There wasn’t an empty parking spot in downtown Bentonia.
A few farmers and cattlemen even circled the main strip of the small town a few times, hoping to find a spot to ease their trucks into without getting too far away.
Everyone was heading to Planters Supply to bid farewell to Bill Martin, who retired last week after three decades of service to the store.
“This is the biggest thing to hit Bentonia in 20 years,” one man said, with a laugh as he approached the store.
The smell of good food hovered over the street. The sound of laughter carried through the rural community. And Martin’s smile could be seen for miles.
“All these guys have been good to me,” Martin said, surveying the large crowd. “It’s been a good group to be around. I have had a good time here, and I will miss it.”
Martin joined the Planters Supply family in October of 1984. He was working in Vicksburg at the time with the highway department.
“My sister-in-law told me about an opening here,” Martin said, standing in front of the store. “It was an old building then by the bank. I applied and kept calling them. They decided to go ahead and hire me maybe to make me stop calling.”
Martin said he was put “on probation” for six months to see if the job was the right fit for him. But he said he began to get comfortable rather quickly.
“I kept telling them that I wasn’t going anywhere,” Martin said, with a smile. “I knew I wasn’t going anywhere else.”
And he didn’t. He remained there for 32 years.
Martin was from the Phoenix community. His wife Martha was raised on Highway 3.
“I came from the hills,” he said.
Accustomed to tight-knit communities, Martin fit in well at Planters Supply. He got along well with the staff, and they practically became family.
And his customers who came through the door every day made his job all the more rewarding.
“I have always been a people person, and this was perfect for me,” he said. “It was nice to get to know people and talk to them. Pretty soon, I didn’t go by my name anymore. I was ‘the Planters Supply man.’”
Michael Bates and Herbie Kirk, owners of the store, said Martin was a good worker, but also a good friend.
“I know you like this day, but I don’t like it,” Kirk said to Martin, with a pat on the back.
Martin said he is ready to adjust to his new life.
But judging by the cars and trucks lining the main strip of Bentonia, he will have a few friends to keep him company.