I Feel Like I’ve Gotta Travel On

(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, January 13, 2017, 10:52 a.m.

I haven’t been to a race track since Homestead, Florida, at the end of 2012. On January 4, 2013, the Gaston Gazette informed that my position would be discontinued on … January 4, 2013. When I think about it, it still grinds my innards.

By Monte Dutton

It’s been a while. It shows. When Carl Edwards announced his decision to step away from NASCAR, it somehow made me think about stepping back.

I realized how much I miss by not being there. I’ve been writing from home for The Bleacher Report and competitionplus.com for quite some time now. I realized it was more difficult, but the Edwards incident underscored how much the loss of the intimacy of being there was costing me. Jeff Gordon’s gone. Tony Stewart. Now Edwards. A generation is changing, and it’s a generation I’m missing just by reading transcripts and watching TV.

It set me to thinking, and that is often a dangerous thing.

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I’ve decided I’m willing to go back, at least on occasion. That, of course, doesn’t mean I will. I must have said a hundred times on radio shows, discussions with friends, etc., that everyone seems to want me back except anyone who could do anything about it.

I am well aware that the business has passed me by. I’m not sure there’s a journalism market for me any more. That’s why I went home to anonymity in the first place.

So, as you may have heard someone say to you before, if you hear anything …

(Alan Marler/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Why? Why? Why?

I’m finally tired of home. For the longest time, the surprise was that I didn’t miss racing more. When I was on the beat, I used to say that I’d been a gypsy so long that I wasn’t fit for anything else. It finally hit me over the past few weeks. I’m tired of being nobody. In retrospect, the cockeyed version of normality in my life was three days at home and four on the road.

The words I can’t believe are coming from my fingers: I miss travel. I have, however, visited such burgeoning metropoles as Saluda, Newberry, and Seneca during 2016. I even drove through Clemson once.

(Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Writing fiction means observing things other than Andy Griffith reruns on Sundance TV. As the late, great Hondo Crouch once wrote, “I’m out of soap.” The context might be helpful.

I’ve loved writing about local sports. It’s drying up, though. I don’t know why NASCAR should be any different. As noted above, it could be I.

As this has always been too low a priority in my mind, I held it back. I could use the money to grease the rusty skids of writing fiction. The royalties are rather sporadic.

I’m tired of slow pay and broken commitments. Last summer, I took a part-time job covering Laurens County for a nearby daily. I was happy with it because it was just about exactly as much as I wanted to write. I took it with the agreement that it would be year-round, not just football. That’s right. When football ended, it was, “Let’s rethink this thing.” Now, of course, losing that gig made it difficult to regain others, in spite of claims to the contrary.

So … to quote an old Johnny Horton song (and wish the subject was his, not mine):

I’m ready / If you’re willing!

(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. Note that my fourth, and best selling, novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is on Kindle sale at $.99 through December 31. 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).

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)
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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.

Funny How Time Slips Away

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 7, 2016, 9:29 a.m.

PC head football coach Harold Nichols with Dr. Joe Gettys.
PC head football coach Harold Nichols with Dr. Joe Gettys.

Here on the local front, it’s been a calm week. Dr. Joe Gettys, who was a calm man, died at age 109. At age 108, he attended most, if not all, the Presbyterian College football and basketball games. I expect it would be hard to find anyone who lives for more than a century without being serene and unflappable.

Such was the case with this man. I never knew him well, but I knew who he was for most of my life. He’s just one of the wellsprings of wisdom that wet my fingers but ran right through them. If “Dr. Joe” had an enemy, which I doubt, he certainly outlived him (or her).

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Being a wiseacre for most of my life and, at the very least, since I went off to college, I had a long-running joke about how Presbyterian College has the oldest home crowd in college basketball because having a 108-year-old man at every game makes it impossible for other schools to compete. It’s entirely possible that my alma mater, Furman University, ranks second, but it was impossible for the Paladins to match the Blue Hose in, uh, “experience,” as long as Dr. Joe was in the audience.

It’s wide open now. Several who work in the PC athletics department have Furman connections, too. The tongue-in-cheek debate was great fun.

(Photo by Monte Dutton)
(Photo by Monte Dutton)

Maybe it’s because I’m not a kid and don’t recognize them, but I often think about how this time doesn’t have the “characters” it did when I was in my formative years. Word of Dr. Joe’s death brought me back to such ruminations of J.A. Orr, the kindly man who ran the Western Auto; Grady Adair at McGee’s Drug Store; Rembert Truluck at the print shop; and my grandfather’s old friends, Trig Cash and Clarence King.

By the way, some reading this will be taken aback by the references to “Dr. Joe.” That’s the way people talk in small towns like this one. It’s meant as a term of endearment. Kids mean well when they call me “Mr. Monte.” It’s something I’ve come to accept solely because the kids who say it consider it a sign of respect. I don’t, of course. I’d prefer something more youthful like “hot shot” because I like to think my flame hasn’t burned out.

I’d take “Mr. Monte” over “Mr. Dutton” any day.

Sometimes it's tough to keep everything in perspective. (Monte Dutton photo)
Sometimes it’s tough to keep everything in perspective.
(Monte Dutton photo)

I know well the glassing over of youthful eyes that comes when I mention someone whose legendary career was over before they were born. They aren’t legends to the kids of today who get their history from SportsCenter.

I was different at their age. The first sports book I ever read was a biography of Mel Ott. He had a leg kick like Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868 home runs for the Yomiuri Giants. Ott hit 511 for the New York Giants.

Oh is Sino-Japanese. The paragraph above might as well be Sanskrit.

History means nothing to people today. That’s why we’re stuck with Donald Trump.

(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).

Shock and Awe

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

If statues had feelings, the one outside Bailey Memorial Stadium would have been proud. (Monte Dutton)
If statues had feelings, the one outside Bailey Memorial Stadium would have been proud. (Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 14, 2014, 1:02 p.m.

I can bookend the Presbyterian College football victories over Furman University, my alma mater, at least the two most recent.

Both games were at night. The former was at Sirrine Stadium, where now the Greenville High Red Raiders play. The latter was at Bailey Memorial Stadium. There was another back then, but the current one is somewhere between a quarter and a half mile away. Thirty-four complete seasons took place in between. The Blue Hose won by a score of 17-10 in 1979. On Saturday night, the score was 10-7. The Paladins won fifteen in a row in between. In 1979, I was a senior at Furman, on the sidelines as a team manager. Last night I was in the press box, writing about the game for a nearby paper. In between, I wrote about high schools, small colleges, minor league baseball, local auto racing, and, most notably, NASCAR, for six newspapers. I also spent three years working at Furman.

They are my two favorite college football teams, one my school and the other my town. At the moment, both are 2-1. Both are in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, which is to say they are not among the monied elite. They are in separate conferences. Furman is Southern; Presbyterian is Big South.

The Blue Hose? They're fighting Scots, seldom more so than Saturday night. (Monte Dutton)
The Blue Hose? They’re fighting Scots, seldom more so than Saturday night. (Monte Dutton)

Now that I have avoided the obvious for three paragraphs … I love the Paladins and Blue Hose, but I hate it when they play. I’m happy for PC. They have already played Northern Illinois (3-55). Next week they visit North Carolina State. Later on they face Ole Miss. Theirs is a backbreaking schedule. Blood is thicker than water, though ours is exceptional here in Clinton. I’m glad the Blue Hose won a game like this, but if I’d had my druthers, it would have been against some other school, one like Wofford or The Citadel.

Lightning and thunder were in the air. Rain fell in sheets. It was nearly nine when the game started and 11:30 when it was over. Fog infested the field for most of the second half and the Furman offense for the whole game. The Paladins guarded a lead for roughly three quarters. They went up 7-0 early and fell behind 10-7 late. For the final eight minutes and fifteen seconds, the offense could do almost nothing, and left almost alone to its own devices, the defense was good but ultimately not good enough.

Nothing in the outcome was unjust. A blind man could have seen that Presbyterian deserved to win.

Back in 1979, I didn’t take it well. I remember a man I knew from Clinton ragging me unmercifully on the Sirrine Stadium field afterwards. It’s a wonder I didn’t do something stupid. Instead, I just acted stupid.

The home of the Blue Hose. It's stately. (Monte Dutton)
The home of the Blue Hose. It’s stately. (Monte Dutton)

Now I occasionally, though not often enough, ponder the phenomenon of wisdom. Not much happens that I haven’t seen before. Many years in press boxes have thickened my skin and boosted my professional reserve. The story, written on oppressive deadline, had to be fair and give credit where it was due. At breakneck speed, I did the best I could.

It was such a great story, I wish I’d had time to write it. Occasionally, I’m a writer, but most of the time, I’m just a glorified typist.

Was the drama and the experience of seeing it worth the dampening of the heart?

Almost. But not quite.

Last night, I was talking to a Presbyterian alum who mentioned in passing the place where he and his friends drank beer back in the sixties. I told him there’s a beer joint a good bit like that place in my novel, The Intangibles, which is set in a town a good bit like this one.

Dear Hearts and Gentle People

It's just another day in Clinton, S.C.
It’s just another day in Clinton, S.C.

Clinton, S.C., Friday, July 26, 2013, 11:15 a.m.

Living at home – no, check that, being at home – carries with it certain informal obligations that didn’t often arise when I spent the majority of my time on the road.

For instance, I’ve “stopped by the funeral home” three times in the last month.

For the past 20 years, I’ve spent three quarters of them leaving home on Thursday and getting back Monday night. It varied some – there were times when I left on Wednesday, others when I returned on Sundays – but what I mainly did at home was cut grass, pay bills and wash clothes. Then it was either fill up the trusty vehicle and hit the road or head for the airport. Over 20 years, the travel became commonplace. When it ended, normality seemed strange for a while.

I hadn’t had time for the simple truths of small-town life.

Louie Webb was 91 when he passed away earlier this week. I played football with his son Jimmy in high school. From the time I stopped playing football until four or five years ago, I bought my ticket from Mr. Webb every time I attended a game, which, admittedly, wasn’t that often. Our town doesn’t have an official Ticket Taker, but Mr. Webb was the man who came to mind, both at Clinton High School and Presbyterian College. I can see him now, making change, peeling off tickets, the two of us making small talk all the while.

“You doin’ OK?”

“Just fine, Mr. Webb.”

“Goooood … pull ‘em through, now, you hear?”

He was one of the familiar faces of the town. I don’t think cities have people like that. Everyone has an angle. He (or she) is trying to “move up the totem pole” by doing something that “will look good on the old resume.”

I expect Mr. Webb made a little money on the side, though I don’t know that and wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t. The main reason he was our Ticket Taker, I’m sure, was that he enjoyed it.

I went early and just passed through the line that extended down the hall and out the door of Gray Funeral Home. I’m sure many others visited later, but I saw Cally and Joy Gault – Cally is, I guess you’d say, the athletic director (and certainly football coach) emeritus of Presbyterian College – most of the coaches at Clinton High, and dozens of others I’ve known all my life. I just tried to be comforting, not sorrowful. Mr. Webb lived a long and happy life. I don’t think his death should be perceived as overly sad and said as much to his grieving survivors. He was a good man who lived a long, productive, happy life.

I bought a couple refrigerators from him. His day job, for many years, was at H.D. Payne & Co.

I never bought anything from Dale Earnhardt. Danica Patrick never taught me school. Ryan Newman wasn’t my line coach. I never worked at Tony Stewart’s grocery store. Carl Edwards didn’t go to Furman. Brad Keselowski wasn’t ever a sports editor.

We live in a society based on free enterprise, and what that means is that value is based on scarcity, not importance. I’m amused when I hear “how come that stinkin’ ballplayer makes $10 million a year and I can’t make a living as a police officer?” (Since it’s a police officer, of course, I hide my amusement.) The answer is capitalism. I’m not knocking it. I’m just stating the obvious. A ballplayer makes $10 million because very few can play ball like he does. In the eyes of God, he’s not as important as a policeman, or a teacher, or, for that matter, his coach, but God doesn’t run the New York Stock Exchange or the New York Yankees. His is an uncredited presence. Proxies vote His shares, so to speak.

It’s important, though, that we realize that, while money is one basis of value, it’s not the one that matters. A rich man is no more important than a pauper, and if you think that’s ridiculous, give the New Testament a look.

Apparently, it was someone named John Henry Newman who said virtue is its own reward, but I’d hate to take him out of context, so here’s the full quotation:

“Virtue is its own reward, and brings with it the truest and highest pleasure; but if we cultivate it only for pleasure’s sake, we are selfish, not religious, and will never gain the pleasure, because we can never have the virtue.”

Virtue is important for city folks, too, but it’s just easier to recognize down here in the minor leagues.

Clinton and Thereabouts

I can't wait until the Red Devils hit the field again this fall.
I can’t wait until the Red Devils hit the field again this fall.

Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 12:10 p.m.

It’s a common mistake to dismiss all small towns as being just alike when, in fact, the difference between the two principal towns of Laurens County is as great as, oh, New York and Boston.

Clinton, thanks to the existence of Presbyterian College, is a center of learning. Laurens, the county seat, is the center of government. One consequence is that people in Clinton are constantly having to go to Laurens, not just to pay taxes and tend to legal matters but also to shop.

Translation: Laurens has the Walmart. This isn’t a crucial factor for yours truly. I’ve been in the so-called SuperCenter twice since it opened, which was probably a longer time ago than I would guess. I’m not holding some sort of personal boycott. I won’t rule out going there if I can’t find something somewhere else, but I avoid it. Obviously. Let’s just say I’ve had bad luck with Walmart.

The citizens of Laurens, on the other hand, rarely come to Clinton. Many are oblivious to us. There is a certain privacy in the eight miles that separate us.

Working at various times at both the county’s newspapers, the Clinton Chronicle and the Laurens County Advertiser, gave me some perspective about the two towns.

We share in some areas. The hospital is located about midway between the two towns.

Clinton has a more closed society, which is both good and bad. A handful of prominent families tend to call the shots for most everyone else, but, by and large, they are dignified, decent folks. It follows that Clinton has more respect for authority.

We don’t hate each other, with the possible exception of when our football teams play. It’s just Clinton High School, but the county seat and its environs boast Laurens District 55 High School, and if the Raiders’ fans are willing to concede the awkwardness of LD55HS, they absolutely insist on LDHS. Apparently, the relatively new high school here – it will be known locally as “the new high school” for however long it takes until we have a newer one, which figures to be about 50 years – is going to resist being known as Clinton District 56 High School.

In addition to being needlessly unwieldy, it would be too much like Laurens.

I like Laurens. Not so much that I wear green very often, or would ever in a hundred years buy a green car, nor for that reason alone could I ever fully become a fan of the similarly colored Green Bay Packers, but all that doesn’t mean that I don’t like them … a little. OK, not so much. That’s just the way rivalries are.

I just like red. Clinton Red Devils. Boston Red Sox. Washington Redskins. I like purple, too, but that’s because I went to college at Furman University.

I probably went to Furman instead of Clinton’s Presbyterian College because I wanted to be close enough to home to get there when I needed to but not close enough that I would have to go home every time the hogs got out. This is meant to be funny, but if I had enrolled at PC, there would’ve been no peace, as anyone who knew my late father would have to concede.

Clinton and Laurens are both named for men whose first names were Henry. Henry Laurens was a Revolutionary War-era statesman, and his son, John, was a colonel on George Washington’s staff who was killed in a 1782 skirmish in South Carolina.

I’m sure there are others, but Clinton is the only town I know that is named for someone’s middle name. Henry Clinton Young was merely a lawyer from Laurens (then Laurensville) who helped chart out the city streets of what, in turn, became Clinton. I don’t know why they used the middle name. Maybe the founders preferred to be Clintonians instead of Youngstownians.