Another Year Begins on High Notes

Josh, Anthony, Ella and Alex crowd around the imaginary mic with Uncle Monte.

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, January 4, 2019, 10:52 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I don’t make resolutions. Progress is a day-to-day matter. I just do what I need to do every day. Everyone has to roll with punches to some degree. The year just completed was one of turnaround. I have high hopes that the one ahead will bring success.

I don’t particularly believe in omens, but if I did, the final day of 2018 would have been a good one. My best day of the year was the last one.

My new partner, Alex.

I saw my favorite and only niece, Ella, her husband Tony, and the three boys who adore me, Alex, Anthony and Josh. I hadn’t seen them in a long time. Alex turns 16 later this month. He brought the ukulele he got for Christmas and amazed me at how fast he is picking it up. I brought a small guitar, my Little Martin, and taught Alex how to play along with me on a song we performed for the part of the family present: my mother, Miss Betty, and sister, Ginger; my nephew Ray; Tony, Ella and the boys. Our lives haven’t been successful enough to be feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys, and I sang Hank Williams’ pain songs, Jerry Jeff (Walker’s) train songs and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. At Ray Phillips’ house, weren’t nobody feeling no pain.

Alex likes indie folk music, but he also likes Hank Williams. When he was very young, he and I would sing “Move It on Over” on the way to a movie. He still remembers the words, and I showed him how “Honky Tonkin’” is mostly just one chord, and he was highly amused by “Hey, Good Lookin’” and “Honky Tonk Blues.”

The song we played together was Charlie Robison’s “Barlight.”

Just for fun, on three.

I drank a couple Samuel Adams’ Boston Lagers. Ray offered me a dark beer, but I went with Sam Adams because the Red Sox are world champions, oshkosh, b’gosh, and we cracked oysters and munched Low Country Boil. Ray’s wife, Jessica, is expecting their fourth, but Thomas, Margaret and Peter are here in town, and I see them fairly often. Ray is happy because he’s a Clemson man and the Tigers are playing for the national championship again. I am happy because I’m a Furman man and the basketball team is doing well. Also, I really enjoyed Texas beating Georgia because I’ve spent a lot of time in the Lone Star State in my life and had an affinity for the Longhorns since Darrell Royal coached them.

(Monte Dutton photo)

Life has since gotten back to normal. I have been writing about local matters and editing releases. A feature about local Clemson fans and their experiences getting to and from Arlington, Texas, where they watched Clemson pound Notre Dame. An opinion piece on Clinton High’s search for a new football coach. The swearing in of local officials elected or reelected in November. Photos of a Laurens High wrestling match. The weekly NASCAR column for Competition Plus. Mrs. Shealy, who ran a flower shop in town when I was growing up, died at 98. The post-holiday crime reports had lots of domestic violence in them.

While finishing off the Clemson story, I half-watched On the Waterfront. Half-watching was fine because I’ve probably whole-watched it a dozen times. Yesterday I was delighted to learn that my mother had watched it, too. (“Monte, I watched a good movie last night.”) We chatted about how great Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb (“Oh, yes. Lee J. Cobb was always good.”) and Eva Marie Saint were.

Tonight I’m going to see the Raiders play Wade Hampton, and tomorrow there’s a doubleheader at Presbyterian College, where the Blue Hose are playing USC Upstate and the Clinton Red Devils are playing Lexington. It’s raining again. The road to my house looks like the Erie Canal.

Life goes on, pleasantly at present.

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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