I Don’t Never Have Fun Like That No More

(Monte Dutton photos)

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

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

By Monte Dutton

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

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

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

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

My friends would say, “My God.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is fine.

 

 

 

(Steven Novak design)

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Atlanta on TV and in Memory

The start of the Rinnai 250 Xfinity Series race. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 4, 2017, 2:17 p.m.

I love Atlanta. I love Griffin, where I stayed in the Best Western for most of 20 years, and I love Hampton, where Atlanta Motor Speedway is, and where I used to play my guitar and sing my songs at the town farmer’s market, and I love an evening get-together at Minter’s Farm, where my friend and fellow expatriate sportswriter Rick Minter collects old farm contraptions and grows vegetables and Christmas trees.

He’s at the track. Like me, he still writes a little racing on the side, but he gets to be in closer proximity.

By Monte Dutton

I notice a Dillon just wrecked. I wrote a 5,000-word chapter and updated the outline. I read from a novel by a Georgia author. I played a little guitar. Darrell Waltrip has been blowing through the jasmine of my my-yi-yind. And a Dillon just wrecked.

If only I had a summer breeze, it would theoretically make me feel fine.

Michael Waltrip just said a driver is “making up for that first initial start.” No telling what will happen during his last initial start. Chase Elliott sounds great. So does everyone else in a TV booth with Michael Waltrip, but NASCAR has a Waltrip thing. I pick up the guitar.

Well, I’ll admiiitttt, I’ve got a Waltrip prob-LEMMMM!

I’d like to get back to the track. I’d better not step on any toes.

The original topic was how I love Atlanta. I have significantly digressed.

It’s the environment. Everybody around here talks the same way I do about NASCAR. I don’t even mention it anymore. I get tired of nodding my head. I got a crick in my neck last week at the high school basketball game.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch at Atlanta. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The first time I watched a Cup, then Winston, race at Atlanta, then International Raceway, I went with a football coach, and Morgan Shepherd won. The first time I wrote about a race at Atlanta, it snowed a foot, and, several weeks later, Morgan Shepherd won. Two races, three weekends, and I could almost write Morgan Shepherd’s life story.

One year, the concrete floor of the media center had patches of solid ice. School kids were grazing all through the aisles. A bus was parked outside. The PR director came around, encouraging writers to go across the track to work in the press box. I asked him if My Weekly Reader needed more space. It wasn’t till I came back in the fall that he spoke to me again.

I age myself. Is there still such a thing as My Weekly Reader? I bet it’s digital.

I’d hate to walk up the steps behind the old press box, on what is now the opposite side of the track, mainly because I hated to walk up them then. That was where the most famous sportswriter in the South waved a white handkerchief because the PR director was delivering Lincoln’s Second Inaugural before he’d let Dale Earnhardt speak.

Hampton, Georgia, must be like Clinton, South Carolina, based on the millions of people who don’t go to the races at the track there. It’s not a lot like Clinton, South Carolina, because we don’t have but thousands around here.

I hope there’s progress when the Cup of Monster NASCAR Series holds its Sumpin Sumpin 500 if for no other reason than the damned thing is still 500 genuine miles. It’s allegedly 500.5 miles, but that really depends on the paths the winning car takes over 325 laps.

The Xfinity cars are in the second stage of finity, so, instead of overhearing Michael Waltrip, I think I’ll start watching the action.

(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).

Good Grannies Alive, Pass the Dressing and Gravy

Things don't have to be just alike. (Monte Dutton photo)
Things don’t have to be just alike. (Monte Dutton photo)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 12:13 p.m.

Thanksgiving’s a coming, coming.

It’s my favorite holiday, in no small part due to the fact that I love to eat. Like every other stuffed American who awakens on Friday morning ill equipped for anything save football on TV, I plan to go on a diet. I did that with some success last year. At the moment, I lack motivation, and I expect as soon as this writing exercise is completed, I will probably have a mid-afternoon cup of coffee and a bagel.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Motivation comes Friday, that and, perhaps, a high school football game that night.

My mother and I haven’t had our daily phone conversation. She’s undoubtedly at my nephew’s house, already getting ready for the meal being hosted at Ray and Jessica’s house for the first time.

Betty Dutton’s oyster dressing carries a significance that is almost spiritual in the family. When Ray was a little boy, and I chided him for being sassy with his grandmother by telling him one day she’d be gone and he’d miss her, he stopped, considered those words for a moment, and his voice took on a dreamy aspect.

“Just think,” he said. “We’ll never have that dressing again.”

I also like Thanksgiving because it is peaceful. It doesn’t bring out the pettiness that sometimes accompanies other holidays. It’s not blazing hot like the Fourth of July. It’s not roaring with race cars like Memorial Day weekend. Santa may be a jolly old elf, but he sure requires a lot of support.

Betty Dutton
Betty Dutton

Mom already reminded me not to talk about politics. No matter. I’ll play my guitar. Just old, pleasant songs about a train carrying a girl from Tennessee, she’s long and she’s tall, and she came down from Birmingham on the Wabash Cannonball.

Besides, we can talk about sports. Politics has become the same thing, anyway.

I can’t wait to see how Ella’s boys have grown, and how we’ll all fuss over Jessica’s new baby, and Mom whispering that I should make a special point to praise the broccoli casserole because Ginger made that, and to be just about ready to push away from the table, only to have Mom show up with a platter of pecan pie, sweet potato custard, lemon pound cake, and chocolate eclairs.

It’s godly to be stuffed at Thanksgiving and broke at Christmas.

Lou Lauer helped me repair my website. He could help you, too.
Lou Lauer helped me repair my website. He could help you, too.

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.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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 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).cowboyshome_fullcvr343-page-001

The Weekend Is Progressing Nicely

Spangler Stadium (Monte Dutton photos)
Spangler Stadium (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

dscf4073

Boiling Springs, North Carolina, Saturday, October 22, 2016, 11:04 a.m.

It’s brisk and blustery here at Ernest W. Spangler Stadium, which overlooks the artificial surface of Coach Norman Harris Field, glistening as the sun shimmers off it’s Kelly green, and some of this information is derived from the Charlie Harbison Scoreboard, which, to my right, tells me that it’s just under an hour until kickoff for the Big South Conference football game between Kennesaw State and Gardner-Webb.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Yes, the above paragraph reads like it was uttered by Brent Musberger.

I’m amped on a big mug or a small barrel of truck-stop coffee because I wrote about the high school game between Mauldin and Laurens last night, and the hectic nature of Friday nights left me sleepless and watching California defeat Oregon in overtime until 2 a.m.

I rose at about 7:30, put on some pre-truck-stop coffee, fixed my own breakfast, wrote happy birthday to everyone on Facebook, shaved, showered, and headed up the road to Gardner-Webb University, where I last ventured for a Furman game that was delayed by a thunderstorm three years ago.

Lou Lauer kindly fixed this website out of the goodness of his heart and the knowledge that I was completely incapable. Give him some business if need arises.
Lou Lauer kindly fixed this website out of the goodness of his heart and the knowledge that I was completely incapable. Give him some business if need arises.

This is a lovely campus and pleasant place to watch a game. The last time I watched one from the press box was about 25 years ago, when it was on the other side and the surroundings considerably less posh. I remember the old Gardner-Webb press box for two reasons: (1.) it was open-air and frequented by many bees, one of which stung me because the nervous sort sitting next to me insisted on trying to swat one with his rolled-up program; and (2.) it was 4-H Day, which meant halftime consisted of activities such as watching goats walk up and down ramps and having chickens hop through hoops.

It may be my second favorite halftime show of all time, topped only by the Stanford band’s presentation at halftime of a game in Palo Alto against Arizona State.

dscf4032Last night I was at the wrong big game. While Clinton was defeating Broome, 28-21, and further ensnarling Region 3-3A in uncertainty, Laurens, where my considerable bulk was parked, was falling, 29-22, to Mauldin. Good game, but the quotes don’t flow as freely when the local team falls.

Some NASCAR fans will guffaw, but I actually prefer to write pleasant, heartwarming stories, which I can prove with my love of high school contests.

The Raiders (4-5, 3-1 Region 2-5A) are headed to the playoffs, though probably not at home in the first round unless they upset Greenwood next week, and, yes, that is where I’ll be because Clinton’s finale against Woodruff does not occur until November 4.

Clinton head coach Andrew Webb
Clinton head coach Andrew Webb

The Red Devils (4-5, 2-2 Region 3-3A) will clinch a playoff berth if Chapman defeats Broome next week but will have to defeat Woodruff if the Centurions prevail. Newberry is the likely region champ, needing only to defeat 0-4 Mid-Carolina to wrap it up.

Tonight I’m going with friends to see Reckless Kelly, my favorite band, in nearby Shelby. This will undoubtedly pop up in a subsequent blog.

It’s going to be a lovely day and a memorable night, and I think I’m going to have more jam-up football to describe.

 

(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).

The Name’s Ramirez. Hanley Ramirez.

Fenway Park: I've been there many times, but not lately, and I'm unlikely to get back up there soon. (Monte Dutton photos)
Fenway Park: I’ve been there many times, but not lately, and I’m unlikely to get back up there soon. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, September 16, 2016, 10:38 a.m.

The week started to turn late last night. I was watching TV with the sound muted when David Ortiz hit his 537th home run, surpassing Mickey Mantle’s career total. Then I got finished editing a video – it was to promote my books – and turned the sound back on when ninth-inning singles by Ortiz and Mookie Betts made it 5-4.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It had been 5-1, Yankees, before Ortiz hit his eighth-inning blast. It was still 5-2 when the ninth inning began.

Hanley Ramirez. Ortiz is amazing for a 40-year-old man. Ramirez is amazing compared to last year. It wasn’t just a home run. It was a blast to dead center. Walk-off homers don’t happen every night.

Thus energized, I set my song “Go Big Red” – written about the Clinton Red Devils, not the Boston Red Sox – to yet another video, which meant I took about five takes to get all the words right, and wound up with the video still uploading on YouTube when I was asleep.

3 … 2 … 1 … When I was growing up the biggest thing … uh … around … damn it.

3 … 2 … 1 … When I was growing up the biggest thing around our town … was watching my old high school play, they didn’t mess around …

Most times I got to the second or third verse before I screwed up, but, well, I was in the mood.

Now the Red Sox are two games ahead of the Orioles and five ahead of the New Yorkers, and new versions of “There You Are” and “Go Big Red” are posted online. Fame and fortune are sure to follow.

DSCF3712But first, there’s a high school game between the Red Devils and the highly regarded Abbeville Panthers – it will be several weeks before Clinton plays a team that is not highly regarded – to watch, take notes and pictures, and write about on deadline.

And I’m going to watch the Furman Paladins take on the Chattanooga Mocs tomorrow night. Chattanooga hasn’t allowed a point so far this season.

Paladins and Moccasins. Blue Hose and Camels (Campbell, in Buies Creek, which, I understand is in North Carolina). I might walk a mile for a Camel, but I’m not going to drive to North Carolina.

Hope springs eternal, though, because the Red Sox have prevailed over the Yankees.

It can all turn on one swing of the bat.

 

(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?

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is on Amazon sale at $2. Surely my work is worth that much of a gamble.

(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).

Thinking About What I’ve Got and What I Don’t

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

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, July 4, 2016, 10:15 a.m. 

When the sun comes up on that bright morn / In the quiet that follows every storm / When the demons have all died away / We’ll celebrate your Independence Day.

The song wasn’t written for our Independence Day. It’s a message of hope to a troubled acquaintance. It is, however, Independence Day, so here’s a video of me singing it.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

The Fourth of July finds me melancholy about the world, the country, and myself.

Roger Miller didn’t just write happy songs. He wrote several of the sadder ones I know. One equated freedom with death, or, perhaps, suicide:

Well, I think I finally found me a sure-fire way to forget / It’s so simple, I’m surprised I hadn’t done thought of it before yet / It’s foolproof, well, it’s foolhardy, maybe, but who knows? / Anyway, here I am, walkin’ down where the cold, dark water flows.

Miller died too young, but it was from throat cancer.

Lots of days, I think about how things aren’t so bad. I remember JFK, RFK, Dr. King, Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate … right on up through 9/11 … and that’s been almost 15 years now … and to the present.

I’ve seen good times, too. I was on a state championship team in high school. Hell, the Red Sox have won three world championships. Furman beat South Carolina in football and North Carolina in basketball, the latter twice. John Prine sat down next to me on a short plane flight. On the night Henry Aaron hit his 715th home run, it was my 16th birthday and I was at the game.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico.
El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico.

Freedom is an aggravating concept. It gives a man enough rope to hang himself. I could’ve gone to law school. I could’ve had the money to go to all those ball games and car races I got paid a pittance to describe. I could’ve collected first editions instead of writing books that bounce around in the air and alight on small devices.

But I’m free to sit here for at least half of most days, typing for some of them and writing on the good ones.

Free! Cry out from the mountaintops!

All I know how to do is write. I am free to do it. Everyone has some complaint about the freedom he or she has lost.

Why not rejoice at the freedom we’ve got?

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of lifes absurdity.

My new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a crime thriller.

Set in the hills of Kentucky, Crazy of Natural Causes is a fable of life’s absurdity, seen through the unique perspective of ruined coach Chance Benford.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories, all of which are derived from songs I wrote.

All three of these books, already autographed, are available at L&L Office Supply, 114 N. Main St., Clinton. Buy one of the novels, and you’ll get the short stories absolutely free.

Most of my books are also available here.

 

 

White Lines and All Kinds of Stop Signs

Birmingham, Alabama (Monte Dutton photos)
Birmingham, Alabama (Monte Dutton photos)

Gainesville, Texas, Friday, April 15, 2016, 11:55 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s been a hectic, fun, and, of course, exhausting few days. I haven’t had a chance to write anything till now, and there’s a good chance posting on this motel wi-fi is going to be iffy.

You’ll know it’s on my site because, uh, you’re reading it now.

I’m the emcee of a charity event put on by VISTO of Cooke County, which, in turn, provides for needy kids hereabouts. I have participated in this for quite a few years now. It’s been in the fall and spring — last year it was in May — and gone from being Pawlessfet to Concert for VISTO, and now it’s part of a broader festival.

In addition to picking lucky numbers, introducing music acts, and the like, I’m scheduled to play a half-hour set on Saturday night at 5. I’ve many friends out here, and, as a general rule and now that NASCAR doesn’t bring me to Texas anymore, this is the only time I see them.

Many thanks to many of my friends in NASCAR for donating items for the silent auction. They are much appreciated and effectively used.

DSCF2548I like to have a 58-year-old man’s meager version of adventure on trips. I try not to do much in the way of planning. In past years, I’ve watched the Mississippi Braves, Montgomery Biscuits, and Frisco Roughriders in action.

This time, I drove from home to Birmingham, Alabama, where I saw the Barons and the Tennessee Smokies play a Southern League version of White Sox-Cubs — Smokies (Cubs) won, 7-0 — and, as seems to happen amazingly often in baseball, spectated something I’d never spectated before.

The dog was the Barons' MVP on Wednesday night.
The dog was the Barons’ MVP on Wednesday night.

In the fourth inning — by then, my scoresheets had been put away because it was lightly raining — the first Birmingham batter singled, stole second and was picked off second. The next Birmingham better also singled, stole second and was picked off second. They might want to pay attention to how that worked, you know, for next time.

DSCF2545I also enjoyed some ribs a few blocks from the stadium at a place called Rib It Up, and I knew I was going to be in business because I was the only white person in the joint. Because I am, at least passably on this trip, dieting, I ordered slaw and green beans on the side, and the man behind the counter asked me if I wanted cornbread, rolls or loaf bread. I should have said, “I’m fine, thanks,” but I said cornbread.

When the ribs came, he’d given me turnip greens instead of green beans, and, apparently, he read my mind because, ever since I’d decided to splurge on the cornbread, I’d wished I’d ordered greens.

It was a fortuitous mistake I’d made.

Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee

I decided to leave the game early because the rain was picking up, and I used my mobile phone to look ahead to Thursday’s activities, at which point I discovered that the game in Memphis between the Redbirds and the Oklahoma City Dodgers, a Triple-A game, started at 11:05 a.m. instead of 7:05 p.m.

DSCF2574Oh, boy. I drove part of way to Memphis through the rain and got a room in a place called Hamilton, Alabama, and all I know about it is the Days Inn. I got up and drove to Memphis, where I discovered that the reason it had a morning start was because it was a school kids’ game, as indicated by a fleet of schoolbuses impeding my path into a lovely stadium.

DSCF2570With school kids, you will find there is literally dancing in the aisles.

This Triple-A Dodgers-Cardinals clash was splendid. The Dodgers led, 2-0, from the third inning, until the home eighth, when the Redbirds tied it on Jacob Wilson’s sacrifice fly. Then OKC retook the lead on catcher Micah Johnson’s single.

DSCF2581The Dodgers’ fourth hurler, whose last name was Tsau, retired the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth, but Dean Anna walked, Matt Williams (no, not that one) singled, a pinch-hitter name Ohlman walked, third baseman Jonathan Rodriguez doubled, and that was all I wrote on my scoresheet and all she wrote, too, whoever she was.

DSCF2576Birmingham and Tennessee are in the Southern League, which makes abundant sense. Memphis and Oklahoma City are inexplicably in the Pacific Coast League, which I suppose makes the Pacific Coast the east bank of the Mississippi River.

“Goodbye, that’s all she wrote” comes from the Johnny Cash-June Carter version of “Jackson,” where two Southern League teams (Mississippi Braves and Jackson, Tennessee, Generals) reside.

Lest I forget, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood also cut “Jackson.”

When last I left Clinton High School, this was the scene. The Red Devils have since ran their winning streak to 14 games. Strangely, the rain seems to have accompanied me east to west.
When last I left Clinton High School, this was the scene. The Red Devils have since run their winning streak to 14 games. Strangely, the rain seems to have accompanied me east to west.

You can’t have too much adventure for me, though, so, even though I didn’t have to be in Gainesville until tonight, I took off across Arkansas at 3 p.m., stopped south of Little Rock at a huge buffet and general store where once, I noted from the photos on the walls leading to the restrooms, Billy Bob Thornton stopped to eat.

What a shame I didn’t bring any eight-by-10 glossies.

The Redbirds came back under the mascot's watchful eye.
The Redbirds came back under the mascot’s watchful eye.

U.S. 82, from just south of Texarkana to Gainesville and beyond, is a highway of innumerable changes in speed limits, ranging from 45 to 75, and I was strung out on coffee of the strongest truck-stop kind.

I started driving at 6:30 a.m., watched a ballgame in the sunshine, and checked into this motel at about 11 p.m.

Now that’s adventure.

For some reason, I can’t get the coffee machine in this room to work.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

It’s out. $3.49. You can’t afford not to!

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell eight months and eight days after the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. Apparently, my speed is about eight months. It’s a good pace I’m setting. You can order Trespasses here.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. Sample it. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications. It’s a trip.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

Between Here and the Trip

Gainesville, Texas
Gainesville, Texas

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 26, 2016, 1:05 p.m.

Occasionally, I just want to scream. (John Clark photo)
Occasionally, I just want to scream. (John Clark photo)

Basketball is almost over. High school and college baseball is at its peak. MLB is just a little over a week away. NASCAR is off for Easter. It’s drizzling outside. The Red Sox are playing the Orioles in an exhibition game. My grass is freshly cut. My mother’s lawn awaits the next clear day.

Life goes on. Flowers bloom. I came across my favorite headline of the year so far: “Jesus Isn’t a Passing Fad.”

I can’t imagine anyone — not atheists or agnostics, or Muslims, or Jews, or ISIL, or Satan — who considers Jesus a passing fad. Fads cannot last for centuries.

Easter, for instance. It’s been around for quite a while.

This rugged hurler guards the entrance to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. (Monte Dutton photo)
This rugged hurler guards the entrance to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. (Monte Dutton photos, unless otherwise noted)

In a few weeks, I’m going on my annual trip. I’m going to watch some minor league baseball. I may visit the home of an author. I’m going to play some songs, and draw numbers out of hats. I’m going to listen to music better than mine. This trip used to be in September, back when trips were common. Then it moved to May, and this year it’s in April. It used to be out in the country. Then it moved to an indoor livestock arena. Now it’s right downtown, and there are baking contests and silent auctions, and it’s all to benefit the kids in a small county that I would know almost nothing about except that a great friend and lots of good ones live there.

Montgomery first baseman Cameron Seitzer, a couple years back in Jackson, Mississippi.
Montgomery first baseman Cameron Seitzer, a couple years back in Jackson, Mississippi.

Right now I’m planning for the trip by not planning it. I don’t like to head off across range that’s been fenced in. I could probably save some money if I committed myself right now to being in Jackson, Tennessee, or Jackson, Mississippi, or Shreveport, Louisiana, by Wednesday or Thursday night, but I I’d rather make up my mind as I go along. It’ll be lonely enough without being lonely by design.

I hope to see some sights that will provide the spark for fiction or music. The latter is probably more likely on the trip. Something about trips lead to songs.

I’ve still got two full weeks and half another. Major projects must be completed between now and then. The first draft of a fifth novel. Taxes. Getting novels three and four into print editions, where presently they only exist in electronic devices. They’re all major undertakings.

As singeth the Statler Brothers, “Uh, don’t tell me … I’ve nothing to do …”

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

The release date of my fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is Tuesday, March 29. It will have been eight months and eight days since the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. You can order Trespasses in advance here: http://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Our-Trespasses-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B0192I3Q1K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458316129&sr=1-1&keywords=forgive+us+our+trespasses

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015. In the interest of peace, love, and understanding, I’d love for you to give one or two or (soon) four of them a read. If you’ve never watched an R-rated film, then I wouldn’t recommend my novels. If you have, I expect you’ll love them. Crazy of Natural Causes is, at the moment, on sale for $1.99. Limited time only! It’s a download. Supplies are unlimited. Oddly enough, it goes off $1.99 sale on the date my new novel is released. I wonder if that was the plan.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

Trial and Error

Because flying is better from a distance, I used to enjoy watching planes land and take off at Sky Harbor International Airport from South Mountain  State Park south of Phoenix. (Monte Dutton photo)
Because flying is better from a distance, I used to enjoy watching planes land and take off at Sky Harbor International Airport from South Mountain State Park south of Phoenix. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, November 13, 2015, 12:58 p.m.

Among the things that I love more than Sunday School and church / Is drinking cold beer with my buddies at the pool hall after work.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

It’s from one of the first songs I wrote, “A Wild Side of Me.” I had just about forgotten about it until it occurred to me to write this blog beginning with, “Among the things …”

Instead of beginning this blog that way — well, exactly that way — instead I grabbed my trusty Pawless and tried to play that song. I got through two of the three verses without a hitch.

Now I’m back to the blog.

When a blog begins “among the things” — and, yes, this one still does — it sometimes means that the author doesn’t have anything cohesive to write. He still aspires for coherence.

This morning I’ve been catching up on business — oh, yes, even though I’m a writer, I’m still in business — and few great works of literature, or even blogosphere, have occurred in the time immediately after basic works of mathematics.

Fortunately, I do lots of thinking in my spare time. The trick is remembering the individual nuggets. I’m getting better since I have one of those cell phones whose tech is still high even though it’s not the latest model. For items like simple lyrics, pungent observations, and grocery lists, “phones with mobility” are great.

Imagine a durable cocktail napkin.

I can never figure while polo never made it big.

In my lifetime, football tackling has gotten worse, but causing fumbles has gotten better. On most pass plays, everyone interferes. Deep down, no one really knows what a catch is in the end zone. Replays are already too screwed up. The least they can do is get them right.

The city is conducting a $60,000 study on how it can reduce our electricity rates. It stems from that pleasant sunny day when we all walked out to our mailboxes and discovered our bills had doubled. Study? Little late, ain’t it? It reminds me of the late Tim Wilson’s comedy routine about going to the bank and discovering there was a $3 service charge for a balance inquiry.

How much money I got in the bank?

Twenty-seven dollars. No, wait. Twenty-four.

How much?

Twenty-one.

In other words, ma’am, presumably, if I ask you seven more times how much money I got in the bank, I ain’t got no money!

Someone told me — he was a Geezinslaw, as I recall — that Austin, Texas, once conducted a $250,000 study on whether or not it was possible to turn an air base into an airport.

Here in town, I reckon we didn’t do so badly. Our city fathers and mothers are just spending enough money to eat up whatever can be saved by the study they’re conducting.

It’s enough to make me sound like I’m conservative. Aaaaiiiiieeee! No! No! Anything but that!

If Ben Carson becomes president, I hope that doesn’t mean John Kasich gets to operate on my brain.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Okay, now it’s time to get blatantly commercial. I don’t have a Super PAC. I run a Mini PAC through Amazon that just tries to sell my books, not make me president. Here’s a heap of them. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Another one, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is now in its own campaign. Reader nominations comprise the first stage of the process. I’m of the belief that the quality of the manuscript is a bigger stage, but when Crazy of Natural Causes was chosen for publication through KindleScout, it had about three times as many nominations as this one does now. In other words, I could use your help. https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/A20FEF33PZP1

Finally, Crazy of Natural Causes had a fine sales month in October because it was on sale. Now it takes a whole $3.49 to download it again, but just think about it. If you buy it now, at $3.49, I will make slightly more money. 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

 

 

 

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs …

Business is booming at the Slander Resort. (Monte Dutton photo)
Business is booming at the Slander Resort. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 30, 2015, 11:48 a.m.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

I haven’t felt the urge to blog lately. I’ve been working on a novel called Cowboys Come Home, trying to sell one called Forgive Us Our Trespasses, and trying to get you to buy one called Crazy of Natural Causes (and also consider The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles).

I’ve been reading, watching the World Series and football games, playing guitar, watching old movies, and attending the Thursday night middle-school and junior varsity games at the high school.

While doing all these other things, I figured out a subplot in Cowboys Come Home, well outside the outline, and I’m about to start writing it.

 

The reigning champion still advances, by hook or crook. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
The reigning champion still advances, by hook or crook. (Christa L. Thomas/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

All week long, I’ve been reading stories about the latest NASCAR debris left over from Talladega, and I’ve been pondering. Not passing judgment. Just pondering. Pondering is something most people do too little and I do too much.

 

I watched more of the Republican Debate than I did the World Series because I thought it was more of a ballgame. Politics is too important to be a ballgame, but that’s what it is. Each side has fans, and they hate each other.

I guess it’s gotten to where it’s all we know.

 

I try to resist being drowned by my generation. I pay attention to people of other ages. I write a lot about young people in my novels.

But this year has been a crusher.

I miss David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Don Orsillo, Bob Schieffer, Jon Stewart, Don Imus, and several others. None has died. They just moved out of my view. I fear for the health of John Farrell, Vin Scully and Jimmy Carter.

I scare myself. The other night I was listening to the theme song of Late Night with Stephen Colbert, and I couldn’t think of the Letterman theme. I kept drifting into the theme of Boston Red Sox Baseball on NESN. Orsillo! Remdawg! Damn it!

 

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Football blues.

I’m getting more understanding. A side of me hates this.

Furman’s football season is currently going downhill, though still salvageable. Presbyterian’s year has been miserable. Clinton High has won three games.

Yet I’m having a wonderful time going to the games and writing about them.

Something is definitely wrong.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Thanks for keeping my sales high during the entire month Crazy of Natural Causes has been on sale for $1.99. If you’d still like to buy it for that rate, time is running out. Then you’re going to have to make me rich and pay $3.49 again. 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

My crime novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is up for consideration in the KindleScout program. Take a look at it, sample the text, and if you like what you see, you can nominate it for publication. It takes two clicks. Here’s the first: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/A20FEF33PZP1