Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 19, 2016, 11:20 a.m.
Athletes arrive in as many gaits as Tennessee Walking Horses. They saunter. They trot. They amble. Some seem frightened. Some seem self-conscious. Some think the whole affair is hilarious. Everyone gets his or her due. They get their tributes from the Voice of the Red Devils, Buddy Bridges, and the crowd roars.
It’s Meet the Red Devils Night at the Clinton High School gym, and no one has won or lost yet in game, meet or match that counts. Everyone is undefeated, and everyone is winless.
It’s a ponderous affair that’s worth watching for all the human beings who interact out of love, parenthood, fandom and truth to their school.
Be true to your school / Just like you would to your girl or guy / Be true to your school now / Let your colors fly / Be true to your school / Aye-aye, aye-aayyyye …
The panorama of generations stretches out in all its glory. These are not just Clinton High School’s teams. They are its past, its present and its future. They are the town’s teams and the district’s, and that district stretches to the lake named for Greenwood and through the forest named for Sumter. They are here for Joanna, Cross Hill and other places even smaller where roads cross and convenience stores flourish.
Some folks line up to join the booster club. Others buy the latest souvenirs. One popular souvenir, the Big Red Machine license plate, has been around since the Big Red Machine cranked up in Cincinnati.
Next week’s opener, the one for the Laurens County championship (settled between the two public schools), is taking on a life beyond its usual own because, for the first time ever or that anyone remembers, the Raiders are invading at the very beginning of the long campaign that both schools hope is longer than the last.
Oh, how the crowd longs for the Red Devils to be back. The Clinton football team, a cornerstone of spirit in this end of Laurens County, has passed every test, the only cautionary aspect being that none so far has counted. They’ve mattered, though, because there’s always next year, and now, hocus-pocus, abracadabra, it’s this year, and, by God, it doesn’t look like that team is going 3-7 again.
The slate is clean, but it’s awfully stern. The Raiders are leading 5-3 in classification A’s, and the region is rough, and the first five games are a minefield, but none of that matters because football, righteous football, is back, and the men and women and the boys and girls are all convinced that their lads can beat your lads, and if you don’t think so, why, do something about it!
When some loud braggart tries to put me down / And says his school is great / I tell him right away / Now what’s the matter buddy / Ain’t you heard of my school? / It’s number one in the state.
Next week, they’ll be pepping up the Raiders in the Laurens public square, and the cross country runners are going to run the ball cross county to Clinton, where the game is played and the Swinging Medallions are going to help send off the Red Devils at the ceremonial Depot next to the railroad tracks, and, then, and only then, after cheers have been raised and coaches tributed, do the lads of both schools get to play.
Regardless of the outcome, it will be one of the few local examples of the many-splendored thing.
Please visit the KindleScout site and consider nominating my fifth novel, Cowboys Come Home, for publication. You’ll find sample chapters, a short synopsis and a Q&A. Take a look at it here.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Crazy of Natural Causes is on sale at $1.99. Links to print copies are below.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
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