Austin of Riley
[imgbelt img=rileyarcher540.jpg]A promising athlete has outgrown his school and, with a devoted family behind him, takes aim at the bigger campus down the road.
(See the slideshow, above, for more of the Martin family, their store, and Riley, OR)
Austin Martin says he never feels lonely.
Some 13-year-old kids might feel isolated in Riley, Oregon, where Austin attends a sunny three-room school with two basketball standards and two trees. Suntex Elementary is a K-8 school. Its enrollment? 10.
I taught Austin this spring in my itinerant job as a writing teacher. He studies with three other kids from fifth though eight grade. Don’t look for a principal at Suntex. Two teachers are in charge, though a board oversees decisions. Most rural schools in Harney County operate like that.
After school, Austin doesn’t return home to an alfalfa farm or cattle ranch like other Suntex kids. He lives in the back of the Riley Store with his great-grandparents, Dale and Pat Martin, who will celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. Their store, as solid as their marriage, draws archery buffs and anyone who needs to fill up on gas, buy some beer or a burrito, rent one of the two rooms upstairs, or pick up some local fishing, birding or hunting info.
The Martins have never closed the place a day in the 11 years they’ve owned it.
But this spring, the Riley Store went up for sale. Austin wants to move into Burns, 27 miles east, to go to school. Burns has a 3A high school with 306 students. For the last eight years, the Hilanders have won the boys’ state wrestling championship. Burns is Harney County’s largest town by far with about 2,600 people.