Orphans on the River
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Friend provides inspiration for Martin's latest book
BY SARAH HOWERTON
Indeed, much of Martin's writing focuses on family and regional stories, depicting both their humorous and serious sides. Some of his stories and novels mention old family and place names in the south, the communities cited are often ones no longer appearing on maps. Through his short stories and novels, Martin provides his readers with a glimpse into the past.
Martin and his wife Kather operate the Martain Press at
their home at 16 Dalewood in Searcy. Martin is a former agriculture teacher at
Dardanelle and Ola, and was also a Church of Christ minister in Judsonia for
five years. After his retirement in 1987, writing has been one of his major
interests, along with backyard gardening.
In discussing his 1997 book "Orphans on the River," Martin talked about his friendship with Harry Churchill, a member of his congregation in Judsonia - a friend ship which inspired the book. "Harry died when he was 99-years-old," Martin said. When Churchill, who usually faithfully attended church, starting missing church services due to sickness, Martin said he visited Churchill at his home. During their visits, Churchill would tell stories from his younger days - about his parents' deaths, his father's cotton fields east of Bradford, and how he and his half-brother Flemon Bobbitt became orphans when their mother died in 1911and decided, as boys, to make it on their own on the Little Red, White and Mississippi Rivers.
Martin said he began carrying a tape recorder with him during his visits with Churchill, recording his friend's boyhood stories.
Although his conversations with Churchill provided the foundation of the book, Martin said he did addition al research, as well.
In writing "Orphans on the River," he consulted the late Flemon Bobbitt's son, Chird Bobbitt of Searcy, who provided old state and railroad maps and more information about his father's family. He obtained informa tion on railroads during that time period in the book (from 1913 to 1917) from a retired railroad worker, C.T Stringer, who now lives in Tupelo, Mississippi.
"I would like to extend the story," said Martin in discussing his future plans. Since the narrative in "Orphans on the River" primarily focuses on Harry and Flemon's teenage years, he said a possible project would be to write about their lives after their stint on the rivers.