Randy Chance – land caretaker
By Bob Arnold
It is said “if we take care of the land, the land will take care of us.”
For Randy Chance, the Grounds Supervisor Team Leader at Lake Lincoln State Park, it is now his turn to take care of the land that has taken care of him over the years since he settled with this family in the area near where the park now serves thousands of visitors every year.
“I grew up there,” he says. “My parents and brother and sister lived not far away in a two-bedroom ranch style house on 100 acres. I fished in nearby creeks, was baptized in one of them and learned about the outdoors in a Boy Scout Camp.”
The Chances built their home on Mission Hill Road when Randy was five years old next to the Baptist Church with the same name as the back country byway.
As part of a logging family, Chance started working at a tender age during the summers, but while he was cutting down trees for the family business between 11 and 19 years old, he also found time to play baseball on the field he remembers was on the current location of the Wesson Attendance Center (WAC) gymnasium and earned the Eagle rank in the Wesson Boy Scout Troop guided by then Co-Lin basketball Coach Alton Ricks. He went to elementary school through the eighth grade in the initial building on the site of what became WAC after the addition of the ninth through twelfth grade facility. He graduated from the high school housed at Co-Lin in 1979.
His return to care for the land that nurtured him took nearly five decades, work stops in every U.S. state except Alaska and Hawaii and a career that encompassed carpentry, the oil fields, installing fire protection equipment and making t-shirts.
After high school, Chance stayed around the area for a few years – first as a carpenter for Troy Pitts at the former Timberlane camp grounds and the company doing construction at the new Lake Lincoln Park next door, then as a delivery man for Georgetown Furniture. Soon, however, he was off to the offshore oil fields and living in Leesville, Louisiana, and moving on to do oil exploration as a seismograph operation for Jackson-based GFS from Lafayette, Louisiana.
With Goss Fire Protection headquartered in Forest, Mississippi, from 1984-1996, Chance was dispatched throughout the continental United States to install sprinkler fire protection systems. “I lived throughout the nation near government and private facilities where we did the work,” he relates. “We installed sprinkler systems at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia; stealth bomber hangars in New Mexico, Saint Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson and throughout government agencies Washington, DC, among other places.”
In 1996, Chance returned to his boyhood home on Mission Hill Road and started working with his mother, who was the recipient of 20 sewing machines from the retiring owner of T’s Apparel at Crystal Springs, to produce and sell their own line of Hawaiian shirts. “We changed the name of the company to Chance Apparel and made specialty for organizations and events such as the New Orleans Jazz Festival,” he says. “Mom did the sewing with employees as needed, and I was a cutter, boxer and shipper.”
Chance devoted most of his time to his ailing father after he became ill in 2006, hunting and fishing with him and caring for him as needed; and Chance Apparel cut back the nature and volume of its business while he still worked as he could. In 2014, Lake Lincoln State Park, which encompasses more than 1,000 acres of his youthful stomping grounds, hired him to help do its maintenance following his father’s death in 2013.
On October 22, Chance celebrated his sixty-fourth birthday. He lives in the old house built by his parents on ten acres of the 100 acres in which he shares ownership with his brother Greg Chance, who is retired, and his sister Pam Stamps, a Brookhaven accountant. Saying “I guess I just stayed on the road too much to get married,” he is still single, and now as the Grounds Supervisor Team Leader at the state park, he is responsible for cleaning its physical facilities, general park maintenance, electrical and plumbing systems, delimbing and other landscaping, among other needs. Helping care of at least part of the land that has helped care for him.
What are your hobbies?
I fish in Lake Lincoln and hunt behind my house. I’m a member of Mission Hill Baptist Church, but am not the most faithful attender.
What kind of music do you like?
I don’t sing or play an instrument, but I listen to country music and old rock and roll on Pandora. Maybe you could also call me a sound man for my brother-in-law Ken Stamps, who has played guitars in local bands over years. I have helped him with equipment, and he seems to like what I do.
How about movies?
I am into old westerns, particularly those with John Wayne – Rio Bavo, Rio Grande, Rio Lobo, Big Jake, McClintock and just about anything else that comes on Grit TV.
What would you do with the winnings if you won the lottery?
I would divide it with my family. I certainly couldn’t spend any big winnings on myself.
How would you change the world?
A day at a time. I can’t single out any one thing, but I would take it a day a time.