At Least There Was No Big One

Monte Dutton photo

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, December 22, 2018, 2:10 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

If law enforcement used yellow flags, they would have been waving on Spartanburg Highway, Musgrove Street Extension, or South Carolina 56 North, depending on which way one wants to identify the thoroughfare.

Two crashes, neither involving serious injuries, occurred within two hours of each other, about 150 yards apart.

This I learned quickly because the wrecks occurred close – very close – to where I live.

A little after 10 a.m., the electricity went out, which was unusual for a sunny day.

The phone rang. I had a high rate of confidence that, when I answered, I’d hear either my mother or my sister asking, “Have you got electricity?”


It was my sister.

“What are you going to do?”

“Wait till it comes back on,” I said.

Because I knew she was curious and might well call several more times, I went to the City of Clinton’s Facebook page and found that a car had run off the road, hit a pole, and skidded to a halt slightly shy of hitting the front of Carolina Beautiful Nursery and Garden Center.

Power was out in much of this side of town, apparently. The city’s crews restored the electricity in something over an hour, much of which I spent strumming away at my guitar and singing snippets of old country songs.


The Jared Birmingham Bowl, matching the stalwart teams of Wake Forest and Memphis, had started on ESPN when the phone rang again. Most of the calls on my land line nowadays involve either family or recordings.


“Are you all right?” asked my sister.

“Almost exactly the same,” I replied.

“There’s been another wreck. Right in front of your house.” My house is actually down a dirt road that has been flooded for most of a month because this fall South Carolina became the Precipitation instead of the Palmetto State. “I thought you were in it.”

“I haven’t hardly gotten out of this chair,” I said.

Because of my keen journalistic instincts – and because I had already been writing about a fatal accident on Interstate 26 in the early-morning hours for – I realized I should go out there and take a picture, which I did, and I chatted amiably with a couple friendly police officers about whether or not Highway 56 maintained a NASCAR sanction.

The highway was blocked. The wrecks were on flatbeds. The toughest task for yours truly was backing my pickup between the trees and bushes lining the road to my house for about 200 yards. I haven’t exercised my backing skills so thoroughly since my late father’s truck was pulling – or at times pushing – a cattle trailer into a pasture, in the wee hours of the morning, in Max Meadows, Virginia, 40-some-odd years ago. (Bill Elliott used to be fond of saying “some odd,” and I’ve always wanted to use it in print.)

I think I read somewhere of lightning that actually did strike twice in the same place, and now I’m writing about wrecks that struck twice in almost the same place.

It was a home game.

I told a friend about it.

“There must have been a hell of a party out your way,” he said.


The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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

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

(Steven Novak cover)


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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