Clinton and Laurens … and Life

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 26, 2017, 10:58 a.m.

There are those who believe I waste my talents tramping around small-town football stadiums writing about what I see.

They are so wrong. Last night Laurens held off Clinton, 24-18. In a small tract of land known as Laurens County, named after a statesman from the nation’s dawn, the annual football game between the two public high schools is as significant as Clemson-Carolina (it’s the South one here) and, recently, more competitive.

I need the money, but the insight is much greater.

My fiction has a lot of characters much younger than I. Characters much younger than I are more interesting. My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, was mainly concerned with men and women between about 35 and 45. The Intangibles took me back in time to when I was a kid. Crazy of Natural Causes had at its center the relationship between a disgraced football coach and several of his players. Forgive Us Our Trespasses was about the corrosive effect of deceit and corruption on families. Cowboys Come Home was a tale of a couple young Marines, home from the Pacific at the end of World War II, who mistakenly think they can find peace and stability in a home that has also changed forever.

This year I have written two novels about stock car racing, a sport to which my life was dedicated for twenty years. Barrie Jarman bursts on the scene in Lightning in a Bottle and learns hard lessons in Life Gets Complicated. Barrie Jarman gets has brash self-confidence more from observing high school kids playing ball than today’s NASCAR man-children. Barrie is flawed but likable, which runs through characters in all my fiction: Riley Mansfield and Melissa Franklin (Audacity); Frankie Mansfield and the Leverette twins (Intangibles); Chance Benford, Wally Ruff, and Zeke Runnels (Crazy); Hal and Hayden Kinley (Trespasses); Ennis and Becky Middlebrooks, and Harry Byerly (Cowboys); and Barrie Jarman and Angela Hughston (Lightning, Life).

Writing about the young makes me feel that way, even if I can’t act that way anymore.

Even before I had the experience to make such conclusions, I loved sportswriting because it revealed so much about human emotion. Politicians, doctors, engineers … they all choke at the proverbial free-throw line, but, most of the time, their dropped passes, swings and misses, and missed shifts occur outside of public view. Sports failures occur under the glare of sun and floodlights.

If I miss the mark in my evaluation of the young mind, it’s because times have changed since I had one, but I don’t believe it. I didn’t have virtual games to occupy my time, but a kid’s time gets occupied somehow, often for better and sometimes for worse. Kids still run a gauntlet of peril, and, if they make it safely, the rites of passage hone their character. How one reacts to adversity determines the course of life. Success is reward, but failure dictates the path.

Were I to write an account of my own life, it would be a tale of failure at this late stage. It’s not over, though. I remain optimistic that my labors are not in vain, that somehow, someone is going to notice that I write good stuff. I’m going to be an overnight sensation. Here’s hoping I live to see it.

As ZZ Top, wildly out of context to my situation, sang: I ain’t asking for muh-uch!

As I wrote, and often sing, wildly in context to my situation: I sold my soul / In different roles / But had my share of fun.

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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 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).