Randy Smith is a small-framed man with a twinkle in his eye and cheeky grin that would make you question his claim of being 64-years-old.
This spring is Randy’s last as a janitor for the Clarksville high school. He’s been with the school, teachers and class after class of students for more than 30 years and plans on retiring at the end of the 2015-16 school year. His departure, he admits, is depressing. However, the vitality and life that Randy brought to the school will now be poured into his writing, a career he found himself slipping into just 10 years ago.
Writing poetry became a passion for Randy after major surgery seemingly opened up the inspirational flood gates. Smith set about putting pen to paper and published his first collection of poems, “An Open Window,” shortly thereafter. Many of his pieces are inspired from his childhood, and many of those same experiences also inspired his children’s novels.
Randy says he writes children’s books right now, but plans on publishing more poetry, short stories and hopes to publish a thriller, all after settling into retirement.
SIERRA: How did you get your start in writing?
RANDY: I started writing after brain surgery.
SM: Can you tell me about the brain surgery?
RS: I had to have brain surgery in 2005. I’m a miracle, I shouldn’t be here talking to you, it was so bad.
The summer after third grade I got hit with a baseball bat, right here, (motions to right temple).
Complete accident. The thing was I’m a little guy and we didn’t go to the doctor that often; we didn’t have any money. Mom put an ice cube on it like here Randy, it will be all right. And it was okay for a long time. Only thing is, I flunked fourth grade. My grades went downhill after that. I couldn’t comprehend things very well. But I read everything I got my hands on. Tom Sawyer, that grade level all the way through. I was an avid reader and that didn’t affect me. The math went south, pretty much. And I think later I found out I’m a little dyslexic now.
November 2005 I got out of the shower, and had the worst headache I’ve had in my life. Cheryl, my wife, took me to the hospital and I remember getting out of the truck. And I remember waking up on the operating table in Little Rock. The doctors were astounded because I woke up.
I said “What we doing?” They said, “You’re having brain surgery.” I said, “Not me!”
I woke up in my recovery room and the doctor came in, he was from Scotland. I will never forget he said, “Randy, you’re a miracle. We knew you would be blind or paralyzed.” It didn’t happen.
RS: Here I am recovering at home, January the third. I still remember the first poem I wrote: “Through the Glass.” I never wrote anything. I was sitting up by myself. Cheryl was asleep, I couldn’t lay down, it hurt. The surgery bothered me.
I felt this strange urge to get a pencil and a piece of paper. I was looking down, through the window — through the glass. I could see the moonlight in the shadows in the wood. Jan. 3, 2006 I became a poet.
When I started writing poetry I thought I was going nuts. I really did. After the surgery, I started doing it and I thought I was losing my mind. Anyway, I would get any piece of paper I could get my hands on and start writing. My wife said, “Randy you’re being consumed by this!” I said “I can’t stop.”
SM: I’m kind of an odd ball – when I started school at Tech I knew I wanted to be a journalist. However, I’ve heard stories about people getting into this field later on in life. Is that where you fall?
RS: Now, of course. At the time I thought it was strange this would happen to me and I didn’t know why. Something broke loose and all the things I had missed out on started coming to me. And I can see things with clarity in my mid. I understood things.
SM: How did you deal with that transition?
RS: I didn’t understand it and I thought there really was something else going on. I didn’t make the connection to brain surgery until later. I noticed I would remember things and I could quote you whole poems. That’s one of the things that changed me – I didn’t used to be this outspoken. I was more reserved, and perhaps, Cheryl will tell you I might be just a little quick, a little short with someone, but not unkind. I’ve always been a kind and gentle person. The brain surgery enhanced that a little more.
SM: Do you attribute these changes to the brain surgery?
RS: A lot of it, yes. And I play the banjo. Before the brain surgery, I would be limited with how far I could go with it. I still consider myself mediocre, but the before and after is different. I understand more.
SM: Would you say you dabble in all different sorts of writing?
RS: Well there are some things I will not write. I don’t do smut. Won’t ever touch it.
I love murder mysteries, but I don’t know if I can write one. I like Sherlock Holmes; I’m an 1800s kind of a guy. I would never do gore.
SM: What are your thoughts about retirement?
RS: I have mixed emotions. It’s like walking out of a house that you’ve lived with people for 32 years and not looking back. That’s hard. They’re like my second family.
You can’t work beside somebody and develop a friendship for 32 years and not be emotional about it. If you can’t be, there’s something wrong with you.
At the same time I can feel my body complaining. And I told them I don’t want to be broke down and then retire. I’m 64-years-old. I want to pursue this more (points to book).
I want to make a comment about the teachers at the school. When I first started writing the poetry I would take it to them and because my lacking of education in literature and the writing and sentence structure and combination and spelling, they would take my writing and they would tweak it. They would literally take time out of their day. Teachers at Clarksville high school took me under their wing and gave me an education.
SM: What are your plans after retirement?
RS: We’ll spend some time doing some things we want to do instead of swinging the hammer every day. It will be nice just to stay home. And when I write, I don’t write at three in the afternoon, I write at two or three in the morning. Between distractions I have to have that quiet time. I’ve always been an early riser.
SM: Can you narrow down what inspires you?
RS: A lot of my stuff is because of what I did when I was 15-years-old and I got to where I remembered all of that stuff and it all started pouring back in. A lot of the poetry is nature, some of it’s spiritual, some of it’s just about human nature. I write a variety of poetry.
I’m inspired by nature, I’m inspired by things that happened in my past. I remember some of my own events and wrote them down in poetry form.
SM: It seems like your poetry is very personal.
RS: Yes it is.
SM: What are you going to release next and when?
RS: I would like to finish a novel sometime 2016. I’ll also have another children’s book. Then I’ve got children’s rhymes. I’ve got other projects I’m working on that retirement will be nice to do. Writing is becoming my passion.
Anyone wishing to purchase Randy’s work are encouraged to check Amazon or contact Randy personally on Facebook by searching R C Smith in Lamar, Arkansas.l