Songwriter Jimmy Webb's inspiration for the lyrics came while driving through Washita County in rural southwestern Oklahoma. At that time, many telephone companies were county-owned utilities and their linemen were, in fact, county employees. Heading westward on a straight road into the setting sun, Webb drove past an endless litany of telephone poles, each looking exactly the same as the last. Then, in the distance, he noticed the silouette of a solitary lineman atop a pole. He described it as "the picture of loneliness." Webb then "put himself atop that pole and put that phone in his hand" as he considered what the lineman was saying into the receiver. Glen Campbell added in a statement to the Dallas Observer that Webb wrote the song about his first love affair with a woman who married someone else.