Luckily, Clinton Soccer Has No ‘Back in the Day’

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, 9:06 a.m.

I guess I feel about as sane as any author whose novel was just released. I always do something I wish I didn’t, such as start maniacally reading and finding a few small typos and mistakes that have somehow slipped through the cracks even though it went through three drafts and has been exhaustively edited by me and others.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s always something. I believe I could proofread a manuscript — or for that matter, update it — a hundred times, and something would still slip through, and I’m positive each time I’d think of little tidbits to add and others to subtract.

Every project, by necessity, must end.

No need to get excited. All is well. The book is good. I like it in spite of the fact that I wrote it.

I do, however, need time to relax. Tuesday was a good time to ride around and around my mother’s lawn. It was a good time to go to an athletic contest without bringing a notepad or a scoresheet along. It was a good time to go watch sons of friends and acquaintances play soccer at Clinton High School.

DSCF2428Soccer offers long periods of utter frustration punctuated occasionally by divine providence.

Often the providence is at the end. Like NASCAR.

Clinton’s overtime, 3-1 victory over Union County was such a match.

The Red Devils outshot the Yellow Jackets, 27-7, but since the outcome is determined by shots that go in, they trailed, 1-0, until late in the going. The reason I know this is not because I jotted it down — of course, I could have done so in my iPhone — but because I looked it up at GoClinton. Clinton (4-8, 3-2 Region III-3A) scored twice in overtime, and finally the game ended because, as is the means in soccer, a referee gazed at his wristwatch repeatedly and finally proclaimed, “Okay, this enough,” quite likely because he had seen enough.

DSCF2433

Soccer is located between baseball and basketball. Baseball has no clock. Basketball has a clock. Soccer has roughly a clock.

DSCF2431The Red Devils do not mirror in many ways other soccer Red Devils such as Manchester United and the country of Belgium. What I ponder, though, when I am watching them play, is how good they are. This is because I imagine what a Clinton High School soccer team would have looked like in 1976, when there wasn’t one.The best player would probably have been someone who quit either baseball, tennis, or track. He would wear an Army surplus jacket with peace symbols etched in black magic marker. His hair would be long and shaggy, and often, if he kicked the ball well, he would stop in his tracks and stare in wonder at his mighty deed. His teammates would follow his lead rather than the instructions of the coach, who undoubtedly would have known little about what he was doing. A 1976 Clinton squad might have been 4-8, too, if only because all the teams they played would have been similarly composed.

No Parker Duncan, though. He scored two goals and assisted the third.

In other words, I find the current edition of Red Devil soccer to be magnificently proficient.

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

It’s out. Now. Today. Cheap. $3.49. You can’t afford not to!

Forgive Us Our Trespasses falls eight months and eight days after the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. Apparently, my speed is about eight months. It’s a good pace I’m setting. You can order Trespasses here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

He’s Just a Grumpy Old Teddy Bear in the Guise of a Coach

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, March 29, 2016, 8:36 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Butch Clark’s voice carries. From the press box behind the plate at Laurens District High School’s softball field, it is crystal clear.

Tuesday was one of the veteran Raider coach’s better nights. His team upset the Region I-4A leader, Westside, and by a comfortable margin, 11-2.

Here’s my game report: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23305

Once Clark told a batter to call time. Referring to the Westside pitcher, he growled, “Don’t let her hold that ball like that. She’s waiting too long to th’ow it. Step out.”

DSCF2423Another time he told Makaila Irby, his third baseman, who, at the time, was standing on second, that she was going to score no matter where the ball was hit.

“I’m not gonna stop you, Makaila. I’m gonna wave you in. Don’t matter what.”

Asked about it later, Clark laughed and said, “I lied.” It worked, though, on a double by C.J. Ginn. Maybe Clark knew a double was coming. Maybe he could smell it.

Butch Clark
Butch Clark

About midway through the game, I realized why Butch Clark is unique. He coaches girls exactly the same way he would coach boys.

I hesitate to advance stereotypes, but, over the years, I’ve interviewed many men who coached women. (For some reason, girls compete in high school, but as soon as they head off to college, they immediately become women. This is among the many reasons why parents worry.) I can’t remember any who even claimed they coached girls the same way they would coach boys. Girls supposedly require more empathy. It’s not a question of nature. It’s one of nurture. It’s a consequence of the way women are raised. Daddies are hard on sons. They fall in love with daughters. That’s the way my father was. On the other hand, women’s athletics has advanced at a rate only mildly less dramatic than technology.

DSCF2408I never thought I’d text, post, tweet, and book a flight with my phone. I also never thought I’d see a woman dunk. A moon shot, such as the one in the first inning Monday by Westside’s Caitlyn Puckhaber, still catches me slightly by surprise.

Whoa.

In the current school year, I’ve written about dozens of football, basketball, baseball and softball games. Most rules have occasional exceptions, but these aren’t rules. These are just observations.

DSCF2412

DSCF2405Girls have more spirit. They clap and cheer and exhort each other in ways that would make boys rebel. Girls seem more likely to work together. They also get discouraged more easily. Boys seem more likely to sulk. Most of the drama around here comes from kings, not queens. Some girls sulk. Some boys work splendidly together. It’s not the way to bet, though.

DSCF2420My guess is that Clark doesn’t spend great stretches of time ruminating about such matters. He takes the Popeye the Sailor Man motto to heart: Iyam what Iyam.

Sometimes he yells like a bull moose. He challenges the girls. “You gon’ let her do you like that, Rachel?”

DSCF2411“They know I don’t mean nothing by it,” said Clark, who growls like a grizzly but is just as likely to go by Teddy. “They know that.”

I suggested that he might get away with it by virtue of being a crusty old man.

Again, he threw back his head and chortled.

“You got that exactly right!” Clark exclaimed.

 

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

It’s the big day for Forgive Us Our Trespasses! It’s out. Now. Today. Cheap. $3.49. You can’t afford not to buy it!

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

Trespasses falls eight months and eight days after the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. Apparently, my speed is about eight months. It’s a good pace I’m setting. You can order Trespasses here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them.

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

 

 

 

Bound for the Firth of Forth

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 28, 2016, 2:05 p.m.

I guess I “slept wrong” last night because my first sensation upon awakening was a pain in my left butt cheek.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Usually, if at all, it’s my right butt cheek.

On to something more civilized, which almost everything is.

I wrote a NASCAR column. I completed some paperwork. The phone rang, and I talked about books and politics for most of an hour. While I was in the mood, I called my mother and we also talked about books and politics. Now I’m blogging.

I have to mow her lawn, at least before mine is ready again. The taxes aren’t done but are within range. I’m going through the agonizing process of turning a novel that is virtual into one that is paper. I’m doing lots of the work myself. It’s cheaper that way.

Hint: It's baseball-related.
Hint: It’s baseball-related.

Late this afternoon, I’m going to rummage around a construction project*, take some snappy photos, and write a story, that may or may not be snappy, about it.

Also, softball-related.
Also, softball-related.

I’m thinking about the upcoming trip, which is dangerous. Not the trip (I hope). The thinking about it.

Apparently, it’s Dirk Bogarde Day on TCM. Smithsonian is obsessed with plane crashes. That’s what I always want on the day after Easter: Dirk Bogarde crashing. Oh, my gosh! He died in a plane crash! Just kidding. He died of a heart attack at age 78. By the way, he was, officially and fully, Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde.

For him to have been Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish, he’d have had to play baseball.

When Bogarde died, he had “Sir” at the beginning of his unwieldy name by virtue of being honored as a Knight Bachelor in the United Kingdom.

I dub thee Duke of Earl. Whack! Wizard of Westwood. Whack! Potentate of Potatoes. Whack! Firth of Forth. Whack …

Bugs Bunny. Always there when you need him.

Wouldn’t it have been great for preceding generations to have access to a library in the form of a phone? That way, they, too, might have never gotten anything done.

*Check that. The “walk-through” of the baseball/softball complex has been postponed. Now I’ll be watching Laurens play softball, and that’s cool, too.

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

That about which I should have been writing is the release of Forgive Us Our Trespasses!

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

The release date of my fourth novel is Tuesday, March 29, eight months and eight days after the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. You can order Trespasses here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

 

Between Here and the Trip

Gainesville, Texas
Gainesville, Texas

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 26, 2016, 1:05 p.m.

Occasionally, I just want to scream. (John Clark photo)
Occasionally, I just want to scream. (John Clark photo)

Basketball is almost over. High school and college baseball is at its peak. MLB is just a little over a week away. NASCAR is off for Easter. It’s drizzling outside. The Red Sox are playing the Orioles in an exhibition game. My grass is freshly cut. My mother’s lawn awaits the next clear day.

Life goes on. Flowers bloom. I came across my favorite headline of the year so far: “Jesus Isn’t a Passing Fad.”

I can’t imagine anyone — not atheists or agnostics, or Muslims, or Jews, or ISIL, or Satan — who considers Jesus a passing fad. Fads cannot last for centuries.

Easter, for instance. It’s been around for quite a while.

This rugged hurler guards the entrance to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. (Monte Dutton photo)
This rugged hurler guards the entrance to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. (Monte Dutton photos, unless otherwise noted)

In a few weeks, I’m going on my annual trip. I’m going to watch some minor league baseball. I may visit the home of an author. I’m going to play some songs, and draw numbers out of hats. I’m going to listen to music better than mine. This trip used to be in September, back when trips were common. Then it moved to May, and this year it’s in April. It used to be out in the country. Then it moved to an indoor livestock arena. Now it’s right downtown, and there are baking contests and silent auctions, and it’s all to benefit the kids in a small county that I would know almost nothing about except that a great friend and lots of good ones live there.

Montgomery first baseman Cameron Seitzer, a couple years back in Jackson, Mississippi.
Montgomery first baseman Cameron Seitzer, a couple years back in Jackson, Mississippi.

Right now I’m planning for the trip by not planning it. I don’t like to head off across range that’s been fenced in. I could probably save some money if I committed myself right now to being in Jackson, Tennessee, or Jackson, Mississippi, or Shreveport, Louisiana, by Wednesday or Thursday night, but I I’d rather make up my mind as I go along. It’ll be lonely enough without being lonely by design.

I hope to see some sights that will provide the spark for fiction or music. The latter is probably more likely on the trip. Something about trips lead to songs.

I’ve still got two full weeks and half another. Major projects must be completed between now and then. The first draft of a fifth novel. Taxes. Getting novels three and four into print editions, where presently they only exist in electronic devices. They’re all major undertakings.

As singeth the Statler Brothers, “Uh, don’t tell me … I’ve nothing to do …”

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

The release date of my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is Tuesday, March 29. It will have been eight months and eight days since the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. You can order Trespasses in advance here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

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

One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them. Crazy of Natural Causes is, at the moment, on sale for $1.99. Limited time only! It’s a download. Supplies are unlimited. Oddly enough, it goes off $1.99 sale on the date my new novel is released. I wonder if that was the plan.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

The Hero Was No Bigger Than a Corn Nubbin

(Photos by Monte Dutton)
(Photos by Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 24, 2016, 10:24 a.m.

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

How does one cover a high school softball game?

One keeps a scorebook, and, based on my two evenings at the old softyard so far, it is liable to be complicated. The girls tend to mess up more scorecards by batting around than do the baseball players.

I break away from the scoring from time to time because the job requires furnishing a few photos, and the “overage” winds up here. I feel something of a morning obligation to write a blog, in part because all those photos are lying around in this laptop, doing nothing. Taunting me.

Hence, I come up with something.

Hunter Benson
Hunter Benson

The Red Devils, and, for that matter, the Abbeville Panthers, gave me plenty of material. The evening didn’t have an auspicious beginning. First, Abbeville won the junior varsity game, 17-1, and I sat behind the plate, wishing I could watch it in fast motion with a rinky-dink piano playing.

The varsity Panthers scored three runs in the third and two in the fourth. Uh, oh.

Winning pitcher Katie Roland
Winning pitcher Katie Roland

It was 5-1 when the Red Devils batted in the bottom of the fourth, an inning that didn’t seem like it had an ending. Clinton scored seven runs off six hits, taking rich advantage of five Abbeville errors, and sending 12 batters to the plate, nine of whom reached base in a wide variety of ways and two of whom were still loitering out there when the inning ended like a steam locomotive grinding to a halt.

The final score was 9-6. The records were Abbeville, 4-4, and Clinton, 5-8. The line scores were Clinton, nine runs, nine hits and four errors; and Abbeville, six, nine and seven.

You may glean more such minutiae here in my GoClinton/GoLaurens account: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23253

 

Benson doubles.
Benson doubles.

Hunter Benson, who drove in three runs, scored one, and provided the game’s only extra-base hit, a third-inning double, is a pint-sized dynamo at short. After the game, I felt a little like Rooster Cogburn interviewing Mattie Ross of Dardanelle in Yell County.

Cassie Nichols
Cassie Nichols

By God, girl, that’s a Colt Dragoon. Now you’re no bigger than a corn nubbin! What are you doing with all that pistol?

My question was more like, “What did this comeback do for the team?”

DSCF2365I extended my recorder, which, these days, of course, is also my phone, not to mention my link to declining civilization, and, to my surprise, it was like I turned on the NBC Nightly News. I may have gulped while I was listening.

Ms. Benson’s remarks are linked in the story above, but I wanted to ask her if she had any ideas for a catchy lead.

DSCF2340I’m in that difficult bachelor’s age where every game story I write includes several people who are sons or daughters of people with whom I grew up. It’s good. Every time I left the scorer’s table to go take photos, I stopped on the way and the way back to chat with someone, and when a ground ball would whistle through the legs of a third sacker, I’d say “excuse me,” retrieve my pen and write a straight line with “E5” on the back of my left hand.

The watchful eyes of head coach Joseph Terry.
The watchful eyes of head coach Joseph Terry.

I’m sure I’m the only person who ever used a cheat sheet on the grounds of Clinton High School. Okay, it’s Clinton Middle School now, but back in my day, when men were men and swallowed dozens of salt tablets after football practice, these were the hallowed grounds of CHS.

They remain hallowed, though greatly renovated to meet the needs of younger leaders of tomorrow.

After a slow start, the Red Devils are learning how to win, which was the gist of what both Benson and head coach Joseph Terry said as I stood across from them outside the dugout (Benson) and in the left-field grass (Terry).

I drove home happy, knowing I had something interesting to write.

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

On March 29, my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be released by Kindle Publishing. It will have been eight months and eight days since the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. You can order Trespasses in advance here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

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

One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them. Crazy of Natural Causes is, at the moment, on sale for $1.99. Limited time only! It’s a download. Supplies are unlimited.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

The Baseball Was Cool But My Fingers Were Cold

Red Devils at play. (Monte Dutton photos)
Red Devils at play. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 9:49 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Haters gonna hate. Politicians gonna lie. Terrorists gonna terrorize. Thank God there’s baseball to save the republic.

The weather was chilly on Tuesday night, and for some reason, it always seems as if “it’s not that cold” when I go to a ballpark on a March evening to sit behind a table amid public-address pronouncements and blaring “walk-up songs.”

Then, in the late innings, my fingers begin to lose their feeling, but that’s okay because I can’t keep score with gloves on, anyway.

The Sponge
The Sponge

“He changes his intro song every night.”

“Probably looking for some luck.”

Waiting for the game to start.
Waiting for the game to start.

“Hey, what was that pitch?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hey, blue, count?”

“One-and-TWO!”

“Man, did you see that curve Tristan just threw?”

Tristan Smaltz
Tristan Smaltz

Tristan is Smaltz in addition to being 5-0, with 48 strikeouts in five starts, and one save from the final three pitches in the 11th inning the night before. It complicates matters when a baseball team has 14 players, four games this week, and a first one, in Pendleton, that went four innings free on Monday night.

Smaltz gave up three hits in the first two innings and didn’t fan his first South Pointe batter until the third. He retired 10 batters in a row, tossed a four-hit shutout, walked only one and struck out six.

Afterwards, I waited a while as he helped rake the field. He was not, however, selling tickets four hours before the game. That was the athletic director, David Barnes.

Aaron Copeland leads off with a single.
Aaron Copeland leads off with a single.

The Red Devils (11-1, 5-0 Region III-3A, which is easily interchanged with Region 3-AAA) won, 4-0, took a two-game lead on the rest of the loop, and now they’re bound for Abbeville on Thursday night and Spartanburg (on whose east side Gettys D. Broome High School is located) on Friday night.

J.P. Duncan
J.P. Duncan

What makes head coach Sean McCarthy particularly happy is that his cast of heroes is expanding. The seventh spot in the batting order — right fielder and son of a Congressman J.P. Duncan — scored the first run in the third inning and drove in the other three with a fourth-inning double.

I talked to Smaltz, Duncan and McCarthy afterward. Duncan didn’t sound at all like a Congressman. He sounded exactly like a ballplayer.

DSCF2324

What they had to say is included in this report on the game I wrote for GoLaurens.com, which, to serve the county better, also has a GoClinton component: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23244-duncan-and-smaltz-lead-red-devils-past-south-pointe-4-0

DSCF2326Cold or not, The Sponge, a title Voice of the Red Devils Buddy Bridges coined for the ancestral sandlot, is a friendly refuge these days. Before the main event, the Clinton junior varsity conquered South Pointe, 10-0. On the way over, I stopped by to watch for a while as the tennis team polished off Union County.

Moon over The Sponge
Moon over The Sponge

It was pleasant before the sun fell and the full moon rose.

Next year, in the unlikely event that everything goes according to plan, the baseball team will move across the bypass to play the game on the grounds of the actual high school. Clinton Middle School now occupies the building where I once conducted myself with grace and humility.

As Bing Crosby never sang but would have had he lived to see a game at The Sponge, “I’m dreaming of a grass … infield …”

Sean McCarthy and Tyler Kelly (2)
Sean McCarthy and Tyler Kelly (2)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

On March 29, my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be released by Kindle Publishing. It will have been eight months and eight days since the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. You can order Trespasses in advance here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

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

One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them. Crazy of Natural Causes is, at the moment, on sale for $1.99. Limited time only! It’s a download. Supplies are unlimited.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

 

For the Red Devils, It Took a While

Jeremy Simmons pitched 3-2/3 innings against Laurens, two on Monday and 1-2/3 on Thursday. (Monte Dutton photos)
Jeremy Simmons pitched 3-2/3 innings against Laurens, two on Monday and 1-2/3 on Thursday. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, March 18, 2016, 10:56 a.m.

Monte Dutton (Alex Howard photo)
Monte Dutton (Alex Howard photo)

This bright morning began with Kierkegaard offering, via tweet, an opportunity to watch photos of the world’s great volcanic eruptions.

It’s hard to top that.

I bided my time. Watched a little TCM. Edward Everett Horton was impersonating someone else, who, I suspect, was also Edward Everett Horton. Fixed a good breakfast. Folded clothes. Washed dishes. All the while, thinking about the events of last night, when Clinton defeated Laurens, 2-1, in high school baseball.

See, I’ve already written about it once. Here’s the straight dope: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23199-red-devils-hold-off-raiders-2-1

DSCF2287The Red Devils don’t often defeat the Raiders on the diamond. The Red Devils’ state championship, in the school year to date, was at the Science Olympiad. This 8-1 baseball team — 3-0 in Region III-3A, mind you — is becoming big news on the southern side of the county.

DSCF2292
Graydon Hamby

I get my loyalty called into question these days. I’ve seen both teams play a number of times. I go where a man named Billy Dunlap, who runs a website with both GoLaurens and GoClinton identity, sends me. On Tuesday night, I watched the Raiders defeat Hillcrest, 1-0. I would rather have been watching the Red Devils defeat Lancaster, but the primary reason was that The Sponge at CHS is less than three miles from my house, and Ed Prescott Field, which is on the far side of Laurens, is every bit of 12. The Laurens game was quick, economical and dramatic. I enjoyed writing about it.

Hamby and Dakota Webb (14)
Hamby and Dakota Webb (14)

I always enjoy writing about Laurens District High School. I enjoy living in Clinton, and I’m proud of being a graduate of Clinton High School. It’s fun to talk with the coaches and kids at both schools.

Tonight Laurens (7-1, 3-0 Region I-4A) is at Hillcrest, and Clinton is at Union County, which is to say, Union. I am at home, most likely reading a so-called book on this very device and looking up when announcers with names like Ian Eagle start yelling.

Davis Cunningham drove in the first run.
Davis Cunningham drove in the first run.

Clinton and Laurens played from Monday night till Thursday night in imaginary fashion. From the time a Clinton batter named Dakota Webb got hit by a pitch and somehow caused lightning to strike, baseball time stood still, daylight savings time be damned, from 8:05 p.m. on Monday until 7:05 on Thursday. Right up until Webb scored on a single by Davis Cunningham, at the end of a span of 95 hours, 7 minutes, the game was tied.

Then, in the bottom of the fourth, when the Raiders’ Thomas Jones slammed a solo home run with two out, the game was tied again.

With one away in the top of the fifth, Clinton catcher Chandler Todd walloped a drive of his own, about the same distance as Jones’ but directed the opposite way, and the Red Devils led again, this time for good.

With one away in the bottom of the fifth, the Laurens catcher, Jalen Bragg stood on third base, having begun the inning with a single. Left fielder Layton Mahon bunted, but Bragg didn’t break for the plate. I suppose it was a “safety squeeze,” but the bunt was back to the pitcher, Taylor Bailey, whose wary eye kept Bragg still and he threw to first to retire Mahon.

DSCF2276
Dakota Webb (14) and Ethan Jones
Chandler Todd
Chandler Todd

No sacrifice. No run. The Raiders never had another baserunner. Bailey got the win. Aaron Copeland got the save. Copeland spent the first 6-2/3 innings, and close to 96 hours, theoretically, at short. In reality, he spent time in class, practicing, eating, sleeping, watching TV, perhaps even doing homework, and helping defeat Lancaster. This much is known.

Jared Cvetko went the distance: seven innings, four days.
Jared Cvetko went the distance: seven innings, four days.

One Clinton player gave me a hard time because he had seen me in the Laurens dugout, shooting photographs during the first inning Thursday, which was the third inning, overall. I told him that, when one tries to shoot photos from the third-base side, he mostly is limited to pictures of players’ asses, of which I am not particularly fond. Perhaps I might be more inclined to take photos from the third-base side in softball games, though it would not be a conscious decision, I can assure you.

The explanation made him laugh, which was the intention.

Charlie Craven
Charlie Craven

Beating the Raiders undoubtedly means more to Clinton, the smaller school, than to Laurens, but it didn’t mean that LDHS head coach Dale Nelson wasn’t pissed. While I was interviewing Todd and his head coach, Sean McCarthy, Nelson appeared to be trying to bring his disciples to Christ, or, perhaps, it was the mythical riot act he was reading. I stayed at a safe distance, so I can’t speak for the content.

Nelson told me and another local recorder of things sporting that if we wanted to talk to him, it was going to take a quite a while, because he had banished the team to right field, where there, more of the fear of God was evidently imparted.

“You want a quote?” he asked, pursuing the wayward flock. “Say we got outplayed.”

I don’t expect the latter game between these budding powerhouses to be any less intense. I’m circling my calendar for The Sponge on April 11.

Brayden Gibbs
Brayden Gibbs
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

On March 29, my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be released by Kindle Publishing. It will have been eight months and eight days since the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. You can order Trespasses in advance here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

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

One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them. Crazy of Natural Causes is, at the moment, on sale for $1.99. Limited time only! It’s a download. Supplies are unlimited.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

 

 

Now Back to Laurens

Clinton's Davis Cunningham and Laurens' Graydon Hamby. (Monte Dutton photos)
Clinton’s Davis Cunningham and Laurens’ Graydon Hamby. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 9:57 a.m.

Laurens catcher Jalen Bragg
Jalen Bragg

Last night I watched Laurens edge Hillcrest, 1-0. The only run was unearned. Very unearned. A Raider baserunner, G.L. Compton, scored all the way from first base after the Ram pitcher yanked a pickoff throw into the far reaches of foul territory down the right-field line. The throw to the plate sailed over the catcher’s head.

That was in the third inning. LDHS’s starter, Ethan Jones, made up with tenacity — twice he struck out consecutive batters with a Hillcrest runner in scoring position — what he lacked in what the pitching coaches call “stuff.” Jones has stuff. It just wasn’t his best on this particular Tuesday. He had to bear down. The tension never subsided.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The losing pitcher, Cole Phillips, allowed two hits and struck out nine. He issued a walk, but the mistake that cost him the game wasn’t even a throw to the plate.

To Laurens coach Dale Nelson, the win was ugly but beat the alternative. To the Hillcrest Rams, it was a crushing setback. To me, it was something to write.

Layton Mahon saved the win once with a diving catch in center, where he was briefly situated while the Raiders’ best player, Thomas Jones, was shaken up. Two innings later, back in left, Mahon threw out Hillcrest’s Carson Vayhinger at the plate.

Still 1-0. One to nothing would it stay.

Chandler Todd and Coach Sean McCarthy.
Chandler Todd and Coach Sean McCarthy.

Meanwhile, at The Sponge …

The Sponge is what the Clinton Red Devils have taken to calling their home diamond. It’s a sandlot that was in use when I was a Red Devil, though not a Red Devil baseball player, more than 40 years ago. It’s at the old high school, which is now Clinton Middle School, and next year it will be replaced by a new facility at the almost-new high school, which is only, oh, a mile away.

Mark my words. Twenty years from now, Clinton High School will still be known as “the new high school.”

Jeremy Simmons
Jeremy Simmons

Both the Raiders (7-0) and the Red Devils (6-1) are faring well. Both are 3-0 in their respective organizations of play, Region I-4A for Laurens and Region III-3A for Clinton.

They started playing each other Monday and they will resume Thursday. Lightning interceded in behalf of a scoreless tie with Clinton batting, none away and a Dakota Webb on first base. Monday’s last pitch hit Webb instead of his bat.

Here come the Raiders.
Here come the Raiders.

The world didn’t stop. The schedules didn’t either. While Laurens was slipping past Hillcrest, Clinton was clobbering Lancaster, 7-0. The Red Devils’ lithe lefty, Tristan Smaltz, gave up four hits over six innings, striking out 11. By my count, Smaltz has fanned 41 so far this season.

Jared Cvetko
Jared Cvetko

I don’t know as much about the Raiders as Nelson. Nor do I know as much about the Red Devils as Sean McCarthy, but I’ve probably seen more of the two teams combined than anyone that, well, I can think of right now.

Laurens is better at manufacturing runs. Clinton mostly just hits away, and if they manufacture, it is less likely to work. Hitting away is what the Red Devils should do. The Raiders put pressure on a defense. For instance, it is common for a Laurens baserunner to reach second base on a sacrifice bunt and just keep on getting it to third. In many instances, when a LDHS runner is between second and third, he is running only slightly faster than two players of the opposition trying to get there, too. I enjoy watching this.

Aaron Copeland
Aaron Copeland

On the other hand, Lancaster had been 2-0 in region play when the Bruins arrived in Clinton on Tuesday, and after three Clinton batters — Aaron Copeland, Brayden Gibbs and Smaltz — collected two hits apiece, and Chandler Todd was one for one, the Red Devils took sole possession of first place with relative ease. I’m sure there was more tension than what I gathered from hearing the numbers. I was at Ed Prescott Field absorbing a pitchers’ duel.

After the two teams settle the final five innings, they are scheduled to play again at The Sponge on April 11. I rather enjoy watching both teams play.

Against Hillcrest, Ethan Jones (right) was the winner, and Morgan French (23) earned a save.
Against Hillcrest, Ethan Jones (right) was the winner, and Morgan French (23) earned a save.

Here’s the link to my story on the Hillcrest at Laurens game: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23176-pitching-defense-lifts-raiders-over-hillcrest-1-0

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

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels.

One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them. Crazy of Natural Causes is, at the moment, on sale for $1.99. Limited time only! It’s a download. Supplies are unlimited.

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

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out March 29 and is available for advance sale now. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

 

A Place in Heaven for Red Devils

Scan1Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 12, 2016, 12:17 p.m.

Early on Friday afternoon, I drove the familiar highway, 76, that leads from here to Joanna. When I got there, I turned off on a back street and drove by the house where an old girlfriend used to live, oh, 40 years ago or thereabouts. I imagine five families have lived there since, or, maybe, that girl’s mother and dad still live there, though it’s likely one or both have died by now.

I noticed how the community has a Dollar General Store of its very own now, but it was sad to see the ruins of the old textile mill, and it bothered me that all the rich men who made all the money from all that cotton didn’t even have the decency to clean the mess up when they shut down and moved away.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I looked at the ancient, gnarled trees that filled a block across the street from the First Baptist Church, and I thought about the stories those trees could tell.

What brought me there was a funeral of a good man who asked little in return for his goodness. Bobby Joe Simmons had died on Tuesday, at age 81, in a Columbia hospital. According to what I heard, he’d undergone heart surgery, and, for a while, it looked like he was going to be fine, but then he took a sudden turn for the worse and was gone almost before anyone knew death was imminent.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

For decades, Bobby didn’t just head up the Clinton High School Boosters Club. He was the Clinton High School Booster Club. Back in those days, the common belief was that a booster club didn’t need to get too big for its britches. It needed to be there for the kids, but it didn’t need to be so big that it became a hindrance. It didn’t need to become a hotbed of discontent. The way it worked back then was that Keith Richardson, the great Red Devil football coach, called Bobby up and allowed as how they could use a little help to buy some new helmets, or the shoulder pads were getting a little worn, or they needed money they didn’t have to buy a new blocking sled.

Charlie Craven (10) connects with Tay Cook (3) as Kris Holmes (21) tries to help out. (Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

On such occasions, Bobby would commence to raise some money. As Buddy Bridges said in the eulogy, he ran the Red Devil boosters out of the trunk of his red car. Sometime he might set up a folding table at a produce stand that became a fireworks stand around various holidays. He’d peddle tee shirts, bumper stickers, license plates, and put a cap on the table, upside down, so that folks who didn’t want to buy anything could leave a dollar bill or maybe a five if it was payday.

The eighth and most recent state championship was in 2009.
The eighth and most recent state championship was in 2009.

No one who knew Bobby was the least bit surprised to learn that he worked at Monsanto for 28 years without ever missing a day. He probably played hurt as much as the ballplayers did.

Back in those days, it wasn’t the athletic booster club, as it is today. If the drama department needed some paint to do props for the play, Bobby would sit behind his folding table and try to help. The high school had lots of teachers who probably never knew the booster club was there for them. I doubt it bothered Bobby. He had enough to do just trying to help the people who knew he existed.

I prefer live crowds like this one. (Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

He was a pleasant, mischievous fellow. He had a twinkle in his eyes. He used to call one county newspaper the Agonizer (pronounced “aye-guh-nye-zer”) and the other the Comical. At various times, I worked for both of them, but Bobby just loved to laugh. He didn’t mean anything by it but comedy.

I also worked for a while at the Greenwood Index-Journal. I called it the Index Finger. It was Bobby’s fault.

Donaven Blackmon will play at Newberry College next year. (Monte Dutton photo)
Donaven Blackmon will play at Newberry College next year. (Monte Dutton photo)

I spent 20 years of my life getting figuratively drug along by stock cars, and I didn’t see Bobby much, but when I did, at a Red Devil or a Presbyterian College athletic contest, I always stopped to chat for a while. People like talking to people who laugh at their jokes and tell their own to return the favor.

“That’s about the funniest dern story I ever did hear, but did you hear about the time old man Turner hooked his son in the ear fishing?”

“Naw. Why don’t you tell it?”

The Clinton High logo dates back to 1972. (Photo courtesy Tex Glenn and Dale McWatters)
The Clinton High logo dates back to 1972. (Photo courtesy Tex Glenn and Dale McWatters)

The last time I saw Bobby when he wasn’t looking up at me from a casket was about this time a year ago in a supermarket. I noticed he’d gotten older. Undoubtedly, he noticed the same about me, but we both had the class not to mention it. It was like every conversation I ever had with him. I enjoyed it.

What I take no joy in is writing this column about one of the little-known heroes that shape small towns and schools when it’s too late for that hero ever to know how much he meant to me. It’s a detestable trait most humans have. If we tell people what we think of them, apparently, we’re worried they may not say as much nice in return. Or we’re worried they might get “the big head.”

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

People in small towns worry about big heads.

Bobby Joe Simmons, while his placid, pale face was looking solemnly out of a cushioned box, had a soul that, somewhere, was trading old stories with Charles Norman, Dick Vaughan, Allen Petty, R.P. Wilder, Charles Cummins, Cal Gault, Derwent Long, Robert Lee and a hundred other Red Devils who were around way back when and aren’t anymore.

Batesburg-Leesville's QuaJae Wingfall (11) and Clinton's Jalen Carter.
(Monte Dutton photo)

This great supporter of Clinton High School was a great citizen of one of the little outposts out on the School District 56 frontier. The Joanna of my youth was a hard-nosed textile burg. I don’t think a soul lived there who hadn’t, at one time or another, fought with and against everybody else in town. Together they’d fight anyone who had a discouraging word about Joanna. It isn’t even incorporated. The folks from there speak of it as if it were a principality, one where even a poor man was a king in his way.

Tristan Smaltz.
(Monte Dutton photo)

Those of us who were Clintonians were in the majority, but we were second-class teammates to the boys from Joanna, and they represented the true heart of four state and six upstate champions in the 1970s alone.

No one loved the Red Devils more, though a lot loved them. No one was more loyal to Richardson and the coaches who followed him than Bobby.

No one was a nicer fellow.

One would think being the Clinton High Booster Club — no one felt the need to call Bobby the president because if there was a secret shake, the secret was between his left hand and his right — would convey a certain prominence. It didn’t, at least not for those who generosity was beyond Bobby’s reach. Richardson knew who he was. The kids who played sports did.

It was all he needed. I’ll miss him. Lots of folks will.

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

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels.

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

One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them.

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

Trying to Get Reacquainted with the Old Microphone

Rhythms on Trade, Greer, South Carolina (Monte Dutton photos)
Rhythms on Trade, Greer, South Carolina (Monte Dutton photos)
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 10, 2016, 11:11 a.m.

The highlight of many recent years has taken place in Texas, hard against the Red River and the Oklahoma border, in a small city known as Gainesville, where my friend Vince Pawless builds his remarkable handmade guitars and raises money for a Cooke County charitable organization called VISTO.

Next month, when, by rule, my income taxes must be completed, I will likely make my lonely way across the South, gearing the route either south through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, or drifting north through North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Or some combination of the two. It may depend on which minor league baseball teams are playing at home. I’ve already uncovered possibilities in Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson, Tennessee. Two years ago, I watched the Mississippi Braves play near the other Jackson and the Frisco Roughriders north of Dallas, Texas, last year. Three or four years back, I saw the Montgomery Biscuits get figuratively slathered in molasses.

Gainesville, Texas
Gainesville, Texas

I will serve as the master of ceremonies for something known as VISTO Days 2016. I’m opening a concert on Saturday night in the State Theater.

I’ve been taking part in this hootenanny for enough years to have forgotten exactly how many. It started out in the country as Pawlessfest. For a year it was at an indoor arena at the fairgrounds. Now it’s part of a general festival that raises money to help kids in Cooke County. Playing songs for a half hour or so will be a minor part of the job. More important will be hyping the various activities, drawing tickets out of a box, or a hat, or something, introducing bands, and snapping the occasional photo or video from the wings.

My experience is that being an emcee requires a knack for keeping things on schedule while being as little of a jerk as possible. Last year wasn’t one of my better performances, but there wasn’t really enough for me to do. I was planning on passing it up this year, but Vince wrote me an email before I wrote him one, and realized I needed more to do, and promised me I would have it.

In other words, I’ve gotten what I wished for, also known as, possibly, enough rope to hang. Fortunately, I’ve been to rodeos before. It would be great if this was one.

Click right up. Read all about it: http://www.vistoevents.com/#!2016-concert-for-visto/c1fx5

DSCF2128Now that I don’t hop, skip and jump around the country regularly, I also don’t play as much music onstage. Back in the NASCAR days, I regularly played at little joints — barbecue, seafood, sports bar, combination of the three — near tracks, and a few people would stop because they’d heard of me or because they were fellow gypsies on the world’s fastest carnival circuit. Sometimes they’d even drink enough to think I was good.

It’s still over a month away, but, man, I’ve been planning. I’ve been taking breaks from writing things like books to play my guitar and practice songs and what I’m going to say while wandering among them. I felt like I needed to play music in front of people, so last night I drove up to Greer and played a couple tunes at Singer/Songwriter Night at a wonderful music venue known as Rhythms on Trade. The last time I was there, it was Rhythm & Brews. Undoubtedly, the new name has something to do with it being located on Trade Street, but a lot of people were there trading rhythms.

It was a talented 15-year-old, Zelena Hull, who I had met last fall there, who sent a social-media message out noting that she and her mother, Valerie, were going to participate. That was Monday or Tuesday. On Tuesday, I started thinking about it, and, on Wednesday, I decided to go, and I became sure of it when I got about 10 miles up Interstate 26 and had no defensible reason to turn back.

So, I had chicken wings and two Michelob Ultras, the latter being because I’m dieting and hadn’t had a beer at all in … months. The wings may have made me bolder, and the beer may have relaxed me, but I wasn’t aware of it. It wasn’t until I got through playing that I realized it may have been the first time ever that I played music in front of a crowd without being nervous. I was so relaxed, I didn’t notice it.

DSCF2130It was a nice crowd. Zelena has the youthful urgency of a kid who desperately wants to show the world how good she is. There was a rocker from Ohio, and several who’ve spent their entire lives in Greer or nearby, and a veteran musician who beat a drug addiction and decided, what the hell, sober I might be able to write some good songs because, hey, I got some real good material.

They were all right, which led me to say, several times, “All right!”

DSCF2133The other time I was there was last fall, and I didn’t remember what songs I played, but Zelena and her mother both remembered “Scuppernongs and Muscadines,” and though that memory proved that they liked it, I didn’t want anybody to say that I did all right but played the same two songs every time. I’ve got at least two dozen I could just play right off, and probably that many more that require a few run-throughs because I’ve damn near forgotten I wrote them.

I went with old standbys, though. I performed an inspirational song, “Your Independence Day,” and then hyped my novels, so that the patrons could understand I have more to fall back on than my idiosyncratic fingers bumping a row of strings. Valerie was kind enough to video my “set,” and I returned the favor by shooting Zelena’s. I got home and spent half the night editing the video on YouTube. Here’s “Your Independence Day”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooXMMkLcxr4

DSCF2135I finished with one of the first songs I wrote after I achieved the necessary goal of being able to play a guitar roughly halfway. The first verse of “There You Are” is made up of observations of people I used to encounter in NASCAR media centers. Then it moves on to various and sundry other foolishness.

Here’s “There You Are”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTRglclX0Xg

I’m quite pleased, which is unusual, because, ever since I wrote a book about musicians and songwriters, I’ve been painfully aware of how bad I am.

I was relaxed, though, not just acting like it. I’m good at acting like it. The sudden profusion of sweat keeps me from fooling myself. Last night, I was goose-like loose. Wait. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I wasn’t that kind of loose. I was relaxed, and, as a result, bold with my voice, and playing it, as an instrument, much better than the one hanging from my neck.

I might just go somewhere and play music tonight.

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

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read.

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

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

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

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.