Say It Ain’t So, Hose

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 13, 2017, 11:12 a.m.

And you know the sun’s settin’ fast
And just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
‘Cause your heart’s bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on our town, on our town
Goodnight

By Monte Dutton

This Iris DeMent song, released in 1993, always floods into my mind when I get sentimental. This time it’s over our college in our town. Specifically, it’s about football, a favorite topic of my nostalgia glands, which are near and dear to my heart as well as being mythical.

Presbyterian College is not my alma mater. Furman University is, and seldom have I been prouder than on Saturday as I watched the Paladins conquer The Citadel, 56-20.

I have fondness for PC, too. It’s funny that the first college football game I remember was Presbyterian at Furman, won by the Paladins, 13-9, at Sirrine Stadium. Thanks to the web that goes worldwide, I know that game was in 1968, when I was 10, but I remembered the score. Maybe that was why I went to Furman. Maybe it was fated, even though I didn’t make the decision until seven years later. I never imagined going anywhere except Clemson until the fall of 1975, when I visited Furman with a high-school football teammate who was being recruited. Oddly enough, my friend, Roy Walker, went to PC. Furman wanted Roy but captured me, and I wasn’t any good at football.

Now, as my alma mater returns to prominence, Presbyterian football is endangered, and my roots run deep at both schools.

Some of the best times my father and I ever had were sitting in wooden stands behind the end zones – inside th

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Say It Ain’t So, Hose

Up with Furman

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, November 12, 2017, 10:29 a.m.

It’s not often I feel the joy I felt Saturday. Waylon Jennings once sang that, down in Alabama, “they call me the man of joy.” He wasn’t singing about me. Writing breeds satisfaction, not joy. Life is a struggle as I write and write and write, hoping one day more substantial numbers will appreciate my work.

By Monte Dutton

Karl Marx claimed that religion was “the opiate of the masses.” I don’t believe he was right, but, had he written it about sports, he might have had something.

I sat in Section 7 of Paladin Stadium watching Furman rout The Citadel, 56-20. The first half was almost perfection. While I was in Section 7, with Barry and Dan Atkinson, and Dan’s son, Charlie, and daughter, Nora, the Paladins were winning their seventh straight game, and it was over their (and my) archrival.

While driving to Greenville on Saturday morning and humming the fight song in traffic, I thought of a Groucho Marx line that perfectly depicts my feelings about The Citadel: “I have nothing for respect for you, and very little of that.”

Okay, it’s harsh. But funny. The Citadel does have my grudging respect. To me Furman-Citadel is Athens-Sparta. Liberal arts versus military. It’s overly simplistic, but so, too, is it to those of us who are not scholars of ancient Greece.

David Lyle (left) and Kevin Morgan (Ed Bopp photo).

The Bulldogs had won the three previous years. Some sense of decorum had to be restored. Before the game, in the parking lot, I spent time with old friends who hardly ever lost to The Citadel.

I wouldn’t call 35-0 at halftime, oh, diplomatic, but it was more than satisfying. My ailing knee didn’t hurt. My problems disappeared, “blowing through the jasmines of my mind.” I didn’t need a summer breeze to “make me feel fine.” Really. I was glowing. I felt rosy. It wasn’t a summer breeze at all. It was cold, though I took little notice. I cultivated an unprecedented liking of Seals & Crofts.

Happiness. Happiness. Everybody’s looking for happiness.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

When I’m watching a baseball game on TV, if it’s not close, I’ll see what else is on. An old movie, or the news, or an old Columbo episode. If I keep the game on, I’ll read a book. Unless it’s a Red Sox game. The Sox can be leading, oh, 19-1, and I’ll still watch. If it’s the Yankees, I may catch a replay on NESN.

The leaves on Paris Mountain seemed neon-infused. As the Furman football team performed gloriously – almost defying belief – I felt transformed by the sheer glory of it all. As the clock expired, I wished the Paladins could keep right on scoring touchdowns, but I walked out to the truck and drove on home. I listened to the post-game show on the radio, and I switched to the Clemson halftime show, and, by the time I got home, the Tigers and Florida State were late in the third quarter, and I watched the rest of the game, or, rather, it was on TV. Nothing but the Paladins could command my attention. Same with Alabama-Mississippi State. Same with Saturday Night Live. Same with social media.

Nothing mattered but my pride in the Furman Paladins, who are back.

Now I must get back to convincing folks to read my novels and finishing the next one.

(Gabe Whisnant photo)

Most of my books — non-fiction on NASCAR and music, collections that include my contributions, seven novels, and one short-story collection — are available here.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Glory of the Past and the Unremitting Legacy

Coach Tom Bass FIeld, Bobcats Stadium, Seneca, S.C. (Photos by Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, November 4, 2017, 2:38 p.m.

Since noon, I’ve been keeping tabs on Auburn-Texas A&M, Kansas State-Texas Tech, Syracuse-Florida State, Western Kentucky-Vanderbilt, Florida-Missouri, Massachusetts-Mississippi State, and several others that don’t occur to me now. That’s just on television. Via Twitter, I’ve been keeping tabs on Presbyterian-Monmouth, Chattanooga-Wofford, and Western Carolina-The Citadel.

By Monte Dutton

The Furman Paladins are idle this week. Like Florida.

I like to concentrate on just one game, or, maybe two, but I’m unfocused in the aftermath of Clinton’s 18-14 loss to Seneca. Coupled with Laurens’ playoff loss to Northwestern (58-7) on Thursday, high school football has come to an end in the county. The Raiders went out with a whimper, the Red Devils with a bang.

Neither is playing anymore. Soon I’ll notice basketball out on the horizon.

The moon may have had a little to do with it.

Despite a 4-7 season, Clinton never gave up. It led a region champion Seneca team until there were 37 seconds left. It took a sequence of events (my story is here) to defeat them. But a win is a win, and a loss is a loss, and never the twain shall meet.

Last night I interviewed Clinton coach Andrew Webb with anguish scattered all about me. The kids aspired to greatness and fell short. I still do that today as I crank out novel after novel, hoping for a breakthrough beyond the modest monthly royalties. What keeps me going might have originated on football fields more than 40 years ago.

Clinton’s quarterback, Konnor Richardson, is a sophomore.

The hardest part of the trip to far Seneca – it’s on the other side of Clemson from here, about 90 miles – was having all the time to think on the way home. I knew I wouldn’t sleep. First I had to process all the photos, then type in the stats, then write the story, and then I watched a late game from the West Coast.

I had a high school coach who never accepted the existence of luck or the respectability of an excuse. We won because we deserved to win, and, on those rare occasions when we lost, it was 100 percent our fault. We believed we were supposed to win as much as we believed the sun was supposed to rise in the east.

It’s not easy to do. We lived on the far side of the hump the present Clinton football program is trying to get over. We were there when we arrived, and we built a settlement and left it for those who came next. We had a sense of belonging that this generation thus far lacks. It slipped away. Times changed. Odds that favored us have turned against our descendants, and the pedigree doesn’t make it any easier.

Like every coach worth his salt I’ve known, Webb doesn’t blame luck or make excuses. What he needs to build is a team that doesn’t make it as tempting.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

Senior rushers Mark Wise (5) and Kris Holmes will be sorely missed.

I don’t mean to be negative. I don’t think I am. I grieve for those kids, sitting on the turf, and crying at the sad ending. They stuck it out and never quit trying. I can’t imagine that because I never had to experience it. Last night it was on the road. In two years on the varsity, my team never lost a single one. We lost two at home. One was for the state championship. I wasn’t an important part, but there were no parts. It was a team, made up big parts and little parts, all well oiled and whirring together.

More than anything, I wish for these kids that kind of heady experience.

Then, perhaps, one day, they can grow up to be failing novelists.

 

 

(Gabe Whisnant photo)

Most of my books — non-fiction on NASCAR and music, collections that include my contributions, seven novels, and one short-story collection — are available here.

 

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Years Disappear, If Only Briefly

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 22, 2017, 11:20 a.m.

I never took a note. I never snapped a photo. I didn’t bring any business cards. I went to a football game.

By Monte Dutton

None of the above is unusual for most people. Oh, wait. Maybe it is. Sportswriters, or writers of any kind, for that matter, are not alone in writing, or taking pictures, or spreading the words and the images as far and wide as possible, anymore. Everyone knows the art of 140 characters. I just know the art beyond a little better.

It was Furman University homecoming. It was the first time in a while I’ve been back to clap to the fight song and sing the words I remember to the alma mater. A mountain city is her home / A mountain river laves her feet! Campus, beautiful though it be, is nestled in the foothills, and the mountain river, the Reedy, winds its way through downtown Greenville, where the campus was well over half a century ago. A manmade laaaaake laves her feet!

Most people maintain rich, loving memories of their school, and rally, sons and daughters dear / ’Round our dear alma maaahhhhter! Coincidentally, they are also prone to eating, drinking, and being merry.

One of my more impressive decisions was the realization that, though I loved it, I was really over my head playing football in high school. I was at Furman, first as a student and then working in the sports information office, for most of a decade that was well over three of them ago. It was the golden age of Paladin football, and I was fortunate to be friends with many of the giants who come back to walk the campus now. Mostly, they treat me as if I was somebody, too.

It’s been my impression that, at large schools, homecoming is, yes, a grand event, but still just another home game, the stadium no more packed than usual, though the big schools typically tilt the odds by playing a school they anticipate defeating, and homecoming may pack a house that otherwise might be fringed with empty seats.

The schools that I frequent – Furman, my dear alma maahhhter, and Presbyterian, the hometown college – are populated on homecomings with throngs of people who don’t get back every week but do so diligently for homecoming.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

The Paladins, coached now by Clay Hendrix, played the Mercer Bears, coached by Bobby Lamb. Clay and Bobby once played guard and quarterback, respectively, for a Furman team that advanced to the Division I-AA (now FCS) national championship game in 1985. They also played guard and quarterback, respectively, in high school down in Commerce, Georgia. Bobby is a former Furman head coach. Clay is in his first year, having been lured back to dear alma maahhhter this year from the Air Force Academy, where he coached the offensive line for 10 years and was associate head coach for seven.

It was a marvelous game. Furman won, 28-21, and it was in doubt until the final desperation Mercer aerial was intercepted in the end zone. Clay lost in the final seconds of each of his first two games as Furman head coach. Then North Carolina State throttled the Paladins, as expected. Now the team has won five straight games and is 4-1 in the Southern Conference.

(Monte Dutton photo)

Many drinks were hoisted. Many tales were told. The day was long and rewarding. Fifty-somethings became twenty-somethings. This the grueling nature of the weekend required.

I hesitate to mention names because I would leave some out, and I’m sure I’d have to mention a hundred to do it justice, plus, there’s the matter of my not taking any photos. I was weary when I got there because I had tramped around covering a fruitless high school game on the road the night before and didn’t get much sleep ruminating about it. My right knee and leg were acting up, so it probably helped, if not medically then subconsciously, to lubricate them. Perception may not be reality, but it helps.

Many tales, some with a considerable degree of truth, were told. I, in fact, told many of them. I renewed acquaintances with people I saw last month and people I saw last century. I drank beer from Costco and beer from Germany. Though the exemplary young men of today gave a concerted effort on offense and defense, Mercer’s fate was superstitiously sealed in a ritual imbibing of purple shots before the kickoff about two hundred yards from the sacred grounds of Paladin Stadium.

Clemson, South Carolina, and, yes, Presbyterian, were all off renewing their vigor for the succeeding weeks. Robbie Caldwell, now Clemson offensive line coach of growing legend, and I became friends when he was a Furman graduate assistant coach and I was an equipment manager. We hardly talked at all about the Tigers. We talked about the time we had to hot-wire the van to get back from Appalachian State.

The first time I met Sam Wyche, I was picking up a box of chinstraps from his (and Billy Turner’s) sporting-goods store on Poinsett Highway. He went on to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl. Jimmy Satterfield, the coach who led the Paladins to the national championship in 1988, was there, and it was the first time this century I talked to him.

Good friends. Great oldies. I could have walked up the hill and partied all night long, but I opted for the security and predictability of home. I wouldn’t trade the day for a literary agent and a publishing deal, but it’s the day after now, and they sure would be nice.

 

(Gabe Whisnant photo)

Most of my books — non-fiction on NASCAR and music, collections that include my contributions, seven novels, and one short-story collection — are available here.

 

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not the Best of Evenings

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 30, 2017, 11:02 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

The football perspective is different for the coach, the player, the writer, the fan in the stands, and the one following the game on social media.

Duh.

One tries to be mindful. For instance, the writer is in danger of missing the beauty of the forest because he spends most of his time counting the trees. A man can get lost scribbling such poetry as “1-10-Ch42, 1 +7, MTs at the line.”

In standard English, Chapman’s D.J. Twitty gained seven yards on first down, and Clinton missed a chance to tackle him for no gain.

That happened a lot last night in the Panthers’ 48-18 victory over the Red Devils.

Keith Richardson Field seemed vast when Chapman had the ball. The Panthers, and, in particular, quarterback Colton Bailey, found wide, open spaces. It looked like Montana. When Clinton had the ball, it was Delaware. It’s not a precise metaphor. The field is flat. Montana is rocky.

It wasn’t particularly shocking. Chapman – undefeated, reigning 3A champion, ranked No. 1 in the state – defeated the locally beloved Red Devils, 48-18. It was 20-12 at halftime. In a loss, Clinton rushed for 254 yards and put two backs, Kris Holmes and Mark Wise, over 100. The Panthers are the best they’ve ever been. They have their act down. They frustrate their opponents with what seems like cleverness on their sideline and chicanery on the other.

History will favor cleverness.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

Chapman’s victory was richly deserved. It just didn’t seem like a game one team won by 30 points.

With the outcome decided, and the reliable expectation that B.J. Gardner would email the stats, the writer had the luxury of watching the end of the game in the way he will watch tonight’s game between the colleges of Wofford and Presbyterian, the latter of which also resides here.

Holmes and Wise made some rather unbelievable runs in which they kept pushing forward, even while immersed and almost hidden by a gang of Chapman tacklers. What was happening was that the defense wasn’t really trying to tackle the ballcarrier as much as it was trying to pry the ball loose. Rather than shoving the runner down, one player would try to hold the runner up, grasping his armpits, while others tore away at the precious object of possession.

It reminded me of Andy Griffith’s recording, “What It Was Was, Was Football,” which was about a rube who found himself at a football where, as best he could figure, two gangs got in a big fight over which one got to keep the pumpkin.

Yes. Clinton lost three fumbles. The Red Devils advanced across their small field – boom, boom, boom! – in something akin to a military attack. Then the Panthers dashed through, scampered around, sprinted past, and outflanked the increasingly demoralized Red Devils, who missed tackles galore, and, once in the third quarter, actually managed to turn a Chapman runner toward the middle of the field instead of “losing contain,” as coaches say.

The frustration was understandable. The writer even felt it.

In the first six games of the season, Clinton, a 3A school, has already played one 5A school, two 4A’s and the state’s top-ranked 2A. The Red Devils play a tough schedule because of a history of being even tougher than such opponents. Now the Region 3-3A schedule has begun. Clinton (2-4, 0-1) can make the playoffs by defeating Mid-Carolina, Woodruff, and either Newberry or Broome. Such is the prevailing charitable standard that 3-2 will surely earn a playoff bid (as last year) and 2-3 might.

The writer got home, cropped some photos, typed in stats, tried to make some sense of what had happened, and, after sleeping on it, resumed the quest this morning.

Last night Laurens Academy edged Newberry Academy, 64-63, presumably thanks to a long jumper at the buzzer. Upon hearing this news, the writer thought first that he was glad he didn’t have to type in those stats – God forbid keeping up with them – and then wondered if a game was ever decided because the fellow operating the scoreboard lost count.

These thoughts were the last ones that flickered through the writer’s mind as he fell asleep before Washington State completed its 30-27 upset of Southern California on the television.

 

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

 

(Steven Novak design)

If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Life Gets Complicated, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise). Or, just drop me a line and you can pay through PayPal.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’ve written seven novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

Lightning in a Bottle is the story of Barrie Jarman, the hope of stock car racing’s future. Barrie, a 18-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is both typical of his generation and a throwback to the sport’s glory days.

Life Gets Complicated follows Barrie Jarman as he moves up to FASCAR’s premier series. He and Angela Hughston face discrimination for their interracial love affair, and Barrie has to surmount unexpected obstacles that test his resolve.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is a modern western. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)

(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

(Joe Font cover design)

(Joe Font cover design)

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).

Write me at hutdut@duttonm@bellsouth.net or “message” me through social media.

 

Posted in Sports | Leave a comment

The Roars of the Various and Sundry Crowds

Sunset at Wilder Stadium (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 24, 2017, 12:30 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Everyone is winning. Victory radiates out from my psyche. I can’t do this on demand. If I could, I’d be a human crummy movie.

Clinton overwhelmed Chesnee, 35-6. Furman clobbered Colgate, 45-14. Presbyterian withstood Cumberland, 27-20. The Red Sox blanked the Reds, 5-0. These are the teams about which I care. I’ve had a lovely time.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Monday, September 25, 2017, 10:58 a.m.

The two paragraphs above mark the sum of my work on Sunday. I was too busy switching between the Carolina Panthers’ home defeat – I wish I had the guts to bet because I damned sure saw that coming – and yet another stirring Boston Red Sox comeback, and a NASCAR race dominated once again by the usual suspects.

NASCAR reminds me of the 1970s, when it seemed to be between Richard Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, and Cale Yarborough every week. Sometimes a Donnie Allison, or a Buddy Baker, slipped up to nab a victory, but fans of the Big Four could file into the stands knowing their favorites would contend. Today features many more teams in top-flight equipment, but Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are there every week, regardless of length of track or degree of banking.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Rules today make unexpected finishes more likely. Lots of drivers win races. Truex has won five so far. It seems as if he could have won every one of them.

Busch won in New Hampshire. Some people – and I’m one of them – say that if you follow closely enough, no races are bad.

This one came close.

 

Friday night found me at Wilder Stadium, site of teen-aged adventures many years ago, for a game between Chesnee and Clinton that figured to be closer than it was. For instance, one Upstate newspaper picked the Red Devils to win, 28-27.

Here’s my story about it.

On Saturday morning, I rose brightly, still a bit flushed by the Clinton triumph, and prepared for a leisurely trip to Presbyterian College by playing my guitar, catching up on the previous night’s high school scores, and watching intently the noon game between North Carolina State and Florida State, with occasional detours to Texas A&M-Arkansas and UCLA-Stanford.

I drove in due course over to Bailey Memorial Stadium — after stopping for gas because my light was blinking and the ATM because my wallet was empty — where the Blue Hose made a bid for a win streak. In 2015 and ’16, singles were rare, let alone two wins straight, consecutively, and in a row.

Sometimes I watch Blue Hose games from the press box but only when I belong there. Writing this blog doesn’t qualify, but, then again, this blog more often deals with matters occurring away from the official formality of media ambiance.

On Saturday afternoon, I tailgated, which is to suggest that I visited my high school coach and family, chatted with the athletic directors present and emeritus, played my guitar, gave away a few of my novels to people who have given of their food, beverage and preparation to me, and enjoyed a conquest of Cumberland University that was a bit more of a struggle than I had hoped. On the other hand, it was an entertaining game. It was probably the highlight of the weekend, if only because I didn’t have to stay up late afterwards cropping photos and writing a game story. Eventually I nodded off to sleep late that night with visions of Hawaii and Wyoming dancing in my semiconscious.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

 

Hawaii at Wyoming. The Rainbow Warriors in Laramie. What more perfectly captures the diversity of our country? Hawaii and Wyoming are in the same conference. So are West Virginia and Texas Tech. Let freedom ring. So what if the bell is cracked?

Sunday night I divided between a long, sad tale of our boys in Vietnam and the Oakland Raiders in Washington. Our Nation’s Capital was faring poorly and magnificently at the same time, divided by time and channel.

So there’s hope.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

 

(Steven Novak design)

If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Life Gets Complicated, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise). Or, just drop me a line and you can pay through PayPal.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’ve written seven novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

Lightning in a Bottle is the story of Barrie Jarman, the hope of stock car racing’s future. Barrie, a 18-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is both typical of his generation and a throwback to the sport’s glory days.

Life Gets Complicated follows Barrie Jarman as he moves up to FASCAR’s premier series. He and Angela Hughston face discrimination for their interracial love affair, and Barrie has to surmount unexpected obstacles that test his resolve.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is a modern western. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)

(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

(Joe Font cover design)

(Joe Font cover design)

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).

Write me at hutdut@duttonm@bellsouth.net or “message” me through social media.

 

 

Posted in Sports | Leave a comment

The Latest Weekend that Was

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 17, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

Every weekend has its ups and downs. This one isn’t over. NASCAR begins its playoffs today. Formula One’s Singapore Night Race was on when I got up this morning. The National “Buh-buh-buh-BUH!” Football League is on all day and night. The Red Sox are in St. Petersburg with a three-game AL East lead over the Yankees.

By Monte Dutton

I was reeling until I went over to Presbyterian College on Saturday.

The night before had been spent in Abbeville, which isn’t far but is too far to watch Clinton get clobbered, 49-12. The worst part was having to drive back home, process and crop some photos, and write about it.

On the field, a lady said, “You write a good story now.”

I said, “Ma’am, the last thing I need to do is write a good story about this game. If I write a good story, half the folks in town will be mad at me.”

I tried, anyway.

It would be worthwhile to study the superlative football program at Abbeville High School. It’s a small town, located in a remote location, with decrepit facilities and a stack of state championships most recently topped off last year. I’ve seen the Panthers play three times in the past year, and the level of fundamental soundness on display belies all the limitations on practice time that have been implemented since I played. Players today are bigger, faster, and, by and large, have no idea how to make a tackle. Since I started writing about high school football games again four years ago – after a 20-year absence watching stock cars go around and around – Abbeville is the only football program that reminds of the teams that prepared for seasons by practicing twice a day in the heat of August and for three hours after school during the season.

Abbeville doesn’t do that. Still, the Panthers know how to run, block, tackle and even pass when opportunity presents itself. They’re a modern marvel.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

I don’t think the press box at Hite Stadium would’ve had room for me had it been a junior varsity game. It’s tiny. Getting there requires walking up a flight of stairs, each of which is about eight inches wide, that is a mild improvement over a ladder. I wouldn’t have gone up there had it not been for a program so that I could tell who was who. Abbeville assistant coaches watched from what looked like a phone-company bucket hoisted behind the box. Clinton coaches and broadcasters operated from the press-box roof.

I followed the game from the stands, surrounded by nice Abbeville fans, at about the 20-yard line because I selected a location where there was room to spread out a camera or binoculars on one side, the program on the other, and stat sheets on my clipboard. I enjoyed the experience except for overhearing fans behind me remarking that they “had never seen a Clinton team play like this.”

It was only one game, but the Panthers’ offense riddled the Red Devils, who rushed for 177 yards and consumed lots of time, or else there’s no telling how many points Abbeville would have scored. It pains me to report this. The operative phrase from the Clinton side after game was undeniable: “We’ve got to get better.”

Maybe they will. Maybe the shock of this setback will contribute to a turnaround. Character is shaped by how one responds to adversity.

The highlight – no, the light – of the trip was stopping by one of South Carolina’s great restaurants, Yoder’s Dutch Kitchen, for supper. I first ate there on April 8, 1976, which I remember because a family friend named Lewis Smith took me there for my 18th birthday.

High school football games take a terrible toll on my gradually worsening, arthritic right knee. It’s much worse a day later. On Saturday, I tuned in Furman’s visit to North Carolina State, which was eerily similar to Clinton’s visit to Abbeville. The Panthers and Wolfpack both scored 49, and the Paladins scored 13, one more than the Red Devils.

(Monte Dutton photos)

I wasn’t on assignment at Bailey Memorial Stadium last night, and, fortunately, I was thusly able to treat my knee pain with medicinal alcohol. The fact that Brent Sanders and I were Furman contemporaries, combined with the fact that Brent’s and Sharon’s son, Hayden, now plays for the Presbyterian Blue Hose, means that I gather with them and parents of other players before and after home games.

Last night the Blue Hose prevailed, 28-16, over the Campbell Camels, and a fine time was had by all. I prefer to believe that the worm turned on the weekend. When I use a term such as “the worm has turned,” it makes me inquisitive about the origin.

“Even a worm will turn” is an expression used to convey the message that even the meekest or most docile of creatures will retaliate or seek revenge if pushed too far. The phrase was first recorded in a 1546 collection of proverbs by John Heywood, in the form “Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turn agayne.”

That sums up the weekend, all right.

Posted in Sports | Leave a comment

Clinton and Laurens … and Life

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 26, 2017, 10:58 a.m.

There are those who believe I waste my talents tramping around small-town football stadiums writing about what I see.

They are so wrong. Last night Laurens held off Clinton, 24-18. In a small tract of land known as Laurens County, named after a statesman from the nation’s dawn, the annual football game between the two public high schools is as significant as Clemson-Carolina (it’s the South one here) and, recently, more competitive.

I need the money, but the insight is much greater.

My fiction has a lot of characters much younger than I. Characters much younger than I are more interesting. My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, was mainly concerned with men and women between about 35 and 45. The Intangibles took me back in time to when I was a kid. Crazy of Natural Causes had at its center the relationship between a disgraced football coach and several of his players. Forgive Us Our Trespasses was about the corrosive effect of deceit and corruption on families. Cowboys Come Home was a tale of a couple young Marines, home from the Pacific at the end of World War II, who mistakenly think they can find peace and stability in a home that has also changed forever.

This year I have written two novels about stock car racing, a sport to which my life was dedicated for twenty years. Barrie Jarman bursts on the scene in Lightning in a Bottle and learns hard lessons in Life Gets Complicated. Barrie Jarman gets has brash self-confidence more from observing high school kids playing ball than today’s NASCAR man-children. Barrie is flawed but likable, which runs through characters in all my fiction: Riley Mansfield and Melissa Franklin (Audacity); Frankie Mansfield and the Leverette twins (Intangibles); Chance Benford, Wally Ruff, and Zeke Runnels (Crazy); Hal and Hayden Kinley (Trespasses); Ennis and Becky Middlebrooks, and Harry Byerly (Cowboys); and Barrie Jarman and Angela Hughston (Lightning, Life).

Writing about the young makes me feel that way, even if I can’t act that way anymore.

Even before I had the experience to make such conclusions, I loved sportswriting because it revealed so much about human emotion. Politicians, doctors, engineers … they all choke at the proverbial free-throw line, but, most of the time, their dropped passes, swings and misses, and missed shifts occur outside of public view. Sports failures occur under the glare of sun and floodlights.

If I miss the mark in my evaluation of the young mind, it’s because times have changed since I had one, but I don’t believe it. I didn’t have virtual games to occupy my time, but a kid’s time gets occupied somehow, often for better and sometimes for worse. Kids still run a gauntlet of peril, and, if they make it safely, the rites of passage hone their character. How one reacts to adversity determines the course of life. Success is reward, but failure dictates the path.

Were I to write an account of my own life, it would be a tale of failure at this late stage. It’s not over, though. I remain optimistic that my labors are not in vain, that somehow, someone is going to notice that I write good stuff. I’m going to be an overnight sensation. Here’s hoping I live to see it.

As ZZ Top, wildly out of context to my situation, sang: I ain’t asking for muh-uch!

As I wrote, and often sing, wildly in context to my situation: I sold my soul / In different roles / But had my share of fun.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

 

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

In the Path of the Great Eclipse

Horseshoe Falls (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 17, 2017, 11:05 a.m.

I watched the Red Devils scrimmage Blacksburg for a while. I wish I’d brought an egg to see if it would fry on the concrete stands of Wilder Stadium. Most of the fans were smarter than I. They watched from the visiting stands, which were shaded at 6 p.m. I just thought Blacksburg brought a crowd that coincidentally happened to be wearing red shirts.

By Monte Dutton

For a while, I leaned left to give my right butt cheek some reliet, and then I leaned right to lessen the likelihood of blisters on the left. I managed to hold out until all the boiled peanuts were gone. My intention was to make my way across to the other side, but I chatted with M.D. (Mad Dog) Knight for a while. Then Mac Young wandered over, and we stood around telling old stories about the Red Devils of yore.

I went home and picked up the Red Sox, already in progress. They fell behind the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-0, almost immediately after I found the remote. I was drinking a quart of ice water at the time.

Mookie Betts (Monte Dutton sketch)

On Tuesday night, in the first five innings, the Bostons had scored 10 runs and turned one triple and two double plays. Magic was obviously still in the Fenway Park air when, with a man on third, Jackie Bradley Jr., the splendid Red Sox center fielder, charged a one-hop single and threw out the St. Louis baserunner at the plate. Now get this straight. He threw out a man trying to reach the plate from third base on a single. Just a routine one-hopper to center. The play at the plate wasn’t close. It was one of the damnder throws I’ve ever witnessed.

With a total eclipse headed inexorably toward my hometown from 92.96 million miles away – I looked up the driving directions on my phone – the Red Sox’ ninth walk-off of the season seemed inevitable. With two out in the ninth, the splendid right fielder, Mookie Betts, doubled off the wall, and Bradley was safe at the plate because Yadier Molina couldn’t corral the throw. Bradley scored the second run of the play and fifth of the game. The Cardinals finished with four.

It was Molina who had grounded into the triple play. It wasn’t his series.

Meeting the Red Devils (Monte Dutton photo)

It’s Meet the Red Devils over at the gymnasium tonight. I’m not sure whether I’ll make it or not. The Yankees don’t arrive at Fenway until Friday. Clinton High doesn’t arrive at K.C. Hanna (in Laurens) until Friday week, as we say in these parts.

Until the past hour, I thought I might be the only person in its path who isn’t excited about the eclipse. I’m not too fond of cramming of millions of people into a band that curves toward Clinton from the coast of Oregon. I remember seeing an eclipse of some sort when I was a child. I remember being warned that it would blind me if I looked straight at it for too long, but no one offered special glasses, and I remember that I just looked at it for a few seconds and then looked away. I figure I’ll probably do that again, but I just finished reading the Clinton Chronicle and discovered that, if I go up to something called Total Eclipse at the Rails, safety glasses will be provided by Family Eye Care.

I also read where turtles will hide, bats will fly, birds will nest, and hardworking ants will knock off. Some are predicting an appearance by the Lizard Man of Lee County, most likely in Lee, not Laurens, County. Who knows, though? People know what the cows will do (nothing), but scientists have no fix on the Lizard Man.

I reckon I’ll go uptown like everyone else. I was thinking about taking my guitar, sitting on the bench placed in memory of J.A. Orr on Musgrove Street, and playing a revised verse of Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World.”

Why did the sun stop shining? / Why do the stars twinkle bright? / Don’t they know it’s the end of the world? / It ended when you said goodbye.

I’ve also been thinking about watching it from Musgrove Mill State Park, a part of which includes Horseshoe Falls on the Enoree River. I’m a little worried, though, at what cottonmouths might do. It wasn’t covered in the Chronicle.

 

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Truth Leads to Fiction

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 11:41 a.m.

Football time’s a-comin’ comin’.

Rain, too, unfortunately. I’m scheduled to write about a “jamboree” (a heap of teams show up and match up against one another as planned for either a quarter or a half) in Woodruff on Thursday and here in Clinton on Friday.

By Monte Dutton

Both the Red Devils and the Laurens Raiders are at Woodruff, but they won’t play each other until August 25. Clinton is playing Blue Ridge, a school that inexplicably wears red, in the opening “half” (there are actually three) beginning at 6 p.m. Then Chapman faces Spartanburg, and the final “half” is Laurens vs. host Woodruff. The halves are thirds, but that’s just too complicated to explain over and over.

It’s a handy grouping. Woodruff and Chapman are, like Clinton, in Region 3-3A, and Laurens hosts

Greenwood Index-Journal. I took notes and photos of Clinton-Blue Ridge, then drove to a nearby Burger King to file while Chapman and Spartanburg were playing. I drove back, took notes and snapped photos of what was left of Laurens-Woodruff, then dictated a few paragraphs while sitting in my car in the parking lot.

This time I’ll be able to drive back home to file, and Billy Dunlap, my free-lance employer at the GoLaurens/GoClinton website, is shooting photos.

In other words, a decent story is theoretically possible.

It’ll be nice to tune up my football-writing skills – mostly my note-and-stat-keeping skills – with an athletic contest that is as unofficial for me as it is for the teams. I may look for a new, better stat form here in a few minutes. Last year’s didn’t provide as much room as I needed. I’ll probably find a form I can print, but, being somewhat set in my ways, it’s possible I will draw up my own.

Possible, but unlikely. The Internet offers many options.

The summer has been dedicated to writing fiction. The sequel to my stock car racing novel, Lightning in a Bottle, is in the works. The manuscript is ready. The cover should be completed by month’s end, provided my designer and I see eye to eye (and we did on the two before this one). The new novel will be called Life Gets Complicated.

Believe it or not, writing free-lance stories about high school and college kids is an important part of my fiction.

Several readers of Lightning in a Bottle are convinced that Barrie Jarman is based on a real race driver. More than one have suggested Barrie is a latter-day, teen-aged Tim Richmond, but that never occurred to me once when I was creating him. If truth be known, Barrie, who was 16 when the novel began, is more derived from a high school football player than a race driver I never knew. There isn’t any one, but, when writing about a character 40 years younger, it helps to pay attention to what the kids of today are like.

Most of my books can be purchased here.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment