LONOKE COUNTY, Ark.- Inspiration comes in many forms, sometimes it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks, other times, it’ll knock you over with a feather.
Enter Martin Clark.
Mr. Clark was an ordinary man, until something extraordinary happened to him.
“I have people come up to me and say I’m amazed at what you can do,” says Clark.
He and his wife, Betty, married more than 60 years ago. He was an Air Force Staff Sergeant quickly moving up the ranks. She moved them toward the altar.
“He was always around I didn’t know what to do with him. So I married him” says Betty.
When they moved home, the Martin family began to grow, first kids, then his dream.
“I wanted to be the second largest farmer in Lonoke County,” Martin says. “It didn’t get that far, but I done pretty good.”
He says knew he couldn’t beat the largest farmer, but with 800 acres of soybeans 200 head of cattle and farming about 3000 acres. Yeah, he did pretty good.
All was right with the world, and you know, this is where a story like this takes a turn, and it’s never a good one.
Mr. Clark explains it in three words
“Had my accident,” he says. “Things happen in your life every day, if it’s bad you adjust, if it’s good you adjust. “
His accident? He went to un-jam a hay bailer, it grabbed an arm, and then the other. He lost both hands and most of both arms.
For Martin Clark, farmer, cowboy, carpenter, father and husband, the rest of his life would be full of change and adjustments. Tasks we take for granted took him precise calculations.
“A lady came to me after we ate and said to me, ‘I am amazed at how you can eat peas with a fork,” Martin recalls.
The fact he survived is amazing. The fact he thrived even more so, unless you know Mr. Clark.
“You either go on, or you quit,” Martin says. “I wasn’t about to quit.”
While he never quit, things slowly changed. Betty would stay home when she feared his moods were lower than low. One day when he felt he was loosing his grip, he knew who he needed to hold on to.
“I went in and called her and said ‘You’d better come home,” he recalls. “One day or two or three in the last 35 years. Your partner has got to be there when you need them. “
No longer farming to make a living, he became a truck driver, even when he was told he couldn’t.
“I had two or three doctors, orthopedic surgeons turn me down,” Martin recalls. “They didn’t even want to talk to me about getting approval to drive.”
But he proved them all wrong and became a sought-after 18-wheeler. One day driving his truck on to a friends farm. His passion for riding, he had set aside after loosing his hands was handed right back to him, thanks to a lady by the name of Lenda Scroggins.
“When I met Lenda Scroggins she wanted to know if I could ride a horse,” Martin says.
He said, “I don’t know, I haven’t ridden in 15 years. I haven’t ridden without hands “
If he had any doubts of his ability, Lenda didn’t. She had been here before, her father lost both of his, and she rode with him.
“I knew what Daddy could do and couldn’t,” says Scroggins
Since then, they have conquered cliffs, hills, caves and canyons across the country, all on horseback.
“I’ve been riding with her ever since,” says Martin “We’ve been riding for about 25 years now.”
His life has been a journey of figuring it out. If he wanted to ride it, he rode it. His love of creating flourished. If he wanted to build it, he built it. From play houses that look like sailing ships to horse-drawn carts and more. If anyone saw something they wanted, he’d build it for them. His instinct to keep moving, not unlike a horses instinct to find it’s way home.
“If you’re on a horse and trail and he needs to find the way, he will,” he says. “He may go through the woods, but I guarantee he’ll take you home.”
From time to time, he finds himself on a path that inspires others. He knows he could have taken a path that would have ended years ago, and that he would have missed a lot. His biggest success?
“My pleasure and joy?” he asks. “My kids and grand kids and great-grandkids. I have five grandkids, seven great-grandkids.”
It takes a special person to see beyond what people don’t see.
“You look back on it it wasn’t a bad thing, it was something that happened and I had to go on and I went on with it,” he reflects.
He’s kind enough and subtle enough to let people look, watch, and realize, we all have the power to overcome whatever obstacle life might hand us.