Her name is Mayme Kathryn Taylor. The words “fascinating” or “intriguing” or “incredibly interesting” do not come anywhere close to describing this 5-foot, 2-inch bundle of energy, interests, skills and talents.
Here are the quick facts:
- In her 24th year as one of 20 female firefighters/first responders for the Knoxville Fire Department and one of three female captains.
- Has been at Station 10 on Sevier Avenue in South Knoxville for the past 15 years.
- Graduate of West High School, class of 1993.
- Before KFD she tended bar at Cotton Eye Joe’s and Quincy’s.
- Superb woodworking artist creating beautiful pieces in her Sawdust Therapy Woodshop. More about that later.
- Lives alone with critters on her 20-acre Luttrell farm, Redbud Acres.
And with that, here’s how Mayme describes Mayme:
“I’m a hard worker and don’t do well at all just sitting still. I have to be engaged in something. I do my best to be friendly and loving with everybody. I stay away from mean. I’m a happy-go-lucky girl. My favorite mood is happy.”
She enjoys her cars. You can’t miss her when she’s driving Belle, her 1956 Pink Cadillac, and pink is her favorite color. Mayme has owned five black Corvettes – 1961, 1974 (her first), 1977, 1990, and 2000. These days she drives a red 1961 version. She’s also a grease monkey who knows how to get under the hood and work on them.
After high school she spent two semesters at Pellissippi State and then took a first responder class at Roane State and volunteered for a year at Knox County Rescue. That piqued her interest in the fire business. She applied in 1993 and was finally hired in 1997. She worked at headquarters downtown and at Stations 11 and 16 before moving to Station 10. After being promoted to senior firefighter and then master firefighter, she made captain at age 31, 15 years ago.
When you ask about “tough calls” she has worked, she talks about one in particular.
It was a one-car accident on Cruze Road, a narrow and curvy road in South Knoxville, in 2006. “It was around 3 or 4 a.m. and the driver lost control of his Porsche and hit a tree. When we got there the car was in the middle of the road and the engine was completely detached from the car. The three people in the car, a guy and two girls, all in their early 20s I think, were dead.”
Then something shocked her. “I told the guys to look down the embankment, that there was a fourth person. Had to be. No one could see him. God spoke to me. We looked and finally found him. He was the only survivor. He said he was the only one not buckled in and got thrown from the car. If we had not found him, I doubt he’d be alive today.”
When that shift ended, she headed home. “That one took me a while to process, knowing that I was directed by God that night … I went home and prayed a lot on my knees, literally. It shocked me, that God talked to me and led us to that guy.”
She loves her KFD job. “It’s helping people. I love doing that plus the excitement and feeling the fun of being in that big red fire truck. When I am away from it, I really miss it. But it is a young person’s job and I’m 46.” She’s hoping to retire when she reaches 52.
Woodworking is in her DNA. Her great grandfather owned a sawmill in Cumberland Gap and her grandfather was a wood worker as well. “And my Mom is an artist at heart. She taught me to sew and make my own patterns and clothes, and woodworking is just like that – making patterns and putting things together,” she said.
In her woodshop she makes an array of handmade products – swings, tables of all sorts, owl boxes, custom cornhole boards, cabinets, screen doors, Adirondack chairs, coffee tables, puppets and children’s toys for Christmas. She also made an arbor with matching chairs for a friend’s backyard. Another Mayme specialty is custom-made bull horns for motorcycles, four-wheelers, campers and trucks. Learn more here.
She plans to take the woodshop to a full-time business once her KFD days end.
A fellow KFD captain, D.J. Corcoran, shared his thought about this veteran: “She is the cause and the cure all rolled up in one,” he says. “And I mean that in the best way.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories at firstname.lastname@example.org call him at 865-659-3562.