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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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).

Big Red Gets Devilish in Soccer

Luke Mann (6) scored the first Clinton goal. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 9:52 a.m.

Red Devil soccer has developed gradually over the years. I was away, writing oddly about race cars that go around and around, for most of its history, but it has been my theory that Clinton High School added a soccer program at just about the time sporting goods manufacturers stopped making blocked-off shoes for straight-on football kicking.

By Monte Dutton

From time immemorial until the end of the 1980s, Red Devil football had exactly one soccer-style placekicker, and the reason I am so attuned to this phenomenon is that the sidewinder in question, in 1978 and 1979, was my brother, Brack, who also played cornerback in the latter year’s Shrine Bowl. Have you ever noticed how seldom it is that a placekicker plays another position nowadays?

What I’m suggesting is that the motives might have been slightly mixed when a soccer team representing District 56 finally took the field.

On Tuesday evening, amid conditions that were almost perfect, Clinton won a Class 3A soccer playoff game for the first time … ever. All I was there to write was this. I took a few photos during the first half and then retired to the sidelines, there to complain about the officiating and be swept up in partisan fervor.

The score was Clinton (11-11) 3, Chester (8-9) 2. The Red Devils will go to Walhalla, an outpost on the far side of Clemson from here, for another match on Thursday night.

Here comes Parker Duncan.

Luke Mann, whose father once played football with me; Parker Duncan, son of our Congressman; and Elvis Fitz, who coincidentally kicked field goals and extra points for the football team last fall; scored the goals. The Red Devils outshot the Cyclones, 20-12.

Clinton took a 1-0 lead on Mann’s goal. Then it was 1-1. Then Clinton took the lead again. And Chester tied it. Duncan’s game-winner occurred in the 71st minute, three after Chester’s Jeffery Gulish scored.

At the time, things looked ghoulish. I couldn’t resist.

Duncan’s game-winner led 30 parents of Cyclones to yell aloud something like “oh, fiddlesticks!” and something less wholesome under their breaths, and about 50 Red Devil fans to exult in much the same fashion. The tone was markedly different.

Clinton: “Damned if we didn’t score! He got it! He got it! Who was it? Parker Duncan! Woo-hoo! Go, Parker!”

Chester: “Day-ummm.”

Duncan, whose thirst for the net is as great as his father’s political ambition, also had an assist, as did Jesus Gonzalez and Patrick Nelson.

If one is standing on a sideline, surrounded by others among the faithful, listening to jeers rising from the little wooden grandstand where the other team’s pilgrims have set up camp, reality gets distorted.

It was as if the officials were willing participants in a seedy attempt by the visitors to brutalize the local lads. Fans were howling for mandatory incarceration, no parole, and all the refs had to offer was a single, solitary yellow card. I even went so far as to suggest one of the co-conspirators might need an update in the prescription for his spectacles. Oh, wait. The ref wasn’t wearing glasses. Contact lenses, undoubtedy. Something was distorting his view.

Many of the fans were quite knowledgeable about the game, no doubt a result of carrying kids all over the Upstate to play club soccer for “select” teams.

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If Clinton should win at Walhalla against the Razorbacks – it seems particularly unique a nickname for soccer – then I’m told they will play Berea, the Greenville school that is, according to a reliable source standing next to me, the No. 28 team in the nation.

I’ve got my share of problems, but I’m glad I haven’t been tasked at trying to figure out the top 50 high school soccer teams in America. Lots of variables, I’m thinking.

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).

 

Likes and Dislikes, and Balls and Strikes

(Photos by Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 21, 2017, 11:48 a.m.

Back in my day …

Ethan Jones homered for the Raiders in the first inning.

Things were different. They’ll be different in the next day, too. And the one after. Times change. I don’t believe my day was any better than this one. For some reason, at some point in age, varying from person to person, it stops being “my day.” This must be intuitive, or else people wouldn’t admit it by saying “back in my day.”

Make sense? Of course not. Don’t tell me, here in the 21st century, that anything is supposed to make sense. Today is about being technologically advanced, not knowledgeable.

By Monte Dutton

The kids don’t know history. They don’t know the history of America, or baseball, or music, or their families. No one who lived before they could watch him or her on TV counts.

John Havlicek? I could say he founded the AFL-CIO.

Willie Mays? He was a great first baseman — okay, I did see a game in which both Willie Mays and Hank Aaron played first base — but the hall of famer who played it for the Giants was Willie McCovey.

Oh, how could I have enjoyed baseball without seeing Mays play center field? Or basketball without knowledge of Oscar Robertson! Hockey without appreciating the wonder of Bobby Orr? Racing without David Pearson?

Does anyone read books about sports? (Oh, boy. I hope so.) The first one I read was about Mel Ott. He raised his front foot like Sadaharu Oh while batting. Don’t know Oh, huh? He was a Giant. A Yomiuri Giant.

That could be a clean alternative to cursing. You don’t know oh! Oh, oh! Oh on that! Why, you oh-ass! I do not give an oh what you think!

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In the press box of Clinton High School’s new baseball stadium on Thursday night, I expressed a radical opinion. The Red Devils were en route to defeat against Laurens, so, naturally, thoughts turned to that eternal debate. What’s better? DirecTV or Dish? I said DirecTV was better, but Dish was cheaper. I said this, of course, because I have DirecTV, and, in fact, John Wayne in Brannigan is on right now. The same debate could have been conducted over PC or Mac, iPhone or Galaxy, Colbert or Fallon, Zaxby’s vs. Chick-Fil-A, or, most notably around here, Clemson or South Carolina.

The Voice of the Red Devils, Buddy Bridges, and Zack Wofford (right).

Discussions like this are why Zack Wofford gets distracted, and it’s why the Voice of the Red Devils, Buddy Bridges, lights into Zack about the balls and strikes being off. Buddy probably leaves me alone because I’m older than he is, and keeping balls and strikes is not my job.

Zack, who spends a lot of time at the high school keeping scoreboards and publicly addressing when the Voice is elsewhere, said something about how it was easier to tape six or eight shows on Dish, and I said it made no difference to me.

“I don’t tape anything.”

A senior who will be missed at the fields, courts and diamonds of Clinton High School, Zack looked at me as if I were, at worst, mentally deficient, and, at best, entering the early stages of dementia.

“You don’t tape anything?” It had the same intonation as, “You lost your car keys?”

“OK,” I said, “I believe it’s important to protect yourself from technology.”

“What’s the count?” asked the Voice.

“Two and one,” said Zack.

“I believe it’s two and two.”

“I’ve got a lot to do, and I don’t need to be wasting any more time than I already do on social media, texting, and watching sports,” I said. “The last thing I need is to come home from a trip and have six or eight shows saved to watch. If I don’t see it live, I don’t see it. Most things get rerun. If I wait long enough, and I want to see them, I usually find another showing. It’s just my modest personal regulation on myself.”

Zack would have thought I sounded like Archie Bunker if Zack knew who Archie Bunker was.

One would think a young person would be well aware that the central theme of modern life is protecting oneself from … oneself.

To Zack’s great credit, he pays close attention to what is happening now. He knows his current affairs.

We’re great friends — Zack, the Voice, and I — and I haven’t been around as much this spring, owing to fewer free-lance opportunities and this novel I wrote in three months while chained in the darkened corridors of my home, illuminated only by a lamp and the aforementioned DirecTV.

The reason for our presence, the Red Devils and Raiders of nearby Laurens, was growing farther apart as a result of LDHS’s superior pitching and Clinton’s board of directors who took turns on the mound. Laurens’ playoff position — runner-up in Region 2-5A with an overall record of 17-6 and a region mark of 7-3 — was secure. Clinton (6-11, 5-4 Region 3-3A) is going to play next week, but when and where (not Clinton) depended on the outcome of its game at home Friday against Chapman and two other contests.

The Raiders pitched Jared Cvetko, their ace. Clinton paraded four hurlers out there, saving the best for Chapman. Laurens, a better team anyway, won, 6-2.

A year ago, the best Clinton team in more than two decades advanced to the upstate final (four-team) round and finished 24-3. That memorable, cohesive unit graduated many of its best players. This year’s team is young, and it’s been competitive after a slow start, which is just as it should have been.

The Red Devils have a brand-new baseball and softball complex, designed cleverly with a concession stand and restrooms located in between, and it has something this town’s high school has never seen before: lush grass infields.

A year ago, the Voice, Zack and I sat at a folding table behind the plate of The Sponge, as the previous sandlot was lovingly dubbed. The approach of storm clouds could be testy. On Thursday, the Voice and I allowed as how we miss that view from right behind the plate but not the thunderstorms.

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).

Misty, Water-Colored Memories of the Way We Were

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, March 31, 2017, 9:30 a.m.

I know Laurens County fairly well, having lived here almost all my life. The first banquet of the Laurens County Sports Hall of Fame was right down my alley, having put in many a day’s touch-typing on the subject of Laurens County sports.

By Monte Dutton

Of the eight inductees, the only one I had never met was Chrissy Floyd, the Laurens basketball player who performed most of her magic while I was away trying in vain to keep up with cars going around and around. I talked to her on the phone over a month ago. She was gracious. Everyone was gracious. It’s probably hard not to be gracious when home folks realize officially how great one is.

Take a close look at every day, and something unique occurs. On Thursday night, my unique experience was listening to my words being used as narration by another voice. The stories I’d written for the program were used for introductory greetings of each inductee. I’m sure the words sounded better than if I’d said them, but it just felt slightly weird, sitting out in the audience, finding myself tempted to lip-synch. Maybe it was like an actor who can’t carry a tune, having to have his voice replaced in the musical numbers. Maybe this happened to me before, but I can’t remember it.

King Dixon

With one exception, I knew these people.

My mother told me tales of King Dixon, who played for the old Laurens Tigers (now Raiders) when my father was a Clinton Red Devil. Dixon and his mates whipped Clinton five years in a row – yes, he played in the eighth grade – and my father never talked much about it. Sixty years ago, and a man who starred in football and life still attaches great significance to never losing to Clinton. This, of course, led a couple of Clinton’s finest to allow as how, son of a gun, they never lost to Laurens.

Chick Galloway’s granddaughter represented him.

Chick Galloway died when I was 11. Cally Gault, another PC man – male graduates of Presbyterian College are prone to espouse that synonym of virtue, “the PC man” – recalled Galloway, hitting him grounders while Gault was playing baseball at PC.

That was in 1948.

What I remember of Galloway is that he was a stately man, who commonly wore bowties and who shook my little hand while my father told me he had been “one of the best shortstops there ever was.” Galloway’s big-league career ended prematurely in 1928, when, standing near the cage, a wild pitch in batting practice hit him in the head, ending his career.

Cally Gault

Coach Gault almost spans my life. He moved back here when I was five. Occasionally, I was a ball boy but mostly I watched the Blue Hose play from the area behind the wooden stands in the Johnson Field end zone where kids were allowed to wad up paper cups and pretend they were footballs. It’s funny. When I was 10, he was “Cally.” I can see him now, stalking the sidelines, wearing a blue pullover with “PRESBYTERIAN” in embroidered garnet, similar to what Ara Parseghian wore on Notre Dame sidelines at the time, giving the zebras a hard time. Cally coached the Blue Hose, but he was a bulldog.

Kevin Long

When I first met Kevin Long, he was working for my dad. I was in the ninth grade when Kevin was a senior, and long before the television show, Clinton High School had SNL: (Robert) Scott, (Charles) Norman and (Kevin Long). In Clinton, they might as well be Tinker to Evers to Chance.

J.D. Fuller

J.D. Fuller starred at noseguard for two Red Devil state champions, and my brother Brack was his teammate on one of them. Like Long, Fuller starred for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Noseguards have roared out of Clinton like BMWs out of Greer, but Fuller was the first one chosen as a county hall of famer. Cross Hill is a small place, but the people there ought to hire J.D. as goodwill ambassador.

Chrissy Floyd

Three Red Devils: Long, Fuller and their coach (and mine), Keith Richardson. Two Raiders and a Tiger from Laurens: Barry Atkinson, Dixon and Floyd. Three Gamecocks: Long, Fuller and Dixon. One (Clemson) Tiger: Floyd. Three Blue Hose: Galloway, Gault and Richardson. One woman: Floyd. Five played and coached football: Dixon, Gault, Fuller, Long and Richardson. One baseball player: Galloway. One basketball player: Floyd. One who treated them all: Atkinson.

Barry Atkinson at what he does best.

“Coach” Atkinson mainly fixes. He’s been the Laurens District High School athletic trainer since the budget mainly consisted of ice, tape and “atomic balm.” If there were a Mount Rushmore for memory, Barry would be on it. He can recite most of the Gospel According to Yogi Berra and sprinkle it with a one-liner from General Douglas MacArthur, all while assessing the range of motion in a bum left ankle.

Keith Richardson

At the end, by virtue of the alphabet, was Richardson, whose high school coaching prowess is as legendary in Clinton as Vince Lombardi’s in Green Bay. Hardly anyone who played for him ever calls him Keith, least of all I. In my many travels, I called Earnhardt Dale, Gant Harry (pronounced “hurry”), Waltrip D.W. and Tony Stewart things that I deign not to disclose here. I once called Bob Knight “Bobby” and actually survived.

Richardson? He’s “Coach.” He wouldn’t mind it if I called him Keith, but I probably wouldn’t be able to go to sleep that night.

“How you doing?” ask at least three quarters of all the people one encounters. Most reply “fine.” A few say, “It’s all good.”

John Avery

That’s what the banquet was: all good. No one felt slighted. No one thought anyone went on too long. Most of the jokes got laughs and all of them chuckles. John Avery mastered the ceremonies. The slides flashing across the screen behind the honorees were nostalgic and compelling.

I’m not a big banquet fan. I dreaded dress shoes and didn’t wear a tie. I wore a sweater to hide the wrinkles in my shirt.

I didn’t want to leave when this one was over, though. Here’s what I wrote last night before bedtime.

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.

(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.

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).

When Spring Is in the Meadow

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 9:51 a.m.

I got out Tuesday evening. I’d been holed up, preparing for my big news, which is imminent.

By Monte Dutton

And, I hope, eminent.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready and not a second before.

I ran myself late and lost track of the time, even though that time is located in the bottom right corner of this screen. A little-known fact: time accelerates as the day progresses. If only Einstein had known this, why, we’d probably be traveling intergalactically by now.

Comparatively and metaphorically, Clinton High School’s boys’ soccer team was traveling intergalactically, or, at least, at a hefty land speed for humans.

The junior varsity hadn’t started its game with Broome as early as a malfunctioning mind had alleged, so, instead of arriving at the varsity game five minutes late, it was early in the second half of the JV contretemps. Clinton won, 2-1.

The varsity didn’t have a contretemps. It was barely a contest. The Red Devils are emerging from a rough start. The Centurions fell, 7-0.

Broome … swept. Undoubtedly, a headline writer has noticed this before. Undoubtedly, page designers have succumbed to triteness more often because of the sheer frustration inherent in Broome High School’s athletic teams. There exists no “headline word” for Centurions. They can’t be the Cents or the Rions. At least when Clinton plays, the headline can refer simply to the Devils.

None of this has anything to do with the inability of its soccer teams to beat Clinton on a Tuesday evening in early spring 2017.

If the home team is being battered, fans will seep away, but when the lads are on a romp, everyone remains to enjoy the frivolity. I mingled socially, told jokes, and walked across the field to trade quips with very young men who are 28.8 percent of my age.

In a little over a week, that is. Estimates may vary.

At the conclusion of Victory in the Meadow, I headed over to the Yard to check out the baseball team, young and struggling, partly because I wanted to check out the new stadium and partly because I hadn’t had anything to eat since 8 that morning. In other words, I also wanted to check out the concession stand, where, in fact, I was able to acquire a Zaxby’s Meal Deal (sandwich, chips, drink) that hit the spot. The Red Devils didn’t hit enough. Broome won, 4-2.

Now I’m back to waiting for the big surprise.

(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.

(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.

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).

 

The Weather Will Get Warmer

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 16, 2017, 9:45 a.m.

Spring sports begin early. They begin cold. Traditionally, I’m prone to underrate the chill of March. Wednesday night was a rare exception. I wore a coat to Laurens District High School that I hadn’t put on all winter. I can’t take too much credit. On Tuesday night, the hoodie I wore to a soccer match was woefully unsufficient to meet my needs.

By Monte Dutton

Heck, I could’ve done without the jacket. Ed Prescott Field has a genuine, bona fide press box. The only time I was out in the elements was to take pictures and talk briefly with the Raiders’ head coach, Tori Patterson, afterwards, and the latter wasn’t much of a chore because of the details of the game. I got a solid 23 seconds from the Laurens coach, and he and I both thought it ample.

Laurens defeated Clinton, 13-0. It ended via a 10-run rule. The Red Devils committed six errors. Of the 13 runs, only five, allowed by four Clinton pitchers, were earned. That was my estimation. I got a headache trying to figure it.

In short, the Clinton team was significantly more weather-impaired than I.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

No sport is more conducive to sudden shifts than baseball. In their 2004 American League Championship Series comeback against the New York Yankees, the Boston Red lost Game 3, 19-8. I remember it distinctly. I was on assignment at a (then) Busch Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which may have been Lowe’s then. As the Yankees clobbered the Red Sox, a New York partisan ragged me, as in some quarters I am well known for my love of the Bostons. I have only seen that gentleman one time in all the years since. I doubt he’s looking for me.

In case you were assigned to military duty in the Aleutian Islands, or engaged in a solitary experiment in Antarctica, or were unborn, you may have an inkling that the Red Sox won four straight games, eight if you count the Word Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and a movie called Fever Pitch.

Just last night, the former head coach of the Raiders, Dale Nelson, and I were reminiscing about a game we both saw. He was the 21-year-old coach of the Laurens American Legion team, and I was writing about said team on a regular basis for the Laurens County Advertiser. It was roughly 25 years ago.

Laurens was playing Easley on the same high school field in use Wednesday night. Easley scored 18 runs in the top of the first inning. Laurens wound up winning, 26-24. By game’s end, even most of the parents were gone. Maybe 10 fans, two teams and their coaches, an operator of a scoreboard incapable of registering a 26-24 score, and I saw the whole game. Was it worth it? Now it is. At the time, I was rooting for whichever team held bats in its hands.

How this came up in a 13-0 high school game, I can’t imagine.

In football, teams don’t play more than once, except in rare instances. Last year, in basketball, I saw a girls team lose a game by 31 points and then defeat the same team by 18 two weeks later, but I don’t think that happens as much in sports other than baseball.

In baseball, a pitcher in his groove or a batter with a hot bat can alone wreak havoc on the opposition. Sometimes nothing goes right. The next time nothing goes wrong. Contrary to prevailing medical science, errors really can be contagious. I’ve seen teams decimated by a “called third strike” virus. Sometimes umpires even get infected.

So play ball. Clinton does so again tonight.

(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.

(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.

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).

 

Sports in the Background

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 9, 2017, 12:53 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Hmm. Missouri beat Auburn. A basketball game was on TV at 11 a.m. It was in Nashville. It was 10 there. I wasn’t paying much attention until the overtime. I was crossing the magical 200-page barrier in my next novel. Fifty-four thousand words. I’ve got to write about an airplane soon. In fact, I’m maneuvering the whole shebang in for a landing.

As Bobby Bare used to sing, Ride me down easy, Lord, ride me on down.

The Tar Heels are playing the Hurricanes in Brooklyn. Let me check my program guide. By gosh, San Diego State is going to play Boise State in the Mountain West quarterfinal. That tips at 11:30 p.m.

Next thing you know, the time will change.

I haven’t watched much baseball. The Red Sox pounded the Braves on TV. Furman beat Presbyterian on a Tuesday afternoon before Clinton High’s final playoff basketball victory. I have only watched one of the local high school teams practice.

I watched the Red Devils win a pulsating 1-0 soccer match over a team representing a club of home-schooled kids.

The Chicago Blackhawks, my favorite hockey team, has been playing especially well, particularly on those rare occasions when I’m watching.

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images for NASCAR)

And, of course, there’s NASCAR.

Most of this week’s news has been about the future. At Charlotte Motor Speedway, they’re apparently going to run a fall race through the infield. Las Vegas, site of this week’s Sprint Cup race, is getting a second race. Both items aren’t going to happen until 2018.

So chill for now. Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que, sera, sera.

I’m going back to fiction.

Get back to the country, back in the barn aga-ain.

Bobby Bare, Doris Day, and Neil Young. All in one blog. Sometimes I amaze myself.

(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.

(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.

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).

Down Go the Devils

The Red Devil faithful turned out. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, February 26, 2017, 9:02 a.m.

It’s still vivid in my mind this morning. The glitter of a large arena. A throng of fans, more rowdy than usual because they’re small-town folks come to the city, and their hopes are up because they are anticipating another big victory and a nice meal at some restaurant Clinton doesn’t have.

By Monte Dutton

Twenty-one and four. The Red Devils finished 21-4. They made it to the Class 3A upstate finals, which remains the furthest they have ever been. When first they laid eyes on the Southside Tigers, it was, Wait a minute. Is this a PC game? Nope, nope, here come the Red Devils. That must be a high school team.

They should have waited for Dorman-Gaffney. They’d have thought they stumbled into the Pac-12.

First it was the shoulder. Later it was the knee.

Southside (26-1) won, 71-43. Inside, the Tigers were both tall and thick. Clinton was lanky and slender. The Red Devils’ All-State forward, Jalen Carter, had a first half like a boxer’s first round. Twice he crashed to the Bon Secours (Ironically Titled) Wellness Arena floor, only to be partially revived by the trainers. When the game was long over, I was at the end of a hall, underneath the stands, watching Carter limp to the bus, ice bags wrapped around his knee.

Hoosiers doesn’t happen every year.

Tymori Tribble

The game was sunset at the end of a glorious day. Southside’s Tigers loped off gracefully into the distance, disappearing with the sun over a boys’ basketball season’s far horizon.

The Red Devils, under first-year head coach Eddie Romines, were a splendid engine of improbable cohesion that finally threw a rod after a Ferrari pulled up at a red light.

V-r-r-r-room.

During the glorious 14-game win streak that encompassed the year to date up until Saturday, it was not uncommon for the Red Devils, with their boundless enthusiasm and clever risk-taking, to face second-half deficits. This time, though, it wasn’t manageable. Southside led by 20 points at the end of three quarters.

Clinton’s Zay Hurley and Southside’s Taymon Leamon.

It wasn’t particularly painful. They didn’t lose on a three-pointer at the buzzer. Southside let them down easy. They got figurative shots of novocaine. They trudged out to the bus, even those who weren’t limping, and rode on back down the road to reality.

This is pure speculation, but they might have felt like General Custer if he had lived.

It took me a while. I sat out on press row, typing a story and editing photos as the Wade Hampton and Dorman girls cavorted earnestly about. When the former put the latter to bed in Class 5A, I did the same with my day’s work. I watched half of Dorman’s victory in the boys’ game after my laptop decided it was an appropriate time to download 238 Microsoft updates before it would cut off.

Getting that laptop to shut down was not unlike the way the Red Devils’ season ended. There wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it.

(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.

(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.

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).