Two Trains after the Last Football Game

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 20, 2017, 12:45 p.m.

On Saturday night, something occurred that I had never seen before in my hometown. Maybe it’s because I’m not often out driving on Saturday nights.

By Monte Dutton

I had been at Presbyterian College all day. I brought a pot of chili to the tailgate party before PC ended its season with a 31-21 win over Gardner-Webb. For five years I have been watching the Blue Hose play with a group of alumni and parents of players. Most of those players will be graduating next year. As the season wore on, rumors began spreading that the school was going to phase out the awarding of football scholarships. The rumors became official on the day after the final game, which made it something of a Pyrrhic victory at the end of a Pyrrhic season.

So we celebrated the win of a game and commiserated the loss of a tradition, and when it got dark, and the Georgia game ended on TV, many headed to the comfort of the Hampton Inn lobby, there to sip wine much better than I had the sophistication to appreciate and tell tales regarding the secrets behind several bottles of expensive bourbon. I stuck with the wine. For the bourbon, I didn’t feel worthy, but that’s another tale for another day. I drank for free because the booze was too excellent to buy.

It’s not a world I often frequent. I’m a starving artist, which I wouldn’t have minded when I was 24. I might have idealized such an existence. It’s more complicated and bittersweet at 59.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

I headed from Bailey Memorial Stadium, feeling as if it ought to be Football Memorial Stadium, and stopped for a freight train at the interception of our little bypass and Highway 76. Then I drove on to the Hampton Inn, where I realized I’d left my backpack at Tailgate Central. Tailgate parties have gotten too big for tailgates. We congregated around a motor coach, the type of vehicle I normally associate with NASCAR drivers and bands. Race drivers call them buses, and that’s pretty much what they are, only designed for comfort instead of capacity.

I went back to PC and picked up my backpack. When I drove back to the intersection, another train was passing through. Two freight trains in fifteen minutes! I don’t remember that happening before. My mother doesn’t remember that happening before.

It must have been an omen. I haven’t noticed or figured out what kind yet. The second train wasn’t loaded with football scholarships, as best I could tell.

 

(Gabe Whisnant photo)

Most of my books — non-fiction on NASCAR and music, collections that include my contributions, seven novels, and one short-story collection — are available here.

Say It Ain’t So, Hose

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 13, 2017, 11:12 a.m.

And you know the sun’s settin’ fast
And just like they say nothing good ever lasts
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye but hold on to your lover
‘Cause your heart’s bound to die
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town
Can’t you see the sun’s settin’ down on our town, on our town
Goodnight

By Monte Dutton

This Iris DeMent song, released in 1993, always floods into my mind when I get sentimental. This time it’s over our college in our town. Specifically, it’s about football, a favorite topic of my nostalgia glands, which are near and dear to my heart as well as being mythical.

Presbyterian College is not my alma mater. Furman University is, and seldom have I been prouder than on Saturday as I watched the Paladins conquer The Citadel, 56-20.

I have fondness for PC, too. It’s funny that the first college football game I remember was Presbyterian at Furman, won by the Paladins, 13-9, at Sirrine Stadium. Thanks to the web that goes worldwide, I know that game was in 1968, when I was 10, but I remembered the score. Maybe that was why I went to Furman. Maybe it was fated, even though I didn’t make the decision until seven years later. I never imagined going anywhere except Clemson until the fall of 1975, when I visited Furman with a high-school football teammate who was being recruited. Oddly enough, my friend, Roy Walker, went to PC. Furman wanted Roy but captured me, and I wasn’t any good at football.

Now, as my alma mater returns to prominence, Presbyterian football is endangered, and my roots run deep at both schools.

Some of the best times my father and I ever had were sitting in wooden stands behind the end zones – inside th

Misty, Water-Colored Memories of the Way We Were

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, March 31, 2017, 9:30 a.m.

I know Laurens County fairly well, having lived here almost all my life. The first banquet of the Laurens County Sports Hall of Fame was right down my alley, having put in many a day’s touch-typing on the subject of Laurens County sports.

By Monte Dutton

Of the eight inductees, the only one I had never met was Chrissy Floyd, the Laurens basketball player who performed most of her magic while I was away trying in vain to keep up with cars going around and around. I talked to her on the phone over a month ago. She was gracious. Everyone was gracious. It’s probably hard not to be gracious when home folks realize officially how great one is.

Take a close look at every day, and something unique occurs. On Thursday night, my unique experience was listening to my words being used as narration by another voice. The stories I’d written for the program were used for introductory greetings of each inductee. I’m sure the words sounded better than if I’d said them, but it just felt slightly weird, sitting out in the audience, finding myself tempted to lip-synch. Maybe it was like an actor who can’t carry a tune, having to have his voice replaced in the musical numbers. Maybe this happened to me before, but I can’t remember it.

King Dixon

With one exception, I knew these people.

My mother told me tales of King Dixon, who played for the old Laurens Tigers (now Raiders) when my father was a Clinton Red Devil. Dixon and his mates whipped Clinton five years in a row – yes, he played in the eighth grade – and my father never talked much about it. Sixty years ago, and a man who starred in football and life still attaches great significance to never losing to Clinton. This, of course, led a couple of Clinton’s finest to allow as how, son of a gun, they never lost to Laurens.

Chick Galloway’s granddaughter represented him.

Chick Galloway died when I was 11. Cally Gault, another PC man – male graduates of Presbyterian College are prone to espouse that synonym of virtue, “the PC man” – recalled Galloway, hitting him grounders while Gault was playing baseball at PC.

That was in 1948.

What I remember of Galloway is that he was a stately man, who commonly wore bowties and who shook my little hand while my father told me he had been “one of the best shortstops there ever was.” Galloway’s big-league career ended prematurely in 1928, when, standing near the cage, a wild pitch in batting practice hit him in the head, ending his career.

Cally Gault

Coach Gault almost spans my life. He moved back here when I was five. Occasionally, I was a ball boy but mostly I watched the Blue Hose play from the area behind the wooden stands in the Johnson Field end zone where kids were allowed to wad up paper cups and pretend they were footballs. It’s funny. When I was 10, he was “Cally.” I can see him now, stalking the sidelines, wearing a blue pullover with “PRESBYTERIAN” in embroidered garnet, similar to what Ara Parseghian wore on Notre Dame sidelines at the time, giving the zebras a hard time. Cally coached the Blue Hose, but he was a bulldog.

Kevin Long

When I first met Kevin Long, he was working for my dad. I was in the ninth grade when Kevin was a senior, and long before the television show, Clinton High School had SNL: (Robert) Scott, (Charles) Norman and (Kevin Long). In Clinton, they might as well be Tinker to Evers to Chance.

J.D. Fuller

J.D. Fuller starred at noseguard for two Red Devil state champions, and my brother Brack was his teammate on one of them. Like Long, Fuller starred for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Noseguards have roared out of Clinton like BMWs out of Greer, but Fuller was the first one chosen as a county hall of famer. Cross Hill is a small place, but the people there ought to hire J.D. as goodwill ambassador.

Chrissy Floyd

Three Red Devils: Long, Fuller and their coach (and mine), Keith Richardson. Two Raiders and a Tiger from Laurens: Barry Atkinson, Dixon and Floyd. Three Gamecocks: Long, Fuller and Dixon. One (Clemson) Tiger: Floyd. Three Blue Hose: Galloway, Gault and Richardson. One woman: Floyd. Five played and coached football: Dixon, Gault, Fuller, Long and Richardson. One baseball player: Galloway. One basketball player: Floyd. One who treated them all: Atkinson.

Barry Atkinson at what he does best.

“Coach” Atkinson mainly fixes. He’s been the Laurens District High School athletic trainer since the budget mainly consisted of ice, tape and “atomic balm.” If there were a Mount Rushmore for memory, Barry would be on it. He can recite most of the Gospel According to Yogi Berra and sprinkle it with a one-liner from General Douglas MacArthur, all while assessing the range of motion in a bum left ankle.

Keith Richardson

At the end, by virtue of the alphabet, was Richardson, whose high school coaching prowess is as legendary in Clinton as Vince Lombardi’s in Green Bay. Hardly anyone who played for him ever calls him Keith, least of all I. In my many travels, I called Earnhardt Dale, Gant Harry (pronounced “hurry”), Waltrip D.W. and Tony Stewart things that I deign not to disclose here. I once called Bob Knight “Bobby” and actually survived.

Richardson? He’s “Coach.” He wouldn’t mind it if I called him Keith, but I probably wouldn’t be able to go to sleep that night.

“How you doing?” ask at least three quarters of all the people one encounters. Most reply “fine.” A few say, “It’s all good.”

John Avery

That’s what the banquet was: all good. No one felt slighted. No one thought anyone went on too long. Most of the jokes got laughs and all of them chuckles. John Avery mastered the ceremonies. The slides flashing across the screen behind the honorees were nostalgic and compelling.

I’m not a big banquet fan. I dreaded dress shoes and didn’t wear a tie. I wore a sweater to hide the wrinkles in my shirt.

I didn’t want to leave when this one was over, though. Here’s what I wrote last night before bedtime.

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.

(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).

Sports in the Background

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, March 9, 2017, 12:53 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Hmm. Missouri beat Auburn. A basketball game was on TV at 11 a.m. It was in Nashville. It was 10 there. I wasn’t paying much attention until the overtime. I was crossing the magical 200-page barrier in my next novel. Fifty-four thousand words. I’ve got to write about an airplane soon. In fact, I’m maneuvering the whole shebang in for a landing.

As Bobby Bare used to sing, Ride me down easy, Lord, ride me on down.

The Tar Heels are playing the Hurricanes in Brooklyn. Let me check my program guide. By gosh, San Diego State is going to play Boise State in the Mountain West quarterfinal. That tips at 11:30 p.m.

Next thing you know, the time will change.

I haven’t watched much baseball. The Red Sox pounded the Braves on TV. Furman beat Presbyterian on a Tuesday afternoon before Clinton High’s final playoff basketball victory. I have only watched one of the local high school teams practice.

I watched the Red Devils win a pulsating 1-0 soccer match over a team representing a club of home-schooled kids.

The Chicago Blackhawks, my favorite hockey team, has been playing especially well, particularly on those rare occasions when I’m watching.

(Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images for NASCAR)

And, of course, there’s NASCAR.

Most of this week’s news has been about the future. At Charlotte Motor Speedway, they’re apparently going to run a fall race through the infield. Las Vegas, site of this week’s Sprint Cup race, is getting a second race. Both items aren’t going to happen until 2018.

So chill for now. Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que, sera, sera.

I’m going back to fiction.

Get back to the country, back in the barn aga-ain.

Bobby Bare, Doris Day, and Neil Young. All in one blog. Sometimes I amaze myself.

(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).

In Everything but the Money

(Monte Dutton photos)
By Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 10:45 a.m.

Some days are great. Some are awful. Some gotta win. Some gotta lose. Sometimes Goodtime Charlie’s got the blues.*

I wish they’d had a Powerball on Tuesday.

What they had Tuesday night was a basketball game matching the visiting Berea Bulldogs against the Clinton Red Devils. I was part of the loudest crowd I have ever seen watching a basketball game at Clinton High. I’m not the authority on the subject, but I’ve been to lots of games over the past four years. I went to every game when I was in school, but that was more than 40 years ago.

It was the Upstate Class 3A boys’ semifinal. The Red Devils haven’t lost since the year changed, but early, when Berea led, 21-11, I was starting to dawdle into “well, it was a great season, anyway” mode.

Fortunately, the local ball team had more intensity and determination than I. It’s a consequence of age.

Kiah Young (5) and Tymori Tribble.

A senior guard named Tymori Tribble hoisted the team on his shoulders. In their darkest hour, he shed light. Tribble scored 24 points, and, at times, made the Bulldogs look like the Washington Generals. He wasn’t alone. A Clinton team beaten badly on the boards and from beyond the three-point line in the first half turned into a boards-crashing, fast-breaking, ball-hawking, wide-open-layup-on-the-other-end band of insurgents.

Clinton (21-3) 70, Berea (21-6) 62. The Red Devils next play in Greenville, at a posh location called Bon Secours Wellness Arena, where Southside, a Greenville school, will be the opponent and plenty of good seats will be available. The winner will advance to another posh arena in Columbia.

Few saw this season coming, and I don’t even know anyone named Few anymore.

The head coach wasn’t even supposed to be the head coach. When Tosh Corley, who was standing in for Todd Frazier, stepped down, the new coach was Jim Still. Then Jim took a job in administration back in Greenwood, and Eddie Romines became coach. Jim, by the way, has taken an avid interest in the team he never actually coached, and was there Tuesday night to enjoy the latest great victory with everyone else.

Eddie Romines

Clinton High School has a spacious gym, at least compared with its peers, and it was about 80 percent full. The students were delirious, almost like they were in the audience of The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles showed up. The screams were at a lower pitch. I was a section over, screaming gruffly as old folks do. Now, I wasn’t on assignment. I just scribbled a note here and there for the purposes of this document. I snapped the occasional picture.

On Saturday, I will be on assignment in Greenville – the last time I experienced what the 11 o’clock news always calls “The Well” was a minor league hockey game three years ago – and I will return to the professional reserve of the journalist.

Instead of “Good Goddamighty, ref, he damn near knocked him down!” it will be “Huh. That was an odd call.”

But that’s not all.

Furman, my alma mater, visited Presbyterian College. Not the whole school. Just the baseball team.

I have attended many Presbyterian baseball games. At most of them, I have miscalculated the weather. As the afternoon wears on in February and March, a chill wind often howls. Tuesday was an exception. Even though the day became increasingly overcast as the innings wore on, I took off my Clinton High School hoodie to reveal a Furman sports shirt.

The only time I ever root against the Blue Hose is when they are playing the Paladins. Late last year, the two schools opened basketball season, and PC won, 73-71. Since that time, Furman has won 20 games and PC four. I don’t think my presence made the Paladins play worse, so I can only conclude that Furman had no idea how good it was and Presbyterian was blissfully unaware of how bad.

The Paladins won the baseball game, 6-0. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hope Presbyterian beats Wofford this afternoon.

Ken Pettus, an old friend, and I chatted for a few minutes at the baseball game. He was standing beyond the Furman dugout, watching the game in the way of associate directors of athletics. I once watched Ken play for Newberry against PC.

Wayne Green, an old Clinton High teammate, and I chatted for a few minutes before the basketball game. Wayne is the football coach at Berea now. We talked about old times and our coach, and he told me about the Berea basketball team and I did the same about Clinton. What he said left me worried, but I worry easily.

One of many little-known facts about me is that I like the Chicago Blackhawks. When I got home, rather than get myself all concerned by watching something like the news, I watched the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-3. Just let the record note that Jonathan Toews rules.

I’ve got a Powerball ticket for tonight. But it’s too late. Days like Tuesday don’t repeat themselves immediately.

*Paraphrased from an old country song.

(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).

The Tide Rolls and the Tigers Fight, Tigers (Fight, Fight)

Clemson led the way out of 2016. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, January 1, 2017, 10:11 a.m.

I was up early on New Year’s. I wanted to catch it before the sun came up. Not too early, though, I expect I was asleep by the time of its first watch tick, let alone the tock.

Clemson’s gaudy victory in the national college football semifinals left me happy for my nephew Ray Phillips and his wife, Jessica, both graduates, and their children, Thomas and Margaret. Thomas, 3, has some idea of the importance. Margaret, who is in her fifth month, is vaguely cognizant of Mommy and Daddy being very, very happy.

By Monte Dutton

Ray, by the way, has an undergraduate degree from Clemson and an M.B.A. from Alabama. He told me he likes Alabama. On January 9, though, I don’t think he’d mind if the Tigers won convincingly. I don’t think he’d mind if Bama fell with a Buckeye-like thud.

Neither of Saturday’s losers, Washington and Ohio State, were left wondering what might have been.

I’m a Furman graduate. I don’t allow myself to get as excited about Clemson, or, for that matter, South Carolina, as I am about Furman, or, for that matter, Presbyterian College here in town.

Being more excited about Furman and Presbyterian than Clemson is difficult right now. However, the Paladins’ basketball team did overrun The Citadel’s cadets at Timmons Arena on Saturday. When the Paladins beat the Bulldogs in anything, it makes me feel as if Athens just repulsed Sparta.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

As of 7 p.m. on Saturday, my thinking was, Nobody’s gonna beat Alabama.

As of 11 p.m. on Saturday, my thinking was, Clemson might just beat Alabama.

I expect I wasn’t alone in this migration of thought. The electronic age has shifted our senses of reality. Truth was once determined after all was said and done. Now what’s truth one minute may be falsehood the next. Still, however outmoded it is, I expect it is only fair that the Tigers and Crimson Tide be allowed to play the game.

If nothing else, the national semifiinals were useful in creating a facade of good cheer amid dire predictions for the new year that belt us like a hurricane.

(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).

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).

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

Though Clinton wears red and Laurens wears green, this is obviously neither. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Though Clinton wears red and Laurens wears green, this is obviously neither. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, December 3, 2016, 10:28 a.m.

I got lots of work done this week, but the last two evenings have been kind of random. After days of mostly writing, I left the house in the afternoon, ran some errands, made no definite plans.

On Thursday night, I headed in the general direction of the Presbyterian College basketball game against Johnson & Wales, which I kept calling Scotland & Wales, but first I decided to eat supper.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

I thought about Chinese, and then I pulled into the parking lot of El Jalisco Mexican Restaurant, and then pulled out, and then considered a few other options before going back. A man and woman were playing music in the bar, and the first song I heard was a Charlie Robison tune and I knew I was hooked up. Several friends showed up, as if by magic, and I stayed a while.

The musicians were Harold Senn and Catherine Varner. I know this because Harold gave me his card, which refers to them as A Touch of Gray: Music for Mature Folks. I knew all their songs. I have more than a touch of gray, but I’m not too sure about how mature I am. At times, I feel in suspended adolescence, but most times I just shoot for a few decades shy of my age as measured in years.

I drove by Templeton Center and stopped in the parking lot, where I checked my Twitter to confirm that the Blue Hose were safely ahead at the half. Then I drove on home and failed to watch the NFL game between the Cowboys and Vikings. Harold and Catherine left me in a mood to play, on my guitar, a couple songs they had played, I knew and hadn’t played in a while. I was mildly cognizant of Dallas winning.

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

On Friday night, I did go to the game. This time I had a few errands in Laurens, and, as luck would have it, by the time I got my hair cut, shopped for groceries and had supper in a restaurant we don’t have in Clinton, the timing was just about right to watch the Red Devils and Raiders play boys’ and girls’ basketball at the LDHS gym.

As testimony to all this being unplanned, note that I took no photos.

It was a three-quarter-full gym, the Laurens students were dressed in flannels and the Clinton kids were in “ugly Christmas sweaters” (and man, oh, man, did they take that seriously), and the teams split. The Laurens girls clobbered the Clinton girls, 64-22, and the Red Devil boys trimmed the Raiders, 49-46.

M.K. Kelly, last season. (Monte Dutton photos)
M.K. Kelly, last season. (Monte Dutton photos)

This is not a peak time in the annuals of Clinton girls’ basketball, but I rather enjoy watching them play because I so respect their effort. Girls, I have observed, have more enthusiasm than boys at the high school level. They are undaunted by adversity. I respect that they play hard even if not well. Boys, in similar circumstances, are more prone to sulk. Clinton has one polished player, M.K. Kelly, who looks as if she is playing a game all her own to which her teammates cannot adapt. She is the only player. Others are athletes who are there for volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball or track in the spring. At times, it looks as if the glass backboard might crack from the force of one of their layups, but they do have good athletes and will get better as they become more acclimated to the current sport.

The new head coach, John Gardner, has some work to do.

The boys’ game was not pretty. Clinton barely won a game in which, if you didn’t look at the scoreboard, you’d think it was winning by 20 points. The Red Devils also have a new head coach, Eddie Romines, whom I can attest is obsessed with basketball because I have known him since he played it.

Ben Sinclair
Ben Sinclair

Laurens’ Ben Sinclair entered the season with the barest cupboard I have ever seen. No one who did anything for last year’s 16-6 team is back. The Raiders graduated 10 seniors. Sinclair did a fine job coaching them, and they almost pulled off what would have been a stunning upset.

The Clinton boys have lots of players who have only recently arrived on court from the football field, as the season was lengthened by hurricane recovery and a playoff berth. They sometimes appeared to be still playing football. They played at a dizzying pace, regularly out of control, and that is why a game they played at an 80-point pace ended up producing 49.

Clinton (2-0) could be strong. They aren’t anywhere close yet. Region 3-3A is likely to be strong in most every sport. The first- and second-seeded football teams, Newberry and Chapman, are meeting next week for the upstate football title. Every season is going to be a slog, but it’s the reason they play.

The two schools meet again on Tuesday in Clinton. I might go wandering again.

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. Note that my third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is on Kindle sale at $.99 for the entire month. 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).

(Design by Steven Novak)
(Design by Steven Novak)

Football Is a Deep Fade

Darrell Bridges was PC's only reliable offensive threat. (Monte Dutton photos)
Darrell Bridges was PC’s only reliable offensive threat. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, November 26, 2016, 10:14 a.m.

My first thought this morning, upon awakening, was …

… Gee, whiz, I have to use the bathroom. Emphasis on “whiz.”

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

My second thought was, well, football’s over.

Hahahaha. Football is never over. As General Douglas MacArthur would have said had he been a couch potato instead of a military leader, Old football seasons never die. They just fade away.

Football is over locally and in my narrowly defined world. Last night Laurens fell to Spartanburg, 35-17, in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. A week earlier, Clinton fell to Chester, 24-16, in the first round of 3A. The Furman Paladins bowed out 3-8. The Presbyterian Blue Hose ground to a 2-9 halt.

dscf4250But over? Football? Was it over when the Owls bombed Paladin Stadium? It’s not over till we say it is!

Layers of football start peeling off. In college, this is a weekend of “rivalry games.” Next is a weekend of conference championships. Then, for several weeks, bowls will be filled with cereal and milk almost every night of the week.

The Hardee’s Sausage, Egg and Cheese Burrito Bowl, matching Colgate and Palmolive.

The game seemed full of promise right up until when it started. (Monte Dutton photo)
The game seemed full of promise right up until when it started. (Monte Dutton photo)

The Whichever Cell Provider You Don’t Have Bowl, testing how far Tech and State can roam.

The Auld Lang Syne Bowl, matching old coaches their teams are tired of. The Apple-Cheeked Lads Bowl, matching young coaches who don’t know what they’re doing.

The Affordable Care Bowl, which is going out of business. The Trust Me It’ll be Uuge Bowl, which will replace it.

There are lots of them. They start getting relevant after Christmas.

Chad Knaus (right) keeps a close watch on Jimmie Johnson, whose eyes are generally on the prize. (John Clark photo)
Chad Knaus (right) keeps a close watch on Jimmie Johnson, whose eyes are generally on the prize. (John Clark photo)

The pros will take football almost all the way to the Daytona 500, which reminds me: The first thought tomorrow morning – after the call of nature, of course – will be, What time does the race start?

No race? Well, there is the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, which sounds more fictitious than the bowls above. I think I watched The Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi on TCM Thursday. It’s a Marx Brothers flick. No, wait. That was A Day at the Races. Or The Crowd Roars. That was with Jimmy Cagney. Or was it Jimmie Cagney? No, that’s Jimmie Johnson. He won the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In a Chevrolet. For his record-tying seventh title. Chad Knaus (Kuh-NOWSS) told him to win it for the Gipper. No, that was Knute (Kuh-NOOT) Rockne. George Gipp was Ronald Reagan, not Jimmy Cagney. Or Jimmie Johnson.

To summarize, NASCAR is done till February, except for lame publicity stunts designed to keep the name in the news.

Presbyterian College head coach Harold Nichols stepped down.
Presbyterian College head coach Harold Nichols stepped down.

Football runs down the Energizer Bunny. It exhausts a rocket engine. It does not, however, leave Stephen A. Smith speechless. At this stage, it merely shifts from live to on satellite. I’m making the transition. I’ve attended two basketball games live, and PC won both of them.

Every aspect of life is affected by football. For every Les Miles in Baton Rouge, there is a Harold Nichols here. For every Ed Orgeron, there is a Tommy Spangler. The Coach is dead. Long live the coach. It makes me chuckle to hear that Orgeron is the “permanent” coach at LSU. Permanent doesn’t mean what it used to. It no longer has permanence. Andrew Webb of Clinton High School recently became “permanent.” For two years, he was “interim.”

Clinton High head coach Andrew Webb stepped up.
Clinton High head coach Andrew Webb stepped up.

In a short while, I expect to be permanently watching Michigan play Ohio State, but I’ll be switching to and from Kentucky-Louisville, Rutgers-Maryland, Purdue-Indiana, Virginia-Virginia Tech, Kansas-Kansas State, Central Florida-South Florida, Illinois-Northwestern, Georgia Tech-Georgia and Arkansas State-Louisiana (Lafayette).

Those are just the ones at noon.

Similar bevies of gridiron strife are available throughout the day and night, spilling over into Sunday on the East Coast when Colorado State takes on San Diego State, Wyoming invades New Mexico, and Utah State ventures to Brigham Young.

My nephew and his wife are, even now, closing in on Clemson, where their beloved Tigers are expected to deep-fry the Gamecocks tonight. Ray wanted to be there in time to watch Michigan-Ohio State on TV. He already seemed mildly preoccupied while I helped him dispose of Thanksgiving leftovers late yesterday afternoon.

Hmm. I could watch Charleston Southern-Wofford on my laptop.

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

At the End of the Day, There’s Always Barbecue

dscf4282
Braxton Ivery (5) takes up throwing instead of catching. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Newberry, South Carolina, Saturday, November 19, 2016, 11:56 a.m.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Years ago, Carson-Newman had just finished defeating Presbyterian in football, and I remember Cally Gault walking through the ranks of the Blue Hose as they filed from the field in Jefferson City to the locker room across a muddy lot from the stadium.

Coach Gault, by then the athletics director, had one message: “You beat Wofford, you beat Newberry, it’s a good year.”

dscf4279So I find myself on a clear, breezy day at Setzler Field at Newberry College, one of the outposts in the extinct rivalry between PC and Newberry. The Bronze Derby now seems like a relic of the Bronze Age.

I haven’t been at Setzler Field in … let me think … when was it? It’s been well over a month.

Okay, I watched Hartsville play Abbeville on this field, which was deemed a high school neutral site. Before that, it had been roughly 20 years. Even while the Blue Hose and (then) Indians were still playing, I was off writing about cars going around and around.

dscf3996What made me think about Coach Gault’s words this morning was the outcome of last night’s Clinton High game. The Red Devils finished 5-6, made the Class 3A playoffs as a No. 3 seed, lost to a 2, Chester, 24-16, in the first round and bowed out brimming with hope for next year.

This is the amended mantra that constitutes the common ground between the Blue Hose and Red Devils. For the high school in Clinton, “You beat Laurens, you beat Woodruff, it’s a good year.”

dscf4253I was in Laurens, watching the Raiders’ gradual, pitiless, 35-7 destruction of Woodmont, a school that went home from the Class 5A playoffs with a 3-8 record. Laurens is 6-5, but the Raiders won their region, 2-5A, and Laurens hasn’t claimed such a distinction in more than 20 years, so, undoubtedly, in the thoughts of those wearing green and gold, winning a region, and advancing to a second-round home game against Spartanburg, will atone for what now seems like the long-ago setback to Clinton.

Having moved from Newberry College to Presbyterian College (whose football team is currently located in Mobile, Alabama, for no good reason) to Clinton High School to Laurens District High School to …

dscf4289… Newberry College (10-1) is advancing toward the Tuskegee University goal in the first drive of the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. The Golden Tigers (8-2) are from Alabama, about 45 miles from Montgomery, not to mention the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Now, as my consciousness streams, Newberry leads, 3-0.

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, November 20, 2016, 10:10 a.m.

dscf4267Oh, woe is Newberry. Tuskegee edged the (now) Wolves, 35-33, on one of the more beautiful afternoons that ever wound up breaking hearts. After winning 10 consecutive games, coming from behind in four of them, the Wolves failed on two late drives – one with sufficient time, the other without – and Tuskegee will move on to Tigerville next week, there to face another South Carolina school, North Greenville.

My principal task at Newberry was to wrap the game around a feature on a Newberry defensive end named Jaquille Oden, who made a key fourth-down stop that gave the Wolves their last plausible shot at victory.

dscf4284The Newberry quarterback who played most of the game had completed one pass during the regular season. Braxton Ivery caught 54 passes. In fact, he even caught one on Saturday. The Offensive Player of the Year in the South Atlantic Conference, one Raleigh Yeldell, and three less crucial others didn’t get to play because they had run afoul of team rules. Running afoul of “team rules” is the broad term analogous to “actions detrimental to the sport of NASCAR.”

dscf4293The simple response of Newberry College’s football team to its misfortune was impressive. When the horn sounded, and further ambitions evaporated, the players didn’t dissolve in tears. They milled around for a long time, greeting parents and friends and congratulating their Tuskegee counterparts, and the ones invited by the NCAA to the media conferences were proud and stoic. Whatever medicine the suspended players took was shared, in a sense, by all.

Todd Knight, the head coach, has an inspirational bent to him, like many coaches, and the rising tide of his last three seasons – 5-6, 7-5, 10-2 – is testimony to his sincerity.

dscf4277

The outcome notwithstanding, I had a lovely time at tiny Setzler Field, which has changed little if at all in the five decades in which I have attended occasional games there. The 2,382 who paid their way in got a bargain. The company was good in the press box. Only a few small clouds ever drifted by. The trees ringing the grounds were in full fall color, mostly yellow with a few bursts of orange. When I left, it was dark, and I turned out the lights in the press box, walked laterally across the artificial playing surface and peered at all that was left glowing, a wolf howling atop the scoreboard.

dscf4265Then I stopped off on the way back up U.S. 76 at Wise’s Barbecue, another welcome blast from my past. The young girl who kept asking me if I needed any more iced tea apologized that the chicken and ribs had run out before I got there. I told her it was all right, and if I’d eaten as much chicken and ribs as I did chopped pork and hash, she’d have probably had to call 911.

When I got home, nothing on TV came anywhere close to what I’d seen in front of 2,382 paid. Clemson, Oklahoma, Washington and, surprisingly, Vanderbilt, were all mopping up. I spent most of the evening reading a book about men and women going over Niagara Falls in barrels.

dscf4269The Clinton Red Devils and the Newberry Wolves have honorably ended their football seasons. The Furman Paladins and Presbyterian Blue Hose expired in sorrowful wonder over what might have been. The Laurens Raiders move on.

The colleges have already started playing basketball, and the high schools will be at it soon.

Shed no tears for football, though. The nouveau riche who play it professionally will keep on keeping on well into the New Year, only a bit longer than the process that determines which college team will finally lose to Alabama.

It won’t be long until the remaining college football rivalries lead into a state of affairs where a Texas Tech plays a Minnesota in a McCullough Chainsaws Timberrrrr! Bowl in the Lesser Antilles every weekday night and three or four times on Saturdays.

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