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).

Delightful Clinton Things

Dr. David O'Shields, in red, naturally, receives the game ball from all the runners, proving, beyond the shadow of a doubt that "the Raiders are coming, the Raiders are coming!" (Monte Dutton photos)
Dr. David O’Shields, in red, naturally, receives the game ball from all the runners, proving, beyond the shadow of a doubt that “the Raiders are coming, the Raiders are coming!” (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 25, 2016, 8:33 p.m.

This was the most Clinton thing ever. The Clinton thing Friday night is in its infancy, because, dating back to 1920, Laurens has never played the Red Devils to begin a season.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Clinton is a place where that most crucial transition of the calendar year – the ceremonial end of summer and beginning of football  – is celebrated by having a band that released a song that reached No. 17 in the country back in 1966 play a concert under a really nice shed next to the railroad tracks and across the street from the Confederate Monument.

In other words, my hometown’s citizens welcome the kids at Clinton High and Presbyterian College back to school by holding a live concert of music they barely remember and the kids never heard, that is, unless they watched The Swingin’ Medallions last year.

Just about as busy as Musgrove Street gets.
Just about as busy as Musgrove Street gets.

I might be a tad jaded. Mind you, I have witnessed Kurt Busch Day in Las Vegas.

Vegas Clinton ain’t. I like Clinton better. Besides, I can’t afford to gamble right now. Oh, wait. My whole life is a gamble.

The Swingin’ Medallions are from nearby Greenwood and objects of local renown. The townspeople turned out to hear the aforementioned hit, “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,” and covers of 1970s rhythm and blues and our regional genre, beach music, which is the format of the local radio station, WPCC 1410-AM, Large Time Radio.

The Swingin' Medallions
The Swingin’ Medallions

It’s one of those trips back in time that most people get just driving through Clinton.

The cross country teams of Laurens and Clinton ran the game football from there to here, and they delivered it to District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields, who was once a classmate of mine at good old CHS, back when those who ran across country for sport were known as “harriers.” I believe runners around tracks might have been “thinclads.”

Unlike Friday night, Town Rhythms, the local Thursday evening free concert series, was a music-time decision. I wasn’t completely sure I was going, but the damned Red Sox lost, and I wanted something good to happen, so I decided I’d park as near as I could, stop by the Cuban restaurant for supper and watch the Medallions swing a mite slower than they did in wild, wonderful 1966.

Some folks staked out their spots early.
Some folks staked out their spots early.

Instead, I wound up eating pork barbecue, slaw and potato salad from a food truck and a Diet Mountain Dew I found elsewhere because the truck didn’t have any drinks beside water that were diet, and I love water but not with barbecue, and you know how fat people always drink diet, proving conclusively that it does absolutely no good whatsoever, but I’ve gotten used to it.

I hung around for half the concert because I bumped into a good two dozen people I haven’t seen lately, and we talked about such items as the old Howard Watkins farm being up for sale, and the sheriff’s race, and reckon how long it’ll be before Dempsey’s Pizza is open again, and other items that have more resonance in Laurens County than the earthquake in Italy.

I got home at a decent hour, or else I wouldn’t be writing this, now, would I?

Maybe I’ll get a Cuban sandwich before I go to Wilder Stadium. Either that or a slaw-dog plate at Whiteford’s.

DSCF1979

(Steven Novak cover design)
(Steven Novak cover design)

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.

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

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?

(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.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s 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).

The Hometown Cuisine Helps

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

My mother grew up on this street. It's changed. Then again, it's been a while.
My mother grew up on this street. It’s changed. Then again, it’s been a while.

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 4:57 p.m.

Maybe tonight’s Truck race on the Eldora dirt has made me more attentive to the rustic.

I had an appointment this afternoon and decided to have an early supper. I’ve got three of the peaches I bought on the side of road left, so maybe tonight I’ll cut one up and mix it with the rest of the cottage cheese. Fresh peaches and cottage cheese are a smooth combination. Today I’ve written part of a short story (the first two installments are posted at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com), mowed my mother’s yard, paid some bills, and completed some travel plans, and I’m feeling good about myself. Myself feels good, too, because I’ve been outside and sweated. The lady at the doctor’s office said I was good to go, so I didn’t feel too guilty about trying the smorgasbord at Trotter’s.

Trotter’s used to be about a mile from my house. That was when it served as the restaurant at the Holiday Inn, which became the Howard Johnson’s and then the Clinton House (and something else similar), and is now a half-torn-down eyesore that looks exactly like it would on the Gaza Strip.

The new Trotter’s, located in a building of its own, has been open a while, but it’s sort of out of the way for me, and I just hadn’t gotten around to trying it.

The barbecue joint closed a few months ago, and I miss it, but it’s good to have Trotter’s open again because every Southern town needs a place where a man can reliably find country-fried steak, squash casserole, steamed cabbage, and what we are fond of calling macaroni pie.

Sorry. I've just never been one to take photographs of food.
Sorry. I’ve just never been one to take photographs of food.

Outsiders tend to rename our foods. Growing up, I never heard of chicken-fried steak or pulled pork. We had country-fried steak, and our barbecue joints offered the pork options of chopped and minced. No one really ever pulled pork since health departments got so prominent. It’s chopped. Country-fried steak is a little different from chicken-fried. In Texas, they batter and fry the cubed steak (that’s the steak that’s been run through a cubing machine), cover damn near a whole plate with it, and pour gravy (here we call it “sweet-milk” gravy) over it. Country-fried steak simmers in a covered skillet, in the gravy, before it is even served, and the gravy is generally brown instead of gray.

I like them both, but I like our style a little better because that’s the way I was raised. Ditto our mustard-based barbecue. For twenty years, I traveled all over the country, homesick for South Carolina barbecue, and damned if Hickory Hills didn’t close down a year after I got back.

A friend once told me that I could never like what everybody else likes, because, if everybody else started liking it, I’d stop. I think that’s just indigenous to my native state.

Things Let Go

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Getty Images for NASCAR.
Getty Images for NASCAR.

Clinton, S.C., Friday, July 4, 2014, 10:42 a.m.

Once upon a time, the forebear of this Sprint Cup race in Daytona Beach, Florida, was Winston Cup, it was always on the Fourth of July, and it began at ten in the morning.

It was the Anti-Night Race, named after fireworks.

By the time I started writing about it, it started at eleven. I loved it. I could write three or four stories about the race and still be swimming in the Atlantic by late afternoon.

It was ingenious in its way. The race started at roughly the same time the ribs were safely in the pit, when all a man had to do was tend the grill from time to time, scoot a little water to quell the fires lapping around the pork, and brush on the sauce. Mainly, he settled in on the couch and watched the race while Mama attended to the fixings.

A Daytona snarl in 2012. (John Clark photo)
A Daytona snarl in 2012. (John Clark photo)

The sport has changed, and so have the fans. They’d apparently rather watch the sparks fly at night than barbecue themselves in the harsh July heat, though recent crowds might offer an alternative view. Now it’s only on the Fourth when the Fourth is a Saturday.

Translated into what was my sportswriter’s lifestyle, circa mid-nineties, this means, “No more Boothill Saloon.”

Lots of people buy barbecue. They go watch fireworks displays. No more staggering around in the back yard, waving a Roman candle. Phoompf! Phoompf! No one’s likely to put an eye out anymore. The same recollection often offered for old-time stock car racing is mildly applicable to fireworks: How did we all survive?

Here’s a far-flung story about racing on the Fourth of July.

In the late 1980s, I was the sports editor of the local rag here in Clinton. I wrote a feature about an Englishman who made his way through town on a bicycle. His goal was to ride all the way across the United States. At the time, though, he was laid up in the Gala Motor Inn, suffering from an hemorrhoids attack. We became friends for a couple days, though now I can’t remember his name and have no idea what became of him. While he was recovering from his pain, I thought he might enjoy a bit of cultural exchange, so I took him to the local dirt track for its Independence spectacular. Before the racing began, they had all kinds of beauty pageants – Miss Laurens Speedway, Miss Preschool Laurens Speedway, Miss Teen Laurens Speedway, Miss Married Laurens Speedway, Miss Divorced Laurens Speedway, et al.

Then the patriotic songs started streaming from the public-address system, and with the music, great flag waving and self-congratulation for the indescribable thrill of being American. We heard “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “America the Beautiful,” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

My short-term English friend said to me, “I really think it’s quite commendable, this commemoration of your English heritage.”

“Yeah,” I said, mystified. Then I remembered that the tune Americans know as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (actual name “America”) is the tune the British know as “God Save the Queen” and their national anthem.

I just let it go.

My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, has a patriotic display at the end, too.  It’s an irreverent yarn. And as the summer progresses and football season beckons, you’ll enjoy the second, The Intangibles, set in the 1960s and dealing with civil rights, desegregation, and, of course, high school football in a small Southern town.

Holiday at the House (Mom’s House)

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All I barbecued was a few songs. (John Clark photo)

I’m ready to declare this day, this 237th-and-one-day anniversary of America, a success.

I finally got my grass, my damp grass above the saturated soil, cut. And my mother’s, too. It was mostly overcast but occasionally sunny, and it looked as if it might rain but only drizzled for a short time.

For the second time in as many days, Alex, my great-nephew, is asleep at the onset of the p.m., apparently having watched cartoons for much of the night. I was hoping to awaken him with a steady progression of “The Andy Griffith Show,” but the episodes are in black and white, and kids today don’t play that stuff.

Provided he comes alive sooner than Rip Van Winkle, we’re going to take a drive, perhaps to Furman University, hoping to interest him in a school where I’ll never be able to afford sending him but from which I inexplicably managed to graduate, and perhaps to a cineplex, where he can review a university consisting of monsters, which, with luck, he will never be.

We can then continue to test the weather fates by attending a baseball game at Greenville’s Fluor Field involving the city’s Drive. This could be a drive to see the Drive.

The day’s question marks are far from over, in other words, but the grass is cut and we’ve got that going for us.

Which is nice.

Imagine a world in which a man can take his unofficial grandson to see a Class A farm club of the Boston Red Sox in action, then return home in time to watch the fully mature Red Sox take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a team clearly overburdened by the sheer bulk of its name.

If there’s rain in Greenville, there’s NASCAR Nationwide from Daytona on television. The forecast is 60 percent rain with variable sporting events.

Thanks to the arduous task of riding a mower around and around for 90 minutes, I am happy to report that last night’s barbecue is fully digested.

Jake, now a cook by profession, expertly prepared the ribs and chicken. The chopped barbecue – we called it “chopped” in these parts long before anyone thought up the term “pulled pork” – was reportedly a joint venture between him and my sister, his mother. My mother, his grandmother, prepared the rice, slaw and baked beans. Jake fried the okra. Ginger, my aforementioned sister, bought the hash from a lady whose business is collecting trash at the house.

When Mom said, “Ginger bought the hash from the trash lady,” I did a double-take, but it was good.

I merely provided the guitar and inventory reduction. I Atkins-dieted to excess.

Alex just budged. His head on the pillow is now facing the window instead of the stereo.

A game-time decision is on the horizon between “Monsters University” and “Despicable Me 2.” Alex is now taking a shower.

I apologize for writing so much about my great-nephew, but the kid is just so cute.

A Tale of Two Carolinas

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Having spent 15 years working in North Carolina and living in South Carolina, I’m keenly aware of the fundamental differences in the two.

To wit:

North Carolina is a basketball state. South Carolina is a football state. If South Carolina was named for its sports preference, it would be East Georgia.

Barbecue is vastly different. There is some geographic diversity in North Carolina, east (vinegar) to west (tomato), but South Carolina has its own mustard-based flavor. Since most people prefer what their mama served them, I prefer the South Carolina brand, which is largely unknown in the rest of the country. But I like it all. Another staple of South Carolina barbecue is hash, which, strictly speaking, isn’t barbecue at all but is awfully good over rice.

In North Carolina, hush puppies accompany both barbecue and seafood. By and large, South Carolina’s hush puppies, while largely the same as up north, are served with seafood only.

As reflected in its barbecue, South Carolina is fiercely independent. North Carolina’s conservatism is less so, as witnessed by the two states’ governors. While I consider North Carolina’s Pat McCrory to be world class in terms of blow-dried emptiness, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley makes McCrory look like Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sarah Palin look like George F. Will. North Carolina has a Democratic senator. Oh, how I miss Fritz Hollings. My Congressman, Jeff Duncan, desperately wants to be the next Palin. If Duncan had his way, all the kids would be home-schooled and armed. I’ve nothing against home schooling in principle, but I do believe that educators ought to be educated.

North Carolina had Jesse Helms. South Carolina had Strom Thurmond. That’s kind of a push.

North Carolina’s flag is too similar to Texas’s. South Carolina’s flag, with its Palmetto tree and crescent moon, may be the state’s best example of good taste. I envy North Carolina its moderation, but I am a Sandlapper, not a Tarheel, and I find some resonance in what I once heard Shelby Foote say about the Civil War. I think secession was shameful, but if I had been alive, I’d have probably been as foolish as all the rest.

More North Carolinians are snobs. More South Carolinians are firebrands.

In 49 states, Carolina is in Chapel Hill and USC is in Los Angeles. Where I live, Carolina and USC are in Columbia. South Carolinians couldn’t care less what the rest of the country thinks.

My personal views have always been far off the beaten path for my native state, but don’t even think about changing my mind. That’s why I’m quintessentially South as Carolinas go.