Baseball, Softball, and Other Important Stuff

Photos by Monte Dutton
Photos by Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 29, 2016, 11:52 a.m.

It’s been a busy day. I’ve finally gotten the print version of my 2015 novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, out and available to the public. I might even get the new one, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, out by the end of the day.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Writing is what I do. It’s what I love. It might be the only thing I can do, as a practical matter to make ends meet, at this point in my illustrious career.

What I love isn’t layout, as the wretched years I spent doing that for a living attest. Now that this process is ending, and I’ve put out a collection of short stories, Longer Songs, too, I can get back to finishing my modern western, Cowboys Come Home, finished.

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

The reason Crazy and Trespasses were originally published as Kindle books — let me hasten to add that it doesn’t mean one has to have a Kindle to read it, thanks to the miracle of free apps for iThings and other cell phones and tablets — was that Amazon’s KindleScout program provided money up front. I retain the rights to the print versions, and by using another miracle, Amazon’s CreateSpace, by completing the layout and design of these books myself, I can get them published on demand and start making a little money month to month on their sales.

This isn’t the primary reason for this blog. It’s typical of me that I get past the digression in the fifth paragraph.

DSCF2804The playoffs have started. Last night wasn’t so much fun. Gaffney upended Laurens in the first round of Class 4A softball. A little Indian with a powerful right arm, Olivia Henson, beat the Raiders, 4-0, and Laurens didn’t help matters by playing poorly in the field. I’m very fond of LDHS’s folksy coach, Butch Clark, who, based on the final regular-season game, saw it coming. Last night he said his team couldn’t have beaten Hickory Tavern Little League, and when I suggested the tikes in Hickory Tavern, a crossroads most noted for used-car sales, might be insulted, he said he didn’t think they played Little League up there anymore.

Here’s my account of the game at GoLaurens.com.

It’s double-elimination, so the Raiders get a chance to make some amends tonight against Mauldin.

DSCF2321I won’t be there. I’ll be at the field known locally and unofficially as The Sponge, which will be replaced next year by a new facility with a grass infield, to watch the Clinton High Red Devils (20-1) take on Daniel. Clinton won its region (currently III-3A) for the first time in 22 years, and, regardless of what happens from here, the season has been extraordinary.

These last few days, most which have been spent amid the aggravating trial and repeated error of book layout, have found me feeling quite a bit like a bucking horse getting out of his stall when I backed the trusty Dakota out of the garage.

DSCF2802I enjoy getting out to write about ballgames. The kids at CHS and LDHS are as interesting as the race drivers about whom I used to write. I enjoy travel to Laurens more than travel to, oh, Detroit, or Manchester, or, especially Philly, scene of many long days of loitering in the airport waiting for delayed flights. Some of it I miss. Talladega was always fun on and off the track, but life goes on, and now I write books, but the fact that I still like writing sports is obvious given all these blogs I still crank out.

All I miss writing about NASCAR at home is seeing the delightful disorder in person.

Dale Earnhardt, last of the red-hot racers, 1978. (File photo)
Dale Earnhardt, last of the red-hot racers, 1978. (File photo)

The disappointment of the Raiders’ softball loss was assuaged by the fun of chatting with LDHS athletics director Mark Freeze on the landing at the top of the stairs outside the press box and trading old stories about Dale Earnhardt and others. Freeze is a lifelong racing fan who seems today to be like all the others I encounter.

Man, I used to go to races all the time. I never missed one at Charlotte, or Rockingham, or North Wilkesboro, and I went to them at Talladega till they started running in the fall while I had school to teach. On Sunday, I didn’t even watch the race on TV. I didn’t think about it, to tell the truth.

One doesn’t get that perspective at the track, surrounded by those who still follow NASCAR and are perplexed, mystified, and damn near crestfallen — it’s what happens when Hillcrest loses — that there still aren’t 150,000 in the stands and 40 million watching on TV.

Come to the country. They’re all playing a different tune nowadays. NASCAR’s angriest detractors are the folks who go to the dirt track on Saturday nights.

Josh. Full of mischief.
Josh. Full of mischief.

I wouldn’t be averse to a trip to Laurens County Speedway this Saturday night, but I’m obligated to watch the Columbia Fireflies play the Kannapolis Intimidators with my niece’s three delightful, fun-loving little boys — Alex, Anthony, and Josh — amidst all the bedlam that such activities imply.

 

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

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleMy book of short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, is called Longer Songs, and you can buy it here.

The Audacity of Dope is a tale about a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who becomes a reluctant national hero. He prevents someone from blowing up the plane he’s on, and both hilarity and drama ensue. My first novel is an irreverent, fun read.

The Intangibles is my most personal. Set mostly in 1968, it draws on memories from my childhood and teen-aged years. It’s a story of civil rights, bigotry, and high school football.

Crazy of Natural Causes has a main character who is an outrageous football coach at the beginning, loses everything and has to start over. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a yarn about a corrupt, ambitious politician who wants to be governor and will do anything to achieve it. It has a parallel story of a good cop who’s trying to stop the monster and another of kids gone wild.

To peruse all my books, including most of the non-fiction ones from my NASCAR years, click here.

 

Getting My Head Straight and My Grass Short

image
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, 2:45 p.m.

I just got finished cutting grass, first my mother’s and then mine. Riding around on a mower affords plenty of time to think. I listened to Marty Robbins, Lefty Frizzell, Kris Kristofferson, and, at the end, Elton John.

But it’s all over now / Don’t you worry no more …

imageI also took pictures of wild flowers under a plum tree and a pine tree with one side cut out of it to make room for power lines.

I’d just gotten finished writing about NASCAR and needed something to settle me down. If I hadn’t looked at wild flowers and pine trees, I would have stayed mad.

‘Cause everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on / Prove they can be better than at any time they please / Someone doin’ something dirty, decent folks can frown on / You can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me. — Kristofferson

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleWriting about high school and college kids contents me more than all those years I batted my head against the tree that grows in NASCAR. I can’t make a living that way, but it gives me spending money while I put another book together and wait for someone to discover me so that I can become an overnight sensation after all these years.

At Laurens District High School softball games, John Wayne recites the Pledge of Allegiance, and George Jones sings the national anthem. I like to sing the national anthem. It’s been a superstition of mine since I played football. Also, I’m fond of America. I can’t sing with George Jones, though, and that is a double entendre. I can’t sing with Willie Nelson, either. He likes to start his lines either a count early or a count late. He must be on something, but I sure do like him, anyway.

DSCF2765At other local athletic ballgames, people pay more attention to the walk-up songs than they do the all-important capital letters: ERA, OBP, WHIP, RISP, etc. I know what those mean. Most of the others, I just nod and think, well, I’ll be dogged, I reckon that number must mean he’s good. Or she’s good.

Butch Clark doesn’t waste his time wondering whether or not the rap requested by the right fielder has any words in it that aren’t family-friendly. He just tells the P.A. man to play something country and some country that is old.

I like it. Some people don’t. Butch Clark loses no sleep.

DSCF2784Clinton High School baseball games have an evangelist named Buddy Bridges on the mic. I reckon that’s good for Red Devils, in particular. Buddy isn’t worried about anyone coming to Jesus. He preaches the inspirational gospel of Clinton High. It would work if the music of “Ballad of the Green Berets” played in the background. It’s small-town cool. I like that kind.

Nickie Templeton in front of the Class of 1952.
Nickie Templeton in front of the Class of 1952.

As of the middle of last week sometime, Nickie Templeton is the Director of Athletics at Clinton High School. As some people said at the time, “You know, she’s a woman,” as shes tend to be. I don’t expect the electric grid to fail, at least not because of her. Clinton High School has had its share of good old boys. Nickie is a good old girl. Those are her words, not mine. I think she’ll perk things up. I’m looking forward to it.

My life has so many little things that are better than the big things into which I used to delve. Why, I even had a phone conversation with a person involved in publishing that I enjoyed. Next thing you know, I’m going to enjoy doing my taxes. That’ll be when I start getting senile. On Saturday night, I plan to attend a baseball game with three wild, uninhibited little boys. The dementia may have started. The wild, uninhibited children with whom I used to mingle were race-car drivers.

Imagine Peter Pan with a trophy wife.

Here’s my GoLaurens/GoClinton story on the Hillcrest-LDHS softball game.

My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, grew out of a non-fiction book I wrote about music. It’s about a pot-smoking songwriter who accidentally becomes a national hero.

Then I wrote The Intangibles, a tale set in the 1960s amid civil rights, Vietnam, assassinations, and the effect all that tumult had on a small Southern town and, specifically, its high school football team.

Crazy of Natural Causes is a yarn about a football coach who loses everything, reinvents himself and learns to cope with the slings and arrows of life.

The brand-new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a tale about the rise and fall of a prominent politician and his dysfunctional family. It’s a story of crime, corruption and patronage.

I’ve also written a collection of short stories, Longer Songs, composed of 11 stories, all derived from what were originally songs.

 

Running Out There, Free and Alone

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 22, 2016, 1:56 p.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Until Thursday afternoon, it had been at least 25 years since I covered a track meet. I’d covered about 500 Sprint (and Nextel and Winston) Cup stock car races, and probably about the same number of races in other series, but I hadn’t covered races where athletes used their feet.

Perhaps I should have tried to find some old Flintstones episodes, particularly the one where Fred morphs into Goggles Paisano and wins the Indianrockolis 500. I always liked that episode, perhaps because Ann-Margrock was involved, and she was a babe, even when drawn.

DSCF2737A track meet — the one on Thursday was between the county rivals Clinton and Laurens — is a fascinating dichotomy. In one way, it is a pulsating exercise in exhaustion, complete with young men and women staggering around and trying not to faint after crossing the various finish lines. In another, it is extraordinarily relaxed. They announce a first call and a second call, but it’s generally not until the third and final call when athletes begin to wander over to the vicinity of the starting points. Most of the coaches spend more time operating stopwatches and setting up hurdles than they do actually coaching. The vibe is one of greatly understated pressure, and the best performances often occur amid an atmosphere that quietly exudes “whatever, man.”

DSCF2734The homestanding — and home-running and home-throwing and home-jumping — Red Devils won both the boys’ and girls’ competitions. Track meets are a great place to take photos. Normally, the writer in me looks at photography as a necessary evil. I try to take enough photos so that there is something to use, and then I go back to scribbling observations that will come in handy when I sit down to write.

Distance runners often march, okay, run to the beat of distant drums. I know enough about them to be dangerous. In my twenties, as absurd as this seems now, I jogged a lot. While I was considerably lighter than I am today, I was too heavy to jog as much as I did, and I stopped jogging because it took a terrible toll on my body. Nearing thirty, it started falling apart, and the arthritis in my knees, and the occasional bouts of sciatica, and the lower back pain, and the pain I feel all over when I get out of bed in the morning, owe more to the pounding of pavement on lonely roads than they do from the years of having the slobber knocked out of me playing football on championship teams made up largely of players more gifted than I.

Chandler Sprouse
Chandler Sprouse

I had a fascinating, unconventional conversation with a Clinton High School junior named Chandler Sprouse. I noticed him because of the tattoos he wore on his shoulders. One shoulder had inked upon it a depiction of a whimsical, smiling devil and the other a set of initials that were apparently not his own. When I asked, Sprouse told me they were initials of relatives who had meant a lot to him and then showed me two more tattoos, one on his chest and another his leg. He had already won the 1,600 meters — and lapped half the field — when we started asking each other questions. He was interested to discover that I wrote about more than track meets, and he asked about my four novels, and I told him about them, and one thing led to another, and this morning, when I had to stop by the school for another story, I left one for him to read.

DSCF2731I think he’ll enjoy it, though I gathered that his chief literary interest had been that derived from sci-fi movies — “I’m really into ‘Star Wars,’ he said — and my books have precious little sci-fi in them. They are mostly just “fi,” and not even the kind that begins with “semper.”

DSCF2721What Chandler Sprouse has in abundance is original thoughts. If I talked to him every day, I could probably write sci-fi quite well. He’s smart, rebellious, quirky, original, humorous, independent, anarchic and set in his own dogged ways. I found him immensely likable, even while perched on the ragged edge of paradise and disaster. I think he likes to teeter and tiptoe there.

DSCF2720What he contributed to what had been a frustrating day was provocative thought. The last person on earth I thought Chandler Sprouse would conjure up in my mind was Harry Gant, the stock car racer who retired back in the nineties. Gant, I thought, was the ultimate shade-tree mechanic. He had a barber-shop opinion of almost everything. If I’d asked Harry what he thought of the space shuttle, he would have said, “It don’t make no sense why they put that fin over there on the left side. Any fool ought to know that thing wouldn’t do no good unless they stuck it about two feet lower on the other side.”

DSCF2739I reckon runners and racers both have a lot of time to think.

Sprouse has so much to give and just as much trouble deciding whether or not he wants to. Most kids might turn out to be doctors and lawyers. Chandler might turn out to be a poet or a prophet. I just hope he finds the way. By gosh, he’s looking for it.

Here’s my GoLaurens/GoClinton story on the track meet.

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

My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, grew out of a non-fiction book I wrote about music. It’s about a pot-smoking songwriter who accidentally becomes a national hero.

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

Then I wrote The Intangibles, a tale set in the 1960s amid civil rights, Vietnam, assassinations, and the effect all that tumult had on a small Southern town and, specifically, its high school football team.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes is a yarn about a football coach who loses everything, reinvents himself and learns to cope with the slings and arrows of life.

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

The brand-new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a tale about the rise and fall of a prominent politician and his dysfunctional family. It’s a story of crime, corruption and patronage.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI’ve also written a collection of short stories, Longer Songs, composed of 11 stories, all derived from what were originally songs.

 

On With The Show, This Is It

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, April 21, 2016, 10:29 a.m.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Choose one word to describe Laurens District High School head baseball coach Dale Nelson.

Driven? Competitive? Relentless?

Take your choice.

DSCF2690Baseball players are complex because it is a complex game. It is a team sport built on endless individual matchups. A batter can’t tense up when the pitcher unleashes the ball like a missile into his air space. One pitch zips in, its path rapid but dependable. Then one flutters, and the batter has to wait. A third curves unpredictably.

The batter must relax. The pitcher must relax. Everyone else, too. The pitcher either finds the right place in the strike zone, or he doesn’t. The batter hits it, or he doesn’t. If he hits it, a fielder either catches it, or he doesn’t. It seems simple. It is. It’s also difficult.

DSCF2691

Jared Cvetko
Jared Cvetko

Sometimes Nelson rides his players like they’re Brahma bulls. He admonishes them to pay attention to the task at hand. He suggests that if they dog it while running sprints in the outfield, they will dog it while running the bases. The players eye him warily. While he is out coaching first base, the mood changes, probably the same way that the Baltimore Orioles used to relax, and be entertained, even, when Earl Weaver stormed out to protest an umpire’s call.

What Nelson is trying to do, as the Raiders’ regular season winds down, is tune an engine that started out on all cylinders, started missing and skipping in the middle stages, and, with its long trip entering its final stages, now seems to be revving smoothly again.

Thomas Jones
Thomas Jones

Shortly before Wednesday night’s 5-0 home victory over Greenwood, which was a night after a 6-1 victory over the Eagles on the road, Nelson conceded that LDHS’s midseason slump occurred in part because it misplaced its aggressiveness.

Sometimes the questions are simple but the answers are complex. It’s true in baseball and life. Most people have plenty of time to get their lives straightened out. A high school baseball game lasts seven innings.

The Raiders (15-8, 8-5 Region I-4A) play them one a time, as if there were any other way, but it’s also important to peak at the right time. Once they peaked at 10-0. Then they plunged into an abyss. Now they have climbed out.

DSCF2698
Graydon Hamby (9)

The mountains ahead are even higher. As no less an authority than Bugs Bunny once noted:

Overture, curtains, lights / This is it, the night of nights / No more rehearsing and nursing a part / We know every part by heart / Overture, curtains, lights / This is it, you’ll hit the heights / And oh what heights we’ll hit / On with the show this is it.

There’s nothing wrong at Ed Prescott Field “The Bugs Bunny Overture” won’t fix.

DSCF2703

Here’s my GoLaurens/GoClinton story on Wednesday night’s game.

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

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell 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.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

(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.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

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 Good Time Was Had By … Well … Almost All

The Red Devils get ready. (Monte Dutton photos)
The Red Devils get ready. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 10:17 a.m.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

As a general rule, fans enjoy close competition. Many the home team has failed agonizingly, and after the obligatory teeth gnashing, its fans wind up sighing and saying, “Well, at least it was a good game.”

For the partisan, no bad games exist when his or her team wins. A NASCAR fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. will stifle any talk of a boring race because in his eyes, Junior winning is never boring.

Meanwhile, junior varsity players help get the infield ready for play.
Meanwhile, junior varsity players help get the infield ready for play.

Such was the case with Clinton High School’s 14-2 baseball victory over neighboring Union County. It was the Red Devils’ 15th consecutive victory, and with a game to go, the slate is a perfect 9-0 in Region III-3A. They wrapped up the title last week. Greater ambitions beckon, but it’s already Clinton’s best baseball campaign in many a moon.

Coach Bill Rhodes
Coach Bill Rhodes

Before the final regular-season game at The Sponge, the Red Devils’ quaint and lovable dump, Bill Rhodes, beloved at the school for far more than just his decades of baseball coaching, threw out the first pitch and completely lost touch with his gruff exterior as former players hugged and carried on and on.

I once thought I’d never get done being coached by Coach Rhodes. He coached me in junior high school, and for three years, every time I moved up to the next football level, he did, too. No cause-and-effect relationship existed. He coached far better than I played.

DSCF2640

DSCF2636My most vivid memory is the time I missed part of practice to attend a funeral. Rosemont Cemetery is close to what was then Clinton High School. (It’s near the new one, too.)

During the graveside service, the preacher called for a moment of silence to contemplate the life of the deceased.

Game face from Chandler Todd.
Game face from Chandler Todd.

As we bowed our heads and thought positive thoughts, the sound of Rhodes’ voice, which carried like thunder, could be heard from the CHS practice field at least a half mile away. I don’t know why he was yelling. I wasn’t even there.

He’s a good man. An old-fashioned school man. A man who can quiet a ruckus with the sternness of his gaze. He was a mentor to many a mill-hill boy perched on the precipice between backsliding and being somebody. The pregame ceremony was similar to the ending of “A Boy Named Sue.” They called him Daddy, and he called them Son, and they come away with a different point of view.

I could see a bit of weeping through the lens of my trusty camera.

And if I’d had a son …. I’d’ve named him … Sue or Felicia, anything but Bill!

I kid the Coach. I’ve even forgiven him for the time I practiced several days with four stitches in my chin, protected by cotton and wrapped in tape, only to have him tell me that it was just too risky for me to play against Union.

Tristan Smaltz
Tristan Smaltz

Then it was game time, and that was serious, and everyone tucked their sentimentality into their pants pockets and put their game faces on.

Whoa.

Davis Cunningham
Davis Cunningham

I just got back from Texas, and it looked like the Yellow Jackets were defending the Alamo. The game required only five innings because, unlike Santa Anna, high school baseball believes in mercy, and the Red Devils didn’t even have to bat in the bottom half of the final frame.

DSCF2669During the four innings they did bat, they went 17-for-33 as a team. That’s .548. Ten different players got hits, and 10 of them scored runs, and nine of them had the two in common.

Dakota Webb
Dakota Webb

By the end of two innings, the first three batters in the Clinton order all had triples. The cleanup hitter, J.P. Duncan, already had squeezed in one run and flied to center to sacrifice another. The Red Devils (18-1, 9-0) scored six in the first inning, two in the second and six in the third.

To paraphrase Richard Pryor, they just threw the fourth away.

Region III-3A champs
Region III-3A champs
Smaltz drove in four and struck out seven.
Smaltz drove in four and struck out seven.

Tristan Smaltz, the slight lefty with the nasty curve, struck out seven and allowed only one earned run. Batting right, he collected two singles and a double in four trips, scoring two and driving in four.

Three of Union County’s five hits occurred in the fourth, when, leading by 14, Smaltz and his teammates lost their way for a span of four batters.

 

Aaron Copeland's leadoff triple.
Aaron Copeland’s leadoff triple.

It was almost painful to watch, but, on the other hand, the game was in Clinton. Second baseman Charlie Craven and first baseman Davis Cunningham each got their two hits and retired gracefully to the bench. Not only did the Red Devils score 14 runs. They left the bases full three times. One unfortunate Yellow Jacket hurler allowed nine hits in an inning and two thirds. The poor kid looked like he was tossing chunks of sirloin to a pride of lions.

Where the Red Devils go from here is anybody’s guess, and I mean, literally, anybody’s guess. The schedule says they are to go to Ninety Six on Thursday, but a region game takes precedence, even when one team has already clinched, and South Pointe in Rock Hill may elect to move up the game to Thursday, which would mean the Ninety Six game would have to be canceled, as the vast distance between the two communities rules out any possibility of a day-night doubleheader unless a squadron of helicopters becomes available at no charge.

DSCF2643The larger issue, of course, is the playoffs. Here’s what happens on the day after a team defeats a nearby rival, 14-2. I’m sure I could drive uptown right now and, within minutes, find someone who will tell me he sure hopes the Red Devils don’t get “the big head.”

Me, neither. It never hurts to spin a few cautionary tales when young people are involved. On the other hand, they’re much better at dreams and aspirations.

The Sponge
The Sponge

To read my GoClinton/GoLaurens account of Tuesday night’s game, click here.

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

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell 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.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

(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.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

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.

 

‘I’m Not as Good as I Once Was, but I’m as Good Once …

I spent much of the weekend here. This was from last year. THis year VISTO Days were April 14-16. (Monte Dutton photos)
I spent much of the weekend here. This was taken last year. VISTO Days were April 14-16 this time. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 18, 2016, 12:04 p.m.

I did something on Sunday — and quite a way into Monday — that I don’t think I could have done when I was younger.

This is encouraging. It might not have been wise, but I pulled it off.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

I left Gainesville, Texas, at 9:30 on Sunday morning and drove all the way home. I rolled in about 3 this morning. It wasn’t but 1,060 miles, give or take a few lane changes here and there. My phone kept telling me I was on the best possible route and that I was going to get home at 2:10 a.m. My phone changed it to 3:10 a.m. when I crossed the Alabama-Georgia line and the time became Eastern again. Though stupid about time zones, my phone was right about the ETA.

ETA is air-travel lingo for “estimated time of arrival.” I had informed my house-sitting nephew of my case of temporary insanity so that he would not come after me with a baseball bat when I walked in from the carport, dragging a suitcase, wearing a backpack, and carrying a guitar slung across my back.

My mother is at her house right now, expecting me home tonight. I’m about to call her and admit I’ve lost my mind.

I don’t often listen to a NASCAR race on the radio, but Carl Edwards led me and the Food City 500 across Louisiana. After it was over, I called a colleague to ask hinm what he thought. It always sounds more exciting on the radio, but I enjoyed the PRN broadcast, though. I just didn’t trust what my eyes couldn’t see.

Carl Edwards won the Food City 500. For most of it, I was driving across Louisiana. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Carl Edwards won the Food City 500. For most of it, I was driving across Louisiana. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

My timing was exceptional. Each time I filled up with gas, I also filled up with the boldest truck-stop coffee available. As the trusty Dakota ran out of gas, I filled up with coffee. Another tank of gas. Another trip to the restroom. Another tank of coffee.

I did not plan to drive all the way home. I just kept going. I never got drowsy. I never got jumpy. Satellite radio was my greatest ally. I sang a lot. I listened to a tribute to Merle Haggard and a replay of the Friday night Grand Ole Opry. While I drove through Jackson, Mississippi, I switched to local radio for the broadcast of the baseball game between the Mississippi Braves and the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts were leading, 1-0, when I drove out of range. I thought about stopping and watching the game. I thought about getting a room in Birmingham, Alabama, which is where I stopped the last time I made my annual Texas trip. By the time I got to Atlanta, I decided, well, I’ve gotten this far. I might as well keep going.

I had several such adventures when I was younger, but none was this long, and even though I may have been more, uh, vigorous and youthful, I had far less sense.

DSCF0021There’s a Robert Earl Keen live album in which he talks about joy-riding with friends to a bluegrass festival in Crockett, Texas, “armed with a case of Texas Pride beer and a handful of cheap amphetamines.”

I never fortified such a voyage with illegal pills, but once, I drove with a car full of friends from a basketball game in Charlotte to a football game in Cincinnati, through the night. We were armed with a diet supplement called guarana (NRGs, for “Nature’s Raw Guarana”) that consisted basically of a crushed-up plant, allegedly from the jungles of South America, rife with caffeine. We were popping those NRGs like candy and washing them down with beer. We also made up bawdy verses of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “The Authority Song.” We rolled into one Queen City, Cincinnati, after starting in another, Charlotte, and crossed the Ohio River as the sun rose.

Was that yesterday? No. It was over 30 years ago. As Tom T. Hall sang, quite possibly on my cassette player way back then, “Don’t forget the coffee, Billy Joe.”

Our friend, Stanford Jennings, then played for the Cincinnati Bengals. I’ve probably watched football games more attentively. About all I remember about this one is that it was cold. Also, we met Stanford on the morning of the game, and as I recall, he seemed mildly alarmed at our appearance.

Sunday’s trip was less exciting, but I expect I’ll remember it longer.

I’m a little slow getting started today. I ain’t a kid no more.

I also think I may lay off the coffee today. I got a bad taste in my mouth.

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

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell 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.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

(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.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

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.

 

I Love This Week

Classic Recall (Monte Dutton photo)
Classic Recall (Monte Dutton photo)

Gainesville, Texas, Saturday, April 16, 2016, 9:20 a.m.

I don’t have too much to say this cloudy Texas morning. Everything went fine on Friday. Classic Recall, a local band of musicians who play rock and roll from the 1960s and early ’70s, got a good reception, most obviously from three tiny kids who danced nonstop during the two-hour set.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Today’s music begins at 5 p.m. This guy came all the way from South Carolina to be the emcee, and he’s opening the indoor acoustic show at the State Theatre with a mix of old country tunes and a few he wrote himself.

So as to stop referring to myself in the third person in a blog, I’m really looking forward to it.

Of all places for an emcee from out of state! Texas, where there’s a little bit of everything, and everything stretches for miles and miles.

Literally, a guitar shelf.
Literally, a guitar shelf.

One of the reasons I’m here is that Vince Pawless, maker of splendid handmade guitars, and I are friends, dating back to the music book, True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, which was published in 2007. While I was roaming around Texas, interviewing singer-songwriters, Vince, with whom I’d grown acquainted via our joint participation in an email exchange of Jerry Jeff Walker fans, offered to put me up for a night at his shop. We stayed up half that night talking music and guitars, and I wound up writing a chapter in the book about him.

NASCAR stuff.
NASCAR stuff.

That book, in turn, led me to teach myself how to play a little guitar, and learning how to play by ear led to the notion that I might be able to write songs myself. True to the Roots was also my last non-fiction book and the only one that wasn’t about sports.

People frequently tell me they like my songs. What I’ve been awaiting is for someone to say, “Hey, I’d like to record that song.” Lots of songs are out there, though. Most of those who like mine write their own.

More NASCAR stuff.
More NASCAR stuff.

Another reason I’m here is that, before this event is held each year, I write NASCAR contacts to ask them to donate items for use in the silent auction. It’s fun to look at all the other items up for charity sale. Two airline seats. An “Ornate Cross,” which I speculated onstage was a relic of the ancient Ornations. Paintings. Hand-painted chairs and benches. A year’s worth of farm-fresh eggs. Every item has its own story to tell.

Friday was the prelim, I suppose.

My job is to get the meter running, a little with my music but mostly with announcements and spontaneously witty remarks, the kind that may or may not actually be witty, such as my creation of the Ornations, who, in my imagination, lived in Asia Minor from the seventh through fifth centuries B.C. It was much easier than writing a novel about them.

Mexican food from the Shorty’s truck, parked out front of the theater, helped get me off my diet. Shorty’s is back tonight, so I expect I’ll stay off it until I begin the lonely trek home on Sunday. I doubt I’ll take my time. Traditionally, by the time this shindig is over, I’ve got a hankering for home. I may stop for yet another minor league baseball game. I doubt it, though. My definite intention is to be home in time to cover the Union County at Clinton baseball game on Tuesday night.

The faces are familiar. I’ve been coming to Gainesville a long time. My fifth novel, which is close to completion of its first draft, is a modern western set in a town a lot like this one. The Janus, Texas, of my story is the way I imagine this one at the end of World War II.

More Classic Recall.
More Classic Recall.

Following me onstage today is David Byboth, sound man and songwriter extraordinaire. Then Tom McElvain, who has historically made the biggest impression year after year, through Pawlessfest, the original name, Concert for VISTO at the indoor rodeo arena and now in the VISTO Days festival’s uptown locale, is sharing the State Theatre stage with Shayne Wimmer.

After I draw some pieces of paper out of hats, the concert moves outdoors, around the corner and down the street, for Bonedoggie and the Hickory Street Hellraisers, a group that is really original and uses instruments, such as the bazookie and the trombone, that are seldom seen in such affairs. Then it’s the rock virtuosity of the Oliver White Group. Oliver, by the way, is a fantastic performer and a great guy. I look forward to seeing him.

As a general rule, everybody gets along out here.

Several years ago, I wrote a song about Vince Pawless and his guitars: It’ll ring like a bell / Sing like a bird / Put in your hands / Be Merle Haggard …

Merle’s gone. Be whoever you want to be. Somebody’s got to take the reins.

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

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell 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.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

(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.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

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.

 

 

White Lines and All Kinds of Stop Signs

Birmingham, Alabama (Monte Dutton photos)
Birmingham, Alabama (Monte Dutton photos)

Gainesville, Texas, Friday, April 15, 2016, 11:55 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s been a hectic, fun, and, of course, exhausting few days. I haven’t had a chance to write anything till now, and there’s a good chance posting on this motel wi-fi is going to be iffy.

You’ll know it’s on my site because, uh, you’re reading it now.

I’m the emcee of a charity event put on by VISTO of Cooke County, which, in turn, provides for needy kids hereabouts. I have participated in this for quite a few years now. It’s been in the fall and spring — last year it was in May — and gone from being Pawlessfet to Concert for VISTO, and now it’s part of a broader festival.

In addition to picking lucky numbers, introducing music acts, and the like, I’m scheduled to play a half-hour set on Saturday night at 5. I’ve many friends out here, and, as a general rule and now that NASCAR doesn’t bring me to Texas anymore, this is the only time I see them.

Many thanks to many of my friends in NASCAR for donating items for the silent auction. They are much appreciated and effectively used.

DSCF2548I like to have a 58-year-old man’s meager version of adventure on trips. I try not to do much in the way of planning. In past years, I’ve watched the Mississippi Braves, Montgomery Biscuits, and Frisco Roughriders in action.

This time, I drove from home to Birmingham, Alabama, where I saw the Barons and the Tennessee Smokies play a Southern League version of White Sox-Cubs — Smokies (Cubs) won, 7-0 — and, as seems to happen amazingly often in baseball, spectated something I’d never spectated before.

The dog was the Barons' MVP on Wednesday night.
The dog was the Barons’ MVP on Wednesday night.

In the fourth inning — by then, my scoresheets had been put away because it was lightly raining — the first Birmingham batter singled, stole second and was picked off second. The next Birmingham better also singled, stole second and was picked off second. They might want to pay attention to how that worked, you know, for next time.

DSCF2545I also enjoyed some ribs a few blocks from the stadium at a place called Rib It Up, and I knew I was going to be in business because I was the only white person in the joint. Because I am, at least passably on this trip, dieting, I ordered slaw and green beans on the side, and the man behind the counter asked me if I wanted cornbread, rolls or loaf bread. I should have said, “I’m fine, thanks,” but I said cornbread.

When the ribs came, he’d given me turnip greens instead of green beans, and, apparently, he read my mind because, ever since I’d decided to splurge on the cornbread, I’d wished I’d ordered greens.

It was a fortuitous mistake I’d made.

Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee

I decided to leave the game early because the rain was picking up, and I used my mobile phone to look ahead to Thursday’s activities, at which point I discovered that the game in Memphis between the Redbirds and the Oklahoma City Dodgers, a Triple-A game, started at 11:05 a.m. instead of 7:05 p.m.

DSCF2574Oh, boy. I drove part of way to Memphis through the rain and got a room in a place called Hamilton, Alabama, and all I know about it is the Days Inn. I got up and drove to Memphis, where I discovered that the reason it had a morning start was because it was a school kids’ game, as indicated by a fleet of schoolbuses impeding my path into a lovely stadium.

DSCF2570With school kids, you will find there is literally dancing in the aisles.

This Triple-A Dodgers-Cardinals clash was splendid. The Dodgers led, 2-0, from the third inning, until the home eighth, when the Redbirds tied it on Jacob Wilson’s sacrifice fly. Then OKC retook the lead on catcher Micah Johnson’s single.

DSCF2581The Dodgers’ fourth hurler, whose last name was Tsau, retired the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth, but Dean Anna walked, Matt Williams (no, not that one) singled, a pinch-hitter name Ohlman walked, third baseman Jonathan Rodriguez doubled, and that was all I wrote on my scoresheet and all she wrote, too, whoever she was.

DSCF2576Birmingham and Tennessee are in the Southern League, which makes abundant sense. Memphis and Oklahoma City are inexplicably in the Pacific Coast League, which I suppose makes the Pacific Coast the east bank of the Mississippi River.

“Goodbye, that’s all she wrote” comes from the Johnny Cash-June Carter version of “Jackson,” where two Southern League teams (Mississippi Braves and Jackson, Tennessee, Generals) reside.

Lest I forget, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood also cut “Jackson.”

When last I left Clinton High School, this was the scene. The Red Devils have since ran their winning streak to 14 games. Strangely, the rain seems to have accompanied me east to west.
When last I left Clinton High School, this was the scene. The Red Devils have since run their winning streak to 14 games. Strangely, the rain seems to have accompanied me east to west.

You can’t have too much adventure for me, though, so, even though I didn’t have to be in Gainesville until tonight, I took off across Arkansas at 3 p.m., stopped south of Little Rock at a huge buffet and general store where once, I noted from the photos on the walls leading to the restrooms, Billy Bob Thornton stopped to eat.

What a shame I didn’t bring any eight-by-10 glossies.

The Redbirds came back under the mascot's watchful eye.
The Redbirds came back under the mascot’s watchful eye.

U.S. 82, from just south of Texarkana to Gainesville and beyond, is a highway of innumerable changes in speed limits, ranging from 45 to 75, and I was strung out on coffee of the strongest truck-stop kind.

I started driving at 6:30 a.m., watched a ballgame in the sunshine, and checked into this motel at about 11 p.m.

Now that’s adventure.

For some reason, I can’t get the coffee machine in this room to work.

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

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell 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.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

(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.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

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.

Ain’t No Kind of Cure for That Disease

Tristan Smaltz drove in four runs. (Monte Dutton photos)
J.P. Duncan, poised to strike. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 10:16 a.m.

Winning is thought to be contagious. Vince Lombardi said, “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The great pro football coach might also have included a baseball team that falls six runs down against a rival in the top of the first inning and storms from behind to win, 10-6.

The limits of Clinton High School’s contagion have yet to be fully defined, but the smiles of embattled fans, walking up the hill to their cars, trucks, and SUVs after Tuesday night’s victory over Laurens, were certainly infectious.

Tristan Smaltz, who plays left, pitches left and bats right.
Tristan Smaltz, who plays left, pitches left and bats right.

Their Red Devils are 15-1. They have swept the Raiders for the first time in memory. Records are sparse for baseball. Historically, Clinton’s point of contention has been behind the first base side, at stately, but aging, Wilder Stadium, where seven state football championships have resided, the most recent in 2009. Since then, the Red Devil football tradition has been aging at roughly the same rate as its stadium.

This spring the baseball team has put a spring in the step of those heading back to their vehicles. The team has concentrated more on strides than steps. The players wear one another’s spirit like a high-dollar suit.

The expressions in the dugout reflect six Laurens runs in the first inning. Things got better.
The expressions in the dugout reflect six Laurens runs in the first inning. Things got better.

The “two-out pick-me-up,” a phrase oft used by legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, came from Tristan Smaltz, who was a left fielder on Monday but will be a left-hander (on the mound) tonight when Chester visits the field known locally and unofficially as The Sponge. Once the Red Devils had somehow come off the deck with two runs in the second inning and four in the fifth, and right fielder J.P. Duncan had put them up, 7-6, with a squeeze bunt, Smaltz cleared the bases with a long, lining double.

“It was just one of those clutch moments,” Smaltz said because they seem to happen every game. “It felt great. I just put the ball in play. That was what I was trying to do.

Jeremy Simmons also beat Laurens in the first game between the two rivals.
Jeremy Simmons also beat Laurens in the first game between the two rivals.

“We stayed strong through the game, and our pitching stayed strong, thanks to Jeremy (Simmons).”

Simmons. Jeremy Simmons. King of the wild frontier.

After starter Taylor Bailey suffered through an inning he wanted to forget, Simmons made it easier by shutting down Laurens (13-6) via six innings of two-hit relief. Also a southpaw, Simmons was the winner in both ends of the Laurens season sweep.

Taylor Bailey and his teammates, who made three first-inning errors, had a rough start.
Taylor Bailey and his teammates, who made three first-inning errors, had a rough start.

“I’m used to it,” Simmons said. “Ever since I was young, I’ve been coming in in clutch situations, and I love them.

“Being my senior year, it meant a lot. We haven’t beaten Laurens in any (major) sport in quite a while. Our goal was to beat Laurens and win the region.”

They’ve achieved the former and are closing in on the latter. The remarks reveal the fever. The contagious fever. It’s that “ain’t no mountain high enough” disease. Usually, it’s fleeting. Twelve wins in a row cannot be consigned to luck. Luck evens out in the long run. This run is already long.

Sean McCarthy's small ball turned large.
Sean McCarthy’s small ball turned large.

In paying tribute to his counterpart, Laurens coach Dale Nelson, Clinton’s Sean McCarthy defined the importance of defeating the Raiders … twice.

“He is where our program needs to get to,” McCarthy said of Nelson. “They’ve been traditionally a lot better than us. He does it right. In the overall scheme of things, I’m rooting for him every night he isn’t playing us.”

Laurens seemed unbeatable earlier in the year. The Raiders’ mortality surfaced first in a 2-1 Clinton victory on their home field. Now the team is struggling. Six runs in the top of the first inning seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for their malevolent fever. When Clinton put the leadoff man on in the bottom of the second, and second baseman Charlie Craven bunted J.P. Duncan over, I thought it was crazy. Six runs down. They need runs in bunches. Don’t waste a single out.

Dale Nelson's Raiders stranded seven runners.
Dale Nelson’s Raiders stranded seven runners.

I could not have been more wrong. The team, being strong and confident, calmly chipped away and, eventually, Laurens succumbed to the same pressure that squeezed the Red Devils at the outset.

Chandler Todd
Chandler Todd

Amid the Raider nightmare, Clinton scored three runs on bunts. Aaron Copeland struck out but reached on passed balls in both the fifth and sixth innings. Clinton tied the score with four in the former and put the Raiders away with four more in the latter.

Clinton’s early innings were marred by long, stormy outs, three of them corralled in front of the fences.

The stormy blast that wasn’t caught on the warning track was Smaltz’s, and it only sailed over the head of the rangy Laurens outfield because it took off at a lower projectory en route to bouncing off said fence.

Simmons the Raider Killer retired them in order in the seventh.

Baseball is sprucing up the image on the stadium wall.
Baseball is sprucing up the image on the Wilder Stadium wall.

Will miracles never cease? They will, but this team’s success is anchored in confidence, togetherness, and teamwork fostered by playing together for several seasons and several summers.

Nelson returned the favor.

“They’re a very, very good baseball team,” he said. “They’re gutty. They play hard. They’re 15-1 for a reason. They hung in there. They didn’t quit. I knew they wouldn’t.”

What makes a rivalry healthy is competition. Domination undermines rivalry. Mutual respect is crucial. I’ve seen a few politicians lately who could stand to learn that.

For more of the hit-by-hit and pitch-by-pitch, surf here.

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

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell 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.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

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

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(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. Sample it. 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. It’s a trip.

(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.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

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.

Hooks, and Rhymes, and Reasons

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 11, 2016, 8:43 a.m.

I’ve had a few days to digest it. It’s time for me to pay homage to the great Merle Haggard, who died on his 79th birthday, and it didn’t make me that sad. It gave me hope that if Merle Haggard can live that long, maybe I’ve got an outside shot.

Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)

All kidding aside, I don’t believe one should be unduly sorrowful at the loss of a man who lived a long, productive life. I think one should be grateful for his (or her) time on this earth. People always talk about “a celebration of life” at the time of demise, but, mostly, it’s just lip service. It’s just political correctness. It’s just tact.

It should be genuine and real. He played music right to the end. What more can one ask?

The great tragedy in death lies with the young who go before they can leave a legacy. Those who die senselessly are the ones who bring tears to my eyes. When I think of the Hag, it warms my soul because he left so much behind for me to savor.

Haggard wrote so many great songs that it’s impossible to recall them all, but what I think set him apart was his ability to unify the principles of songwriting. He wrote great hooks. He turned great phrases. His songs also meant something when judged as a whole.

Most songs I hear today, particularly on mainstream radio, have a hook and little else. I’m sure there are good songs there, but I’ve gotten to where I don’t give anything much of a chance because there is such a high percentage that whatever I hear stinks.

I’m going to leave out some great lines, but, this morning, I’m going to warm up for a busy day by noting some that come to mind.

The only thing I can count on is my fingers / I was a fool / Believing in you / And now you are gone.

I raised a lot of Cain back in my younger days / While Mama used to pray my crops would fail.

He could be the richest man in seven counties / And not be good enough to take her hand / But he says he really loves the farmer’s daughter / And I know the farmer’s daughter loves the man.

Ain’t never been nobody’s idol / But at least I got a title / And I take a lot of pride in what I am.

Cowboys and outlaws / Right guys and southpaws / Good dogs and all kinds of cats / Dirt roads and white lines / And all kinds of stop signs / But I stand right here where I’m at / ‘Cause I wear my own kind of hat.

Reasons to quit / The low is always lower than the high / Reasons for quittin’ / Don’t outnumber all the reasons why.

Turn me loose, set me free / Somewhere in the middle of Montana / Give me all I got coming to me / And keep your retirement and your so-called social security / Big city, turn me loose and set me free.

Tom T. Hall wrote, “It could be that the Good Lord likes a little pickin,’ too.”

I’m satisfied he does.

This doesn’t do him justice, but it’s the best I could do.

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

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

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell 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.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleA collection of short stories, Longer Songs, consists of stories derived from songs I’ve written. Take a look at it here.

(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. Soon a print version of Crazy will be released for those of you who eschew the Kindle, and a Trespasses edition is on the way soon, too.

(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:

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

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.