McCombs Enjoy Return to Hometown Life
Life's highway led a local couple back to the Piggott area several years ago, as Dr. Randy and Cindy (Camp) McComb returned after several decades. Both 1976 graduates of PHS, the couple had made their home, and raised their family, in various locations across the south as Randy worked in the medical field while Cindy enjoyed a career as a dental hygienist.
With an eye toward future retirement, several years ago they purchased some 300 acres of land on Crowley's Ridge, south of the Crockett Road. They're now in the process of building a new home. The property also serves as the base for a unique effort to re-establish game birds on the ridge, most notably quail, and for their hobby of raising and training bird dogs.
The return to the Piggott area has also afforded Randy the chance to work in the ER of Piggott Community Hospital, although he continues to work at St. Bernard's Regional Medical Center as well.
Randy is the son of Ruby and the late Glenn McComb, while Cindy's parents were Gus and Tica Camp. Their story actually begins early in life, as the two attended Piggott Schools together beginning in kindergarten. "We went to kindergarten, first grade right on through high school and then the University of Arkansas," Cindy offers. "And, we were together at UAMS, too, since I was in dental hygiene school there while Randy was in med school."
Following medical school Randy did a surgical internship, and a residency in emergency medicine, within the UAMS system, and later worked at hospitals in Savannah, Ga. and Jacksonville, Fla. His longest stint out of Northeast Arkansas was at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, where he worked for nearly a dozen years. The past nine years he has served as director of the ER for St. Bernard's.
Meanwhile, Cindy had a long career as a dental hygienist, working for Dr. Gene Howard in Little Rock for some 30 years. She also spent about five years working for a periodontist, and after returning to Piggott to help take care of her mother, worked for three years in Dr. Steve White's office. She has since retired to help oversee construction of their new home.
Along the way they had four children, three of which are following in the family footsteps of the medical field. The oldest is Anna, 28, who will graduate the Baylor College of Medicine as a CRNA (nurse anesthetist) later this year. Sarah, 24, is a student at UT Health Sciences Center in Memphis, as she seeks her doctorate in physical therapy. Olivia, 23, attends the University of Memphis as she seeks a nursing degree, with an eye toward being a nurse practitioner. She also works in the pediatric ICU at Le Bohneur Children's Hospital. The youngest is Grayson, 22, who is attending Wheaton College near Chicago. A member of the track team, and former football player, he's seeking his Bachelor's degree in business, with plans of gaining an MBA.
"Our place is about three miles from Crockett on CR 473. We're building our new house there, and it'll take us another four or five months to finish it," Randy offered. The acreage is also home to the quail rehabilitation project, which includes incubators, flight pens and "Johnny Houses." The special houses are made in a manner which allows the quails to go in-and-out, but keep predators out.
"That's what I do with my time off, raise quail and pheasants," Randy added. "We've changed the habitat on our farm. We've changed from fescue to more regional grasses, predominantly switchgrass, and that's an excellent grass for quail and pheasant habitat. We enjoying working on it in our spare time."
One of the reasons he gives for taking an interest in the game birds were comments he had heard from friends of his brother, Rick, as they related stories of hunting along the back side of the property.
"That's one of the things that inspired the quail rehabilitation effort, they used to tell me stories about how they could come out here before school in the morning and hunt along the back of the farm, and get their limit of quail. But, when I bought the property I never heard or saw any of them," he offered. "And I read about some of the Hemingway stories, how he'd take his friends quail hunting and they'd fill up the back of a car. I knew this was good quail habitat, we just needed to re-introduce them."
"And, that's why we don't bush hog the farm until after Sept. 1," Cindy offers with a laugh. "And we have fields and fields of sun flowers along with corn, milo and oats. The number of rabbits around us has also doubled."
Randy adds he feels the quail population on Crowley's Ridge can be restored, but it will take a concerted effort. "We have about 300 acres, and it really requires closer to 1,000," he explained. "But, if we can get others involved it can work. And, it's simple--just leave a buffer zone, a loafing area between the woods and crops. The CRP is also coming along, and there's much more awareness to the issue these days."
The McCombs also enjoy spending time with their dogs, 10 in all, including Irish Setters and one Golden Retriever. Randy notes he enjoys working with the dogs, and training them.
As for his medical career, Randy will be working in the emergency room at Piggott Community Hospital on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the occasional weekend.
The group he is associated with at Jonesboro began to take care of the ER at Wynne in January, prompting Randy to contact James Magee at PCH to see if they could be of service to the local hospital. "Our group is now contracted to provide 96 hours of service each week to the ER at Piggott Community Hospital, and I hope someday to be able to cover all those hours," he explained. "In the future I hope to be able to start some type of an office practice as well."
In the years since their return to Clay County, the couple has also embraced hometown life, and the slower pace enjoyed on the ridge. "We just love being back here--it's so great being out of the rat race," Cindy surmised.
The only drawback to working in the local ER for Randy is the familiarity. "I've always worked in big-city, high-volume emergency rooms, so this is a bit different," he said of serving in the local hospital. "I think I knew about 40 percent of the people who came through when I worked a recent weekend--that just doesn't happen in the bigger cities."