The Elderly American Songbook: From Curly Putman & Billy Sherrill

Carl Putman, Jr.

Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr.

By Jim Miller

Curly Putman, Jr. grew up on Putman Mountain in Alabama, did a stint in the Navy aboard the Valley Forge and moved from job to job until he sat down one day and wrote “Green, Green Grass of Home.” Some years later he would meet Paul and Linda, a young couple from Liverpool, who would write and record “Junior’s Farm” with their rock group Wings.

Billy Sherrill

Billy Sherrill

Billy Sherrill started life in Alabama as Phil Campbell, a jazz wannabe with a saxophone. Knowing next to nothing about country music, he landed at Epic Records in Nashville where his pop music production values would transform the Nashville Sound. One day a pretty, blonde hopeful named Wynette Byrd walked into his life. Billy signed her to a contract, tacked “Tammy” onto her name, and it was off to the Country Music Hall of Fame for both the producer and his artist.

October, 1967, David Houston and Tammy Wynette teamed up to take My Elusive Dreams to #1 on the country charts and #89 on the Billboard Hot 100. With a well-deserved nod to Billy and Curly, here is….

My Elusive Choppers

You followed me to Wal*Mart.
You followed me to K-Mart.
We didn’t find ’em there so we moved on.

We moved on to Home Depot.
Things looked good,  but, alas, no.
We didn’t find ’em there so we moved on.

I know you’re tired of lookin’ for,
Traipsin’ ’round from store to store;
Dinner time won’t be that great
Without my dental plate.

We shared a Coke at Arby’s.
Stopped in at that book store.
We didn’t find ’em there so we moved on.

Down the street to Walgreen’s.
Lingered at the magazines.
We didn’t find ’em there so we moved on.

Now we’re parked at Starbuck’s,
Thinkin’ I’m flat out of luck.
Guess I’ll learn to gum it from now on.

Now, all we’ve got is me and you,
Rememberin’ how I used to chew.

And still, you won’t let me go on alone.

I know you’re tired of lookin’ for
Traipsin’ ’round from store to store
Dinner time won’t hold much adventure
Without my dentures!


Posted by on January 13, 2013 in The Elderly American Songbook


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Bones of Bygone Days

Bones of Bygone Days
Linen postcard of the pavilion at Lake Wichita, circa 1930s-40s.

Linen postcard of the pavilion at Lake Wichita, circa 1930s-40s.

William Howard Taft was President, Henry Ford sold his 10,000th automobile and Phil Parmelee piloted the first commercial air cargo flight for the Wright Co.–two bolts of dress silk delivered from Dayton to Columbus, OH, in one hour and six minutes for $5,000–in 1910 when the Lake Wichita Pavilion opened for funny business. A jewel in her day, the two-story colonnade playground offered swells and not so swells alike escape from summer’s heat through the 1920s and into the ’30s.

Flash forward 100 years and nothing remains of her but old dry bones.

Weathered wooden pilings are all that remains today of a once regal, recreational palace.

Weathered wooden pilings are all that remains today of a once regal, recreational palace. Photo by Jim Miller

One of the first man-made lakes in Texas, Lake Wichita resulted from a dam being built across Holliday Creek southwest of Wichita Falls. Completed in 1901, the project was undertaken by Wichita Falls founding fathers Frank Kell and Joseph A. Kemp doing business as Kemp’s Lake Wichita Irrigation and Water Company to provide fresh water for people, cattle and crops. At its peak the lake boosted a 14,000 acre-feet capacity with 2,200 acre surface area draining some 143 square miles.

Dry bones

Dry bones

The pavilion proper featured a skating rink and a cafe on the first floor and dance hall on the second. Kemp and Kell quickly expanded the entertainment complex to the adjoining lake shore to include a penny arcade, racetrack, ballpark, a hotel and even some summer cottages.

The Lake Wichita Trolley shuttled folks between town and lake. At the height of summer seasons, special excursion trains brought in visitors from Fort Worth.

Fire destroyed the hotel in 1918. It was never rebuilt although the remaining attractions continued going strong until the Great Depression. The grand lady herself, the great pavilion was the last to go, her ruins consumed by fire in 1955.

Pavilion 1-6-2004 10-21-06 AM

The bare bones footings of the old pavilion viewed through reeds.

Now the lake itself is close to fading into history because of exceptional drought conditions. While the City of Wichita Falls stopped using the lake as a water source years ago, Lake Wichita remained an attraction for boating, fishing and bird watching. Fresh water mussel shells litter the now exposed lake bed, along with the bones of fish, turtles, tracks left by whitetail deer, raccoons and coyotes and human-deposited trash.

Unless drought-busting rains come soon, the future of this valuable natural wetland appears darkly bleak. The thrill-seeking amusement park days may have closed forever, but many of the old lake’s friends and fans believe she can rise again as a treasured natural resource.


 Hendrickson, Kenneth E. Jr., Wichita Falls (Images of America), Arcadia Publishing

“LAKE WICHITA,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed January 10, 2013.

© Jim Miller 2013


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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Nature


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You know you’re old when….

Old couple over soup

Viejo y vieja comiendo sopa by Francisco de Goya

One of the ironies of aging–at least, in my own particular case–is that no matter how my chronological age cranks upward, my inner Peter Pan merrily cruises along at roughly 16, 17 years old.

If I can’t find my keys, it’s not because I forgot that I left them in my big boy britches; it’s because one of AnniePie’s damn cats played with them and failed to return them to the top nightstand drawer.

So it is one need become aware of a few outward signs of aging such as this smattering offered here for your consideration and contemplation. Heed, dear friends, the tell tale signs of cresting that proverbial hill. You know you are getting old when….

Illustration for story La Mère Bontemps" by Lorenz Frolich

Illustration for story La Mère Bontemps” by Lorenz Frølich (1820-1908)

Your posse wants to go for a night on the town, but you would rather stay home and curry comb the cat.

You go to Las Vegas for the buffets.

Your “Get Up and Go” is the name of your fiber supplement.

Your artsy fartsy apartment is just fartsy.

You plan a road trip to Canada for prescription meds.

Your mate starts softly singing “Light My Fire” so you go crank up the heating unit thermostat.

You still go fishing to get away from it all, but somehow you always forget to take any bait.

Photo by Kenneth Allen

Photo by Kenneth Allen



Posted by on January 10, 2013 in The Elderly American Songbook


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Elderly American Songbook: As Years Run By

As Years Run By

You must remember this. A watch goes on a wrist. And always check your fly.

Arthur "Dooley" Wilson, aka, Sam the piano player.

Arthur “Dooley” Wilson, aka, Sam the piano player.

Thoughts are often prone to drift as years run by.

And no matter where you roam, remember which way’s home. And keep you britches dry.
Just go where no one will see as years roll by.

Busfare and cell phone, have with you at all times,
Notes in your pockets not too hard to find,
Little reminders, clues to find your way
Back where you belong.

So keep those laces tied. Mind your step and stride. A hanky for your nose.
Home is where you fall asleep as years flow by…
Oh, yes, home is where you lay your head as years run by.

© Jim Miller 2013

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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in The Elderly American Songbook


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When Extreme Drought Hits Home

Dry cattails line the dry and barren bed of Lake Wichita.

Dry cattails line the dry and barren bed of Lake Wichita.

As the old saying goes, Lake Wichita is but a shadow of her former self. Once a grand jewel of a tourist attraction and the first man-made lake built to provide fresh water for the residents of Wichita Falls, Texas, this dear old lady languishes in the final throes of becoming a dry wetland.

mussel shell 1-21-2004 3-37-06 PM

Fresh water mussel shells and decades of debris and refuse from boaters and fishermen lay exposed as the lake’s waters continue to recede.

The amusement park and pavilion with its dance halls, restaurants and docking piers that once drew thousands of summer visitors from far and wide across the Southwest faded into history long ago. Remains of fresh water mussels, desiccated fish bones and tons of trash and debris litter the lake bed today.

rusted drum remains 1-21-2004 3-35-15 PM

The rusted top of a 55-gallon drum lies buried in the lake bed, typical of the tons of debris littering the lake.

As extreme drought conditions continue to hold going into 2013, the future of Lake Wichita and the surrounding wetland marsh is uncertain. Located on the southwestern edge of the city and almost completely surrounding by urban neighborhoods, the lake is the property of the City of Wichita Falls. Lake Wichita Park and the Circle Trail for hiking and biking line its northern shore. Fresh deer tracks and other signs of active wildlife attest that the old lake is still an attraction and not just for people.

With a lot of tender loving care from her friends and visitor, this old lady has another hundred years and more of life potential in her yet.

fish bones 1-21-2004 3-23-13 PM

© Jim Miller 2013





Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Genesis


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Elderly American Songbook: Accustomed To This Pace

I’ve grown accustomed to this pace,
So slowly does the day begin.
I’ve grown content to mostly shuffle
My way from room to room;
No bumps, no falls,
No hip replacement thralls.
I’ve come to love this granny gear,
No ducking out nor dashing in.
Where once I was so speedy,
Not to mention nimble and quick,
I might could crank it out again, you see, but heck….
I’ve grown accustomed to this clip,
Accustomed to this gait,
Accustomed to this pace.

For an original rendition of this great Lerner & Loewe standard, check out Ms Diana Krall.


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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in The Elderly American Songbook


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One responsible gun owner speaks out

Under normal conditions I would not re-post a copyrighted piece. These shadow days following the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter are not normal. What follows was written by my good friend Nancy Heath Howell, outdoor writer for the Time Record NewsHer words stand on their own, needing no further commentary from me.

Open minds and experienced gun owners needed to address tragedy

By Nancy Howell

Chess Club at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT...

Chess Club at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plans for a Christmas column have been shelved.
The tragedy of Sandy Hook elementary school pre-empts my musings on gift ideas for that special outdoorsman or woman on your list.
Instead, I will tread into the delicate subject on everyone’s mind — guns.
Twenty-six children and adults walked into a Connecticut school last Friday, just another ordinary December day. They did not walk out.
A mentally-unstable gunman, armed with his mother’s legally-obtained weapons, forced his way into the building. He systematically and unapologetically killed 20 first-graders and six adults in a matter of a few minutes.
How? With handguns, magazine clips and a semi-automatic rifle able to shoot off 30 rounds of ammunition in rapid time.
I am a responsible gun owner. I hunt. I come from a long line of hunters. I married into a similar family, with a great legacy of hunting and fishing. It’s my privilege and honor to pass that knowledge and love onto my two sons.
I do not own a handgun or any guns with high ammunition capacity. The guns in my home are not loaded, and are secured and stored away from ammunition. They are in my possession for hunting purposes, period.
For me, a shotgun holding three shells is perfect for hunting pheasant and quail. I have no need for rifles with capacity for 30 rounds of ammo. It is purely a personal choice.
The subject of guns and gun control stirs everyday folks up into frenzy. It is a hot button topic whose volatility rivals only abortion rights and gay marriage.
Whenever something as heinous and as evil as Sandy Hook occurs, rumors of the government banning guns, or taking guns from responsible gun owners always run rampant.
Our Constitution is comprised of 27 amendments, with the second being “the right to bear arms.”
Responsible, law-abiding citizens should have that privilege — others should not.
The circumstances of how the Sandy Hook gunman availed himself of his mother’s weapons will continue to be debated. The bottom line: 26 families are picking up the pieces of their shattered lives.
There’s a first-grade classroom with only one survivor, a child who played “dead” among her 20 slain classmates and teacher.
I cannot fathom the grief gripping so many. I kiss the top of my boys’ heads and watch them gather backpacks and jackets as they exit my vehicle. I wave as they head into their elementary school each morning.
Before Sandy Hook, I took for granted they would be coming out of that building each afternoon.
The problem is complex and multilayered, with no easy, quick-fix answers. I certainly don’t have one.
Issues with mental health screening and law enforcement’s hands being tied unless crimes are committed could be contributing factors.
And God? He did not allow this to happen because prayer has been removed from the public school system.
Are guns too easy to obtain? Should there be a limit to assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons and the amount of ammunition available for purchase?
Honestly, I do not know.
What I do know is we must do everything in our power to ensure that Sandy Hook is the last school shooting in our history.
Do we arm our teachers? Do we have armed guards and metal detectors in every school in America?
Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are among the most responsible, law-abiding, conscientious segments of our population. We play by the rules. We relish our time outside, pursuing an age-old ritual of hunting game for our families. It provides relaxation and a time to bond with family and friends. We connect with God’s creation on a pure, instinctual level.
Surely this portion of folks can assist law enforcement, local and state governments and school administrators. Together we need to brainstorm ways of preventing another Sandy Hook.
Let’s come to the discussion table with open minds, leaving political party lines, gun association memberships and preconceived opinions at the door.
This is not what our founding fathers envisioned when drafting the Second Amendment. The time to draw the line in the sand is now.
Every child has the right to be safe at school. Parents long to feel secure once again about leaving them there.
We owe it to our children.
We owe it to our country.

© 2012 Times Record News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Back to Basics, Some of our friends


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