A Farewell to One of the Men in Full

(Monte Dutton photo)

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

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

Monte Dutton

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

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

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

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

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

My opinions usually satisfied him. They always amused him.

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

Harold Williams (Kim Williams-Carter photo)

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

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

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

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges


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

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

(Monte Dutton photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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





(Steven Novak design)

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

(Steven Novak cover design)

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

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

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

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

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

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

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

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

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

When This Old Town Seems Young

Keith Richardson FIeld is ready. (Photo courtesy Tex Glenn and Dale McWatters)
Keith Richardson FIeld is ready. (Photo courtesy Tex Glenn and Dale McWatters)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 21, 2015, 11:27 a.m.

Tonight Clinton High School opens its varsity football season at home against A.C. Flora of Columbia. The Red Devils defeated the Falcons in the first round of the 2013 3A playoffs and agreed to open the 2014 and ’15 seasons against them. A year ago, Flora returned the favor rather effectively with a 27-0 win over a Clinton team that would have a rough season.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Now Clinton has a new coach (Andrew Webb), a new offensive system, and the optimism that comes to town with every season. On Thursday, I drove over to the school gymnasium to watch the band play and all the athletes introduced to a crowd of fans on one side and, across the way, a host of cheerleaders and athletes representing the various sports at both the middle school, which is now located in what used to be the high school, and the high school proper. They took their places after being introduced, and by the time it was over, the far side was nearly as full as the near.

People signed up for the booster club and bought shirts and caps. The veteran P.A. announcer, Mark Entrekin, and the excitable “Voice of the Red Devils,” Buddy Bridges, introduced every kid, from middle-school volleyball to varsity football, as they walked and trotted out to midcourt at varying speeds and countenances, some on crutches and others in flip-flops. As kids get older, the rate of movement apparently slows as the swagger increases.

They all seemed confident. They all had their dreams, their hopes, their ambitions, their aspirations, their senses of humor intact. They’re colts and fillies who haven’t been broken.

It is a good thing. It will not be as easy as it seemed on Thursday night. They basked in the heady optimism and the high expectations. The town is in a good mood. Four of the school’s baseball players played on an American Legion team that won the national championship, on ESPU, no less, and the 9- and 10-year-olds won a state championship of their own.

The dreams of exceptionalism are intact.

Now, of course, the kids who basked in the spotlights must play their games. They must crank up the fight songs. They must swish the pompons. They must block, tackle, run, pass, catch, dig up and spike volleyballs, cross the nearby country, and, somehow, do it all in a coordinated and unified fashion. They rest secure in the knowledge that the community is behind them, but the community cannot perform the aforementioned tasks.

Meeting the Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photo)
Meeting the Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton football is two head coaches and six years removed from the school’s eighth state championship. The memory is still relatively fresh, though dimmed by recent results. From the shores of Lake Greenwood to the banks of the Enoree, families send their kids to the schools of District 56, of which Clinton High School is the flagship. This has been the case since long before my mother, father, sisters and brother went to school. It has probably been the case since the villages were linked by more than horses and wagons.

The Clinton Red Devils do not merely represent the school. They don’t merely represent the principal town. They represent the crossroads and the rural routes. Even in the neighboring towns, people are wondering if Clinton will come back this year.

The odds don’t favor them. The schedule is tough. The Red Devils do not back away from powerhouses, even though their own power has recently subsided. If the coming year isn’t successful, the expectations will still be high before the next one. This year, improvement will suffice, but the fans are tired of losing, and the players even more so.

In spite of all this, the kids who hit the field tonight have no responsibility for those who came before them. They have to go out there under the bright lights and win for themselves. They alone will reap the benefits or absorb the adversity, and regardless of what happens against the Falcons of Flora, next week another challenging opponent looms, and then another, and another, until the season is over, and then there will be more sports and more seasons, and more expectations that will sizzle or fizzle in the glare of competition.

What I will try to remember is the faces of the kids as I watched them trot, saunter, amble, and march out to midcourt last night. I expect the wins will outnumber the losses, whether the folks in the grandstands realize it or not.


The kids will not play sports forever. They will have to make a living. The principal way I make mine is by writing, and I hope you will consider buying the books that are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1