The Weather Will Get Warmer

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 16, 2017, 9:45 a.m.

Spring sports begin early. They begin cold. Traditionally, I’m prone to underrate the chill of March. Wednesday night was a rare exception. I wore a coat to Laurens District High School that I hadn’t put on all winter. I can’t take too much credit. On Tuesday night, the hoodie I wore to a soccer match was woefully unsufficient to meet my needs.

By Monte Dutton

Heck, I could’ve done without the jacket. Ed Prescott Field has a genuine, bona fide press box. The only time I was out in the elements was to take pictures and talk briefly with the Raiders’ head coach, Tori Patterson, afterwards, and the latter wasn’t much of a chore because of the details of the game. I got a solid 23 seconds from the Laurens coach, and he and I both thought it ample.

Laurens defeated Clinton, 13-0. It ended via a 10-run rule. The Red Devils committed six errors. Of the 13 runs, only five, allowed by four Clinton pitchers, were earned. That was my estimation. I got a headache trying to figure it.

In short, the Clinton team was significantly more weather-impaired than I.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

No sport is more conducive to sudden shifts than baseball. In their 2004 American League Championship Series comeback against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red lost Game 3, 19-8. I remember it distinctly. I was on assignment at a (then) Busch Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which may have been Lowe’s then. As the Yankees clobbered the Red Sox, a New York partisan ragged me, as in some quarters I am well known for my love of the Bostons. I have only seen that gentleman one time in all the years since. I doubt he’s looking for me.

In case you were assigned to military duty in the Aleutian Islands, or engaged in a solitary experiment in Antarctica, or were unborn, you may have an inkling that the Red Sox won four straight games, eight if you count the Word Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and a movie called Fever Pitch.

Just last night, the former head coach of the Raiders, Dale Nelson, and I were reminiscing about a game we both saw. He was the 21-year-old coach of the Laurens American Legion team, and I was writing about said team on a regular basis for the Laurens County Advertiser. It was roughly 25 years ago.

Laurens was playing Easley on the same high school field in use Wednesday night. Easley scored 18 runs in the top of the first inning. Laurens wound up winning, 26-24. By game’s end, even most of the parents were gone. Maybe 10 fans, two teams and their coaches, an operator of a scoreboard incapable of registering a 26-24 score, and I saw the whole game. Was it worth it? Now it is. At the time, I was rooting for whichever team held bats in its hands.

How this came up in a 13-0 high school game, I can’t imagine.

In football, teams don’t play more than once, except in rare instances. Last year, in basketball, I saw a girls team lose a game by 31 points and then defeat the same team by 18 two weeks later, but I don’t think that happens as much in sports other than baseball.

In baseball, a pitcher in his groove or a batter with a hot bat can alone wreak havoc on the opposition. Sometimes nothing goes right. The next time nothing goes wrong. Contrary to prevailing medical science, errors really can be contagious. I’ve seen teams decimated by a “called third strike” virus. Sometimes umpires even get infected.

So play ball. Clinton does so again tonight.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

 

The Two Chaps, Starring in ‘Another One of Them Dutton Deals’

Martin Truex Jr. (left) and Brad Keselowski were appropriately on the front row. Truex won. Keselowski should have. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 13, 2017, 10:24 a.m.

Every man has a lodestar. Most men have several. I have many, in part because I am my late father’s son.

By Monte Dutton

This isn’t the first time I’ve cited this favorite saying of Jimmy Dutton.

He would be sitting in a grandstand, watching a football game, probably of the junior (high or varsity) variety, and, when the action got overheated, he would fold his arms and take on a countenance of wisdom, and, after as pregnant a pause as a male can make, say, simply, “Chaps love to play.”

It’s what he would have said had he been in Las Vegas on Sunday, which, by the way, is a frightening scene to ponder. It’s what he would have said a hundred times in all the years his older son wrote about NASCAR for a living, because Dear Old Dad was a man of many clichés that he used a lot.

“Chaps love to play” – it was pronounced chaps LUHHHH-tuh play – was my favorite. Number two was “if that ain’t a Dutton deal …” and, at the bottom of the bracket, was his reply when I told him I was sorry about something (“You damned right you are.”).

Joey Logano (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Never were there two chaps more loving to play than Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, who tangled on both the track and pit road after Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that was won incidentally by Martin Truex Jr.

This wasn’t the Clash of the Titans. It wasn’t Ali-Frazier. It was more like McLovin-Ichabod Crane.

But it added some flavor to a race that was low-fat vanilla ice milk. (When I was a kid, an early brand of low-calorie ice cream was officially called Ice Milk. This was too accurate. I’m confident it’s now called Blameless Decadence.)

Kyle Busch (John Clark photo)

What I liked best in the video shot by Soon to Be Francis Ford Coppola of NASCAR Jeff Gluck was the way the fight started. Kyle Busch, undoubtedly amid shouts of “uh, oh, uh, oh, here he comes (boogie down, boogie down),” walked right up to Logano, while several of his crewmen were standing nearby going “dum-de-DUM-dum,” and punched him. He … punched him. Then, reacting to what others saw coming, the pale-yellow-clad Logano entourage wrestled the slightly-golder-yellow-clad Busch to the iron-gray pavement, and Busch dusted himself off and strode away, leading late-arriving television agents on a testy and breathless chase.

Maybe NASCAR will change this chase to a pace-off.

This type of carnival occurs nowadays more than ever before, in part because, back in the allegedly uncivilized days of NASCAR yore, a man had to be seriously wronged before he deemed it necessary to take on Soapy Castles or Tiny Lund.

Oddly, it would make more sense if Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were named Soapy Castles and Tiny Lund. The names would fit, but they would otherwise be miscast.

Bunny Rabbit versus Kitty Cat. One must die.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

Sports in the Background

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 9, 2017, 12:53 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Hmm. Missouri beat Auburn. A basketball game was on TV at 11 a.m. It was in Nashville. It was 10 there. I wasn’t paying much attention until the overtime. I was crossing the magical 200-page barrier in my next novel. Fifty-four thousand words. I’ve got to write about an airplane soon. In fact, I’m maneuvering the whole shebang in for a landing.

As Bobby Bare used to sing, Ride me down easy, Lord, ride me on down.

The Tar Heels are playing the Hurricanes in Brooklyn. Let me check my program guide. By gosh, San Diego State is going to play Boise State in the Mountain West quarterfinal. That tips at 11:30 p.m.

Next thing you know, the time will change.

I haven’t watched much baseball. The Red Sox pounded the Braves on TV. Furman beat Presbyterian on a Tuesday afternoon before Clinton High’s final playoff basketball victory. I have only watched one of the local high school teams practice.

I watched the Red Devils win a pulsating 1-0 soccer match over a team representing a club of home-schooled kids.

The Chicago Blackhawks, my favorite hockey team, has been playing especially well, particularly on those rare occasions when I’m watching.

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images for NASCAR)

And, of course, there’s NASCAR.

Most of this week’s news has been about the future. At Charlotte Motor Speedway, they’re apparently going to run a fall race through the infield. Las Vegas, site of this week’s Sprint Cup race, is getting a second race. Both items aren’t going to happen until 2018.

So chill for now. Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que, sera, sera.

I’m going back to fiction.

Get back to the country, back in the barn aga-ain.

Bobby Bare, Doris Day, and Neil Young. All in one blog. Sometimes I amaze myself.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

Atlanta on TV and in Memory

The start of the Rinnai 250 Xfinity Series race. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 4, 2017, 2:17 p.m.

I love Atlanta. I love Griffin, where I stayed in the Best Western for most of 20 years, and I love Hampton, where Atlanta Motor Speedway is, and where I used to play my guitar and sing my songs at the town farmer’s market, and I love an evening get-together at Minter’s Farm, where my friend and fellow expatriate sportswriter Rick Minter collects old farm contraptions and grows vegetables and Christmas trees.

He’s at the track. Like me, he still writes a little racing on the side, but he gets to be in closer proximity.

By Monte Dutton

I notice a Dillon just wrecked. I wrote a 5,000-word chapter and updated the outline. I read from a novel by a Georgia author. I played a little guitar. Darrell Waltrip has been blowing through the jasmine of my my-yi-yind. And a Dillon just wrecked.

If only I had a summer breeze, it would theoretically make me feel fine.

Michael Waltrip just said a driver is “making up for that first initial start.” No telling what will happen during his last initial start. Chase Elliott sounds great. So does everyone else in a TV booth with Michael Waltrip, but NASCAR has a Waltrip thing. I pick up the guitar.

Well, I’ll admiiitttt, I’ve got a Waltrip prob-LEMMMM!

I’d like to get back to the track. I’d better not step on any toes.

The original topic was how I love Atlanta. I have significantly digressed.

It’s the environment. Everybody around here talks the same way I do about NASCAR. I don’t even mention it anymore. I get tired of nodding my head. I got a crick in my neck last week at the high school basketball game.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch at Atlanta. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The first time I watched a Cup, then Winston, race at Atlanta, then International Raceway, I went with a football coach, and Morgan Shepherd won. The first time I wrote about a race at Atlanta, it snowed a foot, and, several weeks later, Morgan Shepherd won. Two races, three weekends, and I could almost write Morgan Shepherd’s life story.

One year, the concrete floor of the media center had patches of solid ice. School kids were grazing all through the aisles. A bus was parked outside. The PR director came around, encouraging writers to go across the track to work in the press box. I asked him if My Weekly Reader needed more space. It wasn’t till I came back in the fall that he spoke to me again.

I age myself. Is there still such a thing as My Weekly Reader? I bet it’s digital.

I’d hate to walk up the steps behind the old press box, on what is now the opposite side of the track, mainly because I hated to walk up them then. That was where the most famous sportswriter in the South waved a white handkerchief because the PR director was delivering Lincoln’s Second Inaugural before he’d let Dale Earnhardt speak.

Hampton, Georgia, must be like Clinton, South Carolina, based on the millions of people who don’t go to the races at the track there. It’s not a lot like Clinton, South Carolina, because we don’t have but thousands around here.

I hope there’s progress when the Cup of Monster NASCAR Series holds its Sumpin Sumpin 500 if for no other reason than the damned thing is still 500 genuine miles. It’s allegedly 500.5 miles, but that really depends on the paths the winning car takes over 325 laps.

The Xfinity cars are in the second stage of finity, so, instead of overhearing Michael Waltrip, I think I’ll start watching the action.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

Another Sunday from a Distance

Chase Elliott leads the field at the start of the Daytona 500 (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, February 27, 2017, 8:30 a.m.

Four years have passed. I still pay close attention to NASCAR. It’s not the same as being there. I try. Until, well, now, I wrote a Bleacher Report column each Monday morning during the season. That web site, like many others, is cutting back on NASCAR coverage, either that or they wanted a younger perspective and were nice enough not to tell me that.

No more race tracks in my background. I can’t afford it.

So this is where I stand. I write NASCAR blogs in hopes that they will persuade you to buy one of my novels, which is one of the strangest and least successful marketing programs known to man. It doesn’t match the grand scale of, say, Nature’s Bakery.

Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500. He is a familiar face. He deserved it. He is a fine restrictor-plate racer who somehow managed not to win the first 63 such races of his career. He was due. He was overdue.

Beyond that, I watched the Truck race on Friday night. I was writing about a basketball game when the Xfinity race was being run. A reply of that crashfest is on TV right now.

Chase Elliott (r) captured the pole position for the Daytona 500. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualified 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

As best I recall, a driver named Ali Baba won the Truck race, and Reed Ryan won Xfinity. OK, it’s Ryan Reed. He’s pretty familiar, though I’ve never met him or anyone else who has come along since January 4, 2013. He won the same race the year before last. It just seems as if every young driver is named either Ryan or something – Cade, Cal, Case, Chase, Cody, Cole – that begins with a “C.” There are a few stray Brendans, Ians, Jonathans, Nicks and Seans running around ovals at various rates of speed.

The Trucks winner is really named Kaz Grala. I once enjoyed kaz grala, a sweet confection, after a souvlaki plate at a restaurant in one of the boroughs of New York.

So I’m a fan.

If I was there, of course, I would know much more about Kaz Grala, not to mention all the other bright, young comets just starting to burn across the night sky. Lots of races are going to burn across the night sky, too, because out of all the bright appeal inherent in NASCAR’s bold new changes, one talking point isn’t making the races shorter. The Daytona 500 lasted as long as a 14-inning baseball game between the Red Sox and Yankees, and anything longer than that qualifies in some backward societies as infinity.

I watch the races and the ballgames, anyway. No telling how many prizes I could have won had I used this time more wisely.

The circus moves on to Atlanta while I have a home race every week.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

 

Down Go the Devils

The Red Devil faithful turned out. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, February 26, 2017, 9:02 a.m.

It’s still vivid in my mind this morning. The glitter of a large arena. A throng of fans, more rowdy than usual because they’re small-town folks come to the city, and their hopes are up because they are anticipating another big victory and a nice meal at some restaurant Clinton doesn’t have.

By Monte Dutton

Twenty-one and four. The Red Devils finished 21-4. They made it to the Class 3A upstate finals, which remains the furthest they have ever been. When first they laid eyes on the Southside Tigers, it was, Wait a minute. Is this a PC game? Nope, nope, here come the Red Devils. That must be a high school team.

They should have waited for Dorman-Gaffney. They’d have thought they stumbled into the Pac-12.

First it was the shoulder. Later it was the knee.

Southside (26-1) won, 71-43. Inside, the Tigers were both tall and thick. Clinton was lanky and slender. The Red Devils’ All-State forward, Jalen Carter, had a first half like a boxer’s first round. Twice he crashed to the Bon Secours (Ironically Titled) Wellness Arena floor, only to be partially revived by the trainers. When the game was long over, I was at the end of a hall, underneath the stands, watching Carter limp to the bus, ice bags wrapped around his knee.

Hoosiers doesn’t happen every year.

Tymori Tribble

The game was sunset at the end of a glorious day. Southside’s Tigers loped off gracefully into the distance, disappearing with the sun over a boys’ basketball season’s far horizon.

The Red Devils, under first-year head coach Eddie Romines, were a splendid engine of improbable cohesion that finally threw a rod after a Ferrari pulled up at a red light.

V-r-r-r-room.

During the glorious 14-game win streak that encompassed the year to date up until Saturday, it was not uncommon for the Red Devils, with their boundless enthusiasm and clever risk-taking, to face second-half deficits. This time, though, it wasn’t manageable. Southside led by 20 points at the end of three quarters.

Clinton’s Zay Hurley and Southside’s Taymon Leamon.

It wasn’t particularly painful. They didn’t lose on a three-pointer at the buzzer. Southside let them down easy. They got figurative shots of novocaine. They trudged out to the bus, even those who weren’t limping, and rode on back down the road to reality.

This is pure speculation, but they might have felt like General Custer if he had lived.

It took me a while. I sat out on press row, typing a story and editing photos as the Wade Hampton and Dorman girls cavorted earnestly about. When the former put the latter to bed in Class 5A, I did the same with my day’s work. I watched half of Dorman’s victory in the boys’ game after my laptop decided it was an appropriate time to download 238 Microsoft updates before it would cut off.

Getting that laptop to shut down was not unlike the way the Red Devils’ season ended. There wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

Be Prepared

Lewisville defeated Calhoun Falls. (Monte Dutton photos)

Greenville, South Carolina, Saturday, February 25, 2017, 12:26 p.m.

The girls’ basketball team from Estill is playing Lamar. Estill is about to win. Both towns are a long way from Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Somehow they are playing for an upstate championship. I don’t know why.

Estill just won, 47-40.

By Monte Dutton

I know why Clinton and Southside are playing on this court at 3:30. Both are conclusively upstate. Southside – a high school, not a town – is just a few miles away. I went there one time to write a football season preview. The last time I wrote about a basketball game there, I suspect it was a different gym.

As you may have surmised, the Southside-Clinton game is the reason for my presence.

I am safely in the building, which I last visited for a hockey game. I haven’t seen a basketball game here since I watched Furman play Clemson slightly less many years ago than when this building, originally the Bi-Lo Center, opened.

Lewisville and Calhoun Falls just ran onto the floor. They are boys. This already have I ascertained.

Between now and 3:30, it is my task to find out what I have to do. I know I have to write about the game and take a few photos. What I don’t know is whether or not there are rosters and if there are statistics other than those in the scorebook. If I need to keep up with field-goal attempts, rebounds and assists, I will do so.

The high school reporter, like the Boy Scout, must be prepared.

The Flashes need new batteries. Lewisville is running away. Final score: Lions 71, Calhoun Falls 48.

Next up, and the games are running behind as upstate finals are prone to do, is the Class 3A girls finals between the familiar schools, Newberry and Seneca. The Bulldogs are 25 miles away, and the Bobcats have played the Red Devils in many sports on many occasions in playoff games over the years. I last visited Newberry football season. I last visited Seneca for the 2016 heartbreak of the year, a season-ending baseball game Clinton lost, 2-1.

I haven’t learned about a procedure, if any, for post-game interviews, this being a large and fancy facility soon to host a conference tournament and NCAA regionals. It isn’t the home of the Southeastern Conference today, so I reckon my postgame work will be about the same as if I was writing about the middle-school rivalry between Clinton White and Clinton Red.

Wayne Green, an old Clinton High teammate, and I chatted for a few minutes before the basketball game. Wayne is the football coach at Berea now. We talked about old times and our coach, and he told me about the Berea basketball team and I did the same about Clinton. What he said left me worried, but I worry easily.

One of many little-known facts about me is that I like the Chicago Blackhawks. When I got home, rather than get myself all concerned by watching something like the news, I watched the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-3. Just let the record note that Jonathan Toews rules.

I’ve got a Powerball ticket for tonight. But it’s too late. Days like Tuesday don’t repeat themselves immediately.

*Paraphrased from an old country song.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

 

In Everything but the Money

(Monte Dutton photos)
By Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 10:45 a.m.

Some days are great. Some are awful. Some gotta win. Some gotta lose. Sometimes Goodtime Charlie’s got the blues.*

I wish they’d had a Powerball on Tuesday.

What they had Tuesday night was a basketball game matching the visiting Berea Bulldogs against the Clinton Red Devils. I was part of the loudest crowd I have ever seen watching a basketball game at Clinton High. I’m not the authority on the subject, but I’ve been to lots of games over the past four years. I went to every game when I was in school, but that was more than 40 years ago.

It was the Upstate Class 3A boys’ semifinal. The Red Devils haven’t lost since the year changed, but early, when Berea led, 21-11, I was starting to dawdle into “well, it was a great season, anyway” mode.

Fortunately, the local ball team had more intensity and determination than I. It’s a consequence of age.

Kiah Young (5) and Tymori Tribble.

A senior guard named Tymori Tribble hoisted the team on his shoulders. In their darkest hour, he shed light. Tribble scored 24 points, and, at times, made the Bulldogs look like the Washington Generals. He wasn’t alone. A Clinton team beaten badly on the boards and from beyond the three-point line in the first half turned into a boards-crashing, fast-breaking, ball-hawking, wide-open-layup-on-the-other-end band of insurgents.

Clinton (21-3) 70, Berea (21-6) 62. The Red Devils next play in Greenville, at a posh location called Bon Secours Wellness Arena, where Southside, a Greenville school, will be the opponent and plenty of good seats will be available. The winner will advance to another posh arena in Columbia.

Few saw this season coming, and I don’t even know anyone named Few anymore.

The head coach wasn’t even supposed to be the head coach. When Tosh Corley, who was standing in for Todd Frazier, stepped down, the new coach was Jim Still. Then Jim took a job in administration back in Greenwood, and Eddie Romines became coach. Jim, by the way, has taken an avid interest in the team he never actually coached, and was there Tuesday night to enjoy the latest great victory with everyone else.

Eddie Romines

Clinton High School has a spacious gym, at least compared with its peers, and it was about 80 percent full. The students were delirious, almost like they were in the audience of The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles showed up. The screams were at a lower pitch. I was a section over, screaming gruffly as old folks do. Now, I wasn’t on assignment. I just scribbled a note here and there for the purposes of this document. I snapped the occasional picture.

On Saturday, I will be on assignment in Greenville – the last time I experienced what the 11 o’clock news always calls “The Well” was a minor league hockey game three years ago – and I will return to the professional reserve of the journalist.

Instead of “Good Goddamighty, ref, he damn near knocked him down!” it will be “Huh. That was an odd call.”

But that’s not all.

Furman, my alma mater, visited Presbyterian College. Not the whole school. Just the baseball team.

I have attended many Presbyterian baseball games. At most of them, I have miscalculated the weather. As the afternoon wears on in February and March, a chill wind often howls. Tuesday was an exception. Even though the day became increasingly overcast as the innings wore on, I took off my Clinton High School hoodie to reveal a Furman sports shirt.

The only time I ever root against the Blue Hose is when they are playing the Paladins. Late last year, the two schools opened basketball season, and PC won, 73-71. Since that time, Furman has won 20 games and PC four. I don’t think my presence made the Paladins play worse, so I can only conclude that Furman had no idea how good it was and Presbyterian was blissfully unaware of how bad.

The Paladins won the baseball game, 6-0. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hope Presbyterian beats Wofford this afternoon.

Ken Pettus, an old friend, and I chatted for a few minutes at the baseball game. He was standing beyond the Furman dugout, watching the game in the way of associate directors of athletics. I once watched Ken play for Newberry against PC.

Wayne Green, an old Clinton High teammate, and I chatted for a few minutes before the basketball game. Wayne is the football coach at Berea now. We talked about old times and our coach, and he told me about the Berea basketball team and I did the same about Clinton. What he said left me worried, but I worry easily.

One of many little-known facts about me is that I like the Chicago Blackhawks. When I got home, rather than get myself all concerned by watching something like the news, I watched the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-3. Just let the record note that Jonathan Toews rules.

I’ve got a Powerball ticket for tonight. But it’s too late. Days like Tuesday don’t repeat themselves immediately.

*Paraphrased from an old country song.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

Clinton’s Basketball Keeps on Bouncing

I didn’t know my cell could make a person disintegrate if he walked in front of my panorama. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 18, 2017, 10:15 a.m.

The Clinton High boys’ basketball team cultivated a magnetic attachment to a 10-point lead in Friday night’s second-round victory over Pendleton, or, as people are wont to synonymize, “you know, up next to Clemson.”

The Red Devils just missed. The final score was 53-42.

Other than that, the crowd in round two was larger. Both games so far have been at home, and so will the third, Tuesday against Berea (21-5), thanks to the Bulldogs’ 84-82, triple-overtime victory at Chester.

Bulldogs also typify Pendleton. Clinton (20-3) was better. Pendleton was game. It’s the definition of a second-round playoff game.

By Monte Dutton

I didn’t have to write the shot-by-shot, so I spent most of the night high in the grandstands, hollering “traveling!” like everyone else. I had a notepad but didn’t have to scribble things like “third straight TO” but, instead, things like “C repels a 10-pt. lead.” Hence, the opening graph.

The lads representing our town and surrounding rural burgs are breathtaking to watch. I don’t use that term lightly. Several times passes took my breath away. Sometimes a turnover ensued before I caught it. It is a team that can send an entire crowd into paroxysms of delight. The Red Devils teach a course in cell-phone avoidance. There’s no time to tweet.

Pendleton’s chief culprit on Friday night was a love of the three-pointer that was mostly unrequited by the basket most of them missed. When I was growing up, a long pass to the far end of the court, resulting in a layup, was known as “a snowbird.” By now, I’m sure politicians from one side or the other have turned that into a derogatory term for something, but Clinton had three of them in a row after Pendleton three-pointers clanked.

One more victory puts the Red Devils into the Class 3A upstate finals. What are the prospects? It would have been nice to see Clinton put the teams it has beaten away more effortlessly, and now it’s unlikely to get another chance.

What tilts in the Red Devils’ favor is their cohesiveness. They are, to a man, unselfish. They have bought into the notion. At times, they get a bit too fancy, but that’s the old-timer coming out in me. In the stands, not keeping up with numbers, I was sure Jalen Carter, the team’s all-state selection, had more than 20 points. He scored 15. Zay Hurley added 14.

Three of them – Carter, Donte Reeder and Tymori Tribble – are among the nicer kids I know, and I’m sure the only reason I can’t attest to more is that I don’t happen to know them as well.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).

The Bounce of This Ball Is Truer

I couldn’t duplicate this photo if I tried because I don’t know how it happened. The place looks quite a bit larger when it isn’t skewed. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 9:57 a.m.

The gym wasn’t full, but it’s a large gym. The first round of the Class 3A boys’ basketball playoffs matched Clinton, the top seed from Region 3, against Indian Land, the fourth seed from Region 4. More will undoubtedly show up on Friday, when Pendleton visits for round two.

By Monte Dutton

The Red Devils (19-3, 10-0 region) led by as many as 20 points but twice allowed the Warriors (6-16, 3-5) to creep to within six. Meanwhile, Pendleton was dismissing Emerald, 72-64. In the second round, the brackets shift, which, without delving into specifics, is why Indian Land arrived in Clinton from the east and Pendleton will sweep in from the northwest.

Exciting to watch is this surprising Clinton team, coached by Eddie Romines for the first time. I’m not but a few years older than Eddie. When we were growing up, I’d estimate that 90 percent of the times I saw him, he was shooting baskets and scaring up pickup games at the Clinton Family YMCA. When Clinton promoted him to head boys’ coach this year, I knew the choice was dedicated to the game. Eddie is a mild-mannered fellow right up to about the time the opening tip-off is tossed. It’s unusual for an opening toss-off to be tipped.

Jalen Carter

On Tuesday night, I wasn’t writing about the game on deadline, but I did hang out at the scorer’s table for a while when the teams were warming up. I was talking to Buddy Bridges about the late Dick Vaughan, and to John Gardner about it being impossible for one man to operate the whole scoreboard while keeping the score right and making sure the clock was running when it was supposed to be and not when it wasn’t. Eddie walked by and, not surprisingly, I said something profound like, “Hey, Eddie.”

He walked about five yards, when it apparently occurred to him that I had spoken in his direction. He reversed his course, “about face,” and came back to shake hands and hear me say he didn’t have to do it because I knew he had a ballgame and was tense the way coaches get before them.

And, besides, this was the playoffs, and playoffs are thoroughly dangerous affairs.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a Clinton basketball team that was this much fun to watch. I probably missed a few possibilities while I was off watching cars go around and around.

Every player Clinton puts on the floor is athletic. It’s a ball-hawking team, one that takes chances on defense and monitors the passing lanes like U-boats preying on an Allied convoy. On offense, the Red Devils are fast-paced and unselfish. Last night, four scored in double figures: Jalen Carter 19, Kiah Young 18, Zay Hurley 17 and Tymori Tribble 15.

Indian Land was outmanned but bold in the “we got nothing to lose” mold. The Warriors committed 32 fouls. Four fouled out. Thirty-one of Clinton’s 80 points were free throws. They had free shots at 51.

When it was over, I milled around, chatting to Donte Reeder about playing football next year at Alderson Broaddus, and kidding Tribble about committing consecutive turnovers, the former on a 10-second violation and the latter on a five. It was a brief lapse. I think the hectic pace might have gotten the referee’s adrenaline flowing and his approximation of a second accelerating.

Eddie was saying the effort was good but the man-to-man defense fallible when I walked by. I figured I could write this without an in-depth interview.

I watched the game from about 10 rows up, surrounded by people I’ve known for at least three decades and, in most cases, all my life.

This is a football state, and Clinton is a football town. Basketball has a hard time going up unless football is going down. At the moment, football is edging back up but isn’t there yet, and by there, in these parts, it means competing for state championships.

If there is a void, then baseball a spring ago and basketball at present have filled it.

Folks are starting to notice this little team that plays a different kind of ball.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(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.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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).