It’s Only Words, and Words Are All I Have …

The Gateway Arch. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 25, 2018, 10:01 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I drove past a message board that read:


If your blood is running low, they’ll pump it right up.

A government office has a sticker in the window of the front door.


Forget about hiding a derringer in your boot, but if you’ve got a rifle that can’t possibly be concealed, come right in.

This is the curse of a writer. Such silly little misuses of the language bother him. Most people don’t put a second thought into flammable and inflammable meaning the same thing, or regardless and irregardless. They’ll nod politely, all the while thinking to themselves, I could care less.

They couldn’t care less. If they could care less, they probably would.

It gets dark later because of Daylight Saving Time. It’s not Daylight Savings Time. Daylight is not a bank.

Few are the times that it is necessary to utilize. Except in rare instances, use works fine. Most people say utilize because they want a bigger, not a better, word.

I hate signage. I prefer signs. If I go to a burger joint and the smallest drink is a large, and medium is big, and large is jumbo, well, the burgers better be good.

It’s a curse, this excessive attention to words. It makes watching sports on TV distracting.

Did you see that catch?

Yes, but the guy who caught it can’t literally fly.


He can figuratively fly. If he could literally fly, he would be soaring around the light poles, squawking with the seagulls.


People say whatever to me a lot.


(Steven Novak cover)

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 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.


Around these Parts, Things Are Roughly the Same

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, April 18, 2018, 1:45 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Baseball season has begun. Tax season has ended.

The Red Sox are off to the best start in team history. That’s good. My taxes are filed. That’s good, too. When the federal refund crackles across fiber-optic lines into my bank account, it will be better.

A website for which I write crashed for four days. That was bad. It’s back up. That’s good.

On the local front, Phillip Dean, who once worked for me in the Furman press box, is moving to Spartanburg to be principal of Reidville Elementary School. Clinton won the annual county track meet with Laurens. The Red Devil tennis team is strong, as usual. The soccer team pulled off a big 3-2 upset in Newberry last night. I had a great time at a fundraiser for Clinton’s youth tennis programs on Saturday night. It was the first time in quite a while I played music on a stage, but that was truly the least of it.

The weekly Facebook Live, after Monday’s rain-delayed Bristol stock car race, drew a surprisingly large number of viewers. Per spectator, it was probably the best NASCAR race in decades.

The Red Sox and the team they are currently visiting, Anaheim, are the hottest teams in baseball. The Braves are hanging in there. The Dodgers and Cubs have been slow to get going.

If President Twitter were any crazier, he’d be running a cut-rate electronics showroom. Syria just bombed Syria, so we bombed Syria to stop Syria from bombing Syria some more. The president is turning a porn star into Clara Barton and her lawyer into Clarence Darrow.

I guess the world has been crazier, but the law then was west of the Pecos.


(Steven Novak cover)

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 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.

My Mind Is Tired and Incapable of Suitable Organization and Motivation

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 10, 2018, 11:57 a.m.

It’s been a busy week. I got more done on Friday than any day in quite a while. Everything worked. Interview subjects called me back promptly. By the time I got finished writing about a soccer game and talking on a radio show while it was going on, it was 10 p.m. From 7 a.m. till whenever it was that I fell asleep in a recliner, I wrote about high school soccer, prayer breakfasts, a fictitious baseball scout, NASCAR, played music, and took some really bad photos.

Now it’s Saturday.

By Monte Dutton

NASCAR practice is on TV. I’m not as motivated. I’ve got to decide which book I’m going to read next. My thoughts are racing, but they aren’t coherent or cohesive.

My next novel is still under consideration by a publisher. The way I figure it, they accepted a few quickly and rejected others quickly. Now they’re making a harder decision about mine and some others. Somewhere, someone is standing up for my manuscript, and someone else wants to reject it. How they sway others is what will determine the fate of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Coincidentally, it will likely be out sooner if it is rejected, but that’s only if I decide not to await word from other publishers and self-publish. It’s going to be published. It’s too much work to set aside.

It’s funny how, no matter how old one gets, the stupidity of words and terms one has taken for granted one’s whole life suddenly occurs. Last night I heard a TV personality ridicule Daylight Savings Time. It should be Daylight Saving Time. As he noted, it’s not a bank.

I’ve had my deliberations over thousands of words. Why is an athletic director the director of athletics? Is it RBI (runs batted in) or RBIs? Why is a man with a bat in his hands a batter in every instance except when he gets hit by a pitch, at which point he strangely becomes a “batsman”? Why does the lead lap have a tail end?

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 are available for sale here.

Join me live on Facebook after the NASCAR race. I’ll play songs, shill my writing, and engage in a discussion about the Phoenix and whatever else you’d like to ask. It’ll start a few minutes after TV network coverage ends.

Ain’t No Need to Sit and Wonder Why

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, February 22, 2018, 8:01 a.m.

This morning I awakened from a dream that concerned pickup basketball, Daytona International Speedway, a friend from high school, and trying to get back into the track without benefit of either shoes or my hard card.

By Monte Dutton

I haven’t been to Daytona Beach in more than five years. I haven’t played basketball in nearly thirty years, and I haven’t seen my friend in about forty. I do, however, have shoes, and I think my one-time real friend is now one on Facebook.

Thus did the dream have some small basis in fact.

I never got back to my basketball game, which was somehow being played in the infield of the speedway somewhere. I walked for a long time, losing my sense of direction several times. Near the gate, I discovered my hard card was in one of the back pockets of my khakis. It ended with me riding through the security gate on the back one of the red pickups used by the safety crews at the speedway.

I don’t know what the dream meant. I don’t want to know what the dream meant. I don’t particularly care about genealogy, either. I’m going to write about a basketball game tonight. I’ll need no hints about the significance of the past in order to write about the events of the present.

As Iris DeMent expressed in a song, I’d prefer to let the mystery be.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my NASCAR thoughts. 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 are available for sale here.

My next novel is up for consideration and nomination in the Amazon KindleScout program. Time is running out. I’d appreciate it if you’d read about it and nominate it for publication here.

They Won’t Get This at the Super Bowl

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, January 26, 2018, 1:09 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I strolled over to Clinton Middle School yesterday. I went to school there. It was Clinton High School then. I walked into the new gym of the old high school, which is now the new middle school.

The middle school fields two basketball team, the Red and the White. They were playing each other. One of the games between the cross-school rivals is played during school hours, and the entire student body attends. I wrote about that game two years ago, and it was likely the largest crowd for a basketball game – high school, middle school, Presbyterian College – in town that year. The other game is played at the regular time – 5 p.m. for girls, 6 for boys – so that it’s easier for people in the community to attend. This time it was the latter. The crowd was also quite large.

Although I arrived early, I was one of few people who did not understand what was going on. I copied the rosters from the scorebooks. In the story I wrote for the website (GoLaurens/GoClinton) that retains my services part-time, I expect there were a few mistakes because the rosters had only initials and last names, which meant I had to inquire upon the first-name spellings with the students who kept the books, and I suspect some of those first names were approximate. Names have never been harder for sportswriters to get right. White kids tend to have unconventional spellings of conventional names. Black kids tend to have apostrophes in abundance. I have encountered at least one with multiple apostrophes, as in Na’Jah’Lika.

Then the game started, and I found it odd that the clock began with 5:41 remaining and the score listed as 18-15. My first thought was that it was malfunctioning. What I didn’t know was that, in the season’s earlier girls’ game, a player had collapsed on the floor and required medical attention. The game was thus suspended. This was the resumption of that game. Another full girls’ game followed, and then the boys. The girl who collapsed is just fine now.

I had decided to “featurize” the story, so I was paying more attention to expressions and reactions than I was rebounds and turnovers. Middle school kids are amusing. They possess a certain sense of humor that older kids sacrifice in the name of being almost grown up. Some of this was mentioned in my account of the games. The middle-school kids dance with each other in layup lines. They laugh at referees’ calls. They play hard. I was impressed with the athletic ability of the girls’ teams, though not the players’ shooting accuracy. Many layups seemed more likely to crack the glass backboards than swish through the nets. The nearly one and a quarter girls’ game(s) were wide open, and I was glad I had decided not to tally up the total shots and turnovers.

The boys’ game was more proficient in shooting, and the final score – Red 52, White 49 – was high-scoring given that the quarters were only six minutes long. The Clinton High teams have a bright future, I expect.

It followed closely after the girls’ game, and I had to copy the rosters quickly, some after it had already started, so I didn’t have the time to print them carefully. I could only scribble them cursively, and later on, I had to call John Lapomarda, who runs the middle school’s athletic program, and correct the spelling of two names I couldn’t read in my own handwriting. I’m glad I did. A Morris I found out to be a Mims.

I’ve always heard that politics is the art of the possible, which seems a stretch in these times. So is middle-school basketball, but I had a marvelous time.

It was a momentous day. I completed a fiction manuscript that I had been starting, restarting, revising and proofreading, on and off, for about a year and a half. Another highlight occurred when I got home to discover a new $20 pledge on Patreon from a racing fan. Some people value my NASCAR writing enough to pay money to read it on a monthly basis. To me, it helps to make all my writing worthwhile. My NASCAR and national sports coverage is now featured at, and my other writing, such as this, is available here. If you enjoy this enough to give a small amount each month, please examine the details here.

Most of my books are available on my Amazon page here.

Three of my novels – Cowboys Come Home, Lightning in a Bottle, and Life Gets Complicated – are available, signed, in uptown Clinton at L&L Office Supply and Emma Jane’s gift shop.

At the Risk of Being Taken the Wrong Way …

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, January 5, 2018, 8:49 a.m.

At some point, this feeding frenzy has to run its course. As with all feeding frenzies, some good has been achieved. Tides of frenzy sweep along with them some rampaging tyranny.

By Monte Dutton

To this very day, I am kind to women who wait on me at restaurants because, when I was a boy, my mother waited tables at the steakhouse our family once owned, and I watched her being tormented by patrons who were snide, belligerent, and drunk, most often all three. If I get poor service, I usually, unless I’m in one of those rare bad moods that afflict me, keep my silence and don’t go back.

I’m getting a bit more cranky as I grow older. About a month ago, for the first time in my life, I refused a prime-rib dinner because I ordered it medium-rare and, if it had been any more well-done, it would have come with barbecue sauce instead of horseradish. The manager came, I told her I wasn’t paying for it, got up and left, and had a seafood special, for which I was not in the mood, at the next exit.

I think I was particularly annoyed because my finances do not allow for many steak suppers, and I wanted it to be perfect. To me, well-done is not well done.

Thank God for small favors. Were I not poverty-stricken, I’d probably be eligible for sexual misconduct charges. I’ve noticed that one does not even have to have sex for there to be misconduct. A woman I know recently asked if she could touch the fluffy white hair on the beard I am now wearing for the first time in more than thirty years. I told her she could ruffle my beard any time, and, immediately, I wondered if anyone could detect any innuendo in that.

Since I work for myself and not very successfully, I think I’m in the clear. I’ve not yet seen this on the CNN “crawl”:


When I was seven years old, in the playground of Hampton Avenue School, I struck a little girl on the shoulder. My timing was imperfect as my father pulled up at precisely that moment. He tanned my hide in much the same fashion as the prime rib fifty-two years later, but I learned a lesson and didn’t do it again until I was in college and very drunk, and it was a reflex action, because a young woman slapped me and, before I thought about it, I slapped her back. I regret this incident deeply. I’m cringing right now, just thinking about it. As incredible as this may seem, I cringe about many episodes of my collegiate youth.

Two days ago, in a phone conversation, a friend remarked that I should run for Congress. I told him that no one who has read one of my novels would vote for me. Characters in my fiction have been known to use vile language, partake of illegal drugs, and, occasionally, even have … sex.

Commit murder? Not a problem.

If I had a lick of sense, I’d scrub the hard drive of this laptop because, on occasion, people have taken what were then known as “gag photos” with me in them. Many people don’t get such gags anymore.


“What did you mean by that?”

“I meant to be funny.”

Al Franken recently resigned from the United States Senate because – I’ve heard this term over and over – he was accused of “sexual misconduct.” The most damning evidence was a “gag photo” in which Senator Franken, before he was a senator, posed next to a woman who was apparently sleeping. In my opinion, based on carefully looking at the photo, he didn’t touch her. Somehow this was “sexual misconduct.” To me, it seemed more like poor judgment.

Surely this will run its course. Surely, before every male anyone has heard of has been told he “will never work in this business again,” regardless of the business, some reasonable boundary will be established. I’m all for reasonable boundaries. I’ve no desire to defend Harvey Weinstein. I feel sorry for Al Franken. My reasonable boundary is somewhere between those two.

Jesus preached the doctrine of forgiveness. If he espoused zero tolerance, I can’t find it in the New Testament.

As Mark Twain is alleged to have said, “What would men be without women? Scarce, sir … mighty scarce.”

(Monte Dutton sketch)

I shouldn’t divulge this, but, on rare occasions, I have known women who were, and I write this with the full knowledge that someone will deem it sexist, flirts. Some of these women were capable of getting me to approve of almost anything they asked. Nothing scandalous, mind you. Nothing more untoward than agreeing to edit their copy, or give them advice, or provide a source, or pump their gas at the Gate station.

By “pump their gas,” I mean, literally, pump their gas. Into their car. Gasoline. At a pump.

That doesn’t make me a monster. Does it?

This may be a bad time to mention it, but in the off chance that you are amused by my writing, please consider a small pledge to the site where I derive some income from people who, astonishingly, enjoy what I do. Click here.

If I haven’t scared you off, please consider my considerable selection of books here.

Signed copies of three of my novels – Cowboys Come Home, Lightning in a Bottle, and Life Gets Complicated – are available in uptown Clinton at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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.