Monday, October 14, 2013


 The first time I ever heard Randy Pearson give  a program about the natural world, he was working as an Interpreter at Bull Shoals/White River State Park ( ) . 
 It was an informal setting, on the banks of the White River in northern Arkansas.  Neither me, nor the kids in the photo, knew much about what we were going to learn about, except that it was something about animals.
 Randy opened his presentation by saying hundreds of years ago, native Americans had lived along the White River, and the clothing they wore was made from animal skins, that they "harvested" from the surrounding woodlands. 
 I enjoyed listening to Randy's authentic Southern accent, and his  humorous anecdotes.  He grew up in Black Rock, a small town in eastern Arkansas. 
 Many of the animal skins that Randy was showing the kids were no doubt from creatures that these kids had only seen in photos, so it may have been a little bit scary for them at first.
 But, like a skilled magician, Randy kept pulling his furry friends out of their hiding places, with ever-increasing anticipation.
 At one point, he suddenly started thrashing about (hence, the blurred photo!), acting as though one of the mammals was biting his neck.  Needless to say, the kids got a big kick out of that!
 Soon, Randy had emptied his magic box of animal skins, and had them all laid out for display on the make-shift "stage" in front of his audience.   I was very impressed with Randy's skill in making a topic fun, entertaining, and interesting, while "sneaking in" key educational concepts.  { For this reason, I was not at all surprised when I learned that Randy received the "Outstanding New Interpreter Award" in 2010, sponsored by the National Association for Interpretation ( ).  He did this by first winning the honor in the state of Arkansas, then in a multi-state region, then for the whole U.S.A.!!  This award was definitely a "feather in his cap", as we say in the South. }
 Since the kids had been gradually introduced to these skins representing the native critters of Arkansas, they were now unafraid to touch them, and see what it felt like to have the skins wrapped around them as clothing, similar to how the native Americans had done, in earlier days.
 One skill that Interpreters have to master, is that of leading and talking to a group, while walking backwards, as shown in this photo.  Randy's leadership abilities would serve him well, in his future career path, as he is now involved in leadership training at his work site.
 Randy used his photography skills to take photos of individual visitors who came to the very popular Eagle Awareness activities the Bull Shoals/White River State Park sponsors each year.  Recently,  I asked him if he could remember his first camera, and some of the first photos that he took, as a youngster.  He said it was a 110 film camera, and the first photo he can remember "staging" (that is, getting in a location for maximum visual impact), was when he went to the location of an old barn in a pasture, to use in the foreground for a thunderstorm he could see approaching.  This ability to compose a photo, was another skill that would serve him well in future endeavors.
 At one point in is career, Randy had a full-service photography business in Mountain Home.  I remember being very thankful for this, because I attended a week long underwater photography course in 2001, where I took hundreds of photos---but all of them on 35 mm Kodachrome film.  Fortunately, Randy had the equipment that could convert those color slides, into a CD, making it possible to include a photo the dive instructor took of me, in this article!
 Randy's business started as mainly photo restoration, then progressed into portrait photography, school photography, a one-hour photo service, and "special effects" prints.  He designed the photo layout, text, and mat, for this photo of my husband and my father-in-law.  The "turn of the century" was a precarious time to be in the photography business, however, because it was in the midst of the phasing out of film cameras, and the introduction of digital cameras.  I asked Randy what he missed most about the old days of film cameras, and he said it was the ANTICIPATION of  how the photos would turn out.  Likewise, I asked him what he liked best about the new age of digital photography, and he said it was that digital makes photography  "ACCESSIBLE to the masses", instead of just an elite few, with fancy equipment.
 I asked Randy if he could remember what he wanted to be when he was a little kid.  He said back then, he wanted to do something that involved travel, nature, and the hospitality industry.  This would explain why I was able to visit Randy at his new work location ------ far from the hills of Arkansas ----- in sunny San Diego, California ----- at SeaWorld ( ) .
 When Randy first came to SeaWorld a while back, he started out as an educator.  That position called for him speaking (often with a microphone) in front of groups of various sizes.  I asked him if he had any funny stories about his experiences at SeaWorld.  He said "Yes",  and that almost all of them involved his strong Southern accent!  In fact, he commented that, when he mentioned to some of his work associates that a lady from Arkansas was coming to interview him, they asked "Does she talk like you?".  (The answer is "sho nuf, y'all"!)
  Randy's enthusiasm and talents were recognized early on at SeaWorld, and the very first few weeks he was there, he was designated as "Employee of the Month"!  His work as an educator has expanded to involve more photography.  He now works with the numerous photographers around the park, who are on hand to capture special moments the guests have as they interact with the SeaWorld animals.  Randy used my camera to take this photo, showing the long-lensed cameras his staff uses to make the photo "up close and personal".
 One of the missions of SeaWorld is celebration, and the Dolphin show is definitely a celebration of teamwork!  Having recently tried "standup paddle boarding", I am completely in awe of this talented young woman doing "stand up dolphin riding"!
 It was pretty incredible getting to see the trainers interact with these gigantic whales, but guests can get even closer by signing up for the "Breakfast With Shamu" activity.  And who knows, you might see Randy Pearson there taking your photo!!  In fact, he said one of the "cool" things about working for SeaWorld in "Star Studded Southern California" is getting to take the occasional celebrity photo at SeaWorld.  When I Googled the name Randy Pearson, I read on the Internet that he had  photo credit bylines for SeaWorld photos of Forest Whitaker, Dermot Mulroney, among many others. 
 Randy said he was proud that SeaWorld is known for more than just entertainment in a marine park.  They are committed to conserving and caring for the world we all share, through their Conservation Fund, and their world leadership in rescue and rehabilitation.  You can find out more at  .  Randy advised folks who are interested in working in a particular field, to first volunteer at an activity in their field of interest, to make sure they truly like it.  This also gives them the opportunity to network with folks who are already working in their field of interest.   
 Randy said on his first visit to SeaWorld, when he came out for an interview,  he had an "eyeball to eyeball" encounter with a whale (similar to what this youngster is experiencing in the photo) that made him want to be a part of the SeaWorld staff, and the work they are doing to educate others about the precious marine life, as well as bird life, that we sometimes take for granted.   He is a great example of the first part of Matthew 28:19 in the Message that says "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near,, in this way of life...."     As my interview with Randy ended, I asked him what he wanted me to tell the folks back home, and his reply was, "Come to SeaWorld!!"      I can echo his comment, and guarantee it will give you "MILES OF SMILES"!!    Tricia
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