Ain’t No Use to Sit and Wonder Why

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, December 30, 2016, 9:07 a.m.

It wasn’t the best of nights to drive over to Presbyterian College for a basketball game. It wasn’t the best night for a basketball game, period.

The Belk Bowl was on TV. Arkansas led Virginia Tech, 24-0, at halftime. The game seemed safely in the Razorbacks’ hands.

The Blue Hose (4-8) were 3-0 with the writer in the stands. One of the W’s (Furman, his alma mater) had been regrettable. The Big South season was opening with a game against Liberty University (6-8). The writer had no financial incentive to attend. He just thought stupidly, like some fan, that going to the game might bring PC some luck.

By Monte Dutton

He wanted to go “as some fan” because he wanted to sit in the stands, with popcorn and a soft drink, and yell things like, “Hell, ref, I’ve tried to liberalize my views on traveling, but he double-pivoted!” The writer tried to temper his critiques, though. At least once, during the first half, he yelled “good call” even though it had gone against the Blue Hose. Another time, when others near him howled at a block, he offered his view to the guy sitting across the aisle. “Actually, I thought it was a good call.”

It was the writer in him. Part of being a fan made him feel guilty. Part of being a fan took him back years earlier, when it had all been for fun. Before he wrote about it.

Whatever it was, it was in vain. Liberty won. The writer left when the Flames pulled ahead by 20 and got home in time to see Virginia Tech, the team that had trailed, 24-0, pull away from an Arkansas team that looked like it inserted the earbuds and listened to Marley at halftime.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The writer had high hopes for Oklahoma State and Colorado, but only the former’s were realized. Cowboys won big over Buffaloes back in the old days, too.

Then the writer tried without success to placate himself with other television offerings, but they were all reruns because, apparently, everyone on TV goes home except football teams and their roadies. He jiggled around with his phone, trying futilely to do something practical like get people on social media to buy his books. He reviewed all the discouraging facts, figures, assumptions, intuitions and superstitions, in descending order that happened to be the order they were in.

He couldn’t get sleepy even though it was well past time for Nature to enforce a cease-fire in his synapses. He never slept well and, after precious few hours, not at all. The writer rose at a little after six because he got weary of not being weary. He made some coffee that, for once, he didn’t need, and marveled at the poet William Butler Yeats’ apparent fascination with recommending a click on “Famous Texting Fails!” Yeats, who died in 1939, is hip beyond his years.

Breakfast was the writer’s first constructive act since before the basketball games.

Then he backslid and wrote a blog.

(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 third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, 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 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).

Dare To Be Great

The Red Devils took quite a whipping in their season opener. (Monte Dutton)
The Red Devils took quite a whipping in their season opener. (Monte Dutton)

Gotta an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, December 2, 2014, 10:19 a.m.

And you know the sun’s settin’ fast / And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts. – “Our Town,” Iris Dement

I’ve previously expressed the belief that the entire mood of this town is affected by the fortunes of the local high school football team. It can easily be overstated, but records of five and seven and two and nine have taken their toll. The head coach has been relieved, and a search is in progress to find a successor.

Last night the Spartanburg Herald-Journal dispatched me to the local gymnasium to watch the Byrnes Rebels, representing one of the state’s larger schools, take on the Red Devils. It wasn’t pretty. Byrnes clobbered the Clinton girls, 64-20, and the boys, 94-48. The girls are 0-3. It was the boys’ first game. The girls were more thoroughly outclassed than the boys. They are young and out, uh, womanned.

I thought pride got in the boys’ way. Neither team could buy a free throw. The girls converted seven out of twenty-eight. The boys missed thirteen before they hit one and wound up seven for twenty-two.

Byrnes was clearly superior in the boys’ game, but Clinton has some good athletes and managed to stay close for slightly more than a quarter. They trailed, seventeen to thirteen, a minute into the second quarter, at which point Byrnes outscored them, twenty-nine to two, from there until halftime.

Not only “not pretty,” really. Downright ugly.

Unfortunately, when the Rebels speeded up, the Red Devils did, too, and while Byrnes was passing three times and dishing off for a slam, Clinton’s kids were just as frantic but far less efficient. They panicked, and part of it was trying to keep up with the Joneses as much as the Rebels. In a game transformed to one-upmanship, the Rebels raced ever upward.

Wouldn’t you like to fly / In my beautiful, my beautiful balloon? – The Fifth Dimension

Though I never saw him play at Clinton High, I wrote a story or two about Clinton’s coach, Todd Frazier, when he played at Newberry College, many years ago now. Todd was a fierce and workmanlike college basketball player. His burning desire remains active as a coach. I have little doubt that his team will get better once the competition is less daunting and the erstwhile football players become more acclimated to a round ball.

But … last night … was rough.

Perhaps I hold athletics to too high a standard. The experience of playing on a state championship football team, oh, my, thirty-nine years ago now, left me with a high estimation of the importance of winning. When I hear people say, “Well, I hope at least the kids have fun,” immediately I think, Well, you know what? There’s nothing more fun than winning.

I don’t want the kids to get accustomed to losing. I want them to dare to be great. I want athletics to be something that helps them in later life. I want them to leave Clinton High School expecting to win in whatever it is they do.

Clinton is very small for a Class AAA school. When I was there, it was very large, back before the mills and factories closed and the jobs diminished in both number and quality. Winning, however, requires an ability to expect the improbable and suspend acceptance of numbers that seem daunting. I’m not just talking about basketball games. Even now, I’m trying to beat the odds and make a decent living as a writer. If I paid any attention to those odds, I’d probably be trying to get a real-estate license right now.

That’s what I meant when I wrote that the basketball team seemed to let its pride get in the way. I do that, too. The difference is that I’ve seen it work, and I want those kids to find that heady confidence in their formative years, too.

Some of the lessons, hard ones, I experienced growing up influenced the writing of my latter novel, The Intangibles. The Audacity of Dope, my former novel, is available, along with most of my non-fiction books, here:


Let It Be

It's a vast world out there. and there's room for everyone's opinion.
It’s a vast world out there. and there’s room for everyone’s opinion.

Without question, I am a Democrat. I think it fair to describe myself as liberal, but I respect and even admire principled conservatives, though I find it difficult to find any.

For instance, I applaud personal responsibility, but it’s not just a concept to be called upon when it suits one’s purposes. Conservatives speak of “defending the Constitution,” but they don’t seem to give a damn about any part of the document that doesn’t apply to their own personal opinions.

I think we need to take responsibility for our own actions and ideals, but we also need to respect that right in others.

Hypothetically, let’s say a person considers abortion murder. What should he or she do? Make sure to instill in the family, in his or her world, the values that would lead them not ever to have one. But respect the rights of others to make these moral decisions for themselves.

Yes, I think abortion should be legal. I think it is a woman’s right to choose. I think life begins at birth, and one cannot murder a person who is not yet alive. Now, on a moral level, if I had ever had any role in an abortion, I think it would haunt me for the rest of my life. I would have nightmares. I would wake up screaming. But I think that moral question should be left for each person to decide for him, and more pointedly, herself.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that life begins before birth, but in terms of the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bible isn’t the determinant, either. Americans have a right as a society to determine the laws for themselves, through their elected representatives but also in their hearts.

As a man, it’s easy for me to rail against abortion, but if I were the father of a 16-year-old, pregnant daughter, my values might change. Abortions occurred before Roe v. Wade, and they will occur if it is overturned. Legality means that they will be performed safely, and illegality means they will be performed unsafely. That’s the way I feel, but I respect another’s right to differ. The rules of a society should be advanced as a result of a healthy discourse between civil and reasoned parties. How someone can consider abortion murder but assassinating a doctor who performs them righteous is beyond my comprehension.

So there. That’s my view. It’s not going to change, but it’s only my view. My view was greatly inspired by the John Irving novel The Cider House Rules. Read it. If your opinion is strong, it should withstand what essentially is a moral case for abortion. That’s the way I was trained. I studied liberal arts in college. I believe in them.

I support gay rights, not because I’m gay but because I believe those who are should be able to live their lives with the same rights as I. Again, if you believe homosexuality is wrong, then try your best to instill your values in your loved ones.

Take care of your little corner of the world, but respect the rights of others, who do not share your views, to live by their own values and beliefs.

Two groups of people are contributing to the downfall of society. On one side are those who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. They blame everyone else. On the other are those who want to force everyone else to go by their arbitrary rules.

I try to stay clear of both sides.

So Those Were the Good Old Days, Huh?

When I was a kid, hardly anyone wore seatbelts. The bed of a pickup truck was often packed with people. People actually sat back to back or sideways in vehicles known as station wagons. A 12-year-old could drive a tractor on the highway if he was going from one field to another.

(I once drove a tractor on the highway to Waco’s, about a mile away, because I needed a bottle of model-car paint.)

House fires were spectator sports. People would hear the fire whistle and go chasing off to see the fire. My father was an avid chaser of fires. I’m grateful that he never took me to see anything much more severe than a grease fire. It would’ve been traumatic to see some poor man, engulfed in flames, staggering off his back porch.

Then again, once there were public hangings. I missed those.

When I was 14, I received a permit that allowed me to drive as much as I wanted as long as I was accompanied by an adult. At about the same time, the State of South Carolina relieved my dad of his driving privileges for six months. I became his chauffeur. I’m pretty sure such an arrangement would be frowned upon today. At 15, when I received a restricted (daytime) license, I’m pretty sure I was one of the more experienced drivers among the 15-year-olds of my time.

My father often allowed me to ride around on the tailgate of his pickup truck. On occasion, when perhaps Daddy thought I was getting a bit big for my britches (still a flaw of mine), he would drive fast across a ditch or a terrace and intentionally pitch me off the tailgate. I never got anything worse than a skinned (skint) knee; my father consistently got a huge laugh out of my misfortune.

“Better hold on next time, Monte boy!”

Being paddled was a common experience at school. Once a math teacher named David J. Martin paddled me so hard that my knees sent his heavy desk sliding across the classroom floor. I think I may have miscalculated a multinomial or something.

A healthy minority of the faculty at Clinton High School smoked, which was obvious any time I walked by the door of the teachers’ lounge. Perhaps that’s the reason there were designated smoking areas for students.

My bicycle, a Western Flyer because it was purchased at Western Auto, had one speed. I rode it everywhere: to and from school, across town, to the movies, occasionally to the next town, which was Laurens in one direction and Joanna in the other. My nephews are grown now, but I don’t think any of them ever rode a bike beyond the boundaries of the farm.

Even when I played football, I had to get up early and feed the livestock. I’m pretty sure the next generation in our family never emptied the trash and I’m almost positive they never washed anything, be they dishes or clothes.

Sometimes I look at old race cars and think to myself, it’s a wonder anyone ever survived driving those things.

Then I recall the conditions of my boyhood and I realize it’s a wonder any of us survived, period.

We were tough. We were blissfully ignorant. We had no idea how bad we had it and what peril we were consistently and invariably in.