It was a beautiful spring morning when Mama and I set off from our ranch in Oklahoma for Nashville, where I was going to audition for a recording contract. I was 20 years old, well-prepared vocally, ready to take a chance on the dream of a lifetime.

But as the hillsides rolled by, resplendent with the whites and pinks of dogwood and redbud blossoms, I felt a creeping uneasiness. The closer we got to the country music capital, the more I tried to prolong the trip, making Mama detour for some sightseeing, then for a snack, then for anything I could think of. Finally I yelled, “Stop!” and Mama pulled the big blue Ford into a Dairy Queen on the side of the highway and we went inside.

As I toyed with my mountain of ice cream, I didn’t have to explain I was scared. Mama knew me too well. “Reba Nell,” she said, adding the Nell for gentle emphasis, “we can turn around right now and go on back home if that’s what you want, and I’ll understand. The music business is not for everyone.”

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