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You Never Know

Niles Reddick


Earlier today, I did a photo shoot with Rhonda and Greg from the UofM for an article about the publication of my upcoming novel. In preparing for the shoot, I was walking back from my vehicle with two blazers, ties, an extra shirt in case they needed me to change clothes for the shoot when an employee said, “You think you might need a change of clothes today?”

“You never know,” I responded, laughed, and immediately thought of my friend Maggie Vaughn, former country music writer and poet laureate of the state of Tennessee. I’ve known the Bell Buckle resident since 1994 and Michelle and I love her dearly. I was always fascinated by her humor and her outgoing and eccentric personality.  Maggie was a song writer in the early days of country music and wrote many songs, one of which won a Grammy by Loretta Lynn. She knew or wrote for many including Ernest Tubb, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, and more. Later, Maggie became a self-proclaimed poet and was selected by the Tennessee legislature as the Poet Laureate for the state. She has published a number of books and speaks frequently to groups around the state.

Maggie has written some poems I love including my two personal favorites: “Counting on Sundays” which is about someone bored in church who counts everything and “Is that you, Mama?” Actually, when Michelle’s grandmother died, her dad read that poem at the funeral. It was appropriate and brought tears to everyone who’d suffered loss. I’ve seen Maggie make an entire Rotary club erupt in laughter and I’ve seen the same club members dab the corner of their eyes from sadness. She has a way with audiences.

Likewise, she has a way about her when she walks into a room—confident, loud, extroverted—calling people “honey.”  Once we both did a writer’s festival in Columbus, Georgia, and all the writers met for breakfast. Many of them, I recall, where like me: overeducated and reserved. Some were even snobs, something Maggie despised (me, too), and she walked into the breakfast late. She had a bundle of clothes under her arm and tied with rope. She looked like a hobo in her jeans, t-shirt, sandals with socks. Her eyes appeared huge through the coke-bottle glasses.  “Hey, honey,” she said to me.  “Hey,” I said back. I introduced her to the crowd and some spoke and others turned to their neighbors to whisper. They had no idea she would fill the room and steal their audiences. In fact, given that I was slotted at the same time, I assumed I might attend her session and avoid my own since I figured the audience would be in hers.  “Hey, Maggie, what’s with the clothes under your arm?”

Without missing a beat, she said, “Honey, you never know when you might shit on yourself and need to change.”  I busted out laughing. A few others laughed, some dropped silverware, and some simply kept eating and tried to ignore her, something almost impossible to do.

To learn more about Maggie, check the interview I did with her and published on my website and on YouTube in 2015; there, she recounted some of her classic country music stories.