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Sunday, March 26, 2017


History and MYSTERY lovers, 
Former Texas Ranger Bob Connell
 and I talk about things we can't prove.
 It's a long list.
It's a charming, somewhat humble thing. And it has a wonderful story which requires some suspension of disbelief in order to fully enjoy it. It is an old engraved mirror, and if only it could reflect back to us what it has seen. 

The Barrow Mirror.

The other day I was chatting with a retired Texas Ranger, a man who would have many stories to tell if there was time to listen. Bob Connell was once the interim Police Chief in Navasota, and is not just a former Texas Ranger, he is a man who has spent his life collecting the legends and lore of his esteemed law enforcement agency. He is the proud owner of a rare Texas Ranger badge, once the property of Ranger Captain M. E. Bailey, that was dug up by a Navasota citizen in his flower bed. History randomly coughed up the brass relic of one former ranger and former Navasota City Marshal in 1912, into the hands of a man with the same relative titles one hundred years later! But that is another story.

And people have given him things.

The subject that day gravitated to “great stories we could not prove.” There are lots of them. The old badge had Bailey's name inscribed right on it, no problem proving that. But time and circumstances have erased the traces of provenance that have reduced otherwise sensational things... into the seemingly ordinary. And Bob has one such frustrating item.

The story goes that he had an uncle named Audie who lived in Dallas, and Audie once worked as an ice delivery man. Yes, once men delivered big blocks of ice to homes, back in the 1920's, '30's and '40's. The people would put a little placard out in the window or on the porch if they needed ice. The delivery man would stop his wagon or truck and bring it right to the doorstep with a pair of giant tongs. People kept their blocks of ice in ice boxes. They would use it to cool their perishable food, and would chip or shave ice off the melting ice block for drinks. Everybody had an ice shaver and an ice pick in the kitchen drawer. 

Anyway, one of Uncle Audie's customers was Mrs. Cummie Barrow, faithful mother of the notorious Texas gangster and cop-killer, Clyde Barrow. One day, for some reason, perhaps to pay her ice bill, Mrs. Barrow offered Bob's uncle a little treasure in lieu of payment for her ice service. She had this old mirror... and the story goes it had been given to her from her infamous and bereaved son Clyde. And Audie the ice man took the mirror and kept it. We are going to assume he took care of her ice bill, in trade for the mysterious relic. 

The story goes... that young Clyde, before he turned to a life of crime, had worked at United Mirror & Glass Company at 2614 Swiss Ave., in Dallas, believed to be the very glass company where the mirror had been made, and Clyde quite possibly had helped in the manufacture of it... sometime between 1926 and 1930... as the story goes. One has to believe it would have been a serious sacrifice for Mrs. Barrow to part with such a useful keepsake. And one has to believe that this vintage mirror has no little significance in Texas law enforcement history... and considerable value to collectors, if the story could only be proven.

The mirror had been left to Ranger Connell's parents and thus to him. Now he owns the mirror and its story, and has done all he could as an experienced investigator, to establish the connection between the mirror and Clyde Barrow. Absolute proof is impossible. 

But belief is. It is, that is if you accept the oral traditions of a family that preserved not only the mirror and its story, but a Texas lawman with a stellar career.

Personally, I think it is good that Ranger Connell cannot prove his family's most controversial icon. If they could have, it might have been sold decades ago. The money would now be gone, the story lost to some packrat collector and never told or shared. The mirror would be hanging in some oilman's man cave, a casual conversation piece, always explained by, “yeah, I probably paid too much for that thing...”

It is because he cannot prove his story that Bob still has it and is still talking about it. It's probably the find of the century, that could be worth thousands. But is more valuable to all of us as a story. In the end, to me that kind of story is worth more than money. It captures the imagination where cold cash just lays there with no life, no mystery, no anticipation. 

 When I looked into the mirror for the first time, I saw (in my fertile imagination!) Bonnie and Clyde looking into it as well, and back at me. It gave me the creeps. It made me think about old lady Barrow tearfully handing over the thing to her ice man. For a second I was inside that glass... my reflection was sharing space above the silver with them all. 

How much is something like that worth? Well an old ranger and I think it is priceless!

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