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Bringing back memories

Thursday, November 15, 2007

(Photo)
Anita Caldwell
Caldwell's poem published in Porter Wagoner autobiography

OREGON COUNTY -- The recent death of country music legend Porter Wagoner brought back memories to a rural Thayer woman.

Several years ago Anita Caldwell, who lives on Highway 142 west of Thayer, was contacted by a Nashville writer who was compiling information for a book, the autobiography of Porter Wagoner.

"His name was Steve Eng. Someone had mentioned to him that I sometimes interviewed stars for newspaper articles. Then he discovered my home was only a few miles from where Mr. Wagoner grew up in Lanton, Mo.," Caldwell said.

Caldwell said Eng called so much that she finally told him she would send a letter to him with the little information she was aware of about the country music star. "In the middle of the letter, a poem about Porter's life came to mind," she said.

After sending the letter Eng called Caldwell and asked permission to use the poem in his book.

"He changed his mind about doing a book just about Porter and decided to pull this area where Porter grew up into the book," Caldwell said. She said she gave him permission to use the poem. "Credit for writing the poem was given to me and the headline across the page it was on was entitled 'Across The Wide Missouri.'"

Caldwell said the book contained a lot of information about Wagoner's life growing up in the Ozarks. "It was about Porter and how he was now a star and lived in a mansion. He titled the book after a song Porter wrote, 'A Satisfied Mind.' Mr. Eng sent me an autographed copy of the book," she said. The book has a publication date of 1992.

Caldwell, who is now 78, said she remembers a Christmas parade in her hometown of Thayer many years ago when Wagoner was the grand marshall of the parade.

"Jean Shepard and Hawkshaw Hawkins were also in the parade and that was the year the real reindeer were in the parade," she said.

Caldwell said Hawkins came to her little group of Brownie Scouts to speak to them. "We met by the dime store. What a great town we had!"

The poem that was written by Caldwell appears on the front page of part one of "A Satisfied Mind." The poem says:

One of the kids was different,

He looked beyond the hills.

Over the corn, over the cows,

Over the sorghum mills...

Caldwell said she did not know Wagoner personally. "Him and I just grew up in the same area," she said.

Caldwell is an accomplished artist. This is not the first star or politician she has rubbed elbows with. She has been to the Grand Ole Opry and knew Grandpa Jones and The Kendall's who invited her on their tour bus and "treated her like royalty," she said.

"When Jimmy Carter was running for president I painted a T-shirt for him and I painted a pillow for Bill Clinton that ended up in a chair near the Oval Office in the White House. I was told that Socks the cat slept on it," she said.

A copy of "A Satisfied Mind" can be found in the Thayer Library.



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