The story of the Barker gang shootout back in the 1930`s has been told and retold and even been made into a special television show, but I know an eyewitness story that, as far as I know, was never publicized. This story was told to me some 25 years after the fact.
A relative of one of the cowmen that I worked for had a contract to haul kids to school around the Belleview area, some ten miles from the little village of Ocklawaha on Lake Weir in Marion County. Somehow the rumor got out in the area that something big was going to happen in Ocklawaha. On that particular morning the driver of the contract bus, who was also my employer`s uncle, was picking up his charges. It was decided unanimously that they would detour to Ocklawaha and watch the action.
The FBI and local law enforcement were surrounding a two-story house on Lake Weir on the tip that the Barker gang of bank robbers and cold-blooded killers were residing in this house. After a law officer knocked on the door and was greeted by a shotgun blast from inside, the shootout started.
From seven o`clock in the morning to just before noon, hundreds of rounds of rifle slugs and machine gun bullets riddled the house on Lake Weir. When no return fire was heard, the shooting stopped. Instead of a gang of bank robbers, only Ma Barker and Fred Barker were there. The rest of the gang was later killed or captured.
The hooky players returned to school and had a story that lasted a lifetime.