I Don’t Never Have Fun Like That No More

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 4, 2017, 10:55 a.m.

In the early 1970s, the banks of the Little River overflowed in Laurens. A photo on the front page of a newspaper is etched in my mind. A rowboat was making its way through a parking lot, with Edwards department store in the background. I don’t remember if Edwards ever reopened, but if it did, it didn’t stay around for long.

By Monte Dutton

Laurens is the county seat. I live in Clinton, eight miles away. On Monday night, I took in the Laurens Riverfront Freedom Festival at an amphitheater situated along the banks of the Little River, which has an apt name 99 percent of the time. Levees have been constructed along the banks. A few other floods have occurred over the years, but no one’s had to row around a shopping center.

The flood, well over 40 years ago now, is indirectly responsible for the existence of Little River Park, Laurens Amphitheater and the Laurens Riverfront Freedom Festival. Laurens Sings, a competition whose finals took place, would probably be held in an auditorium or a sports facility now. On the eve of The Fourth, families brought their kids and tried in vain to keep them under control. The members of a triumphant Little League baseball team scurried around collecting contributions to pay for the state tournament. A rising Laurens District High School senior, Malashia Cain, was judged the singingest singer in the county and earned a gigantic $1,000 check for kicks and a normal one she plans to use for a downpayment on a 2009 Malibu. She sang a song, “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess.

I haven’t seen that kind of joy since a kid won a go-kart at the Easter Egg Hunt at Cavalier Ballpark in Clinton. That was even longer ago than the Little River flood. Besides, I couldn’t enjoy it because I wanted that go-kart.

When I was in college, others used to ask me what there was to do back home. I said, well, sometimes we’ll get a lot of beer, and we’ll go park in the edge of the woods, and we’ll put some music in the tape deck, and sit out in the moonlight on the tailgate or hood of my daddy’s pickup truck, and we’ll sing along with the music, and drink the beer, and talk about life.

My friends would say, “My God.”

And I’d say the funny thing is I don’t ever do anything I enjoy that much anymore.

In a small town, little things mean a lot. Even a Little River.

I watched little girls who were much more adept at raising money than their brothers on the ball team, who basically wanted to wear their uniforms and let everybody know they were district champions. Other little girls wanted to teeter and totter along the little granite walls that separated the terraces in the viewing area. One daddy came over and said, “Nikki, git! You git back over there where me and your mama are a-settin’.” To which Nikki replied, “Noooooo!” She pointed. “You git! You git back over yonder. Me and Britney’s having fun.”

Somehow, Daddy didn’t tan her little hide. Fifteen minutes later, Nikki was hugging him, and they were both trying to convince the other than each loved the other better than vice-versa.

The names have been changed partly to protect the innocent but mainly because I don’t know them. It was sweet. And funny. And wholesome. And small-town American.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

There wasn’t any drinking. If people wanted to smoke, they could go over to the bridge, where, according to the master of ceremonies, sand had been “put out,” apparently so cigarettes could be put out.

They had food trucks just outside the gates, and snow cones next to the inside concession stand, which was only barely farther away than the gates. I watched the main show, by a local classic-rock band named Outshyne, from behind the crowd, and then I bought myself a smoothie, which cost a dollar less because I didn’t want anything uber-healthy like kale in it. Just regular healthy things were fine.

It all ended with a fireworks display, but I slipped out early to beat the traffic. The adventure was figuring out a way to get out of the parking lot, which was something of a maze. The best move was going left instead of right, and driving up the hill past Smith Chevrolet, which used to be Smith Brothers long ago when a fellow could buy something called a Pontiac. That way I didn’t have to interrupt the folks smoking on the bridge.

Then I processed some pictures, and wrote a story about the evening, and it took as long for email to move my photos as it did to write the story, and the Red Sox won in 11 innings in Texas, and Dustin Pedroia made an amazing, wildly unusual play in a moment of Boston need, and I ended up going to bed earlier than usual because the late-night talk shows were all reruns, and until now, I haven’t done much today other than look at social media and fix breakfast.

Which is fine.

 

 

 

(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).

Aw, Play It for Fun

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

L&LComplete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, June 26, 2016, 12:07 p.m.

The late Dudley Moore asked, “Isn’t fun the greatest thing you can have?”

The late David Poole often said, “Fun. You just can’t beat fun.”

The late Jimmy Dutton often folded his arms and said, “Chaps love to play.”

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Saturday was fun, or did most of the fun spill over into Sunday? It was late-night Saturday fun for that portion of the public that wasn’t out toasting a Britain rid of its shackles, or drowning the tears of the EU’s decline.

A few may have been drinking for some other reason.

Coastal Carolina’s baseball team surged into the finals of the College World Series. It must have something to do with climate change. The oceans are rising all the way to Omaha.

In a sense. Hyperbole. Almost rhymes with calliope. But not quite. Any rhyme with hyperbole is exaggerated.

The rising oceans also washed in Coastal Carolina’s uniforms from the 1970s. Teal pullovers. I remember them from the Sears catalogue. The Chanticleers. Chants for short. Imagine if the fans turned to Gregorian chants between innings. It wouldn’t be that different from that soccer drone.

Coastal Carolina eliminated Texas Christian, which wears the regal purple, but at least it buttons up. About all I mastered about the game was the uniforms because my attention was divided between the Chants rising, the Rangers routing (the Red Sox) and the Trucks fighting in Madison, Illinois. I also closed in on finishing a novel (reading, not writing, that was earlier in the day), played the guitar a little, tweeted slyly, and drank coffee way later than I’d planned.

It was all worth it, though. Two Truck drivers ostensibly across the river from Saint Louis to race, having failed that in concert with each other, compounded matters by having the most unsatisfying fight since Bonecrusher Smith retired. After the initial pratfall — “I say, if I can wrest that foot loose of the pavement, in theory, it would cause my nemesis to fall untidily,” said Master Townley — the two followed the “one-two-three, one-two-three” ballroom moves they had been forced to learn after the daily riding sessions on their ponies.

“Spencer, old sport, place your hand on my shoulder.”

“Ah! In so doing shall I blunt your feeble attempts at aggression.”

“Lest I force you into submission with my fists of iron!”

“Nonsense, old chum, I have you in check. Now pivot smartly and follow me … 1-2-3, 1-2-3 …”

“By George, I think I’ve got it. Tally-ho and all that.”

This morning, a few news outlets even reported this straight, but the announcers were smirking.

When a couple drunks would start duking it out in front of the Talladega Superspeedway press box, Larry Woody used to speculate that perhaps they were fighting over the relative merits of Shakespeare and Chaucer.

“Why, you SOB, Chaucer couldn’t carry Shakespeare’s jockstrap!”

(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.

Most of my books are available here.

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.

 

Just Another Small-Town Saturday Night

Laurens County Speedway, Laurens, South Carolina. (Monte Dutton photo)
Laurens County Speedway, Laurens, South Carolina. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, July 26, 2015, 10:38 a.m.

As I sat on the hard, fourth-turn concrete of Laurens County Speedway, it occurred to me why I hadn’t been there in so long.

My friend Joe VanHoose accompanied me. He lives in Athens, Ga. When, a few days ago, I had written a blog about NASCAR’s Truck race at Eldora Speedway, I mentioned that I liked watching the action at local dirt tracks. Joe said he was free and would go with me. He had to drive to Charlotte and back, so he detoured through Clinton, and we spent the afternoon playing our guitars, alternating back and forth between songs we had written, and watching the Xfinity Series race from Indianapolis.

Time flew. It was great fun. We compared and contrasted our music styles, and finally we made our way up to the track, which is about ten miles from my house.

My “Eureka moment” came when I thought what it would have been like if I hadn’t had a friend to come along.

I’d have walked in and found a seat on that concrete. The stands at the track are hard for me to get up and down because I have one knee that is bad and another that is getting worse because of favoring it over the bad one.

When I go to ballgames alone, particularly baseball, I often strike up conversations with nearby fans. In fact, highly ranked among the reasons I love baseball is the fact that I often make friends with people I’ll never see again for a span of nine innings.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Had I gone to the track alone, I would have talked about the same things I talked about with Joe. I would have reminisced about old times at other tracks, told stories about Dale Earnhardt, Tony Stewart, Bud Moore, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Cotton Owens, and others, and the fellow who would have been sitting next to me would have thought to himself, Well, this fellow is quite the bullshitter. I know this because, if the roles had been reversed, I would have thought the same thing.

Fortunately, Joe knows that my job was writing about NASCAR for twenty years, and he was satisfied that all those stories really took place. Joe also goes to a lot of short tracks, giving him perspective I lack, and I would have known he knew about that of which he was speaking, too.

Many people in the USA, and a few abroad, follow me for my racing perspective. Around these parts, people remember when I used to cover the Red Devils and Blue Hose for The Clinton Chronicle and The Laurens County Advertiser. In the off chance that the theoretical fellow had known who I was, he might have asked, “You still working at The Chronicle, I reckon?” and I would have replied, “No, I left there a little over twenty-five years ago,” and he would have said, “Oh.”

This has happened. Many times.

Sometimes it seems like the only place on earth where I get no respect is my hometown, and, when I think that, I realize further that Clinton is also the only place where I don’t get my ass kissed, and since I don’t leave Clinton very often anymore, my ass has become largely unloved.

This is not a bad thing. This is functional in its way. I believe I prefer it to the alternative. Clinton keeps me grounded. On a hard slab of concrete in the fourth turn of a dirt track nearby.

Laurens County Speedway, (Monte Dutton photo)
Laurens County Speedway, (Monte Dutton photo)

The racing? I’ve seen better. Joe and I sat there, watching and swapping tales, and, for the most part, we probably learned the names of five drivers out of all the local heroes in all the local classes, and, in most cases, we had no idea how many laps the racers would run. We barely glanced at our phones, didn’t follow the racing on Twitter, weren’t hooked into timing and scoring, and if we missed a wreck, we didn’t get to see the replay.

In just about every class, though, every car went through every turn sideways, and sideways at Laurens County Speedway is a lot more sideways than what gets announcers hyperventilating on paved superspeedways. In fact, sideways at Laurens County Speedway was more sideways than trucks racing around Eldora.

Taken as a whole, it was a unique day and night. I don’t believe I’ve ever spent an afternoon playing music and then a night in which the other musician and I went to a dirt track. I’ve played music before a NASCAR race, and after, as well, but that’s a whole different vibe.

Taken together, it was an exquisite experience. I could see Joe and me doing it again sometime soon.

Later today, I’ll watch the Sprint Cup royalty race at the antithesis of Laurens County Speedway (assuming rain doesn’t fall in Indianapolis). The 3/8th-mile of red clay had a good crowd. The crowd at the 2-1/2-mile of asphalt will be about a hundred times larger. One of the lower divisions at Laurens had a first-time winner, whose name now escapes me, and team member and other drivers treated him to what is a apparently a Laurens tradition of rolling the first-timer in mud at the bottom of the front straight.

The Brickyard winner will kiss bricks.

What has changed since I last attended a dirt-track race?

The dust wasn’t as bad. I wore some goggles that came with a weed-eater I bought about twenty years ago and have never used with the weed-eater, but they weren’t necessary, though several times, I did have this weird sensation of wanting to go swimming.

The crowd wasn’t as partisan. In the past, it hasn’t been uncommon for me to sit near warring bands of fans, each rooting for one driver and professing unbridled hatred for the no-good so-and-so for whom the other jackasses were cheering. Perhaps those people were sitting on the straightaway, and the fans in the turn were more detached and disinterested.

I also missed the obligatory drunk, parading up and down the worn path in front of the grandstands, shaking his fists while relatives just told everyone else, “Don’t mind Uncle Jack. He’ll be ah’ight.”

It cost ten bucks apiece to get in. Parking was free, though the lot was rutted, and I’m glad I brought the truck. Joe and I didn’t sample the concessions, though I’d bet they were reasonable and probably quite similarly priced to Clinton High football.

It wasn’t too hot. When we got back to the house, I told Joe thanks for coming and be safe on the way back to Athens. I went to bed and “dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summer time, of old dogs, and children, and watermelon wine.”*

Something like that.

*Tom T. Hall, of course.

 

Read my novel, Crazy of Natural Causes. You can examine and order the page-turner 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

Most of my books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1