A Stop on an Old Road

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 22, 2017, 11:15 p.m.

I’ve about got the reacquaintance out of the way. Last Saturday and this Thursday have exceeded my Charlotte Motor Speedway budget for handshakes.

By Monte Dutton

Huh. It just occurred me. No one bumped fists. High school athletes bump fists regularly.

The famous line from The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes to mind. It was the slogan of Chuckles the Clown:

A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down the pants.

I find myself seeking out some and avoiding others. I remember the time, a little over four years ago, when my job was eliminated. Many peers rushed in to offer their encouragement. Others haven’t communicated as much as a word in all the time since. Some probably saw my plight as an unpleasant sign that the same fate might befall them. In the intervening years, it has happened, in many cases, but those people aren’t at the track now. Writing as a way to make a living has become a trip west on the Oregon Trail, and the business is run by Injuns. My dried-up skeleton is a symbol of impending woe.

A few probably don’t give a rat’s ass what became of me. There’s that.

I walked through the garage on Thursday at the end of Monster Cup practice. Many of the drivers retire quickly to their motorcoaches or the lounge in the transporter, or somewhere away from the madding crowd.

Lots of looks said, variously: (1.) “Don’t I know that guy?” (2.) “What’s he doing here?” (3.) “Is he still covering racing, and I just haven’t noticed?” and, of course, (4.) “He’s baaaaack.”

Then there’s the rash of the nicknames people use when they can’t remember a name:

Hey, there, buddy?

How you doin,’ sport?

What’s hap’nin,’ big time?

Hot shot, didn’t you used to be somebody?

Oh, yeah.

Then there are those who are vaguely aware of something about me. They might ask if I’m still playing guitar. When I say yes, they might say, “I heard you was.”

It’s been four and a half years.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Len Wood waved at me, but he was talking to someone who must have been important because they talked and talked. He smiled when he saw me, though.

Ryan Newman (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I chatted with Ryan Newman a little, told him he ought to read my racing novel. I managed to squeeze that in several times. It was pretty easy because people kept asking what I was doing now.

I’m sure a few may have scratched their heads and asked somebody else, “Seems like I recognize that old fat-ass. What’s his name?”

“Well, it ain’t David Poole. Remember him? I think he died.”

That was in 2009. David and I used to keep tabs on how many times people thought he was I, and vice-versa. A heap of people think fat folks look alike.

A while back. (John Clark photo)

There’s so much to learn about those who have advanced since I retreated. The only times I’ve asked Kyle Larson questions were in media conferences. Ryan Blaney? I think the world of his father.

Chase Elliott? I feel like I know him, but I don’t. When I met his father, Bill was a big star. When I met his mother, Cindy was a photographer. I see Chase, from a distance, as a combination of his father’s skill and his mother’s pragmatism. Had Bill understood NASCAR, the media and fans as well in 1985 as his son does now, gosh, he’d probably be in the Hall of Fame. Oh, yeah, he is. Bill was Bill, still is, and his son came along in a different world, the same way Davey followed Bobby, Kyle followed Richard and Junior descended from Senior.

Unlike north and south, and east and west, the twain often meets in NASCAR. Take that, Kipling.

Here’s the column I wrote on Thursday at jeffgluck.com.

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).

 

The Dimming of the Stars

Charlotte Motor Speedway. William Byron testing. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 19, 2017, 10:01 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’m not going to reminisce about past NASCAR all-star memories. Most of them are distant.

I was in the grandstands the first time it was run at night. I’ve told that story before. I’ve told all the stories before. I remember those heady days when The Winston – it’s had many names, no telling what it is now – rivaled the Coca-Cola 600 that followed it. The longest, most grueling test of NASCAR’s Finest followed a slam-bang, thrill-filled extravaganza.

Turns out it’s the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. It’s Saturday night.

Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, race fans took great pride in their all-star race. The stock car racers all did it for love, but love was even better after a $1 million payday. They didn’t go through the motions the way they did in the all-star matchups of baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

Now, 25 years after I watched Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty and Davey Allison wreck each other on the final lap – Allison won, though the concrete walls of the speedway knocked him cold, and the makeshift victory lane was a hospital bed – NASCAR All-Star has gone the way of all the other all-stars.

Chase Elliott (24) racing Kyle Larson in last year’s Sprint Showdown. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Money’s still unimportant. This is apparent because no one talks about it anymore.

The Winston Select Nextel Sprint Monster All-Star Race, combining all the titles from nicotine to caffeine and a heap of talking on the phone in between, has ranged from 70 to 113 laps and from one to five segments. Seven-time champions (Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt) have won it seven times (Johnson 4, Earnhardt 3).

On the other hand, Michael Waltrip won it in 1996 before he ever won a Cup race anywhere else.

The last three years the winners have been Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. I couldn’t have told you that without the Internet. The most recent I covered was in 2012. The most recent I remember was a year earlier, mainly because the driver who won that race, Carl Edwards, practically destroyed the winning car sliding through the grass when the nose scraped up a metal drain. Or something.

Joey Logano won last year. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The Winston used to be as addictive as cigarettes, and it wasn’t that much of a coincidence. Tickets were cheap, a lot of free ones were floating around, and the idea was to get people there and send them home wanting more.

The ultimate significance of the All-Star Race is its effect on the sport as it now stands. The game-show format changed racing and was slowly, over three decades, integrated into the conduct of all the races. This is also the root of the race’s problems.

Some drivers are there already. Some race their way in. Some get voted in. It’s as complicated as a presidential election. So is everything else. A man who masters crosswords puzzles isn’t going to get excited about a mere game of checkers anymore.

The easiest way to resuscitate this Monster would be to ease off on the mad science everywhere else.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

This is unlikely to happen.

So where does it go from here? More, ahem, innovation?

One segment through the infield? A-racing we will go, a-racing we will go, high-ho, the derry-oh, a racing we will go.

Run the race backwards? Run the race in reverse? Parallel-park on pit road? A wall of flame at the finish line? One segment consisting entirely of pit stops?

The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has already stretched all bounds of credulity, civility and civilization, and had all the other races advance into the new territory, accompanied by bureaucrats carrying government regulations.

Where once the race sat at the foot of a mountain, now it is perched on the edge of a cliff.

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).

The Two Chaps, Starring in ‘Another One of Them Dutton Deals’

Martin Truex Jr. (left) and Brad Keselowski were appropriately on the front row. Truex won. Keselowski should have. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 13, 2017, 10:24 a.m.

Every man has a lodestar. Most men have several. I have many, in part because I am my late father’s son.

By Monte Dutton

This isn’t the first time I’ve cited this favorite saying of Jimmy Dutton.

He would be sitting in a grandstand, watching a football game, probably of the junior (high or varsity) variety, and, when the action got overheated, he would fold his arms and take on a countenance of wisdom, and, after as pregnant a pause as a male can make, say, simply, “Chaps love to play.”

It’s what he would have said had he been in Las Vegas on Sunday, which, by the way, is a frightening scene to ponder. It’s what he would have said a hundred times in all the years his older son wrote about NASCAR for a living, because Dear Old Dad was a man of many clichés that he used a lot.

“Chaps love to play” – it was pronounced chaps LUHHHH-tuh play – was my favorite. Number two was “if that ain’t a Dutton deal …” and, at the bottom of the bracket, was his reply when I told him I was sorry about something (“You damned right you are.”).

Joey Logano (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Never were there two chaps more loving to play than Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, who tangled on both the track and pit road after Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that was won incidentally by Martin Truex Jr.

This wasn’t the Clash of the Titans. It wasn’t Ali-Frazier. It was more like McLovin-Ichabod Crane.

But it added some flavor to a race that was low-fat vanilla ice milk. (When I was a kid, an early brand of low-calorie ice cream was officially called Ice Milk. This was too accurate. I’m confident it’s now called Blameless Decadence.)

Kyle Busch (John Clark photo)

What I liked best in the video shot by Soon to Be Francis Ford Coppola of NASCAR Jeff Gluck was the way the fight started. Kyle Busch, undoubtedly amid shouts of “uh, oh, uh, oh, here he comes (boogie down, boogie down),” walked right up to Logano, while several of his crewmen were standing nearby going “dum-de-DUM-dum,” and punched him. He … punched him. Then, reacting to what others saw coming, the pale-yellow-clad Logano entourage wrestled the slightly-golder-yellow-clad Busch to the iron-gray pavement, and Busch dusted himself off and strode away, leading late-arriving television agents on a testy and breathless chase.

Maybe NASCAR will change this chase to a pace-off.

This type of carnival occurs nowadays more than ever before, in part because, back in the allegedly uncivilized days of NASCAR yore, a man had to be seriously wronged before he deemed it necessary to take on Soapy Castles or Tiny Lund.

Oddly, it would make more sense if Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were named Soapy Castles and Tiny Lund. The names would fit, but they would otherwise be miscast.

Bunny Rabbit versus Kitty Cat. One must die.

(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).

Atlanta on TV and in Memory

The start of the Rinnai 250 Xfinity Series race. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 4, 2017, 2:17 p.m.

I love Atlanta. I love Griffin, where I stayed in the Best Western for most of 20 years, and I love Hampton, where Atlanta Motor Speedway is, and where I used to play my guitar and sing my songs at the town farmer’s market, and I love an evening get-together at Minter’s Farm, where my friend and fellow expatriate sportswriter Rick Minter collects old farm contraptions and grows vegetables and Christmas trees.

He’s at the track. Like me, he still writes a little racing on the side, but he gets to be in closer proximity.

By Monte Dutton

I notice a Dillon just wrecked. I wrote a 5,000-word chapter and updated the outline. I read from a novel by a Georgia author. I played a little guitar. Darrell Waltrip has been blowing through the jasmine of my my-yi-yind. And a Dillon just wrecked.

If only I had a summer breeze, it would theoretically make me feel fine.

Michael Waltrip just said a driver is “making up for that first initial start.” No telling what will happen during his last initial start. Chase Elliott sounds great. So does everyone else in a TV booth with Michael Waltrip, but NASCAR has a Waltrip thing. I pick up the guitar.

Well, I’ll admiiitttt, I’ve got a Waltrip prob-LEMMMM!

I’d like to get back to the track. I’d better not step on any toes.

The original topic was how I love Atlanta. I have significantly digressed.

It’s the environment. Everybody around here talks the same way I do about NASCAR. I don’t even mention it anymore. I get tired of nodding my head. I got a crick in my neck last week at the high school basketball game.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch at Atlanta. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The first time I watched a Cup, then Winston, race at Atlanta, then International Raceway, I went with a football coach, and Morgan Shepherd won. The first time I wrote about a race at Atlanta, it snowed a foot, and, several weeks later, Morgan Shepherd won. Two races, three weekends, and I could almost write Morgan Shepherd’s life story.

One year, the concrete floor of the media center had patches of solid ice. School kids were grazing all through the aisles. A bus was parked outside. The PR director came around, encouraging writers to go across the track to work in the press box. I asked him if My Weekly Reader needed more space. It wasn’t till I came back in the fall that he spoke to me again.

I age myself. Is there still such a thing as My Weekly Reader? I bet it’s digital.

I’d hate to walk up the steps behind the old press box, on what is now the opposite side of the track, mainly because I hated to walk up them then. That was where the most famous sportswriter in the South waved a white handkerchief because the PR director was delivering Lincoln’s Second Inaugural before he’d let Dale Earnhardt speak.

Hampton, Georgia, must be like Clinton, South Carolina, based on the millions of people who don’t go to the races at the track there. It’s not a lot like Clinton, South Carolina, because we don’t have but thousands around here.

I hope there’s progress when the Cup of Monster NASCAR Series holds its Sumpin Sumpin 500 if for no other reason than the damned thing is still 500 genuine miles. It’s allegedly 500.5 miles, but that really depends on the paths the winning car takes over 325 laps.

The Xfinity cars are in the second stage of finity, so, instead of overhearing Michael Waltrip, I think I’ll start watching the action.

(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).

Another Sunday from a Distance

Chase Elliott leads the field at the start of the Daytona 500 (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, February 27, 2017, 8:30 a.m.

Four years have passed. I still pay close attention to NASCAR. It’s not the same as being there. I try. Until, well, now, I wrote a Bleacher Report column each Monday morning during the season. That web site, like many others, is cutting back on NASCAR coverage, either that or they wanted a younger perspective and were nice enough not to tell me that.

No more race tracks in my background. I can’t afford it.

So this is where I stand. I write NASCAR blogs in hopes that they will persuade you to buy one of my novels, which is one of the strangest and least successful marketing programs known to man. It doesn’t match the grand scale of, say, Nature’s Bakery.

Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500. He is a familiar face. He deserved it. He is a fine restrictor-plate racer who somehow managed not to win the first 63 such races of his career. He was due. He was overdue.

Beyond that, I watched the Truck race on Friday night. I was writing about a basketball game when the Xfinity race was being run. A reply of that crashfest is on TV right now.

Chase Elliott (r) captured the pole position for the Daytona 500. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. qualified 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)

As best I recall, a driver named Ali Baba won the Truck race, and Reed Ryan won Xfinity. OK, it’s Ryan Reed. He’s pretty familiar, though I’ve never met him or anyone else who has come along since January 4, 2013. He won the same race the year before last. It just seems as if every young driver is named either Ryan or something – Cade, Cal, Case, Chase, Cody, Cole – that begins with a “C.” There are a few stray Brendans, Ians, Jonathans, Nicks and Seans running around ovals at various rates of speed.

The Trucks winner is really named Kaz Grala. I once enjoyed kaz grala, a sweet confection, after a souvlaki plate at a restaurant in one of the boroughs of New York.

So I’m a fan.

If I was there, of course, I would know much more about Kaz Grala, not to mention all the other bright, young comets just starting to burn across the night sky. Lots of races are going to burn across the night sky, too, because out of all the bright appeal inherent in NASCAR’s bold new changes, one talking point isn’t making the races shorter. The Daytona 500 lasted as long as a 14-inning baseball game between the Red Sox and Yankees, and anything longer than that qualifies in some backward societies as infinity.

I watch the races and the ballgames, anyway. No telling how many prizes I could have won had I used this time more wisely.

The circus moves on to Atlanta while I have a home race every week.

(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).

 

I Wish You a Normality of Your Very Own

I'm going to Setzler Field Saturday. (Monte Dutton photos)
I’m going to Setzler Field Saturday. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 7:58 p.m.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Ah, the world goes back to normal. My world, anyway.

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup champion will be determined among four drivers – Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano – at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday unless it rains, and as of a check I just made it’s not going to.

dscf3848On Friday night – it never rains here anymore – both of the county’s public high schools, Laurens and Clinton, open play in the state football playoffs. The Raiders host Woodmont in Class 5A; the Red Devils visit Chester in 3A.

DSCF3709Newberry College, just 25 miles to the southeast, is playing an NCAA Division II playoff game with Tuskegee. The Wolves (once Indians) have won 10 games in a row. If they get past the Golden Tigers, they will likely get a second shot at Florida Tech, the team that beat them in their opener.

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, and neither Donald Trump nor white supremacists nor protesters is going to ruin that. The hashtag in our family is #thatdressing in reference to my mother’s.

cowboyshome_fullcvr343-page-001

My fifth novel, a marked departure from the other four, is on the market. Cowboys Come Home is self-published, which means it won’t get the benefit of Amazon promotion unless it catches its attention via, oh, selling. I’m not overflowing with money at the moment, and it’s the end of the year, when it is righteous to spend every square nickel on others, so I need to spread the word as inexpensively as possible. You can help me with relative ease. Social media “retweets” and “shares” are greatly appreciated.

DSCF3611Not too long ago, someone on Twitter criticized “a grown man who still likes high school football,” and, if that is a criticism, I’m just as guilty of it as I am of being fat and unmarried. I like high school football as much as college football and pro football. I love writing about it because I feel unfettered. Not nearly as many people tell me how to do my job, writing, when I’m running around on the field afterwards asking questions. I haven’t had one kid playing for the Red Devils or the Raiders express concern about protecting his “brand.”

It also fuels my fiction. Over the past few days, a new chapter in what will be my sixth novel, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (italics when it is published), was a little side trip based on some experiences I had at a couple recent football games. They are by no means what actually happened to me but incidents I imagined while experiencing others.

I’ve written short stories that began with what the guy in the next booth at Fatz Café was saying to his wife. One of the principal characters in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, began with watching a couple college students drink at a sports bar.

audacity2Cowboys Come Home is set at the end of World War II. The Intangibles is set in 1968. The Audacity of Dope took place in 2008. Postcards from Pit Road, a non-fiction work, was based on the 2002 NASCAR season. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is running concurrently with the present. Trump’s getting elected in the next chapter. He’s not a character. The characters just talk about him, like you and me.

A friend bought a copy of Cowboys Come Home today and told me he was now a novel and a half behind. He hasn’t finished Forgive Us Our Trespasses, which came out in the spring, yet. He asked me if the new one was safe for his son. It is. It’s PG-13, and I think he’s 15 now. I’m fairly sure nothing in it is going to shock him.

I was thinking about recurring themes in my fiction. My heroes are all flawed. Often bad girls turn good. My most unique protagonist was Chance Benford in Crazy of Natural Causes. He becomes fascinated more with the wisdom and goodness of Jesus than the divinity. He reads the Bible, but he’s not completely sure Christ is He and not he. His view is not mine. I let my imagination see through Chance’s eyes when I read the Bible and imagined how a man in his dire straits would react to the Bible.

The reason I think Chance’s story is thought-provoking is that telling it provoked me.

Lou Lauer helped me repair my website. He could help you, too.
Lou Lauer helped me repair my website. He could help you, too.

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.

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

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 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).

Indy Is Just All Right with Me

Feast your eyes on a modern Brickyard crowd. (Monte Dutton photo)
Feast your eyes on a modern Brickyard crowd. (Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 22, 2016, 10:20 a.m.

NASCAR visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, and I remember just how big that used to be.

Indy didn’t allow fans in the infield because it didn’t want the crowd to be larger than the 500. NASCAR required that Indy hold down the purse so it wouldn’t be larger than the Daytona 500. The first time the stock cars tested at the Brickyard, the crowd was larger than the race will likely draw Sunday.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m surprised Donald Trump didn’t mention the decline in his speech Thursday night. It was probably because Mike Pence is from Indiana. The decline doesn’t mirror NASCAR’s general decline; it magnifies it.

I take no pleasure in this sorrowful realization.

Let me confess to an unpopular view. I like watching stock cars race at Indy. I like a track with a high degree of difficulty. It makes me laugh when someone says, “Indy wasn’t designed for stock cars.” Indy was designed in 1911. It was designed for Marmon Wasps, which were closer to the wasps under the edge of my roof than the vehicles in the garage.

Darlington wasn’t designed for the brave, new world of NASCAR, either. It’s one of the reasons I love it so. Old school. Darlington is the Big Ten. Indy is the Ivy League.

Tony Stewart, when he drove No. 20, racing Dale Earnhardt Jr., when he drove No. 8, in 2007 (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tony Stewart, when he drove No. 20, racing Dale Earnhardt Jr., when he drove No. 8, in 2007 (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Passing is hard at Indy. I enjoy watching a trailing driver stalk the one he’s behind. Darting a little here. Pulling out down the straightaway there. Making the prey nervous. Then … pouncing. Dale Jarrett was good at that.

How could Indy have been so breathtaking in 1996 and so B-O-R-I-N-G 20 years later? It’s the same track. The cars? Oh, they got worse for a while, but recently they’ve gotten better, and the two decades in between have left us, at the moment, in about the same place. Plus, NASCAR has inserted bells and whistles that weren’t in place back in the giddy early years, when men were men and the Busch Series was racing at IRP.

Maybe part of this confusion is derived from the fact that the world has changed and I haven’t. I am mindful of these consequences of age. Social media keep me abreast of the country’s growing impatience and anger, but sometimes my upbringing betrays me. On rare occasions, I still display an annoying taste for patience.

Somehow we have gotten in the habit of accentuating what is bad. We know so much about so many things that are bad. We forget that they were just as bad 50 years ago. Or yesterday.

Welcome back, Wonderman.  (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)
Welcome back, Wonderman. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)

Jeff Gordon is substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Winning another Brickyard couldn’t possibly be harder than competing for attention in a TV booth with Darrell Waltrip. No way Gordon backs down to Joey Logano the way he does to D.W. In the eye in the sky, Waltrip always has plenty of ‘splainin’ to do.

My eyes will be on the Magnavox.

I’ll miss the pomp, the pageantry, dinner at St. Elmo’s, a baseball game at Victory Field, and random conversations in the track cafeteria with people I’ve never met and have never met me, but both of us wanted to correct that oversight.

I won’t miss the Yellow Shirts, the indescribable hassle of getting anything whatsoever done, the fact that waiting for the winner rivals the time of the race, and the corporate paranoia that descends upon any proceedings when the chief topic of conversation is “gee, whiz, there’s nobody here.”

In summary, I’ll get by.

(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 crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

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

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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

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

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

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

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

A Triumph of Persistence, Not Skill

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 16, 2016, 9:38 a.m.

I have squandered an early rising. Damn that British Open.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

So far, I have sipped coffee, wished people happy birthday on Facebook, cooked breakfast, played lots of Hank Williams songs, and finally gotten around to powering the laptop to start molding this day into something coherent.

At this hour, Phil Mickelson is still leading at Royal Troon. Next year will be at Royal Birkdale. Royalty will be avoided at Carnoustie in 2018. Among the more significant reasons while Mickelson is still winning is that he hasn’t started playing yet.

With the weather blazing hot and prone to thunderstorms here, Troon looks like a rainy November football game. Watch the golfers. Shiver a little. Open the front door. Feel blast of natural furnace.

Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson (48) is on the pole in New Hampshire. No. 88, meanwhile, is Alex Bowman. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

9:33 p.m.

The above was intended to be a full blog. It was, at about 10 a.m., almost a full blog. That’s when this error message popped up informing me that my laptop would have to be restarted, and it, in fact, did so before I could get what I had written saved. When all was safe from Chechnyan hackers again, about three quarters of what I had written was gone forever, already bouncing around the outer reaches of the solar system and retrievable only by Chechnyan hackers, whose service charges are outrageous.

Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)
Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)

So crestfallen was I that the whole project was abandoned because, at the time of technical despondency, I preferred to play my guitar and read Rolling Stone more than I was inclined to rebuild a blog that was dubiously constituted from the get-go.

Similar to what I’ve written since.

Friday was a creative day. Writing the first chapter in yet another novel was a rush. Getting the manuscript of Cowboys Come Home ready was a relief. It was an eventful week. Some plans may be in the works.

Today the most creative accomplishments were washing the dishes and folding the clothes.

Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)
Jacoby Ellsbury. Now a Yankee. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Red Sox won their sixth straight game, and second straight in Yankee Stadium. They are 6-2 so far against the Ugly Americans, which, if they do not manage to prosper in the postseason but do manage to dominate New York, will leave some mild feeling of warmth from the season.

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in New Hampshire, though it was almost like a loss because he failed to lead several laps.

I drove around a while listening to people who know almost nothing about concussions speaking about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s prognosis as if they’d worked for decades at the Mayo Clinic.

Mickelson isn’t leading the The Open Championship, but he’s right there, a stroke behind Henrik Stenson. I sort of wish a golf tournament was on TV every morning when I awaken.

On The Golf Channel, come to think of it, it’s possible there is.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he'll be back next week. Maybe he won't. Generally, those who know aren't saying, and everyone who doesn't is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ailing. Maybe he’ll be back next week. Maybe he won’t. Generally, those who know aren’t saying, and everyone who doesn’t is. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

As I told a friend over a beer Friday night, I love the British Open because the greatest golfers in the world look approximately like they were me. At times. Not really. My last round of golf was at least five years ago. I can just relate to their ineptitude better than to their proficiency.

Everybody gets to hack.

That’s two kinds of hackers I’ve mentioned in one blog. It makes me think of that old Merle Haggard tune, “My Own Kind of Hat”: There’s two kinds of lovers and two kinds of brothers and two kinds of babies to hold / There’s two kinds of cherries and two kinds of fairies, and two kinds of mothers I’m told, and told …

There. This blog isn’t much, but it is done.

(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 crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

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

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

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).

 

Let Freedom Sparkle

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 1, 2016, 9:22 a.m.

Independence Weekend! America steps boldly into the second half of another eventful year. The stock cars are roaring in Daytona Beach. The baseball teams are wearing all sorts of star-spangled pajamas. Fireworks galore, and since this year the Fourth of July isn’t until Monday, I expect they’ll commence tonight and keep on popping them in the wee hours right on up Tuesday.

Monte DuttonNo need to try it at home, kids. Awe-inspiring fireworks displays are available, risk-free, in every downtown square, every minor-league ballpark, and not nearly as much by drunk Uncle Ed, waving a lit Roman candle around in the backyard and inadvertently bouncing a fireball off a donkey’s butt.

Have no fear. If that happens this year, Action News and the humane officer (often a contradiction in terms) will be on the scene, taking fingerprints and making sure all incriminating video is already on YouTube.

Me? I’ll be pecking away at a keyboard, as usual, just like now. The toil of editing a manuscript is not a great way to celebrate freedom, but, as Charley Pride used to say onstage between songs, “it sure beats picking that cotton in Mississippi.”

It sure beats hauling that hay in South Carolina. At this point in life, of course, had I followed in my father’s footsteps, I would have been supervising the hauling of hay in South Carolina. Since the course of my life has been so vastly different, hay is still being harvested in the pastures around my home, but now my only involvement is the yearly receipt of a check and the regular sensation of staggering out of bed in the morning, yawning, looking out the front window, and saying to myself, “I’ll be dogged. Hay.”

I’ll spend a half hour yakking with my mother on the phone. We’ll talk about the books we’re reading, and the latest on that crazy Trump, and who died, and into whom I bumped the other day, and has she seen the latest pictures on Facebook of “the baby”?

The rumble and the roar. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
The rumble and the roar. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

I’ll watch the NASCAR races so that I will be qualified to write about them, but now, instead of sitting in a press box annoying officials with my questions, I’ll be annoyed at the announcers on high-def, but it won’t get heated because I can play some carefree Marty Robbins song — “Singing the Blues,” say — or philosophical Tom T. Hall ditty — “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine” — and it will settle me down no matter how many times the announcers use harsh words like “carnage” to describe a wreck. If they’re going to use “carnage,” then they might as well use “bloodbath,” too, because they mean the same thing.

See? That’s why I play guitar.

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

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

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

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton. Buy one of the novels, and you’ll get the short stories absolutely free.

Most of my books are also available here.