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).

Strummin’ on Easter

The Pawless. This was one of my first sketches.

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 17, 2017, 9:27 a.m.

It’s Patriots Day in Boston. It’s the day after Easter here. When I left my nephew’s house on Sunday, the tykes were dashing about in search of dyed eggs.

Among much that I adore about the great-nephews on niece Ella’s side is that they love to hear me play my guitar. We had a stirring sing-along of “Gotta Travel On.” I crafted a tender, off-the-cuff version of Josh’s alleged favorite song, “Speckled Frogs.” In my dramatization, the frogs are sadly supplanted in the lagoon by similarly speckled lizards.

Monte Dutton

Alex – an eighth-grader! – showed some genuine interest in learning how to play guitar himself. I showed him some chords and gave him some advice to avoid some of the pitfalls of my self-teaching.

Learn D. Learn A. Learn switching back and forth between D and A. Cautiously add G. Yet another example of “lather, rinse, repeat.”

Anthony speaks in machine-gun bursts, and, even then, his thoughts race ahead of his words.

I don’t see the three Columbia musketeers often, and absence makes the heart grow fonder on both ends. Nothing tenderizes an aging slab of heart like young’uns jockeying for position and competing for attention.

Ray and Jessica’s children are three and sub-one. Thomas apparently, and not without justification, thinks I am a rhinoceros, so he obligingly imitates a baby one and charges into me. Great tickling and giggling ensues. I hoist him in the air.

“Do again!” commands he.

Baseball limits Thomas. All he lacks for go-kart status is four wheels. Margaret, who just entered her third season, spring, lives a life that involves mainly taking everything in, which is aggravated by the fact that every other human who approaches her will do almost anything to make her giggle. She enjoys her exalted status while it lasts.

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The food was great, as it was bound to be because nephew Ray, who turned 30 on Easter, is not only a foodie by also a connoisseur of much that he chooses to encounter. Niece Ella was also a major contributor of culinary skill.

I flirted with Freudian suicide by using a knife I gave Ray and Jessica to slice my left thumb instead of the sourdough roll intended. Even though I gave a set of knives away, I still managed to get some use out of it.

Then I drove home and watched war movies.

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.

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 Landslide Election of Tigertown

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Southern Arizona. (Monte Dutton)
Southern Arizona. (Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 28, 2016, 10:10 a.m.

Were I still the diehard Clemson fan of my youth, I’m sure I would have watched every moment of the Tigers’ 56-7 victory over South Carolina.

Who knows? I might even have been there, decked out in purple and orange and singing “hold that Tiger!” even though the last thing a Clemson fan wants is his Tiger held. Really, the opposition should sing “hold that Tiger!” which would really be a unique custom for visitors to Death Valley, South Carolina Version.

I’ve walked inside the one in Louisiana and driven through the one in California. If only it had a football team, the one in California would have a tremendous home-field advantage.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

But I went to college elsewhere, and now, I wish the Tigers well and feel good when they win because it means a lot to my nephew and his wife, both of whom went there. As a matter of fact, Ray Phillips holds a bachelor’s degree from Clemson and a master’s degree from Alabama, meaning that, football-wise, his imaginary bets are hedged about as well as anyone I know.

Still, I’ve never heard him yell “roll, Tide, roll!” and I’m satisfied that, Saturday night, he spelled out “C-L-E-M-S-O-N-T-I-G-E-RRRRRR-SS!” dozens of times. Meanwhile, back here in town, I’m guessing my mother and sister (Ray’s mother) were having every bit as much difficulty corralling Ray and Jessica’s wild child, Thomas, as the Gamecocks were with the Tigers.

Me? After assuring myself that Clemson was going to win the Palmetto Cup after watching the game’s first five minutes, I spent the rest of the night checking the Tigers’ multiplication tables during the commercials while concentrating on games between Florida and Florida State, Kentucky and Louisville, Utah and Colorado, Notre Dame and Southern Cal, and Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

All of those teams — Vandy has inexplicably found an offense since the Gamecocks edged them in the first game of the season — would have beaten South Carolina on Saturday night, not to mention Western Michigan, Eastern Washington, Northern Illinois and South Florida. Oh, yeah, Northwestern, too. Cary Grant would have dominated them in North by Northwest. Of course, that’s a highly ranked flick.

It’s over, though. South Carolina fans have turned their attention to a men’s basketball team that is thus far undefeated. Will it mean anything if the Gamecocks beat the Tigers, also thus far undefeated, in basketball?

No. The only medicine that matters in this state is a pill shaped like a football.

For the Sabbath, Twitter read almost exactly like the election was back. Fortunately, being amused but disinterested, I read books, played guitars and remained otherwise above the fray by watching surprising entertaining NFL games.

Clemson, I believe, is now the most likely to lose eventually to Alabama.

I’m sure someone has noticed this besides me because, dating back to, oh, I don’t know, Bear Bryant, it has seemed apparent. The Crime Tide has a marvelous winning formula that has been demonstrated hundreds of times by their winning.

Alabama does not care about scoring in the first half. Alabama cares about wearing the opposition the hell out. It’s as if they soften up the defenses with withering artillery bombardments. In the second half, Alabama invades in much the same manner as Mars Attacks!

But I still enjoy watching teams play that are mortal. I hope one of them defeats Alabama. Nothing against the Tide. Monopoly just gets monotonous.

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).

(Design by Steven Novak)
(Design by Steven Novak)

Good Grannies Alive, Pass the Dressing and Gravy

Things don't have to be just alike. (Monte Dutton photo)
Things don’t have to be just alike. (Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 12:13 p.m.

Thanksgiving’s a coming, coming.

It’s my favorite holiday, in no small part due to the fact that I love to eat. Like every other stuffed American who awakens on Friday morning ill equipped for anything save football on TV, I plan to go on a diet. I did that with some success last year. At the moment, I lack motivation, and I expect as soon as this writing exercise is completed, I will probably have a mid-afternoon cup of coffee and a bagel.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Motivation comes Friday, that and, perhaps, a high school football game that night.

My mother and I haven’t had our daily phone conversation. She’s undoubtedly at my nephew’s house, already getting ready for the meal being hosted at Ray and Jessica’s house for the first time.

Betty Dutton’s oyster dressing carries a significance that is almost spiritual in the family. When Ray was a little boy, and I chided him for being sassy with his grandmother by telling him one day she’d be gone and he’d miss her, he stopped, considered those words for a moment, and his voice took on a dreamy aspect.

“Just think,” he said. “We’ll never have that dressing again.”

I also like Thanksgiving because it is peaceful. It doesn’t bring out the pettiness that sometimes accompanies other holidays. It’s not blazing hot like the Fourth of July. It’s not roaring with race cars like Memorial Day weekend. Santa may be a jolly old elf, but he sure requires a lot of support.

Betty Dutton
Betty Dutton

Mom already reminded me not to talk about politics. No matter. I’ll play my guitar. Just old, pleasant songs about a train carrying a girl from Tennessee, she’s long and she’s tall, and she came down from Birmingham on the Wabash Cannonball.

Besides, we can talk about sports. Politics has become the same thing, anyway.

I can’t wait to see how Ella’s boys have grown, and how we’ll all fuss over Jessica’s new baby, and Mom whispering that I should make a special point to praise the broccoli casserole because Ginger made that, and to be just about ready to push away from the table, only to have Mom show up with a platter of pecan pie, sweet potato custard, lemon pound cake, and chocolate eclairs.

It’s godly to be stuffed at Thanksgiving and broke at Christmas.

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).cowboyshome_fullcvr343-page-001

If Only It Seemed Like Old Times …

As Jerry Jeff Walker sings, "Lots of smiling faces, little children running around ..." (Monte Dutton photos)
As Jerry Jeff Walker sings, “Lots of smiling faces, little children running around …” (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 30, 2016, 11:28 a.m.

I’ve had this small problem this fall. If didn’t watch my alma mater (Furman) and my hometown school (Presbyterian) play football, I might be happier.

But I do. Even if these schools aren’t good, they’re still mine.

dscf4106

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m not a PC graduate, and it makes a difference, but I have been going to games there for my entire life. The earliest college football game I remember was between Furman and PC at Sirrine Stadium, now the home of the Greenville High Red Raiders. Furman won. It was close. Maybe that’s why I went to Furman, subconsciously. Maybe it made an imprint on my psyche.

dscf4105As I’ve told a thousand people, I went to Furman because I wanted to be close to home but not so close that I’d be available every time the hogs got out at our farm. It’s a joke, but it’s true. Had I gone to PC, there would have been no peace.

Then again, I planned to go to Clemson until my senior year in high school. I visited Furman and loved it. The Paladins pulled off an upset of Appalachian State when I went with my friend Roy Walker on a recruiting visit.

dscf4110Roy went to PC.

It was Homecoming at Bailey Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Not my homecoming. Clinton is already my home.

Brent Sanders and I went to Furman together. His son Hayden plays for the Blue Hose. At each home game – there are a whole four this year — I join the tailgate party that gets bigger and better every year. My friends are the parents of players. Their sons and some of their teammates stop by after the games. They’ve won two and lost six. I’m keenly aware of their frustrations. I’m frustrated.

dscf4112Here’s the column I wrote in the Greenwood Index-Journal.

Still, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. The last home game is next Saturday when Liberty comes to town. The Blue Hose won the game I missed because I had a high school game to describe. I watched them defeat Campbell on my laptop.

Furman, by the way, is 2-6, too.

dscf4108

My nephew, Ray Phillips, and his wife, Jessica, recently moved back to town from Charlotte. I invited them to our tailgate party because it’s a good place for families and they have a wonderful little boy, Thomas, and a newborn baby girl, Margaret.

I think they had a good time. I had mentioned how convenient it was. The farthest parking location is within 250 yards or so of the stadium gates. Ray and Jessica are Clemson graduates. Ray said to me, “We gotta get you to a Clemson game,” and I said something like, “Uh, maybe so.”

dscf4114It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Tigertown. It was so long ago that, when I covered the Clemson-South Carolina game, neither was any good. Now the Tigers are contenders for the national championship, and the rebuilding Gamecocks upset Tennessee on Saturday.

I enjoyed switching back and forth between the Tigers and Gamecocks on TV once I trudged home from watching the Blue Hose lose again.

I love going to PC and Furman games. I even remember when they won. Etched in my memory is watching the Blue Hose defeat Saginaw Valley State in a long-ago NAIA playoff game. The Paladins have won 13 Southern Conference championships.

But what have they done lately? Not much.

While I breathe, I hope.

dscf4118

 

(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 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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Joe Garagiola Noted, Baseball Is a Funny Game

For the first time, the boys were back in town. (Monte Dutton photos)
For the first time, the boys were back in town. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 8:39 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

What does a writer want? Something to write. Sometimes this quest takes him far away, occasionally in geography but mostly in contemplation, and sometimes he finds it nearby.

On Tuesday night, at Clinton High School’s ancient baseball field, known informally as The Sponge, the Red Devils began their Region III-3A schedule against the Gettys D. Broome Centurions, and the game, like the opponents, was a mouthful.

A sophomore shortstop, whose late uncle was probably my late father’s best friend, and whose grandfather I have known all my life, drove in all three Clinton runs with home runs in the third and seventh innings, not to mention an incidental double in the first. The seventh inning home run was a walk-off, and a teammate walked off too soon.

Aaron Copeland
Aaron Copeland

I’ve chatted with his grandfather, Chuck Copeland, twice after games, but the first time I conversed with Aaron Copeland was after the Red Devils’ 3-2 victory over the Centurions.

What he said was short and sweet, as remarks of sophomore shortstops tend to be.

“I hit a fastball for the first home run and a hanging curveball on the other one,” Copeland said. “He just hung it, and I just hit it.”

Oh, yes. The oddities.

Eleven more strikeouts for Tristan Smaltz.
Eleven more strikeouts for Tristan Smaltz.

Most fans left The Sponge thinking Copeland — Aaron, not his grandfather — had hit a two-run homer to give Clinton (4-1) a 4-2 victory. Actually, he hit a solo shot, and the score was 3-2.

The left fielder, Taylor Bailey, had singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning, which, of course, in high school baseball, is the scheduled last. Up stepped Copeland and the fateful hanging hook from Broome’s Jon Bolini, which landed beyond the fence in far left-center field.

Amid the pomp, the pageantry, the human drama of athletic competition, Bailey missed second base. Realizing the potential import of this omission, he retraced his steps to the bag. Unfortunately, Copeland, similarly exultant, passed him, meaning that only the one run counted. Game still over. Clinton still wins. Bolini gets an extra out in his pitching line, meaning that he toiled for 6-1/3 innings instead of 6-plus with two batters faced in the seventh.

J.P. Duncan
J.P. Duncan

Clinton’s fruitless sixth inning set the table for what followed. Having led, 2-0, since Copeland’s third-inning blast (on a fastball, he reported), the Red Devils loaded the bases — walk, hit batter, Dakota Webb single — and with two strikes, none away, and the bases loaded, Tristan Smaltz (a name we shall shortly get to know better) bunted!

Foul, that is. Strike three. One away. Pinchhitter Jeremy Simmons struck out. Webb got picked off first.

Truly had it been a suicide squeeze.

Bummer. It continued in the top of the seventh.

DSCF2114After Smaltz struck out Broome’s Brandon Taylor to open the seventh, his 11th of the game and 30th of the season, he walked Chase Ward, and Bolini (both pitchers batted seventh in the orders) reached on an error. Smaltz hit Ryan Chesebro. He walked in a run as well as Dylan Parker.

Devin Fuller’s sacrifice fly tied the score. First and third, one out.

Smaltz caught Chesebro straying too far off third base, wisely shortened the rundown by running straight at the baserunner, and the Red Devils survived with a tie and another scheduled at-bat.

Head coach Sean McCarthy
Head coach Sean McCarthy

Smaltz (3-0) pitched a fine game. Clinton head coach Sean McCarthy blamed himself for leaving him in too long. Neither of the runs was earned. Three walks, one hit batter, three hits and the aforementioned 11 strikeouts in seven complete.

Bolini pitched a fine game, too. Eight hits, three earned runs, two walks, two hit batters and five strikeouts. Both pitchers faced 28 batters.

The music blared. The celebration ensued. Most of the fans went home happy, having rooted, rooted and rooted, respectively, for the home team, which won so it wasn’t a shame.

The victors just scored one fewer run. That’s all. No biggie.

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Here’s my game story at GoLaurens.com: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/23126-copeland-s-bat-smaltz-s-arm-propel-red-devils-past-broome

 

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

As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read.

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

Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time. It’s got sex, drugs, corruption, murder, and frank language. Very little, if any, rock and roll, though.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Look for me by name at Google+. Whew. It’s too much.

In the Absence of Cam Newton

Alex, in plaid shirt, with his friends. (Monte Dutton photos)
Alex, in plaid shirt, with his friends. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, January 18, 2016, 3:12 p.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

What do you know? It was a Sunday with the NFL playoffs going on, and I watched precious little football.

My great-nephew was celebrating his 13th birthday at a bowling alley in Cayce (Columbia suburb), I don’t see Alex Montgomery Howard as much as I used, and neither does his great grandmother, and so my mom and I traveled to Park Lanes to see Alex and his younger brothers Anthony and Josh.

Josh. Full of mischief.
Josh. Full of mischief.

When I left, I felt grateful to the Carolina Panthers for taking a 31-0 halftime lead over the Seattle Seahawks. As it turned out, there ended up being a reason to listen to the end of the game on radio.

Anthony. Wide open.
Anthony. Wide open.

Once there, courtesy of my phone’s directions,I tried to be useful, so I prevented Josh and Anthony from rolling another ball down the lane and, most likely, into a gutter, before the pins were cleared. Kids were allowed to use a metal frame, was similar to a miniature ski jump, in order to roll the ball down the jump and then the lane. I proved adept at studying the roll of the balls enough to align the jump for the purpose of making the occasional spare possible for a kid who needed my help to hoist the ball into the jump. Anthony wasn’t satisfied with gravity, so he kept shoving the ball down the jump so hard that it left the tracks before it reached the lane.

Linda and Herman Mcaulay.
Linda and Herman Mcaulay.

It’s the first time I’ve seen Alex socialize because some of his school friends showed up. With his glasses and stocking cap, I thought Alex looked like Waldo, and, like Waldo, he was frequently hard to find.

Ella and her grandmother. The generation between took the photo.
Ella and her grandmother. The generation between took the photo.

In the video room, Anthony and I steadfastly opposed the advance of frightening mechanical monsters with our trusty firearms. The difficulty wasn’t really reloading in time. It was popping quarters into the machine before the monsters got us. Thankfully, it was just a game, more interested in gobbling quarters than devouring players.

DSCF1665I also raced my Dodge Challenger against Josh’s Chevy Camaro through city streets, tunnels, a desert, and a dirt trail. My Challenger had really stiff shocks. That way I was able to soar over jumps that magically took me from the outskirts of Paris to the cactus-strewn desert of Arizona. I won the head-to-head and finished third overall to Josh’s fifth. When he asked me to slow down and let him catch up, I laughed maniacally.

DSCF1664They’re all happy kids. Josh is the charmer with the twinkles in his eyes. Anthony is a perpetual-motion machine. Alex is veering into adolescence but still at least seems astonishingly sane.

The grown-ups all sat around and swapped charming tales of the kids. I ordered some boneless wings for myself and a two-corn dog plate for Mom. That’s what she wanted, and it may have had something to do with it being among the menu’s least expensive items.

DSCF1667

On the way home I listened to the radio account of the Pittsburgh-Denver game while pretending to listen to my mother’s review of the party, and how precious the kids are, and how “Ella looks good, doesn’t she?” and that she thinks Tony, Ella’s husband, looks like Tom Selleck when he was younger.

I gave Alex cash, because it had been so long since I’d seen him that I no longer had the slightest idea what he was interested in, and I certainly didn’t want to bring him something related to his obsession of six months ago. I figure there’s a good chance the money will be spent at Game Stop.

DSCF1662I had some flashbacks to a time, not so long ago, when Ella was the age Alex is now, and I took her on trips to places she may never get to go again. She’ll be 32 next month. I can’t see her as much in her children’s personalities because they are all boys, but, of course, I can see her in their faces.

DSCF1653When Alex was born, I told her that his birth was one more chance, in our maddening and dysfunctional clan, to “get it right.”

So far, so good.

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

The editing process is complete, and I’ll let you know when Forgive Us Our Trespasses is available for download from Kindle Publishing. It’s a tale of crime and corruption, young and old, good and bad, cops and robbers, etc.

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

Meanwhile, Crazy of Natural Causes, set in Kentucky and concerning the reinvention of a football coach, was published late last summer, and, if you haven’t read it, I’d appreciate it if you’d give it a look here: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

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

My second novel, The Intangibles (2013), is about a high school football coach and his players trying to cope with rapid change in the 1960s South. http://www.amazon.com/The-Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=pd_sim_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51JrJlU8vKL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR107%2C160_&refRID=0AD3V83MM7SDKFNKQ5YB

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

The first, The Audacity of Dope (2011), is about a pot-smoking folksinger who wants no part of being a national hero. The accidental hero learns how to be a real one. http://www.amazon.com/The-Audacity-Dope-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B006GT2PRA/ref=pd_sim_351_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=51zCT-MrcFL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_UX300_PJku-sticker-v3%2CTopRight%2C0%2C-44_AC_UL160_SR105%2C160_&refRID=09V773T1A5GZXP96KS3Y

My short stories, book reviews, and essays are here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton. I’m a tad more irreverent @wastedpilgrim and a little more literary @hmdutton. I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50. Um, I think that’s it. Oh, yeah. Google+. I’m on there, too.

 

Precious Memories, How They Linger …

No one loved the Clinton Red Devils more than my old man. (Monte Dutton photo)
No one loved the Clinton Red Devils more than my old man. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, August 3, 2015, 5:18 p.m.

When I played high school football, my father never missed a game. Come to think of it, he rarely missed a practice.

I expect there were days when I missed practice but he didn’t.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

In August 1975, we were getting ready to play in essentially a brand-new stadium. What had been the visitors’ side was changed to the home side — 40 years later, there’s still an unused press box over there — and a great concrete grandstand, alleged to seat 5,500 — rose across the way.

That team went on to win the Class AAA state championship and is scheduled to be honored, along with another state championship team from 10 years later, on Sept. 4 before the Red Devils take on the Newberry Bulldogs.

Clinton High has fallen on hard times in recent years — the school’s eighth state championship occurred in 2009, and results have grown progressively worse since — but football means a lot in this town, and some excitement is building as a new head coach, Andrew Webb, attempts to reignite the Devils’ Den.

Wilder Stadium is greatly in need of refurbishing. It looks like this now:

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

We want it to look like this:

Here's what Wilder Stadium will look like if the plans go through.
Here’s what Wilder Stadium will look like if the plans go through.

 

For this project to take place, one necessary ingredient is improvement. A year ago, the record was 2-9, and no team has fared worse in more than 70 years (it was the third 2-9 in that span). The team needs victories. The town needs hope, that plus lots of money.

I drove over to watch the lads practice on Monday morning. It’s hard to tell much. They’ve donned shoulder pads but not the full uniforms, and now they’re mainly just running around, tossing passes, faking handoffs, running into stationary dummies — not guys like me, but large vinyl cylinders stuffed with insulation or something — and getting down in stances and running fast for short distances when whistles blow.

This has been on the wall of Wilder Stadium for about three decades. (Monte Dutton photo)
This has been on the wall of Wilder Stadium for about three decades. (Monte Dutton photo)

In the old days, particularly once the season got started, sometimes a couple dozen fans gathered on the bluff overlooking the practice field to watch practices. The crowd would grow a little after four because that’s when the first shift at the mills let out.

I hated it when I’d see my dad’s brown-and-white Ford pickup arrive. It wasn’t enough that I got yelled at by the coaches. If I got yelled at by the coaches, it generally meant I was going to get yelled at when I got home.

I played for the descendant of my dad’s team. My brother, Brack, who also played on a state championship team, played for a descendant of mine. Jimmy Dutton wore No. 33. I wore 50. My brother wore 10. No Dutton, at least not from our line, has suited up in red and white since 1979.

The school is at a different location. The practice fields are at a different location. The stadium is in the same place, though not much over a mile away. The Clinton High School I attended is about to become Clinton Middle School.

The only person watching practice this morning, besides coaches, trainers and a kid pedaling away at an exercise bike that had been carted out to the sideline, was I. I was there for almost an hour and half, sweating in the hot sun that reminded me of a time when I did a lot more to deserve sweat.

The eighth and most recent state championship was in 2009.
The eighth and most recent state championship was in 2009.

The new head coach is the son of a teammate. One of the players is the son of a close friend. When I wrote a song, “Go Big Red,” one of the verses ended thusly: “The names and numbers change, but it’s like a rolling stone. Go out there, boys, and win one of your own.”

I’m going to write about the team this year. I’ve done that a few times in the past two years, but this year I plan to do it every week. I’m optimistic. I figure they’re going to be better, and whatever happens, it’s going to be upbeat.

Coach Webb seems to be more energetic than any of his players, perhaps because, even though he runs around exhorting his charges, he isn’t actually running around as much as they are.

I’m looking forward to going back over there — after all, it’s my writing beat — when the pads start popping.

 

My new novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes

The novel before it, The Intangibles, which was inspired in part by high school football, is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

It’s Not Just Window Dressing

IMG_0222
Have yourself a happy little Thanksgiving! (Monte Dutton sketch)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, November 27, 2014, 9:29 a.m.

Thanksgiving morning. It’s the beginning of one of my favorite days of the year. I love Thanksgiving because, other than feeling incredibly sluggish tonight, it’s all positive. The family grows ever more distant, and everyone seems excited to see each other. There’s no down side to Thanksgiving, at least the way we observe it here. It has none of the tiresome pettiness that sometimes arises during Christmas and New Year’s.

The turkey’s in my oven, and my mother will be arriving shortly to see if I’ve somehow managed to mess it up, even though all I’ve done is very carefully follow her directions. The dressing is in the refrigerator, ready to bake before the feast commences. Mom’s oven isn’t working, so she’s taking advantage of the quarter-mile commute to my house.

Let there be casseroles, sayeth the Lord at Plymouth Rock. And tidings of great joy. And custards of great sweet potatoes.

Thinking warm thoughts of dressing.
Thinking warm thoughts of dressing.

The centerpiece of our Thanksgiving is my mother’s oyster dressing, which, frankly, is the greatest ever made. This week I’ve gotten a bit irritated at people, such as the comedian Jim Gaffigan, saying that there’s no such thing as dressing. “It’s stuffing!” they scream.

No. It’s not. Not everyone stuffs the turkey. Some people make a huge pan of dressing. In our case, this is because it would take at least four turkeys to contain enough interior space to provide as much stuff as our family will consume. Our dressing doesn’t become stuffing until it stuffs our stomachs.

And imagine the leftovers of four turkeys! There wouldn’t be any more Duke’s Mayonnaise on the shelves by Saturday.

An hour or so ago, as I reported to my mother that the turkey wasn’t black, we talked about her dressing.

“I love it the way my mother made it,” she said, and she added that the real secret wasn’t the oysters, or the cornbread, but rather the hen broth. Each year my mother boils a hen just for the broth, and the broth is used just for the dressing. She’s also bullish on the chopped celery. Last night, for supper, I had hen and noodles, and that’s because, as good as it is, my sister and her two sons had had their fill of it at Mom’s house.

Hen doesn’t taste like turkey. It produces a broth as distinctive as, well, broth gets. The only time I eat hen is in the lead-up to Turkey Day. The basic reason my mother cooks a hen for the dressing is that her mother, who died thirty years ago, did. My mother is seventy-four, and it’s occurred to us that the only proper preparation of dressing may die with her.

Ray, my nephew, and his wonderful wife, Jessica, and their jolly eleven-month-old boy, Thomas, will be here. Perhaps ten years ago, I took Ray to task for being impolite to Mom. I told him Grandma wasn’t going to live forever, and he ought to be nicer to her.

He thought about it, squeezed his chin with thumb and index finger, and said, “Just think. When Grandma dies, we’ll never eat dressing like that again.”

Among the blessings I cherish today is the health, vitality, and wisdom of my mother, who has been through a lot in her seventy-four years. She reads my manuscripts before anyone else. In fact, she reads voraciously in general. There’s more to her than an aromatic kitchen.

But that dressing is something.

Read my short stories and thoughts about writing at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and you can find the books I’ve written here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Mingling with the Public

Obviously, I like small towns. This photo is of Columbus, Ind., during the Great Tony Stewart Media Frenzy of 2005.
Obviously, I like small towns. This photo is of Columbus, Ind., during the Great Tony Stewart Media Frenzy of 2005.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Thursday, October 3, 2013, 9:45 a.m.

Yesterday, I had one of those trips from hell through the checkout line. It was at the Family Dollar. I had two “D” batteries and a pack of gum. The guy in front of me had 10 two-liter bottles of carbonated drinks, a box of saltine crackers and other items too numerous to mention.

He was a nervous sort, this fellow.

First he explained to the nice lady behind the counter that he needed some real good bags because he had to carry everything home on a bicycle. I looked out the plate glass. The only bicycle was not a vehicle I think the fellow could’ve ridden – it appeared to be about 8-year-old size – but out in the parking lot sat a moped, resting on its kickstand.

Ah.

Then the fellow said he was going to pay with a check, and it took him a good 30 seconds to find his checkbook. He started scribbling in it. The lady said she’d need some ID. He then thoroughly impressed me with the vast quantity of paperwork his wallet contained. This makes me seem nosy, but I was just standing there, watching this scene unfold, not really annoyed because I wasn’t in any particular hurry, but amazed at how long a fellow could wait at the checkout, second in line. I couldn’t help but notice that the fellow had three Social Security cards – they could have been for other family members, though this fellow didn’t strike me, at first glance, as being particularly family-oriented, but he could have kept a copy for his poor old maiden aunt or his grandmother at the nursing home – but no driver’s license, which may have explained the presence of the moped.

“I got my license number in here somewhere,” the fellow said.

At this point, the lady at the register – do they still call them registers? – put his transaction on hiatus and took the $5.73 from me for the batteries and chewing gum. I almost wanted to hang around to see what happened next? I wondered if the lady would accept a license number, not a license, from a fellow whose mode of transportation was a moped. I walked outside and looked at the moped. The stuff the fellow bought, or was attempting to buy, would have made a fairly snug fit in the bench seat of my pickup. Watching him try to carry all those two-liter bottles home would have been worth watching.

I almost hope he made it.

10:28 a.m.

Part of what I like about locally owned restaurants is that the hospitality is more genuine.

One of my hangouts is the House of Pizza. Joe VanHoose helps me out a year or so back.
One of my hangouts is the House of Pizza. Joe VanHoose helps me out a year or so back.

I recognize, of course, that waiters and waitresses are in it for the tips, and part of the reason they’re so interested in you – “What are you reading?” “It’s a novel by Daphne du Maurier.” “Oh, wow.” – is that they want you to be generous in return.

At the local restaurant, at least they’re not “talking points.”

I want someone available to refill my beverage. I want to be asked if there’s anything else she (or he) can do for me. I’m not so wild about watching the manager working his way slowly up a line of booths, asking “Hi, is everything good? Great!” “Hi, is everything good? Great!” “Hi, is …? Great!” I sort of want someone to say, “No! This sucks!” just to see if the manager will faint.

It doesn’t have to be so cheerful. When I slide into a booth at the Mexican joint, I don’t mind it at all if Omar slides in across from me, and I say, “Hey, what’s up?” and he hangs his head and tells me sales tax is due tomorrow.

“I know whatcha saying, man. Things are tough all over.”

By and large, I’ll take authentic over cheerful.

Today I’m going to see “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” with Ella, Anthony and Alex. I’ll be back directly.

[cb_profit_poster Lottery1]