When the Roll Is Called in Homeroom, I’ll Be There

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 30, 2018, 4:02 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’ve been working my ass off. No, that’s not right. I’ve been wearing my ass out. Mainly I’ve been sitting down.

I’m in the process of learning how to manage the county website. It’s not the official county website. It’s a news site, or two that are intertwined, GoLaurens.com and GoClinton.com, because Laurens County has two towns that are roughly the same size.

I’ve been learning how to lay it out. How to place photos. How to put together the police reports and the obituaries.

“Putting on the Hits” in Joanna a while back.

This reminds me of the late David Poole, who, when a race-car driver proclaimed that David had no business writing about racing because he’d never driven a race car, would get the look on his face that basically told the world, Thank you, God, and reply by saying, grandly, “I’ve never died, but I’ve written many an obituary.”

Now David has died. Everyone does. In the hereafter, he certainly doesn’t have to write obits.

I don’t write them. I just compile and edit them.

In this new job, my perfectionism works against me. I’ve spent a lot of times the past few days, changing numbers into numerals and numerals into numbers, making “style edits,” and I have concluded that Piedmont Technical College writes the best releases in the area.

State Rep. Mark Willis talking to kids at a local museum’s history camp.

I haven’t actually done my first crime report yet – I expect it’s a bit early with a Saturday night bearing down – but I’ve read the instructions. I scheduled one announcement on the site. It was an upcoming talent contest at a nearby church.

Without question, I write a bit too much news for my taste. I’ve done it before. I’m competent at it, but I’ve always enjoyed sports because the human emotion is so obvious. Lots of public officials are prone to choke at the corresponding free-throw line, but often they manage to do it behind closed doors.

My boss, predecessor and mentor has a sports bent, too. I’m fortunate to have him handy. I might be a tad hardheaded and independent for local tastes. I like a perspective that is different from others, and the freedom to pursue it is greater than it was in NASCAR, where the job has become a contest of competing versions of the same press conferences and transcripts. This week I wrote a story about a woman who won big on The Price Is Right, and I was proud of the tale I got.

A Little League fan from Greenwood accosted me last night. I was taking photos through the opening in a chain-link fence, and I told the man sitting there that I’d only be there for a few moments because I was taking some photos of the Laurens pitcher. I did not know that his grandson was batting. He said okay.

“Hey, buddy.” People who call me “buddy” or “brother” usually aren’t, the same way that people on social media always write that they “love” something they don’t. “You need to get your ass over on the Laurens side.”

I explained to him that I did not know that and would have waited if I had. I’m pretty sure he thought the pitcher and I were related. He cooled down after I politely defended myself, and another Greenwood fan told me he thought that fellow was “way out of line,” but I really didn’t think it was that big a deal. I never think things are as heated as those who watch them do. I’ve had shouting matches with Dale Earnhardt before, and having a shouting match with him was the best way a reporter could possibly get along with the aptly named Intimidator.

Now I’m briefly caught up, but I’m hoping to hear word of how the second game in the state championship Little League series* came out. I’m sure the Greenwood fan’s foul mood had something to do with Laurens scoring three runs in the first inning while hitting exactly three balls in fair territory, thanks to a fumbled bunt, three straight walks, a dropped third strike and other misplays that were too many to mention. Laurens went on to prevail by a 17-7 count.

Then I edited dozens of stories and either placed them on the site or scheduled them for later. Some Italian students have been visiting one school, and another school held a forensics clinic for high school kids interested in being the next Barnaby Jones. Leadership Laurens County graduated its latest class, and the Chamber selected its small business and small businessman of the year. I know where the bookmobile is headed and how Clinton is changing its garbage collection on the week of the Fourth.

I’m a regular fountainhead of information.

There is probably more potential inspiration for the next novel than there ever was in the infield media center.

*Laurens won, 11-4.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

(Steven Novak cover)

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.


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