Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs …

Business is booming at the Slander Resort. (Monte Dutton photo)
Business is booming at the Slander Resort. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 30, 2015, 11:48 a.m.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

I haven’t felt the urge to blog lately. I’ve been working on a novel called Cowboys Come Home, trying to sell one called Forgive Us Our Trespasses, and trying to get you to buy one called Crazy of Natural Causes (and also consider The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles).

I’ve been reading, watching the World Series and football games, playing guitar, watching old movies, and attending the Thursday night middle-school and junior varsity games at the high school.

While doing all these other things, I figured out a subplot in Cowboys Come Home, well outside the outline, and I’m about to start writing it.

 

The reigning champion still advances, by hook or crook. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
The reigning champion still advances, by hook or crook. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

All week long, I’ve been reading stories about the latest NASCAR debris left over from Talladega, and I’ve been pondering. Not passing judgment. Just pondering. Pondering is something most people do too little and I do too much.

 

I watched more of the Republican Debate than I did the World Series because I thought it was more of a ballgame. Politics is too important to be a ballgame, but that’s what it is. Each side has fans, and they hate each other.

I guess it’s gotten to where it’s all we know.

 

I try to resist being drowned by my generation. I pay attention to people of other ages. I write a lot about young people in my novels.

But this year has been a crusher.

I miss David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Don Orsillo, Bob Schieffer, Jon Stewart, Don Imus, and several others. None has died. They just moved out of my view. I fear for the health of John Farrell, Vin Scully and Jimmy Carter.

I scare myself. The other night I was listening to the theme song of Late Night with Stephen Colbert, and I couldn’t think of the Letterman theme. I kept drifting into the theme of Boston Red Sox Baseball on NESN. Orsillo! Remdawg! Damn it!

 

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Football blues.

I’m getting more understanding. A side of me hates this.

Furman’s football season is currently going downhill, though still salvageable. Presbyterian’s year has been miserable. Clinton High has won three games.

Yet I’m having a wonderful time going to the games and writing about them.

Something is definitely wrong.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Thanks for keeping my sales high during the entire month Crazy of Natural Causes has been on sale for $1.99. If you’d still like to buy it for that rate, time is running out. Then you’re going to have to make me rich and pay $3.49 again. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

My crime novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is up for consideration in the KindleScout program. Take a look at it, sample the text, and if you like what you see, you can nominate it for publication. It takes two clicks. Here’s the first: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/A20FEF33PZP1

 

Tales of Tvlvteke

Dale Earnhardt Jr. masters the Talladega draft.  (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. masters the Talladega draft. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 23, 2015, 9:03 a.m.

Talladega. It must be more than “border town” in Creek, which is the official explanation. According to no less a source than Wikipedia, the Creek (and/or Muscogee) word is “Tvlvteke.”

Tvlvteke Superspeedway! Who’s with me?

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s a long way from Tvlvteke to Talladega, or home to “Starwood in Aspen,” but that’s not important.

Talladega must mean “ball of confusion” in some American Indian tongue. Allegedly, it was built on a burial ground, and that explains everything. If you were an Ancient American spirit, back before Native was cool, you’d be seriously annoyed twice a year when a bunch of loud contraptions start hightailing it around, disturbing the peace.

White man’s revenge? Why would the white man seek revenge? He won!

Good, bad, and merely vivid, I had a proportionally higher range of memories from Talladega Superspeedway than most tracks:

The day Jimmy Horton’s red Chevy sailed out of the track, and there was so much smoke that very few noticed it. The telltale sign was an even higher cloud of smoke that rose behind it. It was a red-clay cloud.

A symphony of screeching metal.  (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
A symphony of screeching metal. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

The brief era of maniacal bump-drafting, when everything was two by two, and the end was blockers versus jammers, just like roller derby. Every time the rules change, something unforeseen occurs at Talladega. I wasn’t particularly fond of the tag-team derbies, but they were … interesting.

Raucous stories from a time when sports writers didn’t just have a drink. They drank.

Ah’ight, now. Thassa damn nuff. I gotta write about a #$%&*@! race tomorrow. I can’t be hung over, y’know. Gotta get some #$%&*@! sleep. Enjoyed it, y’all.

Aw, hell, don’t run off, son. We gon’ cut a watermelon here in a minute!

Fortunately, it was also a time when sports writers mostly stayed in the same quaint lodges, back before Marriott Points contributed to the general breakdown in camaraderie and esprit de corps.

You can feel the rumble every time the the steel chariots roar by. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
You can feel the rumble every time the the steel chariots roar by. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Today’s media contingent is more fueled by energy drinks, meaning they lack the patience inherent in other vices that will also kill them.

The time David Poole was detained by an Alabama state trooper for driving down the shoulder of a road where a sign had been posted advising motorists to do so.

“Why do you think no one else was driving down the shoulder of the road, Mr. Poole?”

“Because it’s … Alabama?” replied the North Carolinian.

Back to the actual racing, Talladega being one of the venues where on track was even more colorful than off.

The day when a NASCAR judgment call put Jeff Gordon in victory lane instead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the Junior partisans, good and true, pelted Gordon’s car with beer cans, exploding against the sides and top of his Chevy like a fireworks display. A festival of suds! Suds and Stripes Forever!

Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)
Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)

Ten thousand fans mooning Tony Stewart during driver introductions. Stewart had been quoted as saying there were more “rednecks” at Talladega than anywhere else, so they rose, turned their backs, and squatted, in righteous indignation to prove him … right?

The wrecks people survived there. Not death. Death defied. I’d have hated to be a driver during the 1990s. Being a sports writer scared me.

 

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)

Now I watch from a safe distance of two states over. What I earn from NASCAR is more spending money than livelihood. Take my books. Please. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Coping with Adversity

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 18, 11:36 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I know this is hard to believe, but it is possible to have a wonderful weekend in spite of the ballgames falling shy of one’s expectations.

Perhaps I’m growing more understanding as I grow older. Perhaps I’m detached enough not to let it bother me. Perhaps it’s all these decades of writing about ballgames and seeing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Perhaps — and this is a long shot — I’m actually getting more mature.

Ah, hahaha.

Clinton quarterback Charlie Craven (10) and running back Kris Holmes, (Monte Dutton photo)
Clinton quarterback Charlie Craven (10) and running back Kris Holmes, (Monte Dutton photo)

On Friday night, Union County celebrated the fair next door by thumping Clinton, 36-12. The Yellow Jackets were clearly superior. The Red Devils didn’t play badly. They just weren’t good enough. In such a game was there disappointment, but not dishonor.

Union has a junior wide receiver named Shi Smith who probably has a hard time being shy about his ability. His might be a name you shall get to know better.

A big crowd for Presbyterian College's Homecoming game. (Monte Dutton photo)
A big crowd for Presbyterian College’s Homecoming game. (Monte Dutton photo)

Back in Clinton on Saturday, it was Homecoming at Presbyterian College. The Blue Hose had lost, 24-17, to the nation’s No. 1 team, Coastal Carolina (in NCAA FCS, which stands for Football Championship Subdivision, and the subdivision is of Division I), on the road the week before. This time they lost, 10-7, to another instate school, Charleston Southern.

Close both times, but the record is still 1-6. After a while, moral victories become immoral.

Watching the game from just outside the fence. (Monte Dutton)
Watching the game from just outside the fence. (Monte Dutton)

I know the coaches. Clinton’s a small town. Everybody knows one another. Clinton High’s first-year head coach, Andrew Webb, is the son of one of my high school teammates. I covered Presbyterian when its head coach now, Harold Nichols, played quarterback. One of his players, Hayden Sanders, is the son of an old Furman friend of mine, and, before and after each home game, I join Brent and Sharon Sanders, and other PC fans and parents of players, for tailgate merriment and fellowship.

The Blue Hose have a defense good enough to keep them in games and an offense ill equipped to take advantage. As we used to say when he was still alive, Ray Charles could see that.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Homecoming means more to small schools. At Clemson and South Carolina, the multitudes come to every game. Presbyterian’s crowd on Saturday was twice as big as any other game. My longtime NASCAR friend and colleague, Al Pearce, is a PC man. He came all the way from Newport News, Virginia, took in all the class activities, met me at the tailgate party a couple hours before the game, and drove back to Virginia Saturday night. Usually I see Al when he’s on the way to Atlanta or Talladega and we meet somewhere for lunch.

All one has to do to see what college football is like at the big schools is tune in College Football Game Day. Small colleges are more sportsmanlike, in part because the fans didn’t have to sit in traffic on the way and walk a mile to the stadium, so they’re not so damned ornery. Seldom have I heard the opposition referred to as “them sonsabitches” at PC. Fans of the other team often stop by the parties and are treated with respect and good humor.

A couple of my friends stopped by. The food was phenomenal. I’ve been freeloading too much. For the next home game, I’m bringing a big, steaming pot of chili. I’m no great chef, but I’m good at chili. It’s just now getting cool enough for it.

The floods are over. The Palmetto State is returning to normal. It’s gone all in for autumn. I’m only going to mow the lawn one more time this year, and it’ll be sometime this week when I get around to it.

According to The Blue Stocking, Presbyterian College's student paper, PC Opinion consists of a puzzle and two ads. (Monte Dutton photo)
According to The Blue Stocking, Presbyterian College’s student paper, PC Opinion consists of a puzzle and two ads. (Monte Dutton photo)

I spent the first half in the press box. My credentials were justifiable not for a story on the game but for the blog (this blog) I was accumulating observations to write. Then I wandered around a little and settled in one of the few lightly occupied sections of the home grandstand, and for the rest of the game, I exchanged quips with the family sitting behind me. The head of that family was a man with a musical lilt in his voice and a joyous sense of humor in his soul. All of us wanted the Blue Hose to win, but we enjoyed ourselves laughing at each other’s spontaneous quips.

Yeah, I yelled at the refs. It was meant to be humorous, though, not spiteful.

Our local Presbyterians are, by and large, not averse to a few stern beverages to knock off the chill before the game and, all too often, assuage the pain afterward.

Sharon Sanders and Presbyterian College's Scotsman mascot were ready to rumble. This photo is from the 2014 Homecoming game. (Monte Dutton)
Sharon Sanders and Presbyterian College’s Scotsman mascot were ready to rumble. This photo is from the 2014 Homecoming game. (Monte Dutton)

Everyone came back to the command center, i.e., motor coach, with plenty of pain issues that had to be addressed. I was there for more than two hours after the game, taking part in emergency treatment. The command center was well stocked with supplies. I was amazed at how many fans in the grassy, tree-shaded lots, not just us but many others, stayed and stayed. I thought about driving back out there this morning to see if any were still there.

Or had any beer left. Can’t buy it on Sunday in South Carolina.

When I got back home, before I put away my stuff, I turned the television on. Ten seconds were left in the Michigan State-Michigan game. I figured I might as well watch the final play.

Next week is Furman’s Homecoming, and the Blue Hose are conveniently idle (yes, like their offense most every week), so Brent and Sharon are coming to Furman next week for the Paladins’ rivalry with The Citadel.

Undoubtedly, more hilarity will ensue, but what I’d like to see is a victory.

 

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

As I have loved sports for my entire life, and written about it for the majority, it should come as no surprise that sports, and, in fact, football, play a prominent role in my three novels, which I hope you will consider buying here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

The new one, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been on sale this month for a mere $1.99 download. Sale ends on October 31, so add it to your device today: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Spurrier? He Kept Me Interested

 

Williams-Brice Stadium will not be the same. It will probably look the same, though. (Monte Dutton photo)
Williams-Brice Stadium will not be the same. It will probably look the same, though. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 10:51 a.m.

No sooner than the flood waters subside, and Steve Spurrier’s gone. Well, not gone. He’s not going to coach ball at the University of South Carolina anymore.

This was taken when my great (or is it grand?) nephew and I went to watch Furman play South Carolina five years ago. (Alex Howard photo)
This was taken when my great (or is it grand?) nephew and I went to watch Furman play South Carolina five years ago. (Alex Howard photo)

First, Spurrier was The Old Ball Coach in Columbia. Then he became The Head Ball Coach. I always suspected this had something to do with his ego. When word leaked out that he was retiring, almost immediately he started being The Old Ball Coach again.

I’m surprised Donald Trump hasn’t tweeted about it. Yet. Or offered himself as a candidate for the job.

It would be huge!

I’ve never met Spurrier. He was at several race tracks when I was there, but I never much cared for those opportunities to hobnob with the celebrities who visited the tracks. The only time I ever remember paying much attention was when then-Gov. George W. Bush toured Texas Motor Speedway, and then I just tagged along in case he said something stupid.

What I mainly remember is that another reporter tagging along was the last person I ever expected to be a Republican, and she probably thought I was the last person she ever expected to be a Democrat.

Some stereotyping was going on.

The purpose of this blog isn’t politics, though.

Also, I got excited about Tom Wolfe being at Bristol. I wanted to ask him about Wallace Stegner, and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.

The aforementioned Alex and I at Williams-Brice. Alex won, 38-19. (photo by someone else in the stands)
The aforementioned Alex and I at Williams-Brice. Alex won, 38-19. (photo by someone else in the stands)

I wish I’d gotten a chance to write about Spurrier’s teams. I’ve always liked eccentrics. Spurrier fascinated me. He was the best coach ever for dumb interviews before halftime. He’s one of the few who ever made them worth watching.

Somehow, irrationally, I think I might have been able to get along with the man, but it wouldn’t have really mattered. When it gets right down to it, I’m seldom impressed by athletes and coaches in terms of intellect. Many of them are smart as a whip, but what it really takes to be a coach or an athlete isn’t brilliance. It’s the ability to think clearly under pressure.

Here in this football-mad state, my view is a bit detached. I care deeply for the athletic programs of Furman University, my alma mater, and Presbyterian College, which is here in town. When they play, I root for Furman, but I wish they wouldn’t.

Carolina and Clemson? I’m interested. I vaguely hope both do well, but, and I’ve asked the Lord to forgive me for this, it sort of tickles me when they don’t. The crazy fans are so much fun to watch when things aren’t going their way.

Some of those fans will shed a tear over Steve Spurrier and “the end of an era.” Some Clemson fans will pay lip service (“I was never a big Spurrier fan, but …” or “Spurrier was a great coach, but …”) to what he did in Columbia. Some will recall that the Spurrier-led Gamecocks beat Clemson five years in a row and forget about last year. Others will remember last year and forget about the five in a row.

What I’m going to miss is him just making me laugh.

 

Some coaches are crazy. I made up one. His name is Chance Benford, and the novel is called Crazy of Natural Causes. I hope it’ll make you laugh and think, but it’s on sale right now for $1.99, so surely it’s worth a small gamble. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

 

The Roots of My Writing

Some of it's a blur, and some of it isn't. (Monte Dutton photo)
Some of it’s a blur, and some of it isn’t. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, October 10, 2015, 4:18 p.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Vince Lombardi said that winning isn’t everything. He really did. The next sentence was, “It is the only thing.”

Yet Clinton High School’s football team lost, 24-16, last night, and the record is 2-5, and it only won two games last year, and I’m really proud.

Not at the record. It’s just that they’re playing hard, and, as coaches are fond of saying, sometimes with little conviction and less candor, but not in this case, there’s no quit in these Red Devils.

I can't help but laugh at this photo. It looks as if radio announcer Gene Simmons is having some disagreement with Clinton head coach Andrew Webb (left), but Gene's just being intense. They take their football seriously in these parts. (Monte Dutton photo)
I can’t help but laugh at this photo. It looks as if radio announcer Gene Simmons is having some disagreement with Clinton head coach Andrew Webb (left), but Gene’s just being intense. They take their football seriously in these parts. (Monte Dutton photo)

Today Lancaster is 7-0, and Clinton is 2-5. Life is defined by records. For instance, it helps that I don’t have, say, a criminal record.

My story on the game was a bit maudlin for a disinterested and serious journalist. It’s just that I write what I see — it’s sort of an entry-level method they teach you — and what I saw was a fine Red Devil effort against the state’s eighth-ranked AAA team. Lancaster is considerably larger, which is not unusual. Of Clinton’s seven opponents to date, five have been ranked in something or other at the time of the game. Clinton has beaten two of them, Flora and Woodruff, but lost to the two, Laurens and Broome, that weren’t ranked in something or other.

Donovan Blackmon returned a kickoff 90 yards. (Monte Dutton photo)
Donovan Blackmon returned a kickoff 90 yards. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Red Devils led, 8-3, at one point, trailed, 10-8, at halftime, were as close as 17-16 until 4:13 remained in the game, and still had a shot at overtime until a pass got intercepted in the final, desperate seconds. Clinton would have had to go for two, but going for two is old hat for the Red Devils, who don’t have a placekicker much better than me, and my brother was the kicker in the family, and the athlete, too, for that matter.

Not their real names. (Monte Dutton photo)
Not their real names. (Monte Dutton photo)

In fact, the Red Devils weren’t even red. They wore black because it was Blackout Friday, and the jerseys raised money and awareness for the county cancer association, and the names on the backs of their jerseys weren’t their own but rather those of people in the community who are either fighting cancer or already died of it. Afterward, the players took their jerseys off on the field and gave them to the people with cancer, or cancer in their families, or whoever paid for the jerseys in someone’s name whose memory they cherished.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

All this touched me, and it was reflected in the story I wrote: http://www.golaurens.com/goclinton/item/21900-red-devils-upset-bid-falls-short-24-16

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

For better or worse, this town reveres its high school football teams, which have won eight state championships over the years, and the eighth was just six years ago.

When I played, Clinton was one of the state’s larger AAA schools. Now it is the smallest, and next year it will remain AAA because the state is going from four to five A’s, and Clinton will be AAA out of five instead of AAA out of four.

It should help.

Wilder Stadium
Wilder Stadium (Monte Dutton photo)

This is still a fine town, a college town, but it used to also be a mill town, too, and when they closed, not to mention a large bearings plant, it cost us a heap of jobs, and most of what people didn’t have to move away now have to drive back and forth somewhere in order still to live here.

At least one of us tries to make ends meet writing novels. Maybe more. Surely someone at Presbyterian College has written his version of the Great American Novel, or maybe the Great Clinton Novel, and it’s on the market or being rewritten for the umpteenth time.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

I’ve got three out, another ready, and a fifth on the way. I also make a little spending money writing journalism in the form of spot news and features about other sports and columns about NASCAR. I’m getting ready to write one tonight.

Late in last night’s game, I made my way carefully down the grandstand steps and started taking pictures on the sideline. I don’t have a camera good enough to take very good pictures, so what I do is I shoot about 25 of them, hoping seven might be good enough to accompany my article and one actually to accompany it. The others I’m using here.

The cheerleaders wore black, too. (Monte Dutton photo)
The cheerleaders wore black, too. (Monte Dutton photo)

I want the local boys to do well. When I played, we did well. Doing well has inspired me for all the years since. It gave me the confidence to believe I could write novels and the determination to stick with it, just as I have stuck with most of what I attempted in the last 40 years.

It’s entirely possible that I am a fool, but I am a determined fool.

I’ve been a fool / A foo-ool / Forgiving you each time that you done me wrong / I’ve been a long time leaving but I’ll be a long time gone. – Roger Miller (1936-92)

They're not the biggest or the best, but they play hard. (Monte Dutton photo)
They’re not the biggest or the best, but they play hard. (Monte Dutton photo)

I want that heady confidence to march out into the world on the shoulders of the young men playing football for Clinton High School now, but I don’t believe 2-5 is going to linger. I believe all that unrewarded dedication is still going to make the lives of the Red Devils better.

It’ll just be a little harder, like pulling an upset or hanging in there against teams that, by all measures, are better.

So I get a little sentimental sometimes.

 

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

My second novel, The Intangibles, isn’t a story of Clinton, but Clinton inspired many of the roles in it. http://www.amazon.com/Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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

My current novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is about a man who is a football coach at the beginning of it, before he loses almost everything and has to find a new way to make a living. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=pd_sim_sbs_351_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=19K86BFFPZTS2YJXRBV3&dpID=617isaEUZWL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR120%2C160_

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, is about a pot-smoking songwriter who used to be a college football player and becomes a national hero. http://www.amazon.com/The-Audacity-Dope-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B006GT2PRA/ref=pd_sim_351_12?ie=UTF8&refRID=0XAG612JS729AEAW1KSK

So there is a common theme. I can trace some of my aches and pains back to football, but so, too, can I trace many of the characteristics that have helped me make my lonely way through life.

Charlotte ‘Back in My Day’

Jeff Gordon started racing when I started writing about it. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon started racing when I started writing about it. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 9, 2015, 11:19 a.m.

When I was a boy, for some reason, races at Charlotte Motor Speedway were not often featured, via tape delay a week later, on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I listened to them on the radio, and then, on Monday night, WBTV would run a highlights show — 30 minutes or an hour, I forget switch — that I could watch through snowy reception because WBTV wasn’t one of our primary stations here in Clinton.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I watched Fred Kirby’s cowboy kids show — “Take me back to my boots and my saddle, yo-de-lay-hee, yo-de-lay-hee, aiieeee!” — the same way.

Charlotte’s “truncated trioval” — that was the late Bob Latford’s term — fascinated me. Often the big Mercury Cyclones, Chevrolet Monte Carlos and the Dodge Chargers would touch the grass with their left-side tires and puffs of dust would fly up, even with bad reception. No telling how much I would’ve loved it had there been high-definition, satellite TV.

Charlotte was first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of its countrymen. The facilities were better and cleaner. So were the concessions. Later there would be condominiums overlooking turn one, lights, and drivers with agents, handlers, motorcoaches, and charm-school diplomas.

Charlotte Motor Speedway. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevrolet)
Charlotte Motor Speedway. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevrolet)

Today I often hear people talking about how races at Charlotte are boring. This saddens me because I remember many races, and even more moments, at Charlotte that were, well, self-evidently, obviously, memorable.

Because I remember them now better than what happened two weeks ago.

In the 1980s, I was working as the combination sports editor of the local weekly and sports director of the local AM radio station. Mainly what this meant was that I got up at 5 in the morning to tape a local sports segment that ran “on the hour” all day long and chitchatted on a talk show for a couple hours.

Charlotte was also the most promotion-minded NASCAR track, and its promotions were the most outlandish. No telling what would be in a package from CMS. A crumpled can of Coors after Bill Elliott tangled with Dale Earnhardt in The Winston, for instance.

Bill Elliott. (John Clark photo)
Bill Elliott. (John Clark photo)

Tickets were often included, presumably so that we could give them away to “lucky fans” through the newspaper or radio. We gave away the tickets to the Busch race, but a friend and I drove up to Charlotte one Thursday afternoon and watched qualifying. Nowadays, qualifying crowds often swell well into the hundreds, but, back then, 20,000, maybe 30,000, would watch qualifying. Later, in the 1990s, when I was writing about NASCAR for a living, it might have been more like 40,000 or 50,000.

It was that day, though, that I arrived at the first of what later became “Dutton’s Rules”: The only driver I’d pay to see qualify is Tim Richmond.

Either his pole run was breathtaking, or I got excited a lot easier back in those days. It was undoubtedly a bit of both.

Charlotte's walls weren't Sprint yellow back in 1992. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)
Charlotte’s walls weren’t Sprint yellow back in 1992. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)

I watched the 1992 Winston from the fourth-turn grandstands. It was the last one I didn’t cover as a sportswriter, and I’m glad it was. The night was best watched with the people.

I have vivid memories of Jeff Gordon’s first victory in the 1994 Coca-Cola 600, of how young, naïve and emotional he was when he accepted the trophy from North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt. I think of the time Ernie Irvan drove across the grass and wrecked for no apparent reason in The Winston. I remember the night Jamie McMurray, substituting for injured Sterling Marlin, surprised everyone by winning the fall 500-miler.

I remember driving home from the Indianapolis 500 while listening to the end of the 600 on radio somewhere in Kentucky and doing simple math, trying to figure out how in the world Dale Earnhardt managed to take the lead away from Darrell Waltrip with a green-flag pit stop. Earnhardt went from way behind to way ahead, and I couldn’t figure out how it was possible.

I remember when Charlotte ran the World 600 in May and the National 500 in October. I remember listening on the radio when the crash that claimed the life of Fireball Roberts occurred. I was six.

Jamie McMurray (left) with teammate Kyle Larson. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas photo for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray (left) with teammate Kyle Larson. (HHP/Christa L. Thomas photo for Chevy Racing)

What many today don’t realize is that NASCAR was always a mainstream sport in the Carolinas. It was the same way it is now nationwide. In fact, it may have been bigger here in the 1960s, ’70s and ‘80s than it is today. It’s more likely that I overestimate the events of my youth, but I remember the first time I saw Charlotte Motor Speedway, and it seemed more impressive at that age, in that time, that it does now.

Back then, I listened to races on the radio, learned about baseball games from box scores and read much more than I saw.

Somehow I remember those times more vividly than, oh, last year.

Or yesterday. When I was young.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)

 

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

At one time, I wrote books about NASCAR. Some of them are still available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My proudest accomplishments these days are works of fiction. My latest novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is on sale for $1.99 at Amazon in Kindle edition. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Fashion Cents

So long, A-Rod. Ya whiner. (Monte Dutton photo)
So long, A-Rod. Ya whiner. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 10:04 p.m.

Over the years, it’s been my observation that most fans think their favorite (driver, athlete, politician, etc.) is the only guy who tells it like it is, and their least favorite (driver, etc.) is a whiner.

I miss the hoodie.  (Alex Howard photo)
I miss the hoodie. (Alex Howard photo)

I really think it’s terribly unfair for the first round of the baseball playoffs to be winner-take-all, but I didn’t burn as righteously last night when the New York Yankees were being eliminated.

They’re just whiners.

At the moment, on my high-def screen, the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates are massing at home plate in an anticlimactic scrum precipitated by a Buc plunking the Cubbies’ ace, Jake Arrieta.

As my late father was fond of saying, “Chaps love to play.”

With the 2015 Red Sox already a memory, and not a particular fond one at that, I am a bit of a disinterested observer. I’m wearing my standard baseball-watching gear — sweats and a tee shirt — and the top of the stack this night was a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs gray that is exactly like what John Travolta wore in Pulp Fiction, only I bought it in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District before the movie came out, which was in 1994.

I watched it in February 1995, with Mike Hembree, at a cineplex near Daytona International Speedway. Seeing Vincent (Travolta) wearing my tee shirt was one big surprise. The other was when Vincent plunged the needle into Mia’s (Uma Thurman) heart, which may have been the last time I jumped and left the ground.

And I was sitting.

I have lots of really old clothes. This occurred to me when I looked at myself in the mirror with the UC Santa Cruz tee shirt on.

Damn, this thing is more than 20 years old!

I’ve got a Fairmont State shirt I bought when I was at that West Virginia college broadcasting a football game more than 25 years ago. It was white with glow-in-the-dark orange lettering. Now it has a slight cream tinge to it because I unwisely wore it to a dirt track once.

I have caps that are easily that old. The Watkins Glen Senecas cap is going to disintegrate any time now. I’ve started to upgrade a bit. The age of the cap I was wearing at a high-school scrimmage actually became a topic of discussion in the stands. It’s black with “Clinton” in script on the front in red and white. It’s from sometime in the 1980s. I have a red cap with CHS across the front that is from the ’90s. About a month ago, I bought a new cap that is gray with a red bill and a red block C on the front. It might well be the last one I’ll ever own. Clinton one, anyway.

Just yesterday I bought a new hoodie because from now until next spring, it will be my most commonly worn item of the clothing that isn’t on my feet. Hoodies don’t last long. I always leave them somewhere. When I left my beloved Red Sox pullover at a rained-out Presbyterian College baseball game, well, I hope whichever PC student picked it up is actually a Boston fan.

Yes. I still have a couple of my old football jerseys in the closet.

Some people love their pets.

 

(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

The tee shirts come in handy when I’m writing fiction, too. My latest, Crazy of Natural Causes, is a KindleScout winner that is on sale for $1.99 right now. You say you don’t read books on your phones? What’s $1.99? Give it a try. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

 

‘I Don’t Think the Heavy Stuff’s Coming Through for Quite a While’

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. (Monte Dutton photo)
Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
(Monte Dutton photo)

Watery Hell, South Carolina, Saturday, October 3, 2015, 10:35 a.m.

I’d like to just sit at home like I am now, wearing sweats and a “Republic of Texas” tee shirt I bought satirically in May. I’d like to watch South Carolina at Missouri, and Alabama at Georgia, and Notre Dame at Clemson.

But nooooooo.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

I’ll probably watch the first game, the Battle of Columbia, but then I’ll drive up I-26, which might as well be a canal delivering bad weather into the mountains, and try to listen to the Presbyterian at Western Carolina game until it fades out in about Simpsonville, and then I’ll wade into Paladin Stadium to watch the Bulldogs of South Carolina State play the Paladins of Furman, and then I’ll write about it.

I need to hustle. It would be beneficial to get done writing and out onto the highway ahead of the Clemson fans. Whether they’re joyous or angry doesn’t matter. They’ll be a handful on the interstate, particularly with rain pelting down.

The Furman game will be over sooner, but most of the Clemson fans won’t have to write a story afterwards, though many would undoubtedly like to go see Dabo.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to see Furman play. I just don’t want to travel there and back. If I had an email pop up on my iPhone with the heading “Paladins, Bulldogs to play Monday,” it would please me, though not enough to dance like Dabo.

It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. By gosh, if the Tigers can play, the Paladins can play. Similar sentiment was in place at the Alamo.

The state is a sieve, sucking in rain from the Atlantic. Meanwhile, the bandit Joaquin (Murrieta?) steals away into the open waters, claiming he has spared us.

 

(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Crazy of Natural Causes, my third novel, is on sale for $1.99 on Amazon. Reading a book, even (especially) an e-book, will take your mind off the weather, and you can buy it in seconds. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

Most of my other books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

 

Bring on the Weather

Clinton's Tay Cook (3) squares off against his Broome counterpart. (Monte Dutton photo)
Clinton’s Tay Cook (3) squares off against his Broome counterpart, James Hall. (Monte Dutton photo)
Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 2, 2015, 11:51 a.m.

The Red Devils are now past the halfway point of Andrew Webb’s first season as head football coach. The record is 2-4, which is not as good as everyone would like, but it is better, at this point, than last year’s mark.

Thursday was great in that Broome High School had the foresight to move the game ahead a night and, as a result, here in Clinton, we can stay in and get ready for what is apparently the mother of all stormy days tomorrow. In case you haven’t been watching The Weather Channel, we are so … uh … doomed.

Nah. We’re screwed.

Everyone on TWC is 100 percent sure that this is going to be “a major event.” Like the Super Bowl. The Daytona 500. Squealin’ on the Square. Mule Day in Columbia, Tennessee.

All wrapped up in one. Go get some bread and bottled water. Hunker down.

But I digress.

Broome coach Jet Turner talks to quarterback Hunter Weber. (Monte Dutton photo)
Broome coach Jet Turner talks to quarterback Hunter Weber. (Monte Dutton photo)

Broome, which was in about the same boat (pun intended) as Clinton, won, 17-14. The diplomatic way would be just to write the score and leave it to that, but honesty compels me to report that it wasn’t a close game. When there were 43 seconds left in the whole game, Broome led 17-0. After the horn sounded, it became 17-12, and then, long after the horn sounded, it became 17-14.

Overall, 2-4. In Region 3-3A, 0-1. The Centurions are 3-3 and 1-0. Lancaster visits Wilder Stadium next week. All I can tell you about Lancaster is that it’s “lan-kuh-STER,” not “LAN-kas-ter.”

Clinton's RIley Seals (50) and Clayton Padgett (63). (Monte Dutton photo)
Clinton’s RIley Seals (50) and Clayton Padgett (63). (Monte Dutton photo)

Webb said after the game that the Red Devils and the Centurions were evenly matched, and that seemed reasonably true. Clinton didn’t score in the first half, or for the first 47 minutes and 18 seconds of the game, but Donovan Blackmon’s 65-yard touchdown run got called back by a holding penalty in the first half, and as everyone who ever cheered for a losing team said at least once and, more likely, many times, it could have been a completely different ballgame.

Actually, I doubt it, though the Red Devils would have won, I guess, had they still managed to score 14 points in the final 42 seconds. Broome had quite a few penalties, too, several of which erased similarly big gains.

The Centurions were pitching a shutout until the final minute. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Centurions were pitching a shutout until the final minute. Zach Burdette (54) of Broome. Rakevis Brown (41) of Clinton. (Monte Dutton photo)

The most discouraging aspect from my vantage was that it was the first time Clinton played a team whose linemen were not significantly larger than its.

Broome hurt the Red Devils badly with a set of Jacksons, Dazhon and D’Marco (the latter of which I heard called “Action” by the announcers sitting next to me at least a dozen times) and Jeters, Jarius and Lorenzo. Then there was Zeke Stringer, who sacked Red Devil quarterback Charlie Craven three times and up close and personally fouled him another.

Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)
Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)

Webb, whose father, Jimmy, was a teammate of mine 40 years ago, is doing his best. He has installed a new system, one that must be best because three quarters of the teams in the state are running it. The offense, which stares longingly at the sideline before each of its plays, is now getting them off without having to take a time-out. The hurry-up offense is gradually hurrying up.

In each of the first three games — Clinton won one of them — the team had one horrible quarter. On Thursday night, the Red Devils had 42 magnificent seconds.

Most encouraging was the play of backup quarterback Donte Reeder, who showed considerable athletic skill in his first game. He had been injured since a preseason scrimmage. The move wasn’t made to jump-start the offense. Craven was just “too banged up to go” in Webb’s words.

Brown (41), Zikail Livingston (25) and George. (Monte Dutton photo)
Brown (41), Zikail Livingston (25) and George Rice (42). (Monte Dutton photo)

While I was talking to him afterward, Webb used the word “consistent” four times, and it wasn’t because they were.

The team remains behind its coach, who was certifiably truthful when he said, “Our kids aren’t going to quit fighting. I’m proud of their effort. We’ve just got to play better.”

The Red Devils will be back at Wilder Stadium next week. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Red Devils will be back at Wilder Stadium next week. (Monte Dutton photo)

Broome’s Jet Turner said what every coach of a Clinton opponent has said.

“Clinton is a good football team.”

What remains is for the Red Devils and their first-year head coach to prove it in what remains of the season.

Did I mention that Lancaster is 6-0?

 

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

Each of my three novels — The Audacity of Dope (2011), The Intangibles (2013), and Crazy of Natural Causes (new) — has at least a little football in it. The game is the centerpiece of The Intangibles, which is set in the 1960s. You can buy them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Spanning the Coast

The technology is hard to discern. (Monte Dutton photo)
The technology is hard to discern. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, October 1, 2015, 10:10 a.m.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Okay, okay, people have said this about me before. I haven’t said it often, and when I did, it was generally way too late.

But I’m not talking (writing, actually) about my judgment. It’s mine. It’s not going to change much at this point.

I’m writing about the weather.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Supposedly, I’m going to write about football games Friday and Saturday nights. Supposedly, there’s going to be a stock car race in Dover, Delaware, on Sunday afternoon.

I’m not traveling to Dover, but writing about it at home takes just about as much time as it would if I were at the track. I just don’t have to get there and back, which appears to be a significant advantage this weekend.

This morning’s eye-opener was word that it may rain a foot here. A foot! Not in Dover. Right here. Upstate South Carolina. Columbia might get more. I bet the Gamecocks are happy to be in Columbia, Missouri.

Notre Dame at Clemson. Perfect storm.

"Hey! What's up with the weather?" (Monte Dutton photo)
“Hey! What’s up with the weather?” (Monte Dutton photo)

Hurricane Joaquin is sort of like Joaquin Andujar with control problems. He doesn’t know where his pitch is going. This is basically causing meteorologists to drool and blather from the Carolinas to New England. I dialed up the two weather channels on my satellite TV this morning and called up the Dover forecast. The Weather Channel said Sunday was 20 percent. Weather Nation said 70 percent. That was an hour ago. It may be completely different now.

Most likely seat time at Dover.  (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Most likely seat time at Dover. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Everyone is in agreement, however, that Joaquin is not going to hit the West Coast.

Meteorologists are what Harry Truman said about economists: Line them up end to end, and they still point in all directions.

In short, there’s no telling what I’ll be doing, and the same is true for you.

 

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

I suggest stockpiling a few books to read. You can put this one in your phone, or your laptop, or your tablet, or your iPod, and if you load the apps, you can read it in all of them, though I’d recommend only one at a time. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes