Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, September 4, 2015, 11:28 a.m.
This, of course, is Labor Day weekend. I’ve put in my share of hours over time, first more with arms and legs, but then gradually working down to the fingertips because they still work well.
This weekend, though, is notable for all my various homes. I’m sitting in the living room of one now. In the background, Jack Lemmon is talking about the director Billy Wilder. Another home is across the pasture, where my mother, sister and two nephews still live along with several pets, two goats, and some chickens pecking about in the yard.
Clinton High School is home. I spoke to some students there this morning and told them how I happened to become the nation’s top-ranked, and quite possibly only, combination novelist and high school football beat reporter. Tonight I will describe the hostilities between the Red Devils and the Bulldogs of Newberry.
A pair of anniversaries are to be celebrated at halftime. This marks 40 years since the state championship team of 1975 and 30 since the titlist of 1985. I played on the former team and wrote stories in The Clinton Chronicle about the latter. Tonight, while teammates are out on the turf of Keith Richardson Field, I will be in the public-address booth reading a script I wrote. Many years ago, my first book was called Pride of Clinton, a history of football at Clinton High School. Richardson coached both championship teams and four more.
Clinton High School is a home, and so is Wilder Stadium (Wilder being the stadium, Richardson the field).
Tomorrow night I’ll be at Paladin Stadium in Greenville, where the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina visit another of my homes, Furman University, to open the college football season. Clinton High is where I played ball and acquired a love of writing. Furman is where I learned self-reliance and became a man.
Then, on Sunday night, I will watch the Bojangles Southern 500 on television. It has been off in exile, like Napoleon at Elba and St. Helena, but now it has been restored, not for history, as NASCAR officials would have you believe, but because they moved Darlington around to other dates, as if it were a traveling circus, and couldn’t make Labor Day work in either California or Georgia, so they figured they might as well let that pesky Darlington, out in the middle of nowhere, have it back.
Now we’re all supposed to pretend a tricked-up Camry is a ’74 Torino, just because it’s white and has a “15” on its sides, confuse Ricky Stenhouse with David Pearson, and believe NASCAR is run by a bunch of really swell guys who care about any history that doesn’t pay big money.
You know, like the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. People with lots of money and power always think people with neither are gullible. They aim to convince us we can’t survive unless patches in our underwear are removed, we stop drinking that deadly tap water and buy the bottled stuff, and that Brian France moved Darlington back to Labor Day eve out of the goodness of his heart.
BZF. He’s all heart.
I’ll stop complaining now. My cynical sense of humor gets me in trouble. Last week an off-duty cop half my age told me he didn’t like my attitude. He didn’t like it when I laughed at that, either. I just figured it was a joke.
I’m glad Darlington is back. Darlington is also a home. It’s where my daddy took me to watch stock cars race. I think of Darlington the same way I think of Mount Rushmore, Fenway Park, and Sledge, Mississippi, the birthplace of Charley Pride.
Occasionally, I think of eternity and where, in the words of the old hymn (“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”), my remains will settle:
When my feeble life is o’er / Time for me will be no more / Guide me gently, safely o’er / To Thy Kingdom Shore, to Thy Shore.
Sometimes I think I’d like my ashes scattered over Wilder Stadium, there to waft onto the green, green grass of Richardson Field. At other times, I think of my remains mingling with the cool water of the Furman lake or in its many fountains, and, sometimes, I think of being ground into the pebbled asphalt of Darlington, there to be interred righteously by the pounding of Goodyear Racing Eagles.
Alas, I’ll be gone. I’ll probably be stuck in an urn, in the back of a closet, and one day, an ancestor who doesn’t recognize my name will find some other use for the urn and flush me down the closest toilet.
It will make perfectly good sense. It just won’t be quite as romantic.
If there’s anything to remember me by, it will probably be my books. You can consider them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1