Blacksnake & Redbird:

Murders that Terrified a ‘60s Southern Town

 

Cathie Ward’s 7th grade pic, her last school photo!

Thirteen-year-old Cathie Ward was just breaking through a childhood wrought with loss and fear when summer break arrived after the 7th grade. She was blossoming into a teenage beauty, chased by several junior high boys but caught by only one, the quarterback. Her dysfunctional family life and outsider feelings were all but erased by her girlfriends, who admired her beauty and kindness. Everything had fallen into place on Friday, June 24, 1966 as she left to go horseback riding at Blacksnake Ranch with some school friends. But she had a secret and soon, so would the ranch owner. 

 

Forty-two-year-old Frank Davis, the owner of Blacksnake Ranch on the outskirts of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was his own boss since the age of six in the dusty Texas panhandle. As the only child of hardworking parents, he ricocheted between his father’s stern ways and mother’s doting love, which carried over to his marital relationships. After June 24,1966, his twenty-one-year-old fourth wife would have a secret that topped his.

 

Bitty Martin & childhood friend, Leslie Tracy Swinford, take Cathie Ward’s 1966 skateboard on a 2018 visit to her Murfreesboro, Arkansas grave.

After reading the most books in my Jones School 3rd grade class, I participated each year in the summer reading programs at our Hot Springs, Arkansas library and haven’t stopped reading since. I’m deeply indebted to my mother, Dorothy Martin, and 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Dugan, for instilling in me the love of books. That’s the basis of any writer’s credentials, like playing peewee ball for a Major League baseball player. 

Earning a BSBA/Marketing degree, I worked for the Arkansas Times magazine, KATV-Channel 7/ABC affiliate, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Then returned to college for a nursing degree (RN) that allowed me to travel America for two decades as an operating room nurse from NY to LA and Boston to the Bay. And everywhere I went, Cathie Ward accompanied me in haunting childhood memories. But it wasn't until an eerie event occurred in 2014, involving the skateboard Cathie left at Leslie’s house six days before her death, that I realized it was time to start digging up what actually happened during a chain of brutal murders in the late 60s. After all these years, the mere mention of the murderer’s name elicits tremendous fear, because no one knows if he’s still alive and out there somewhere. But they will, once they read Blacksnake. 

(Seeking agent representation for the 75K word completed MS).

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Bitty Martin

Author 

Hot Springs, AR, USA

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