COCHRAN, GEORGIA: The sun was shining, and the ground was still a little saturated from the thunderstorm from the night before. There was a slight Spring breeze.

Traffic was light and the normal buzz of activity couldn’t be found. More than likely due to the governmental orders of ‘sheltering – in – place’ and the coronavirus(COVID-19) spreading, infecting people and causing loss of life, the town was quiet.

Well, mostly.

One man, dressed in khaki pants, a light-colored button up shirt, worn shoes, and a smile bigger than a minnow in a fishing pond, sat on the curb outside the convenience store, just sitting … resting a spell, he hollered when I hollered asking if he was OK.

I was more than 13 feet away – pumping gas with my gloves on, and my face in my shirt collar. Pretty soon, others pulled up to the pumps, and he would holler and wave, never getting up, just offering warm greetings.

And people responded, calling him by name, “Hey Smokey!” “Smokey, you need to go home and stay away from this virus.” “Smokey, what’s up?”

Smokey would just nod his head, and give some kind of answer. From my vantage point, Smokey Randall looked like he had not changed much in the last 20 to 30 years. His skin was still a light brown, and his hair had some curl in it still, but I noticed there was more gray.

His eyes had the same twinkling I remember from the days when he would saunter into the newspaper office to grab a paper – he would offer to pay, but I would give him one anyway.

Smokey is all any of us have ever really known him as … I am sure he has a fine first name, and a former law enforcement officer in town told that is his last name is Randall.

Through the years, Smokey has seen his own sorts of trouble, and had stirred up some trouble here and there. He was always hanging around the convenience stores in town, with his bicycle nearby and bags of stuff tied to the bike. He would chat with anyone – the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich.

Some people would do their best to side step him or would just tell him to go away. Most folks would chat with him for a minute or two. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take Smokey – he is a different sort of fellow.

Loud at times, and he would ‘talk 90 miles a minute’ – sometimes so fast that no one could really comprehend what he was saying, but that didn’t matter to Smokey. He just loves people and loves to talk.

And help people out.

Many times, over the years, I would see Smokey pushing his lawn mower in various yards around town – in particular for the elderly. They would offer pay, but a lot of times, Smokey wouldn’t accept anything but a dinner plate.

Once, I even saw Smokey give a child two quarters at Fred’s in Cochran to buy some gum, because the child was nice to him, and held the door open for him. That wasn’t the first time I had bore witness to Smokey doing something like that for a child in town.

Today, while we all were going through our own mixture of emotions – panic, frustration, anger, sadness, fear, anxiety and the like – hurrying so not to break any of the guidelines – staying six fee away, not breathing near people … – Smokey sat. He didn’t get up. He didn’t try to shake anyone’s hand, and he stayed out of the way.

But he was there, waving at folks, telling the women they looked good and chatting with the men. Smokey was offering his own little brand of kindness when we all needed it the most.

As I put the gas cap back on my tank, and walked over to my driver’s side door, Smokey hollered, “Hey Cochran Journal Lady … You have a good day, OK?”

I have not been the news and features editor at The Cochran Journal since 1999, but that is how he remembered me.

“You have a good day too, Smokey!” I waved.

Kindness came in the form of a crooked-tooth grin from a man named Smokey. It is all in how you look at things.

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(c)Photo submitted by KM/Facebook 2020.

Author: rlhwrites

Curator of prose and such.


  1. I came to Cochran Ga. from Jax. Fla. 30 yrs ago from then to now, Smokey whom I know as ‘Look Out’ has always treated me the same, never has he changed. He always asked about my son, who left after graduation for the Military bk n 1994 he has never forgotten….he has a genuine soul…May God keep blessing u Look Out❣️


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