Looking Across the Lake

Imagine. All those football games began on fields like this one. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Imagine. All those football games began on fields like this one. (Monte Dutton sketch)
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Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 23, 2016, 9:26 a.m.

CowboysComeHome_CVR
(Steven Novak cover design)

It’s been an eventful week. I got a cover designed for my next novel, Cowboys Come Home. I started on a sixth, which doesn’t mean it has a name yet, only that it has two bitingly satirical chapters.

Last night I washed my bedsheets. Dried them, too. Put them back on the bed. It is my general policy to put another set on the bed when I wash the sheets, but last night I put the same ones back on.

As I fell asleep, I was so proud.

Another change is on the horizon. Shortly I will begin reporting on Laurens County sports for the Greenwood Index-Journal. Basically, I will be doing what I have been doing, only a bit more of it.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Two years ago, I wrote about high school and college games for several newspapers. A year ago, about this time, I started writing for the GoLaurens/GoClinton website, and that was a gig I really enjoyed.

This is home. When I was a kid, the Clinton Red Devils at Wilder Stadium — not the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, or David Pearson at Darlington Raceway — occupied the center of my universe. The Laurens Raiders were respected rivals from eight years up the road, on the Laurens-Clinton Highway, or, as it is known here, the Clinton-Laurens Highway. This year’s Laurens-Clinton, or as we know it in Clinton, Clinton-Laurens, game is on August 26.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

I’ll be there, and I’ll be watching one or the other all season long, and then into basketball season and beyond, and with the Presbyterian College Blue Hose thrown in from time to time for good measure.

When Billy Dunlap, of GoLaurens/GoClinton, hired me to cover the Red Devils, and I later picked up the Raiders from time to time, I was just looking for a little spending money to sustain me during the erratic flow of book royalties. I write a couple NASCAR columns each week, too, and I often turn the basic facts of a game story into the more observational format of a day-after blog here at montedutton.com.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

My career is writing fiction. It is possible, writing fiction, to be imprisoned in an interior world of laptops, sporting events on TV, old movies, news, social media and guitar breaks. This world is necessary, too, if I am to become an overnight literary sensation after years and years of honing my skills and waiting for that big break, the coincidence in which someone important stumbles upon my work and likes it.

As I used to see young men post more often on Twitter than now, I’m not about that life.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

I need to get out. I need to experience life, the better to create stories derived from the random interminglings of it. If I’m going to keep creating stories and characters, I cannot be a dull boy.

This Greenwood opportunity was unexpected. I had no idea the Index-Journal, where I took my first job and held it for 13 months 34 years ago, was interested in having me do exactly what I am doing now, only more of it. At the time I worked there, just out of college, thinking I knew infinitely more than I really did, I called it The Index Finger. When I talked to the executive editor, I had no idea the paper was interested in covering the sports across the lake.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

I walked in the front door of that building for the first time since 1982. It may have been 1981 because, when I last worked there, I never went in the front door.

The sports department is where the darkroom used to be. There’s no darkroom. Duh.

Personally, the significance is that this correspondent’s job is more than what I’m doing now and, the way I’ve got it figured, exactly the amount I want to do.

Billy and I are parting on good terms. I wrote my last GoLaurens/GoClinton story, at least for now, on Friday. He was glad to have me. I was glad for the work. He can’t offer me what Greenwood can. I can do what Greenwood wants.

And I’ll still be writing about the Red Devils, Raiders and Blue Hose. They are familiar. Seldom has a year passed in which they were not a vibrant part of life, whether following a Clinton playoff game on Internet radio from a motel room in Phoenix or sweating profusely as me and my arthritic knees make our way up the Wilder Stadium stadium steps.

K.C. Hanna Stadium at LDHS isn’t at the alma mater, but it is easier on my knees.

What I’d love for you to do is “take” the Index-Journal, but, for now, at least keep an eye on the website. Soon I will have stories posted there. Follow it on Twitter. Keep reading GoLaurens/GoClinton, too. And this website. And my literary site, Well, Pilgrim … You know where I am. I’m everywhere. Read my novels, and I’ll take you all over the country. None has traveled abroad yet.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Indy Is Just All Right with Me

Feast your eyes on a modern Brickyard crowd. (Monte Dutton photo)
Feast your eyes on a modern Brickyard crowd. (Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 22, 2016, 10:20 a.m.

NASCAR visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, and I remember just how big that used to be.

Indy didn’t allow fans in the infield because it didn’t want the crowd to be larger than the 500. NASCAR required that Indy hold down the purse so it wouldn’t be larger than the Daytona 500. The first time the stock cars tested at the Brickyard, the crowd was larger than the race will likely draw Sunday.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m surprised Donald Trump didn’t mention the decline in his speech Thursday night. It was probably because Mike Pence is from Indiana. The decline doesn’t mirror NASCAR’s general decline; it magnifies it.

I take no pleasure in this sorrowful realization.

Let me confess to an unpopular view. I like watching stock cars race at Indy. I like a track with a high degree of difficulty. It makes me laugh when someone says, “Indy wasn’t designed for stock cars.” Indy was designed in 1911. It was designed for Marmon Wasps, which were closer to the wasps under the edge of my roof than the vehicles in the garage.

Darlington wasn’t designed for the brave, new world of NASCAR, either. It’s one of the reasons I love it so. Old school. Darlington is the Big Ten. Indy is the Ivy League.

Tony Stewart, when he drove No. 20, racing Dale Earnhardt Jr., when he drove No. 8, in 2007 (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tony Stewart, when he drove No. 20, racing Dale Earnhardt Jr., when he drove No. 8, in 2007 (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Passing is hard at Indy. I enjoy watching a trailing driver stalk the one he’s behind. Darting a little here. Pulling out down the straightaway there. Making the prey nervous. Then … pouncing. Dale Jarrett was good at that.

How could Indy have been so breathtaking in 1996 and so B-O-R-I-N-G 20 years later? It’s the same track. The cars? Oh, they got worse for a while, but recently they’ve gotten better, and the two decades in between have left us, at the moment, in about the same place. Plus, NASCAR has inserted bells and whistles that weren’t in place back in the giddy early years, when men were men and the Busch Series was racing at IRP.

Maybe part of this confusion is derived from the fact that the world has changed and I haven’t. I am mindful of these consequences of age. Social media keep me abreast of the country’s growing impatience and anger, but sometimes my upbringing betrays me. On rare occasions, I still display an annoying taste for patience.

Somehow we have gotten in the habit of accentuating what is bad. We know so much about so many things that are bad. We forget that they were just as bad 50 years ago. Or yesterday.

Welcome back, Wonderman.  (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)
Welcome back, Wonderman. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)

Jeff Gordon is substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Winning another Brickyard couldn’t possibly be harder than competing for attention in a TV booth with Darrell Waltrip. No way Gordon backs down to Joey Logano the way he does to D.W. In the eye in the sky, Waltrip always has plenty of ‘splainin’ to do.

My eyes will be on the Magnavox.

I’ll miss the pomp, the pageantry, dinner at St. Elmo’s, a baseball game at Victory Field, and random conversations in the track cafeteria with people I’ve never met and have never met me, but both of us wanted to correct that oversight.

I won’t miss the Yellow Shirts, the indescribable hassle of getting anything whatsoever done, the fact that waiting for the winner rivals the time of the race, and the corporate paranoia that descends upon any proceedings when the chief topic of conversation is “gee, whiz, there’s nobody here.”

In summary, I’ll get by.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

A Triumph of Persistence, Not Skill

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 16, 2016, 9:38 a.m.

I have squandered an early rising. Damn that British Open.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

So far, I have sipped coffee, wished people happy birthday on Facebook, cooked breakfast, played lots of Hank Williams songs, and finally gotten around to powering the laptop to start molding this day into something coherent.

At this hour, Phil Mickelson is still leading at Royal Troon. Next year will be at Royal Birkdale. Royalty will be avoided at Carnoustie in 2018. Among the more significant reasons while Mickelson is still winning is that he hasn’t started playing yet.

With the weather blazing hot and prone to thunderstorms here, Troon looks like a rainy November football game. Watch the golfers. Shiver a little. Open the front door. Feel blast of natural furnace.

Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

9:33 p.m.

The above was intended to be a full blog. It was, at about 10 a.m., almost a full blog. That’s when this error message popped up informing me that my laptop would have to be restarted, and it, in fact, did so before I could get what I had written saved. When all was safe from Chechnyan hackers again, about three quarters of what I had written was gone forever, already bouncing around the outer reaches of the solar system and retrievable only by Chechnyan hackers, whose service charges are outrageous.

Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)
Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)

So crestfallen was I that the whole project was abandoned because, at the time of technical despondency, I preferred to play my guitar and read Rolling Stone more than I was inclined to rebuild a blog that was dubiously constituted from the get-go.

Similar to what I’ve written since.

Friday was a creative day. Writing the first chapter in yet another novel was a rush. Getting the manuscript of Cowboys Come Home ready was a relief. It was an eventful week. Some plans may be in the works.

Today the most creative accomplishments were washing the dishes and folding the clothes.

Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)
Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Red Sox won their sixth straight game, and second straight in Yankee Stadium. They are 6-2 so far against the Ugly Americans, which, if they do not manage to prosper in the postseason but do manage to dominate New York, will leave some mild feeling of warmth from the season.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in New Hampshire, though it was almost like a loss because he failed to lead several laps.

I drove around a while listening to people who know almost nothing about concussions speaking about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s prognosis as if they’d worked for decades at the Mayo Clinic.

Mickelson isn’t leading the The Open Championship, but he’s right there, a stroke behind Henrik Stenson. I sort of wish a golf tournament was on TV every morning when I awaken.

On The Golf Channel, come to think of it, it’s possible there is.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he'll be back next week. Maybe he won't. Generally, those who know aren't saying, and everyone who doesn't is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he’ll be back next week. Maybe he won’t. Generally, those who know aren’t saying, and everyone who doesn’t is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

As I told a friend over a beer Friday night, I love the British Open because the greatest golfers in the world look approximately like they were me. At times. Not really. My last round of golf was at least five years ago. I can just relate to their ineptitude better than to their proficiency.

Everybody gets to hack.

That’s two kinds of hackers I’ve mentioned in one blog. It makes me think of that old Merle Haggard tune, “My Own Kind of Hat”: There’s two kinds of lovers and two kinds of brothers and two kinds of babies to hold / There’s two kinds of cherries and two kinds of fairies, and two kinds of mothers I’m told, and told …

There. This blog isn’t much, but it is done.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

Back in My Day, We Got Our Brains Beat Out and Were Damn Glad to Lose Them

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, July 13, 2016, 9:56 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

A lot has changed in the 40 years since I played football. Some is harder. Some is easier. It’s still time-consuming.

On the one hand, practices were longer, and contact was constant. In August, we were on and off the practice field two or three times a day, suffered from lack of water, got paddled on the bare ass if we broke a rule (and it was impossible to completely avoid breaking rules), and, when I played on the varsity, lost two games in two years and played for the state championship in both of them.

DSCF3310We did, however, have a summer vacation. We might lift weights once or twice a week, but, for the most part, we spent our summers working on farms, for the city, in the mills, or at the family businesses, still finding time to get into mischief. If we reported to practice in August and weren’t in shape, we were going to get there shortly, and there would be hell to pay.

DSCF3309Once the season starts in late August, the rules dictate now that full contact in practice be limited to 90 minutes a week. A week! We had full contact at least 90 minutes a day, and that’s not counting one-on-one blocking drills, and practicing double teams, and bouncing off and pushing sleds, and form tackling, and on and on.

Nowadays, the restrictions make it difficult for a team to get the repetitions it needs to be a fully functioning unit, so they have to take advantage of every opportunity to fill in the holes left by modern changes.

DSCF3329They play seven-on-seven games of pitch and catch against other schools, and it’s not the same as pitch and catch when charging linemen are intent on burying the quarterback, or when linebackers lurk to separate receivers from balls when they sprint across the middle, but it’s the best they can do that the rules allow.

DSCF3317Football is still a tough way to earn a letter. I watched Clinton High play catch for about three hours in two sessions. I got dehydrated just standing around.

Even these many years later, I remember what it was like. How it felt. The inability to concentrate on what the coach was saying because I was on the verge of passing out. I never actually did that. I just felt like it was going to happen constantly for the whole month of August.

DSCF3331

DSCF3320As a general rule, the Red Devils have looked just about as good as would be reasonably possible. They took some lumps Tuesday, but, considering that the quarterback who has been doing the pitching in the seven-on-seven scrimmages was off at a church camp, they looked all right. Two other quarterbacks, Ty Priestley and Donte Reeder, completed many passes but not enough into end zones.

Clinton’s six scrimmages were against tough opposition. Butler High of Charlotte had a lanky, rawboned quarterback who is obviously talented because one must be talented to wear, even in this gaudy age, metallic-gold cleats. One had better be talented to pull that off.

DSCF3311

DSCF3324Times change. It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different. Players are bigger and stronger, and it’s become more necessary to protect them from one another. When I watch kids play and work out, and chat on the sidelines, I find myself existing in both past and present at the same time.

I asked one of the players to let me examine his helmet. I mistakenly thought ours offered protection. They don’t look that different from the outside. Inside the cushioning is almost awe-inspiring. Football might have been more pleasant for me without all those pesky headaches from being “forearmed” in the head every day. We didn’t have concussion protocols. We just had our bells rung.

DSCF3301We didn’t have trainers. We had water boys. Concussions were taken seriously only when someone couldn’t tell how many fingers a coach held up, or maybe if he thought we were playing at Chapman, but, in reality, it was Clover. A mild concussion was almost a badge of honor.

By God, though, we came through it just fine.

Uh, what was I writing about again?

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Oh, the Troubles that Poor Tree Has Seen

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 8, 2016, 10:20 a.m.

Mother Nature bared her teeth last night. I was minding my own business, watching the Truck race from Kentucky, and the wind started howling, the lightning started flashing, the thunder started crashing, and all the sound and fury inside the house ceased.

It’s still quiet. The power is still out. This morning, I discovered that the proud cedar tree in my backyard had been beaten into submission, one of its limbs lying atop the roof. When this house was built, the contractor asked if I wanted to cut down the tree. It wasn’t pretty. It had been struck by lightning once, and since “it is said” that lightning never strikes the same place twice, I thought it might be good luck, so I told the contractor to leave it be.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I was just thinking about when people come in now to clean it away, wondering if the man with the chainsaw will ask me if I want him to dig it up or cut it down to ground level. Maybe I’ll tell him to leave a stump about three feet high. The way I can sit on it and play guitar.

The heat is rising outside and drifting into the house to recompense for the cool breezes that wafted in the storm’s aftermath. I’ll soon have to recharge the cell phone in the truck.

My wi-fi must have some kind of battery backup. I’ve no power, but I have wi-fi, which means I can post this blog as long as this laptop doesn’t run out of juice, at which time I can run another laptop out of juice, and it could be that whatever is keeping the wi-fi going will run out at some point.

Or the power could return, at which point all my troubles will be over except a huge tree, drooping in agony with body parts strewn everywhere.

She never even had a name. I never spoke to her, so a name was optional. I stopped the lawn mower many a time under her branches, the better to sip iced tea in her luxuriant shade. She heard me sing along with Ray Price, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Jerry Jeff Walker, Hank Snow and Jimmy Buffett, but she never heard them, so she might’ve thought I could sing.

The City just arrived with a pickup and two bucket trucks. The hour of salvation is at hand.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Funny How Time Slips Away

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 7, 2016, 9:29 a.m.

PC head football coach Harold Nichols with Dr. Joe Gettys.
PC head football coach Harold Nichols with Dr. Joe Gettys.

Here on the local front, it’s been a calm week. Dr. Joe Gettys, who was a calm man, died at age 109. At age 108, he attended most, if not all, the Presbyterian College football and basketball games. I expect it would be hard to find anyone who lives for more than a century without being serene and unflappable.

Such was the case with this man. I never knew him well, but I knew who he was for most of my life. He’s just one of the wellsprings of wisdom that wet my fingers but ran right through them. If “Dr. Joe” had an enemy, which I doubt, he certainly outlived him (or her).

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Being a wiseacre for most of my life and, at the very least, since I went off to college, I had a long-running joke about how Presbyterian College has the oldest home crowd in college basketball because having a 108-year-old man at every game makes it impossible for other schools to compete. It’s entirely possible that my alma mater, Furman University, ranks second, but it was impossible for the Paladins to match the Blue Hose in, uh, “experience,” as long as Dr. Joe was in the audience.

It’s wide open now. Several who work in the PC athletics department have Furman connections, too. The tongue-in-cheek debate was great fun.

(Photo by Monte Dutton)
(Photo by Monte Dutton)

Maybe it’s because I’m not a kid and don’t recognize them, but I often think about how this time doesn’t have the “characters” it did when I was in my formative years. Word of Dr. Joe’s death brought me back to such ruminations of J.A. Orr, the kindly man who ran the Western Auto; Grady Adair at McGee’s Drug Store; Rembert Truluck at the print shop; and my grandfather’s old friends, Trig Cash and Clarence King.

By the way, some reading this will be taken aback by the references to “Dr. Joe.” That’s the way people talk in small towns like this one. It’s meant as a term of endearment. Kids mean well when they call me “Mr. Monte.” It’s something I’ve come to accept solely because the kids who say it consider it a sign of respect. I don’t, of course. I’d prefer something more youthful like “hot shot” because I like to think my flame hasn’t burned out.

I’d take “Mr. Monte” over “Mr. Dutton” any day.

Sometimes it's tough to keep everything in perspective. (Monte Dutton photo)
Sometimes it’s tough to keep everything in perspective.
(Monte Dutton photo)

I know well the glassing over of youthful eyes that comes when I mention someone whose legendary career was over before they were born. They aren’t legends to the kids of today who get their history from SportsCenter.

I was different at their age. The first sports book I ever read was a biography of Mel Ott. He had a leg kick like Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868 home runs for the Yomiuri Giants. Ott hit 511 for the New York Giants.

Oh is Sino-Japanese. The paragraph above might as well be Sanskrit.

History means nothing to people today. That’s why we’re stuck with Donald Trump.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Thinking About What I’ve Got and What I Don’t

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, July 4, 2016, 10:15 a.m. 

When the sun comes up on that bright morn / In the quiet that follows every storm / When the demons have all died away / We’ll celebrate your Independence Day.

The song wasn’t written for our Independence Day. It’s a message of hope to a troubled acquaintance. It is, however, Independence Day, so here’s a video of me singing it.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

The Fourth of July finds me melancholy about the world, the country, and myself.

Roger Miller didn’t just write happy songs. He wrote several of the sadder ones I know. One equated freedom with death, or, perhaps, suicide:

Well, I think I finally found me a sure-fire way to forget / It’s so simple, I’m surprised I hadn’t done thought of it before yet / It’s foolproof, well, it’s foolhardy, maybe, but who knows? / Anyway, here I am, walkin’ down where the cold, dark water flows.

Miller died too young, but it was from throat cancer.

Lots of days, I think about how things aren’t so bad. I remember JFK, RFK, Dr. King, Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate … right on up through 9/11 … and that’s been almost 15 years now … and to the present.

I’ve seen good times, too. I was on a state championship team in high school. Hell, the Red Sox have won three world championships. Furman beat South Carolina in football and North Carolina in basketball, the latter twice. John Prine sat down next to me on a short plane flight. On the night Henry Aaron hit his 715th home run, it was my 16th birthday and I was at the game.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico.
El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico.

Freedom is an aggravating concept. It gives a man enough rope to hang himself. I could’ve gone to law school. I could’ve had the money to go to all those ball games and car races I got paid a pittance to describe. I could’ve collected first editions instead of writing books that bounce around in the air and alight on small devices.

But I’m free to sit here for at least half of most days, typing for some of them and writing on the good ones.

Free! Cry out from the mountaintops!

All I know how to do is write. I am free to do it. Everyone has some complaint about the freedom he or she has lost.

Why not rejoice at the freedom we’ve got?

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of lifes absurdity.

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton. Buy one of the novels, and you’ll get the short stories absolutely free.

Most of my books are also available here.

 

 

Let Freedom Sparkle

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 1, 2016, 9:22 a.m.

Independence Weekend! America steps boldly into the second half of another eventful year. The stock cars are roaring in Daytona Beach. The baseball teams are wearing all sorts of star-spangled pajamas. Fireworks galore, and since this year the Fourth of July isn’t until Monday, I expect they’ll commence tonight and keep on popping them in the wee hours right on up Tuesday.

Monte DuttonNo need to try it at home, kids. Awe-inspiring fireworks displays are available, risk-free, in every downtown square, every minor-league ballpark, and not nearly as much by drunk Uncle Ed, waving a lit Roman candle around in the backyard and inadvertently bouncing a fireball off a donkey’s butt.

Have no fear. If that happens this year, Action News and the humane officer (often a contradiction in terms) will be on the scene, taking fingerprints and making sure all incriminating video is already on YouTube.

Me? I’ll be pecking away at a keyboard, as usual, just like now. The toil of editing a manuscript is not a great way to celebrate freedom, but, as Charley Pride used to say onstage between songs, “it sure beats picking that cotton in Mississippi.”

It sure beats hauling that hay in South Carolina. At this point in life, of course, had I followed in my father’s footsteps, I would have been supervising the hauling of hay in South Carolina. Since the course of my life has been so vastly different, hay is still being harvested in the pastures around my home, but now my only involvement is the yearly receipt of a check and the regular sensation of staggering out of bed in the morning, yawning, looking out the front window, and saying to myself, “I’ll be dogged. Hay.”

I’ll spend a half hour yakking with my mother on the phone. We’ll talk about the books we’re reading, and the latest on that crazy Trump, and who died, and into whom I bumped the other day, and has she seen the latest pictures on Facebook of “the baby”?

The rumble and the roar. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
The rumble and the roar. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

I’ll watch the NASCAR races so that I will be qualified to write about them, but now, instead of sitting in a press box annoying officials with my questions, I’ll be annoyed at the announcers on high-def, but it won’t get heated because I can play some carefree Marty Robbins song — “Singing the Blues,” say — or philosophical Tom T. Hall ditty — “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine” — and it will settle me down no matter how many times the announcers use harsh words like “carnage” to describe a wreck. If they’re going to use “carnage,” then they might as well use “bloodbath,” too, because they mean the same thing.

See? That’s why I play guitar.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton. Buy one of the novels, and you’ll get the short stories absolutely free.

Most of my books are also available here.

What It Was Was Football

A Laurens Raider through a Laurens Raider facemask. (Monte Dutton photos)
A Laurens Raider through a Laurens Raider facemask. (Monte Dutton photos)

L&LComplete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 9:45 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Maybe these summertime seven-on-sevens are historical rather than newfangled. Perhaps, boys got together in some meadow, recently having cut and baled the hay off it, and started throwing the old pigskin — an actual pigskin, mind you, or, maybe, a bladder — around. Rules gradually evolved, and the boys would come back out after supper and play a refreshing game of pitch-and-catch before the sun went down.

DSCF1929Then, at some point, a sturdy lad leaned into the huddle, and said those fateful words: “Hey, I think it sure would surprise them old boys if we commenced to beating the hell out of them.”

So began the decline of a pastoral society.

But the more times change … the tough get going!

There are limits, however, and the South Carolina High School League won’t allow football players to run into each other again until August, so being the resourceful lads that most coaches are, the game is back to the meadow, in this case, a bunch of shortened fields lined crosswise to enable the convergence of 10 high-school-representing teams of pitchers and catchers arriving early not for spring training but to peer at the distant horizon of football season.

DSCF1931Seven-on-seven scrimmages are to football what school figures are to ice skating. More sweaty. Less pretty. Not a precise analogy.

I’ve been to two of these showcases recently, and, since there might be eight teams playing at the same time — well, two at a time on various fields — it’s not a practical venue for record-keeping.

Oh, I had a notepad. One with scribbles such as these:

Clinton head coach Andrew Webb
Clinton head coach Andrew Webb

Why Spbg have 2 tms?

Who #4?

Get file pics of coaches.

How u make this wrk w/pads?

Laurens head coach Chris Liner
Laurens head coach Chris Liner

In a way, it took me back to the playground, playing touch football at recess. Quarterback stands, holding the ball aloft with one hand and waving for his receivers to go right or left with the other. Rushers have to count to three — “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-threeeee!” — before they can rush.

Of course, these well-drilled high school teams are infinitely more organized.

Here’s my GoLaurens/GoClinton story on the morning.

DSCF1917Another observation was sympathy for the poor center. Most teams brought a center just to stand out there and snap the ball over and over. Other linemen didn’t have to be there. A few were over on the sideline, laughing at the center.

Once upon a time, when men were men and I was a boy, I played center, and I stood there on the CHS sideline Tuesday and thought about how much that would have pissed me off.

Of course, we didn’t have seven-on-sevens back in my day. We played catch out in the meadow after the hay was stacked in the barn.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton. Buy one of the novels, and you’ll get the short stories absolutely free.

Most of my books are also available here.

Aw, Play It for Fun

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

L&LComplete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, June 26, 2016, 12:07 p.m.

The late Dudley Moore asked, “Isn’t fun the greatest thing you can have?”

The late David Poole often said, “Fun. You just can’t beat fun.”

The late Jimmy Dutton often folded his arms and said, “Chaps love to play.”

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Saturday was fun, or did most of the fun spill over into Sunday? It was late-night Saturday fun for that portion of the public that wasn’t out toasting a Britain rid of its shackles, or drowning the tears of the EU’s decline.

A few may have been drinking for some other reason.

Coastal Carolina’s baseball team surged into the finals of the College World Series. It must have something to do with climate change. The oceans are rising all the way to Omaha.

In a sense. Hyperbole. Almost rhymes with calliope. But not quite. Any rhyme with hyperbole is exaggerated.

The rising oceans also washed in Coastal Carolina’s uniforms from the 1970s. Teal pullovers. I remember them from the Sears catalogue. The Chanticleers. Chants for short. Imagine if the fans turned to Gregorian chants between innings. It wouldn’t be that different from that soccer drone.

Coastal Carolina eliminated Texas Christian, which wears the regal purple, but at least it buttons up. About all I mastered about the game was the uniforms because my attention was divided between the Chants rising, the Rangers routing (the Red Sox) and the Trucks fighting in Madison, Illinois. I also closed in on finishing a novel (reading, not writing, that was earlier in the day), played the guitar a little, tweeted slyly, and drank coffee way later than I’d planned.

It was all worth it, though. Two Truck drivers ostensibly across the river from Saint Louis to race, having failed that in concert with each other, compounded matters by having the most unsatisfying fight since Bonecrusher Smith retired. After the initial pratfall — “I say, if I can wrest that foot loose of the pavement, in theory, it would cause my nemesis to fall untidily,” said Master Townley — the two followed the “one-two-three, one-two-three” ballroom moves they had been forced to learn after the daily riding sessions on their ponies.

“Spencer, old sport, place your hand on my shoulder.”

“Ah! In so doing shall I blunt your feeble attempts at aggression.”

“Lest I force you into submission with my fists of iron!”

“Nonsense, old chum, I have you in check. Now pivot smartly and follow me … 1-2-3, 1-2-3 …”

“By George, I think I’ve got it. Tally-ho and all that.”

This morning, a few news outlets even reported this straight, but the announcers were smirking.

When a couple drunks would start duking it out in front of the Talladega Superspeedway press box, Larry Woody used to speculate that perhaps they were fighting over the relative merits of Shakespeare and Chaucer.

“Why, you SOB, Chaucer couldn’t carry Shakespeare’s jockstrap!”

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton.

Most of my books are available here.