hook...The book's online.

"You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person...There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus. If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own (see Matthew 7:3-5 ). Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-24 ). Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person’s situation. The first thing God does is to give us a thorough spiritual cleaning. After that, there is no possibility of pride remaining in us. I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God."


A technical deal kept the Sunday Times column (June 14) from posting; here it is for those who've asked.


GIBSLAND -- Charlie brought us our plate lunches in downtown Gibsland, sat them on the café table and pointed outside.

“Saw Bonnie and Clyde get shot to death there last week,” he said, pointing through the plate glass toward Main Street. “Shot ’em four different times in one afternoon.”

That had been the May Saturday marking the 75th anniversary of the ambush and elimination of the nationally famous bank robbers by a half-dozen lawmen hidden in the woods along Highway 154 on May 23, 1934. The real-life, real-death ambush happened eight miles south of town. But you can’t move the annual Bonnie and Clyde Festival eight miles south of town.

So Bonnie and Clyde were killed four different times, just as they are every year, after a staged bank robbery downtown. There is also an annual re-created ambush that takes place at the actual spot, but it’s a one-shot deal, so to speak. Not everybody wants to drive out there, and it’s a good thing because the town triples in size, from 1,200 to about 3,000, during the festival.

Charlie Andrews and his wife Marsha have seen the famous outlaw lovers killed more than three dozen times since they began running the Gibsland Grill 10 years ago. Marsha is a hometown girl – the 1963 girl’s Louisiana state championship basketball trophy she helped win is in the grill’s banquet room – and Charlie, a Shreveporter, is a Gibsland transplant because of his long marriage to Marsha. Shreveporter’s will remember Charlie from his parents’ store, Andrews Grocery, in Caddo Heights back in the ’50s.

Today his bread and butter – and yours – is the Gibsland Grill. You’ve got to love Charlie and Marsha and the Gibsland Grill. I had the dead fried chicken, corn and rice casserole and double green beans and my friend J.D., a regular and a childhood friend of Charlie’s, had the same thing except he got fried okra instead of double green beans. I got chocolate sheet cake for dessert. J.D. eats sweets only on weekends; J.D. is not a very smart man.

You can grab one of the books off the shelves and leave one for others in the two stacks of paperbacks and old hardbacks that make up the Gibsland Grill’s loaning library. But you’re not going to want to read while you’re there, not if Charlie has time to sit and talk a minute or if the nice retirement-aged guys at the next table want to talk to you about Carolina or their families or how business is going. Or, since the subject never gets old, Bonnie and Clyde.

I didn’t know until Charlie told us, but these re-creators, the people who posed as Bonnie and Clyde and the law and all, go around from town to town doing this. They bring the period cars, weapons, clothing. “They might be Dillinger in Chicago next week,” Charlie said.

I actually saw these people back on May 23, having cruised out to the death site myself that day and, on the way back, passed the party. And they really did look authentic, except just much more alive.

Charlie and Marsha also fed historians and Bonnie and Clyde buffs that day in the banquet room. “183 of ’em,” Charlie said. “These are the people that have the Bonnie and Clyde shrines in their bedrooms, candles and all that.”

Some of the Parker family was there; (that would be Bonnie’s side.) A book came out this year, Charlie said, that insinuated Bonnie’s clothes might have been a little too chic, a little too good for a girl on a waitress’ salary, that maybe she was doing something besides robbing banks to get it. That didn’t settle well with the Parkers present; the book’s author must have known something because the author didn’t show for the festival.

“You can call her a bank robber or even a murderer,” Charlie said, “but I got the feeling that the one thing you don’t call her is a ‘bad girl.’”

CNN was there. And FOX and NBC and CBS and “I think,” Charlie said, “just about everybody but Ladies Home Journal.”

But Bonnie and Clyde weren’t. I wonder, when they left Gibsland that long-ago May day, what their hurry was. Gibsland would have been a good place to just hang around in for a while. Especially if fried chicken were on the plate lunch.