ELVIE

Elvie (right) and her mother, Frances. Paris, Texas 1919

If the Corleones had a godfather, Rooster’s mom, Elvie, was the godmother of the Bogle family. As some in the family said, Elvie was "the one who wore the pants," and made the key decisions that led the family into four generations of crime. Elvie was born in 1902 in the rural hamlet of Sherry in northeast Texas, the daughter of an impoverished cotton tenant sharecropper.  Her uncle ran a tiny general store and was the local postmaster, charged with going into the nearest town once a week to pick up the mail over a rutted dirt road. When Elvie was 13, her uncle bought an early motorcycle to make fetching the mail faster and she begged him to let her drive it and get the mail. Driving a motorized vehicle was considered unladylike in her Baptist community, but Elvie was already displaying the bravado and willingness to take risks that would determine much of her life.

 

She soon became an accomplished motorcycle driver and would put this skill to work after she married Louis Bogle, a tall, quiet man who had arrived in Texas by train from a tiny town in Tennessee in 1920, with no job skills and little education. His taciturn demeanor belied the fact that he was also a con man who tricked Elvie into believing he owned a house and a Model T Ford in the nearby prosperous city of Paris, Texas.

When the price of cotton collapsed a few months after their marriage, Louis' lies were exposed, but Elvie was pregnant and the couple was penniless. It was Elvie who came up with a solution. She applied for a job with  a visiting carnival, riding a motorcycle up the steep wall of a motordrome right to the roof, one of the carnival's biggest attractions. 

Elvie and Louis were soon traveling with the carnival around the southwest, living in a railroad boxcar and partying at night with the Gypsies who made up most of their fellow employees. It was the time of Prohibition, but Louis began making moonshine out in wooded rural areas and Elvie drove her motorcycle into the towns the carnival visited and sold the liquor to thirsty customers. Louis was arrested several times, and once given a suspended prison sentence. Their five sons and a daughter were born into the chaos of living with the carnival, stealing to make ends meet, and once committing a major burglary together as a family.  Elvie was briefly detained as the ringleader. As the years passed, all their sons, with Rooster being the youngest, were incarcerated.

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