Crime Song Wednesday: The Carroll County Accident

I’ve always been more familiar with the version done by Tom T Hall, but Porter works for me too, as he’s a face I remember from when I was at the Opry.

This was the kind of song that would be on the stereo at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. It’s funny to think all these years later, Brian and I live in Carroll County. That’s what got me thinking about this song. It’s the kind of crime story I have an appreciation for. It’s not the overt, obvious crimes that result in trials and convictions. It’s the personal crimes, the secrets we keep and the eventual cost that comes from them. I’ve had a lot of reasons to think about personal crimes lately, too, and I decided that The Carroll County Accident fits the bill for Crime Song Wednesday.

What do you think? A crime song? Or just a personal tragedy? Lyrics and video after the jump.

Carroll County’s pointed out as kind of square
The biggest thing that happens is the county fair,
I guess that’s why we thought it such a big event,
What we call the Carroll County accident.

The wreck was on the highway just outside the line,
Walter Browning lost his life and for a time
It seemed that Mary Ellen Jones would surely die,
But she lived long enough for her to testify.

Mary Ellen testified that he flagged her down,
Said he was sick and could she drive him into town,
No one ever doubted what she said was true,
‘Cause she was well respected in the county too.

I went down to see the wreck like all the rest,
The broken glass the bloody seats the tangled mess,
But I found something no one else had ever seen,
Behind the dash in Mary’s crumpled up machine.

A little match box circled by a rubber band,
And inside the ring from Walter Browning’s hand,
It took awhile to figure out just what it meant,
The truth about the Carroll County accident.

By dark of night I dropped the ring into a well,
And took a sacred oath that I would never tell,
The truth about the Carroll County accident,
For the County ordered dad a marble monument,

Yes, I lost him in the Carroll County accident.

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Sandra Ruttan

Sandra Ruttan is the bestselling author of SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, HARVEST OF RUINS and The Nolan, Hart & Tain series. For more information, visit her website:

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One comment

  1. I loathed country music as a child growing up in northwest Arkansas(go figure). I’m not sure when I started listening and actually paying attention to the lyrics. But in my search Iknow this is my favorite solo of PW’s. I prefer him paired with Dolly. Now there’s a song, oh she’s already written it.
    As far as this song, I wasn’t sure at first if it was an accident or not? Imagine back in the day before all the tech crap how a couple could distract themselves behind the wheel of a moving car.

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