The Endless Variety of Sport

Big Diamond Raceway in Pennsylvania. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 20, 2017, 11:15 a.m.

A lot is going on for a Thursday. Some of that is holdover from last night, when Matt Crafton won the annual indelicacy known as the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Raceway, near Rossburg, Ohio, which isn’t very near anywhere.

I never went to Eldora for a Truck race. The late David Poole and I drove over from Indianapolis one time to watch USAC midgets race there, and while I’d like to see the NASCAR trucks race in person, given one race to see there, I’d pick almost anything else: sprints, midgets, Silver Crown, dirt mods, late models, all racing vehicles designed to be more supple on dirt.

By Monte Dutton

Still a good show, though, particularly if one enjoys madcap antics.

What do I remember? More than anything else, I remember that the track has kind of a rocky plain behind the back straight, and when the national anthem was played, a cowboy on horseback cantered back and forth, waving a large American flag. Rossburg, Ohio, isn’t Tombstone, Arizona, or Deadwood, South Dakota, or Dodge City, Kansas, but it could’ve been that night.

The place was packed that night, too, but I’m sure it has more seats now. David and I sampled the race-track food, breathed the dirt, and had a grand time. The trip was also valuable for the conversations we had on the way over and back.

Over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of dirt tracks: Cherokee, Riverside (different name now, I hear), I-85 (no more), Laurens County here in South Carolina; 311 in Madison, North Carolina; Manzanita (no more) in Phoenix; Grandview and Big Diamond in Pennsylvania; and a few others that don’t come to mind at the moment.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The Red Sox close a homestand, and they’re headed to the West Coast to take on the Angels and Mariners, and that makes this “a getaway day,” so the last of four games against the Blue Jays is this afternoon at Fenway Park.

Jacoby Ellsbury. once Carmine, is now a Bomber. (Monte Dutton photo)

On Tuesday night, rain delayed the second game, and then Hanley Ramirez waited until there was one out in the 15th inning before he decided to hit a game-winning homer, so I’m still recovering from that.

Entering this game, Boston leads Tampa Bay by three games and, more importantly, New York by four and a half. It’s always dangerous to lead the Yankees shortly after the All-Star Break, and, sure enough, the Raging Capitalists just gained access to half the White Sox. Really free enterprise also gained the Red Sox the use of Pablo Sandoval, who wound up being a luxury car with an oil leak so severe that the Sox junked it.

‘Tis a strange Red Sox team: last in the American League in home runs, first in earned-run average, fifth in runs scored, one of the better outfields I have ever seen.

If you’ve got a decent British accent, it’s The Open Championship. If you’re saddled with my South Carolinian brogue, it’s the British Open, but, whatever, it’s my favorite golf tournament.

This year it’s at Royal Birkdale, which has always been north of Liverpool, or at least since 1889, but wasn’t awarded “royal status” until 1951, and that undoubtedly signaled its entry into the “Open rotation” three years later.

I like watching golfers try to get out of ridiculous bunkers and pesky flora with names like heather and gorse.

I like it, every now and then, for the greatest golfers in the world to play occasionally like I used to.

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

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. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

A Farewell to One of the Men in Full

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 14, 2017, 11:08 a.m.

I paid modest respects to my line coach today. Not much is there to prove it. I signed the register and nodded at the people who were staking out their seats in the Friendship AME Church sanctuary. Three fourths of the seats were roped off. Harold Williams passed through lots of hearts and minds. He passed through mine as I looked at his remains, peaceful but frail for a man who was a mountain for most of the 46 years I knew him.

Monte Dutton

In the parking lot, before I left, I talked for a while with old acquaintances. It was hot, but I could remain still and not perspire. If I wiggled one pinky finger, I perspired.

I only called him Harold for about his last 10 years. It was always Coach Williams until one time, quite unexpectedly, he told me there was no need to call him “Coach” anymore since he didn’t coach and I didn’t play. I told him I never played much, and he laughed.

Harold laughed a lot. He never called me Monte. He called me “Moddie.”

Moddie, sit down. I want to ask you something.

He never revealed much about his own opinions. For some reason, he enjoyed knowing mine. I guess it was because I’m a writer, and it’s hard to write without making opinions known, particularly in fiction and the wild edge of journalism, columns and blogs, for which I have been most often celebrated.

My opinions usually satisfied him. They always amused him.

Harold was not a second father, but I knew him longer than my father, who died when I was 35. I knew Harold when I was 13. Do the math. For much of that period, he was a rock. A distant rock, but a rock.

Harold Williams (Kim Williams-Carter photo)

In his prime, Harold could almost have hurled a baseball from the church where his body lie to Bell Street, the school where local black youths graduated until Clinton High School opened its doors to them. That’s when I came in. Bell Street was the junior high school where I first played football. Now the high school is almost new. My high school is the middle school. I played football for Harold. I wrote about the boys’ basketball teams Harold coached. I wrote about football played by his son, Hal. I wrote, as recently as this year, about the basketball and football played by his grandson, Jalen Carter.

Harold knew the value of simplicity. He believed that if a man did what he was supposed to do, it didn’t matter much what others did to oppose him. His basketball philosophy was simple. Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to try to stop it. If we do what we do right, you won’t. He didn’t care much for the element of surprise. He cared for the power of execution.

This made him a perfect assistant for the rigid football leadership of Keith Richardson, who made every player, every coach, and every social-studies student aware of exactly what he required. Richardson had little use for variability in his virtues. He didn’t believe in luck. He didn’t believe in breaks. He didn’t believe in chance. Fumbles occurred because kids failed to protect the football. Recoveries occurred because kids were ready when other kids didn’t. The most futile offering a kid could make to Richardson was an excuse. We all learned not to go there.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

All the great men who worked together in the pursuit of Clinton High School athletic excellence were stubborn in their commitment to it. R.P. Wilder. Keith Richardson. Andy B. Young. Harold Williams. Bill Rhodes. Bobby Brock. Connie Hodges. Sam Moore. Dozens of others.

Richardson could be an actor, though he most certainly isn’t. He achieved as much with his expressions as Spencer Tracy. Harold and Bill could have been stage actors. Neither ever needed amplification. They were all men of considerable humor, when they were of a mind. Richardson chuckled a lot. When he laughed hard, he made little sound. Harold and Bill could awaken Rip Van Winkle with their thunderous voice boxes.

(Monte Dutton photo)

Once, when I missed a portion of football practice so that I could attend the funeral of a family friend, the preacher requested a moment of silence at Rosemont Cemetery, a half mile or so from the lowland where the CHS practice field was located. In the silence, I could heard Rhodes’ voice, booming away at some hapless sophomore, clear as thunder rolling on the horizon. As my head was bowed, I couldn’t see the lightning strike.

As I looked down at Harold’s lifeless visage, perfectly at peace, I remembered the time a classmate named Freddie Payne tried to sneak away to the showers without completing the after-practice wind sprints that some transgression required. I could see us all trudging into the locker room, beneath the sign that said “Pride of Clinton,” and hearing Harold’s voice, booming away from far behind.

“Come on back, Freddie! Come on back!”

Freddie went back, but he didn’t last much longer. Harold couldn’t yell at him all the time.

He was a good man. I’ve heard Coach Young call him “a good school man.” A good wife survives. A good family spreads out from him, all bright, educated, and wise.

A good town spreads out from him because he and his colleagues turned so many boys into men. I am, at best, merely a modest example.

 

 

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

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. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

I Don’t Never Have Fun Like That No More

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 4, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

In the early 1970s, the banks of the Little River overflowed in Laurens. A photo on the front page of a newspaper is etched in my mind. A rowboat was making its way through a parking lot, with Edwards department store in the background. I don’t remember if Edwards ever reopened, but if it did, it didn’t stay around for long.

By Monte Dutton

Laurens is the county seat. I live in Clinton, eight miles away. On Monday night, I took in the Laurens Riverfront Freedom Festival at an amphitheater situated along the banks of the Little River, which has an apt name 99 percent of the time. Levees have been constructed along the banks. A few other floods have occurred over the years, but no one’s had to row around a shopping center.

The flood, well over 40 years ago now, is indirectly responsible for the existence of Little River Park, Laurens Amphitheater and the Laurens Riverfront Freedom Festival. Laurens Sings, a competition whose finals took place, would probably be held in an auditorium or a sports facility now. On the eve of The Fourth, families brought their kids and tried in vain to keep them under control. The members of a triumphant Little League baseball team scurried around collecting contributions to pay for the state tournament. A rising Laurens District High School senior, Malashia Cain, was judged the singingest singer in the county and earned a gigantic $1,000 check for kicks and a normal one she plans to use for a downpayment on a 2009 Malibu. She sang a song, “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess.

I haven’t seen that kind of joy since a kid won a go-kart at the Easter Egg Hunt at Cavalier Ballpark in Clinton. That was even longer ago than the Little River flood. Besides, I couldn’t enjoy it because I wanted that go-kart.

When I was in college, others used to ask me what there was to do back home. I said, well, sometimes we’ll get a lot of beer, and we’ll go park in the edge of the woods, and we’ll put some music in the tape deck, and sit out in the moonlight on the tailgate or hood of my daddy’s pickup truck, and we’ll sing along with the music, and drink the beer, and talk about life.

My friends would say, “My God.”

And I’d say the funny thing is I don’t ever do anything I enjoy that much anymore.

In a small town, little things mean a lot. Even a Little River.

I watched little girls who were much more adept at raising money than their brothers on the ball team, who basically wanted to wear their uniforms and let everybody know they were district champions. Other little girls wanted to teeter and totter along the little granite walls that separated the terraces in the viewing area. One daddy came over and said, “Nikki, git! You git back over there where me and your mama are a-settin’.” To which Nikki replied, “Noooooo!” She pointed. “You git! You git back over yonder. Me and Britney’s having fun.”

Somehow, Daddy didn’t tan her little hide. Fifteen minutes later, Nikki was hugging him, and they were both trying to convince the other than each loved the other better than vice-versa.

The names have been changed partly to protect the innocent but mainly because I don’t know them. It was sweet. And funny. And wholesome. And small-town American.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

There wasn’t any drinking. If people wanted to smoke, they could go over to the bridge, where, according to the master of ceremonies, sand had been “put out,” apparently so cigarettes could be put out.

They had food trucks just outside the gates, and snow cones next to the inside concession stand, which was only barely farther away than the gates. I watched the main show, by a local classic-rock band named Outshyne, from behind the crowd, and then I bought myself a smoothie, which cost a dollar less because I didn’t want anything uber-healthy like kale in it. Just regular healthy things were fine.

It all ended with a fireworks display, but I slipped out early to beat the traffic. The adventure was figuring out a way to get out of the parking lot, which was something of a maze. The best move was going left instead of right, and driving up the hill past Smith Chevrolet, which used to be Smith Brothers long ago when a fellow could buy something called a Pontiac. That way I didn’t have to interrupt the folks smoking on the bridge.

Then I processed some pictures, and wrote a story about the evening, and it took as long for email to move my photos as it did to write the story, and the Red Sox won in 11 innings in Texas, and Dustin Pedroia made an amazing, wildly unusual play in a moment of Boston need, and I ended up going to bed earlier than usual because the late-night talk shows were all reruns, and until now, I haven’t done much today other than look at social media and fix breakfast.

Which is fine.

 

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

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. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Next Time I’m Buying Junior Mints

The No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. evokes David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Matt Kenseth and others. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, July 2, 2017, 10:45 a.m.

I went to bed hoping to find some clarity in the spectacle of the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida, The Birthplace of Speed!

By Monte Dutton

Also, The Cemetery of Race Cars.

Unfortunately, I dreamed about NASCAR, so I awakened with my thoughts enshrouded in smoke, fire, and shrapnel.

A little iodine. Some Triple Antibiotic Ointment. I’m fine.

For many watching, the good news was that Junior won. The bad news was that it was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has now managed at last to get past the shadow of Ricky Stenhouse Sr. Victory at Talladega and Daytona will do that for a young man.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

It doesn’t bother me. I admire Juniors even though, personally, I’m not one. My father’s middle name is my brother’s first. My first name is one grandfather’s. My middle name is the other’s. I go by a contraction of the middle name. I’m equally divided between my late grandfathers but unaffected by my father.

I hasten to add that this is just in name. My father bequeathed me a myriad of virtues and vices. Likely, I am not alone … but back to Juniors.

When I was a kid, Junior Gilliam played for the Dodgers, and Junior Miller helped my father cook barbecue. Junior Johnson was the Last American Hero, and I believe this because Tom Wolfe wrote it and it must be right. Buck Baker was Elzie Wylie Baker Sr. Buddy Baker was Elzie Wylie Baker Jr.

Raymond J. Johnson Jr. popped up on virtually every television variety show for no apparent reason. Strangely, I don’t recall him saying, “But you can call me Junior!” He was fine with Ray, Jay, Raymond, Ray J., etc., as long as no one called him Johnson. I’m confident many readers don’t recall the repetitive saga of Raymond J. Johnson Jr., and will thus live slightly more interesting lives.

Early in my sportswriting career, Junior Reid played for the Hornets. Folks called him Junior because he preferred J.R., at least in the press room when he wasn’t around.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

I don’t think Barbecue Junior Miller lived to see his namesakes play tight end or race modifieds. Early in his career, fans used to claim that Dale Earnhardt looked down from heaven and guided Dale Earnhardt Jr. to victory. Perhaps my father’s barbecuing assistant helped his namesakes slather sauce on some ribs.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Earnhardt, by the way, used to bristle at the notion that he was “Senior.” He said there wasn’t any such thing, that it was Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Then, often in the same paragraph, he would refer to “Tony Sr.,” referring to the Eurys, who were to Earnhardts and racing what Junior Miller was to Duttons and barbecue.

Brad Keselowski (2), Ryan Blaney (21), Chase Elliott (24), Kevin Harvick (4). (Getty Images for NASCAR)

When Junior is a name of itself, it is sometimes shortened to June, though not in the cases of Allyson, Lockhart and women in general. Darrell Waltrip has used this method, and added a bug, and, over time, that bug has managed to sting everyone who watches NASCAR on TV to one extent or another.

In conclusion, the main result of that race is that it’s left me writing aimlessly, shell-shocked by all the sound and fury, most of which signified nothing.

I’m glad I was far away, safe from the ravages of an unnatural disaster. It was a human-generated earthquake saved by no one, to the best of our knowledge, getting hurt.

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

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. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

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.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).