More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Boiled Peanuts

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 17, 2017, 9:34 a.m.

This weekend I have in my possession one of those foods that Southerners consider delicacies and those from other places dismiss as gross, tasteless, backward, and lacking in redeeming value, social or otherwise.

Boiled peanuts.

I don’t often buy them. I prefer to, uh, boil them myself. I am a certified boiled-peanuts chef. I once studied under my grandfather, who ran a grocery store. Grocery stores were once the centers of boiled-peanuts learning.

On one of those rare days when the produce department at Bi-Lo has an availability of green peanuts – ripe ones won’t work – I greedily scoop a weekend’s supply into one of those cellophane bags that take five minutes to unfold, and head home a happy man.

By Monte Dutton

Occasionally, I buy some boiled peanuts at a baseball game. I rather like the Cajun-spiced ones. In general, though, my problem with “store-bought” boiled peanuts is that they are soggy. It’s one of those natural consequences of modernity. The sublime boiled peanuts of my youth were ruined by plastic bags.

Dutton’s Grocery — which inexplicably had Dutton’s Market on the sign after Granddaddy painted the whole outside in a combination of bright and pale orange, oh, in about 1969 or ’70, thereabouts — sold boiled peanuts. In those days, they were sold in small, tan paper bags. If soggy peanuts were placed in those bags, the bottoms fell out. Hence, we had to drain the peanuts before we bagged them.

Granddaddy would get on one side of a huge vat of boiling peanuts, grasp a handle with one gloved hand and place the other under the vat, while I, oh, 12 years old or so, would do the same on the other side. We then hoisted the container and dumped its contents into a basin in the store’s back room, the same location where chickens were chopped, bologna sliced and steak cubed.

Scalding was a possibility. That never stopped us. Neither of us, nor anyone else who worked there, ever got scalded, at least not during my youth.

We let the peanuts cool and drain for a few hours. Then I sat on a high stool in front of the basin and proceeded to bag the peanuts. They were arranged on a cardboard beer flat and placed on the counter, with several reinforcement flats stored in “the cooler” which was one of two refrigeration units, one out front and the other adjoining the back room. As a general rule, the outside cooler contained reinforcements of watermelons and the inside one contained reinforcements of beer.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

 

It is my recollection that a bag of boiled peanuts, at about the turn of the ‘70s, cost slightly less than a pack of cigarettes and slightly more than a Coke. Twenty-five cents.

I still prefer my boiled peanuts drained. They aren’t as messy. Salty water doesn’t leave stains on the front of the shirt. They taste better, or maybe that’s because it’s the way they tasted when I was but a lad.

Those from the non-boiled-peanut states sound almost exactly the way those from the non-grits states sound.

I don’t get it. They’re tasteless. So bland.

My answer is the same. You like potatoes? They’re tasteless, too, until you slather them in butter, salt and pepper, and/or ketchup.

Besides, my buds don’t taste for anyone but themselves.

 

 

(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).

Whoever Heard of a Red Devil Heaven?

First-year head coach Eddie Romines and his Red Devils. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 10:30 a.m.

Life is back to normal. I’ve returned from my restorative road trip. Tuesday night found me back in my normal element, watching the Clinton Red Devils play and driving back home to dicker with photos and write a story about it.

By Monte Dutton

A dichotomy exists between the basketball teams that represent the local high school. Both the boys and the girls have risen and fallen through the years. At the moment, the boys are on a hill, and the girls are in a valley. Both teams do their very best. Newberry paid a visit from 25 miles, mostly down I-26, and Clinton won the boys’ game, 68-60, and lost the girls’ game, 66-27.

A region sweep of the neighboring Bulldogs – Newberry won a holiday-tournament game in overtime – leaves the Clinton boys with 15 victories and three defeats, overall, and a perfect seven victories in as many tries in Region 3-3A, which Clinton and Newberry share with Woodruff, Mid-Carolina, Broome and Chapman. The girls are 4-14 and 1-6.

When I am on assignment, my wandering is restricted to the scorer’s table and the end zone for pictures. When I take pictures, I tally stats on the back of my left hand, then transfer them to a legal pad when I get back to my seat.

Here’s a helpful hint from the journalism pros: Don’t forget to scrub the ink off the wrist with spit. That way the slate is clean when the boys’ game starts.

So much for the notion that journalism is getting too antiseptic.

Kiah Young (5) and Tymori Tribble.

When I go to a game as a fan, I mingle all night. I good-naturedly jeer the refs. I try not to be harsh. I don’t jeer unless I really think it’s a bad call. Sometimes, I even say something to the person sitting next to me like, “You know, that probably was the right call.”

At the scorer’s table, it’s quite different. I must make use of my professional reserve. Also, there is too much to do. A good bit of the time, I pass messages from one scorekeeper to the other. Last night I chatted quite a bit with Al Webb, who keeps the clock. I also get amusement out of watching the repetitive interactions between the benches and the table.

How many timeouts?

Two?

I got two?

That’s right. Two.

How many they got?

One.

They got one?

That’s right. One.

Tymori Tribble

I think it’s required that every officiating crew have a stickler. During every timeout he comes over and delivers a small talk about how he likes everything to be.

Arrow pointing that way. It’s their ball, right?

Yes.

Why hasn’t the arrow been reset?

I reset it when the other team in-bounds.

I like it if you reset it immediately.

Will do.

Savana Campbell (3) and girls’ coach John Gardner.

It’s possible that it makes the people sitting at the table slightly more likely to notice when said referee misses a call, but, of course, it is the scorer’s table, so we don’t yell. We make snarky remarks under our breaths, and, in my business, while it is unprofessional to cheer for either team while occupied professionally, it is allowed and, in many places, encouraged, to exhibit several forms of humor.

In general, though, at the scorer’s table, the officials find friendly faces. The job is hard. The accolades are few. I was probably one or two off on the turnovers or something.

The whole scene at Clinton High is upbeat. The girls’ team has struggled, but it’s better than last year’s, and it’s won a region game, and Newberry (13-2, 8-0) is overwhelming. The Lady Bulldogs forced 25 turnovers and held the Lady Red Devils to two field goals in the first half. Still, Clinton keeps chugging away, doing its best. Great nobility resides in that.

Honoring the seniors.

Last night was the final regular-season home game, i.e., Senior Night. Both teams and the cheerleaders received the individual tribute of the crowd between the games.

Now Clinton’s aura of invincibility will be sorely tested. An early-season trip to Chapman was postponed by snow till next Tuesday. That means the Red Devils must venture to Broome on Friday, Woodruff on Tuesday, and Chapman on Wednesday. The home victories over Broome and Chapman were tense.

The Region 3 title is anything but wrapped up. Chapman is 12-4, 6-1, having lost only at Clinton earlier in the season.

Local sports provide intimacy that others do not. I spent 20 years writing about NASCAR, and never once did a famous driver scan my groceries at Ingles.

(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).

Oh, the Troubles that Poor Tree Has Seen

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

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, July 8, 2016, 10:20 a.m.

Mother Nature bared her teeth last night. I was minding my own business, watching the Truck race from Kentucky, and the wind started howling, the lightning started flashing, the thunder started crashing, and all the sound and fury inside the house ceased.

It’s still quiet. The power is still out. This morning, I discovered that the proud cedar tree in my backyard had been beaten into submission, one of its limbs lying atop the roof. When this house was built, the contractor asked if I wanted to cut down the tree. It wasn’t pretty. It had been struck by lightning once, and since “it is said” that lightning never strikes the same place twice, I thought it might be good luck, so I told the contractor to leave it be.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I was just thinking about when people come in now to clean it away, wondering if the man with the chainsaw will ask me if I want him to dig it up or cut it down to ground level. Maybe I’ll tell him to leave a stump about three feet high. The way I can sit on it and play guitar.

The heat is rising outside and drifting into the house to recompense for the cool breezes that wafted in the storm’s aftermath. I’ll soon have to recharge the cell phone in the truck.

My wi-fi must have some kind of battery backup. I’ve no power, but I have wi-fi, which means I can post this blog as long as this laptop doesn’t run out of juice, at which time I can run another laptop out of juice, and it could be that whatever is keeping the wi-fi going will run out at some point.

Or the power could return, at which point all my troubles will be over except a huge tree, drooping in agony with body parts strewn everywhere.

She never even had a name. I never spoke to her, so a name was optional. I stopped the lawn mower many a time under her branches, the better to sip iced tea in her luxuriant shade. She heard me sing along with Ray Price, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Jerry Jeff Walker, Hank Snow and Jimmy Buffett, but she never heard them, so she might’ve thought I could sing.

The City just arrived with a pickup and two bucket trucks. The hour of salvation is at hand.

(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).

I Don’t Bite My Nails, but If I Did …

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, January 17, 2016, 9:49 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I almost didn’t go. I had been going back and forth about it all day. What probably cinched it was New England pulling two touchdowns ahead of Kansas City, and I needed to gas up the truck for a little trip, and go by the ATM, so, what the heck? I drove on over to Templeton Center, where the Blue Hose were playing the Highlanders.

That’s Presbyterian College Blue Hose versus Radford University Highlanders. A match made in Scotland.

DSCF1764As I walked through the lobby, I picked up one of the scoresheets placed conveniently in racks, and I scanned the rosters, thinking, well, this should be a great game. PC was 7-10 overall and 2-4 in the Big South. Radford was 10-8 and 3-3. The Blue Hose were at home, and, I thought, well, that makes it a toss-up. By the heights and weights, the two teams appeared to be about the same size.

DeSean Murray
DeSean Murray

I sat down at the space set aside for me by PC sports information director Simon Whitaker and started experimenting with one of my cameras. I do not have the quality of equipment used by professional photographers to shoot sporting events. Somewhere on my spacious estate, I have some quality equipment that requires the use of film that is shiny and sensitive, not convenient and virtual.

My next observation was that either Presbyterian overstates the size of its players or Radford understates them, and, perhaps a little of both. The roster claimed that the Highlanders had two players who were 6-8 and another at 6-7. PC had a pair of 6-9s, a 6-8, and a 6-6. Yet, running up and down the floor, the heads of the Highlanders in red seemed to bob at a slightly higher level than the Blue Hose in white. I put some study into this. Presbyterian’s splendid sophomore forward, DeSean Murray, is listed at 6-5. So is Radford freshman forward Ed Polite Jr., who is a fine player but doesn’t seem more polite than anyone else. A pleasant young man, I’m sure. Polite is from Lanham, Maryland. I have a close friend from Lanham, Maryland.

DSCF1763

My considered estimate is that Polite is about two inches taller than Murray.

In the Templeton Center rafters, emblematic of Big South membership.
In the Templeton Center rafters, emblematic of Big South membership.

It didn’t start great for the Blue Hose, and this may have contributed to my exaggerated assessment of Radford’s official size. The Highlanders once led, 9-1, and the Blue Hose had only three points in the game’s first four minutes. Neither team led by as many as eight points again. Presbyterian tied it at 16 on Murray’s artful invasion of the lane at the 8:43 mark. The Blue Hose led, 31-26, at halftime and for most of the way. The biggest lead was seven on several occasions.

Austin Venable
Austin Venable

The balanced Highlanders — four players scored in double figures — tied the Blue Hose over and over during the final 20 minutes but only finagled the lead once, 51-49 with 11:34 to play.

Gregg Nibert
Gregg Nibert

The final score was Presbyterian 69, Radford 68. At the buzzer, a halfcourt shot caromed off the backboard and rimmed out. That’s how close the game was.

Presbyterian head coach Gregg Nibert labeled it “a great team win.”

DSCF1769At home, the Blue Hose are 7-2. Away, they are 1-8. This is due, in some measure, to the traveling appearances of Presbyterian against Clemson, Richmond and Marquette, but the road woes seemed more glaring because, two nights earlier, the Blue Hose had allowed Coastal Carolina to slip away to a 25-0 lead at the start and lost, 87-58.

DSCF1758

Murray scored 22 points, but Radford smothered him in the final five minutes. He only hit eight of 18 but was six out of eight at the free-throw line for the night altogether. He also led the team with eight rebounds, but Reggie Dillard, who hit the free throw that made the difference, scored 10 points and had seven rebounds. Markus Terry scored 15 points. For Radford, Polite scored 15, as did Rashun Davis, and Cameron Jones added 14. Polite pulled down 12 rebounds.

Coaching basketball will drive a man crazy, and Nibert has been doing it here for 27 years.

DSCF1766“It was a great win after Thursday’s debacle,” he said. “Coastal played good. Don’t get me wrong, but to come back [two days] later … I tell you what. That was resilient.”

Notice how Nibert used “debacle” and “resilient” in the span of one paragraph. That comes with coaching at a school with quality academics. It’s almost osmosis.

“They’re good,” he said of Radford. “We finally found our starting lineup, and we finally found our guys coming off the bench.”

I must spend too much time fiddling around with that camera. I hadn’t even noticed those guys being gone.

DSCF1765

(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 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 appreciation 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. 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.

 

Like Making Sausage

Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, et al., weren't the only ones in a hurry at Bristol. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, et al., weren’t the only ones in a hurry at Bristol. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 20, 2015, 11:18 a.m.

I got up thinking that the difference between being at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday and watching the Sprint Cup race at home wasn’t as great as I thought.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

A year ago, and the year before that, I’d watch the races, go to sleep, think them through, and write the precursor of this blog. There wasn’t much money in it, but it was a pleasant pastime. Nowadays, perspective is lacking because no one has time for it.

Starting this year, I write a weekly piece for Bleacher Report, which is basically a post-race column. Here’s the one I put to bed at a little shy of 2 a.m. EDT.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2436206-matt-kenseth-keeps-his-cool-avoids-the-crazy-on-wild-night-at-bristol

Jimmie Johnson finished second to Matt Kenseth. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson finished second to Matt Kenseth. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

It’s quite the assembly line. When the race is over, I start forming the column, turning a few phrases, and adding to the mix as information – the race report and transcripts, mainly – trickles into this laptop and the larger one in my office. The larger one is better for layout, and I never had to do layout when I was working at newspapers.

I work with an editor, and we agree on a topic and a headline, but I add photos, video, and other mechanisms to complement the words. Sometimes they improve on what I do back at the office out west. It’s fun, actually, but not as much at 2 in the morning.

Jeff Gordon (24) finished third and Tony Stewart sixth. (Alan Marler/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon (24) finished third and Tony Stewart sixth. (Alan Marler/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

It feels a little like being there – at Bristol, not out west — only I don’t have to trudge up the ramp out the speedway and travel home, whether then or the next morning. Instead of going into the dining room of the media center to see if they brought in any cold pizza, I’ve got a refrigerator and a coffee pot. Instead of being in a room full of people fretting feverishly on deadline, I fret privately.

Modern journalism means that everything is on deadline. Press times are no longer arbitrary. They are ubiquitous. There’s no “hold the press” or “going late to get this in.” It’s always a matter of writing the best one can as quickly as possible.

I’ve always thrived on deadlines. I’ve always found it sort of exhilarating. I’ve also likened it to taking the SATs. (Man wearing ancient woolen suit, staring at a watch, saying “Five minutes. You have five minutes.”)

My longtime description is that it’s a matter of trying to make the crap stink as little as possible, but there is skill, satisfaction, and craftsmanship in the sordid process.

Thankfully, I took my time on this one. I take my time on the short stories available for your free perusal at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and I took a lot of time on the books available for your purchase here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

The Road Does Not Go On Forever, and the Party Sometimes Ends

Remember to take a hard right on I-95. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Remember to take a hard right on I-95. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 11, 2015, 9:02 a.m.

I feel fortunate this morning.

For some unusual reason, I awakened a little after six. I was going to try to go back to sleep, and I don’t know why I did this, other than fate, but I scrambled for the remote and turned on the TV, where, there to my amazement, was Robert Earl Keen Jr. and band performing on Imus in the Morning.

I turned off the TV in the bedroom, staggered into the living room, flipped on the TV there, walked into the kitchen to put on some coffee, iced down my aching back, which aches when I get up every morning, and commenced to perusing my social-media feeds.

The early-morning life ain’t normally my life, but it’s a good life. Today. Because of REK.

As is way too common, I digress.

Leaning on the old tires. (Monte Dutton sketch ... of Monte Dutton)
Leaning on the old tires. (Monte Dutton sketch … of Monte Dutton)

Today is when many of my old friends are, by some means, traveling to Daytona Beach, Florida, because Thursday is Media Day. When I attended this affair, it was a day of socializing and making plans, and seeing if there was any good music to go see, and whether the activities at the track would allow it.

By the time Media Day rolled around, I would already have all my preseason work done, so I covered it for whatever new information might be breaking, not to prepare for the season in general, as planned and intended by the Lords of Daytona. It was a relaxing day because most of the stressful work was done. It wasn’t exactly the calm before the storm, but it certainly wasn’t a nose-to-the-grindstone day. It wasn’t the type of day to shout out questions above the din of the mob.

Actually, I wasn’t about that life, anyway.

I’m not a press-forward-and-be-pushy kind of writer. I’m a hang-back, let-the-young’uns-think-they-somebody, then slip-over-after-the-mob-has-dissipated-and-try-to-get-something-different kind of writer. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. I’m selfish. My way was a lot more fun. The longer I wrote about racing, the more I cared about having fun, and I rationalized this by convincing myself – “Self, you need convincing” – that, if it was fun for me, what I wrote would be fun to read.

That was the story to which I stuck.

Not anymore, of course, but I think this morning of all those friends, making their way through airport security, taking their shoes off, putting them back on, checking the boards to see if their flights are still on time, and pecking away at their text messages and tweets. Others are driving for half a day on Interstate 95, the road where sheer boredom is interrupted mainly by traffic cones. I always drove because I was going to be down there for anywhere from ten days to two weeks, and I wanted to take items like guitars and ice chests and slow cookers. One year I even bought a small slot-car track at the Family Dollar, and we raced all month at the condo, too.

Robert Earl Keen, with me and David Poole in the foreground, back during the old days that seem better and better.
Robert Earl Keen, with me and David Poole in the foreground, back during the old days that seem better and better.

The Daytona 500 isn’t just the biggest race. It’s the most enjoyable. Not necessarily the race. It’s so time-consuming that there’s more time for consumption.

I’ve gotten to where I enjoy it from afar, too. Maybe even more. I can hole up in my house the same way I could hole up in the Ormond Beach condo. I can go to the Presbyterian College game, where once I might drive over to Deland to see Stetson play. Going to a basketball game was a me-and-David-Poole kind of excursion, and when David died, among many more significant losses were those trips.

I can watch a movie at home instead of the cineplex on Williamson, on the way back from the track. I can go over to Clinton High tomorrow to chat with Andrew Webb, the new football coach, instead of Tony Stewart while he’s waiting to get his picture taken.

Thanks for reading what I write, even though it lacks some of its former immediacy. If my non-fiction bores you, my short fiction is on display at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and the third step in my diabolical plan is for you to buy my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Just Who Can You Believe?

It's a wasteland out there beyond the city limits. (Monte Dutton)
It’s a wasteland out there beyond the city limits. (Monte Dutton)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, February 5, 2015, 7:52 p.m.

I put my hometown at the top of these blogs (unless I happen to be writing from somewhere else) for a reason: my outlook is shaped by where I’m from. Sometimes I reflect its sensibilities; sometimes I react against them. The effect of Clinton is always there and was even before I was here most of the time.

By our normally peaceful standards, things have been hopping in Clinton. We’ve just been through a lurid murder trial involving prominent families that is now … somewhat … over. A new high school football coach has been hired, and that’s been something of a knock-down, drag-out. The mayor’s race is like none other I remember. The current issue of The Clinton Chronicle has another mess of letters to the editor, equally divided between those who seem to despise one candidate or the other.

In a way, Clinton is imitating life, and it’s a bit scary.

As the Statler Brothers sang, Tex Ritter's gone, and Disney's dead, and the screen is filled with sex. (Rhonda Beck photo)
As the Statler Brothers sang, Tex Ritter’s gone, and Disney’s dead, and the screen is filled with sex. (Rhonda Beck photo)

For instance, I think I’m getting to the point in life where I’m worried about getting old, not because of age itself but because I’ve noticed that old people seem to wind up being ruined.

I remember when Joe Paterno, Bill Cosby, and Brian Williams were icons. Paterno and Cosby were models for American youth back when I was youthful. Williams is a year younger than I.

Yikes.

The first two built their pristine reputations for decades, only to have misdeeds come back to haunt them. Hence the ruination. It’s a perilous world in which a kid can’t trust his (or her) coach, priest, and comedian.

I can’t defend Paterno. He protected the grand and glorious reputation at the expense of allowing children to be victimized by a trusted assistant. Now it’s gone, as is Paterno, and I guess he deservedly died a broken man. I still saddens me, not what he did and didn’t do, but that the whole sordid story unfolded.

Hollywood has had its share of characters of whom we would be shocked if they didn’t ply young women with drugs and drag them off to bed. The others never advertised Jell-O Pudding. We knew they were tawdry. When I heard Cosby do the Fat Albert routines, apparently I didn’t realize what he meant when he said, “Hey, hey, hey …”

It’s also distasteful for a parade of accusers to come forward, now that Cosby is old and past the point of power that once enabled him to get away with such crudity. Perhaps it’s a case where these women said, once upon a time, “He’ll get his,” and when they had a chance to join the lynch mob, they were only too happy.

This isn’t an endorsement of plying beautiful young women with drugs and dragging them off to bed. It’s just a recognition that such things happened before Twitter, too.

I believe it would be better for Cosby to say, “Yes, I did some bad things. I’m old. I now regret them. I’m sorry,” instead of not say anything, but then again, no lawyers have assisted the formulation of this opinion.

People are inclined to forgive a sinner, but they can’t abide a hypocrite. I know it’s true in my case. A man or a woman is responsible for his or her actions, and public opinion has no statute of limitations, at least not officially.

If I can’t trust Williams, I’m damned if know who’s left I can trust. I’d expect it of Geraldo Rivera, or Skip Bayless, or Stephen A. Smith, but Brian Williams! Next thing you know, they’ll be exhuming Walter Cronkite for a DNA sample.

I can’t imagine what happened. Perhaps the incident got exaggerated by NBC flacks, and word of mouth, and Williams started out going along with it, and then the story grew and grew, and maybe in a span of a decade, Williams started believing it himself, or at least found it convenient. It reminds me of a wise man’s remark about a philandering football coach: “Toward the end, his ego got so large, he thought he was invisible.”

Williams seems so modest. I guess we’re supposed to adopt a new attitude. Ah, the modest ones, the ones who feign humility? It’s all a racket. The ones who seem like egotistical bastards? They’re the humble ones. Donald Trump is the man of true humility. Richard Sherman is really low-key. Lewis Black is unflappable. David Letterman has no personality. Jim Carrey is overly serious. Patsy Cline couldn’t sing. Cary Grant was a wooden actor.

What I should have learned about life was contained in one of those poems we recited as kids:

One bright day in the middle of the night / Two dead men got up to fight / Back to back, they faced each other / Drew their swords and shot each other.

I forget the rest, but that’s not even the beginning of what I should have discarded.

Perhaps I learned a little. My two novels have neither saints nor sinners. Most everyone falls in between. Here’s where you can examine and buy them: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Yesterday’s Wine

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It seemed like old times at Wilder Stadium. (Monte Dutton)
It seemed like old times at Wilder Stadium. (Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, October 18, 2014, 9:02 a.m.

Here’s a lesson I learned from the Great Game of Football.

If one fails to execute his block, do not turn around, with one’s hands on one’s hips, to watch the man one was supposed to have blocked clobber the quarterback. One could not look more shameful were he staring into the cage of a starved bunny rabbit he was supposed to have kept fed.

Dive at him! Hit somebody! By all means, be on the ground. Do not draw undue attention to one’s failures.

With good reason, I often poke fun at myself and my less-than-spectacular career as an athlete, but the Clinton Red Devils of thirty-nine autumns ago were greater than the sum of my parts. Thirteen wins, one loss, state champions of Class AAA, fourteen to six over Myrtle Beach in the finals, on the road, back before titles were decided in large, mostly vacant college stadiums and teams wore white at home.

Some times you lose seven straight. Sometimes, though, you win. (Monte Dutton)
Some times you lose seven straight. Sometimes, though, you win. (Monte Dutton)

This town still remembers, though it’s never seemed so long ago. This year the Red Devils are one and seven, and after all these years, it still seems like my team. It’s not a big city, where a father who played for Westside had a father who played for Eastside, and he’s at a game watching his son play for Northside while he wonders if the younger one will play for Southside.

The Clinton Red Devils don’t just play for a school. They play for a town, and as a friend told me after one of the games, “When that team ain’t no count, this whole town goes into a funk.”

Clinton High School won its eighth state championship five years ago. It now seems as distant as mine, the third, or my brother’s, the fifth. A year ago, the lads lost their first six games, this year the first seven.

Yet, even in this decade of our discontent, miracles can happen.

It’s not like Vince Lombardi was on the opposition sideline. Union County was two and five when they hit the Wilder Stadium field, but so gaudy was the huge seven in the Clinton loss column that every prognosticator I spied rated the Yellow Jackets as somewhere in the neighborhood of a two-touchdown favorite. They were markedly larger in the lines, fleeter on the perimeter and sturdier in the backfield. The first time it assumed possession of the ball, Union County marched down the field but fumbled deep in Clinton territory. Then the Red Devils punted, and the Yellow Jackets fumbled it. Halftime arrived to home hosannas, the Red Devils leading fourteen to nothing.

That was the home side until 1975. (Monte Dutton)
That was the home side until 1975. (Monte Dutton)

The optimism was guarded. Second halves haven’t been kind to the lads this year. They’d been ahead before. At halftime.

Union County onsides-kicked successfully to open the second half and then proceeded to shred the Red Devil defense via the run, unusual for the Yellow Jackets. Fourteen to seven. Then fourteen to thirteen by the grace of a missed extra point. Early in the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets took the lead, nineteen to fourteen. The visiting side cheered. The home side sighed.

It’s a strange sound, a thousand or so, sighing at once. Ayyyyyyyyyy. Ooooooooooh. Ahhhhhhhhh. With just the edge of a shriek, like an off-key voice in a choir that carries over everyone else’s.

Somehow, though, against all odds, Clinton had one more chance. Alternating an I-formation with a wishbone, sophomore Charlie Craven, who looks exactly like a Charlie Craven, under center, down the field they moved, the adjective “inexorable” in play for the first time all year. Craven hit the tight end, Daniel Moore, for thirty-two yards. Shakeam Dowdy, who spent most of the second half looking wounded, rose to the occasion.

Boom, boom, boom. It had been pop, pop, pop, and thud, thud, thud.

There they were, the sad-sack Red Devils, circa Year of Our Lord two thousand and fourteen, five yards away from the goal and also Paradise, Shangri-La, and Nirvana. On third down, Clinton devised a perfect play. Craven pitched the ball to Dee Jennings and crept away unnoticed to an area of the end zone left unpatrolled by the Union swarm. The Red Devils devised the play but didn’t run it. Jennings didn’t throw it. He tried to run it in. He got tripped at the line.

Fourth down. Twenty-one seconds blazing on the scoreboard. The moment of destiny seemed to have passed.

No. Not for the quintessential Charlie Craven. He stepped back and calmly hit that tight end, Moore, again. Dowdy had a two-point conversion in the tank. Twenty-two to nineteen. Seventeen clicks.

Incredibly, Union County had one more sting, but a long pass play died at the twenty or thereabouts, and the Yellow Jackets were out of timeouts, and when the receiver fell and the chain crew caught up, and the ref wound the clock, it showed not two seconds, but two tenths of one second, and a team consisting of the entire Justice League of America couldn’t have gotten that game-tying kick off.

As Willie Nelson sang, “Miracles appear in the strangest of places. Fancy meeting you here.”

This non-fiction is a bit embellished. If you’d like to see full-blown fiction, check out www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com from time to time, and if you still like high school football, even after reading my accounts, you might well enjoy my novel, The Intangibles, about which you can learn more here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Intangibles-Monte-Dutton/dp/0988829088.

Uh, Don’t Tell Me … I’ve Nothing to Do

Southern Arizona. (Monte Dutton)
Southern Arizona. (Monte Dutton)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, October 2, 2014, 8:38 a.m.

Once were there separate seasons. Now all the sports overlap. Baseball is winding down. Football is heating up. Basketball and hockey beckon.

NASCAR? Oh, it never stops.

Tonight, on TV, the Vikings of Minnesota are playing the Packers of Green Bay. The Knights of Central Floridmug Dutton Monte 2_WEBa are playing the Cougars of Houston. The Wildcats of Arizona visit the Ducks of Oregon. Alabama State is at Alcorn State. Benedict is at Miles. Florida (merely) Atlantic is playing Florida International.

That’s just a Thursday night. Did I mention the Royals visiting Anaheim for Game One?

Of course, at 8 p.m., on TCM, there’s Topper: “The ghosts of socialites George (Cary Grant) and Marion (Constance Bennett) decide to help their friend, banker Cosmo Topper (Roland Young).” I’ve seen it before, but Cary Grant is hard to beat.

Michael Waltrip might be dancing, but not on the TV tonight.

What’s ahead here? Well, rain tomorrow, apparently. A good many high school games have been moved to tonight (Thursday) but not the one about which I am scheduled to write. Then, on Saturday, I might watch the first half of the Western Carolina-Presbyterian game before I bolt to Greenville to watch Coastal Carolina play Furman.

Today? Gotta mow some grass before the rain hits.

Baseball is down to the Giants and Nationals, Dodgers and Cardinals, Tigers and Orioles, and Royals and Angels. The Boston Red Sox have scattered halfway around the globe. October recently disappeared in Oakland and Pittsburgh.

NASCAR begins its three-week Contender Round. Four have already taken the Marlin Brando route in On the Waterfront. They could’ve been contenders.

Have no fear. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are going to keep Roland Young safe.

You might enjoy my baseball-themed short story, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. Buy my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, from www.neverlandpublishing.com or www.amazon.com.

Latest Blast from the Past

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J.W. Babb Stadium, Greenwood, South Carolina (Monte Dutton)
J.W. Babb Stadium, Greenwood, South Carolina (Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 20, 2014, 9:15 a.m.

On Friday night, I watched a game at J.W. Babb Stadium for the first time in thirty-four years. The last time I watched the Greenwood Eagles play, the football coach was J.W. Babb.

Pinky.

He was a curious man, difficult to interview. He seemed baffled by every question. I was just out of college. I was baffled by most of my own questions. He coached there for thirty-nine years, won 336 games and nine state championships.

Both of the proud programs that played there last night, Greenwood (1-3) and Spartanburg (2-2), are taking some lumps. That didn’t make the game any less interesting. I didn’t go to either school. I hadn’t watched their other games. The one I saw was interesting. I just went there looking for something to write. I got it.

The stadium, by the way, was the same, at least in terms of concrete seating. An elaborate score and message board has been erected. A three-story press box has replaced an old one that I sat in several times but don’t remember.

The biggest change in high school football is, simply, the points. Compared to “my day,” lots of plays look like the only thing missing is the Stanford band. A typical score is, oh, 44-27 (Broome over Newberry, last night).

Greenwood beat Spartanburg, 17-2. Neither Eagle touchdown was offensive, though Viking fans may have found them that way. Greenwood defenders produced scores on the game’s second play from scrimmage and its second from last. Both were interceptions. In between, Spartanburg scored a safety on an unfortunate punt snap, and Greenwood kicked a 20-yard field goal.

It was exciting enough for me to concoct a decent story and for the radio crew sitting in front of me to be hysterical for a good portion of the game. I didn’t mind the noise. I used to write about race cars, and they knew the visiting team better than I, and that didn’t hurt my story, either.

I got the story started in the press box and got it finished and sent at a nearby McDonald’s. Then I drove home and read a book till I got sleepy.

Covering high school football is sort of like returning to the frontier. Those misty yards are where I started. The athletes aren’t as fast. The coaches don’t make as much money.

They’re just as interesting, though, and when I’m writing my story, I don’t have to mingle with a herd.

Perhaps you were wondering why my second novel, The Intangibles, centers on a high school football team?