If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 17, 2018, 10:54 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

This morning I learned about the wet-bulb thermometer. So enriched was I that I moved on to wet-bulb temperature.

Am I a man of boundless curiosity? I’d like to think so, but the short-term answer was that I was trying to figure out why Clinton High School’s first football game is going to start at 8 p.m. instead of 7:30.

A wet-bulb thermometer is one in which a wet rag, draped over a thermometer and engulfed in air, enables the apparatus to measure the air temperature, based on wind, humidity and solar radiation.

Presumably, it is more accurate than a regular thermometer. Surely, it is more complicated than wrapping a wet wash cloth around a standard thermometer. In fact, it costs from $100 to $500, and every member of the South Carolina High School League is required to have one, so that athletes are not allowed to practice when it is too hot.

Pixabay photos

When Laurens visits Clinton on Aug. 24, it is likely that the wet-bulb temperature will be greater than 82 degrees at 7:30, and thus did the school’s officials conclude it would be prudent to shoot for 8. The school’s state championship relay team will receive rings at 7:30 because receiving rings do not qualify as “regular activities” in an athletics sense.

This is fine. I’ve no interest in writing about heat prostration. I worried I was experiencing it while taking pictures of seven-on-seven games of throw-and-catch earlier this summer. I can’t afford a wet-bulb thermometer of my very own.

Knowledge is good. The way it is processed is sometimes bad, but in the medical community, the people who process it are still the ones who are trained to do so.

For now.

Even I am torn.

One side makes the inevitable lament of the aging. Back in my day, when men were men and brains were damaged …

The other side, though, is the sigh of relief. How in the world did any of us survive?

 

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 montedutton.com. 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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Even as the summer swelters

(Pixabay photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, July 26, 2018, 2:25 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I was out working on a feature for the GoLaurens.com website until almost 8 on Wednesday night.

When I got back home and turned on the TV, I discovered I had missed two innings, five runs and three homers in the Red Sox game in Baltimore. History missed them, too. It was raining and didn’t stop. All that offense was washed away with the rain, and J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi will never receive credit for their power. The game will begin again when it’s restarted later in the season.

Orioles Park at Camden Yards

I spent the rest of the evening writing the feature and waiting for a Little League baseball game in Taylors to show up on a web site so that I could post a story about the ending of the Laurens Majors’ season. Northwood of Taylors won the state championship, 10-7, and the game ended with a force play at second with the bases loaded.

High school football practice begins in the morning at Clinton and Laurens District high schools, and Laurens Academy begins on Monday morning. I expect I’ll ramble around the county in the morning to take photos of the Red Devils and Raiders starting to prepare for a game against each other on August 24.

My upcoming baseball novel got its 13th chapter on Wednesday morning. This morning I edited some releases for the web site after awakening late due to working into the wee hours the night before.

Now the Diamondbacks and Cubs are playing at Wrigley, and I watched parts of several old movies that were bad enough to be amusing for a while. It’s too early to check on the local arrests and obituaries. I decided to write the blog because I’m not quite ready to embark on the next chapter of fiction, and neither the guitar leaning against the couch to my left nor the Kindle balanced on its ledge seems more appealing than just randomly assembling thoughts.

Maybe a mug of coffee is in order.

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 montedutton.com. 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.

Another Day, Another Fifty Cents

Retiring Gwen Kinard gets a Key to the City from Laurens mayor John Stankus. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 28, 2018, 10:14 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

It’s going to be another week that was. By definition. To quote one of my songs, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

This one, though, has been particularly enlightening.

I’m making a transition into a job running the county’s news site, GoLaurens.com, which also has within it a GoClinton.com because Laurens County is one of relatively few counties with two towns of roughly the same size. Laurens is the county seat, and Clinton is, oh, where the college, the Presbyterian one, is. The relationship requires some customizing. The short explanation above is absurdly simplified, but the purpose here isn’t a detailed analysis. I’ve been writing stories for GoLaurens/GoClinton for quite a while, but I haven’t ever done layout.

(Monte Dutton photo)

I’ve got to make plans and have meetings and learn all the facts and figures I didn’t know. My crowded life is getting more crowded, but that’s a familiar story, and perhaps now it will pay for itself again.

Wednesday was extraordinarily productive. I spent the day juggling, which sounds like fun, and is, but the balls in the air weren’t literal. I was writing, researching, editing, interviewing, picture taking, and updating as everything came in. By day’s end, I had five stories ready to go.

The best was an inspirational tale about a woman who miraculously made a small fortune on The Price Is Right.

Catie Rawls, who is in the Miss South Carolina pageant.

Another was about a Laurens girl who is, right now, competing in the Miss South Carolina Pageant.

Two more were about the all-star play of Laurens baseball in Little League and Clinton in Dixie Youth.

One was about the retirement of the much-respected City Clerk and Treasurer of Laurens.

Part of the reason all these stories converged was that I wanted a healthy variety to place on the site. This did not work out because the access I was granted did not give me enough of it to do any actual work. I spent a while on the phone with a company that administers web sites, only to find out that someone else has to grant me such access, and that person thought it was already done, and he’s a busy man, and he’s trying to get it straightened out but hasn’t yet. I held back one story and I’m hopeful that it will be the first one I truly take from start to finish.

This shouldn’t be hard for anyone to understand. Modern life is filled with such aggravations. Most days are not filled, as John Denver thought his were, with “easy country charm.” The country is considerably less charming, even for those of us who are out in it.

Personally, I think it’s one reason why so many people on social media stay ticked off all the time.

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.

A Man Must Carry On

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 9:49 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

How the mighty have fallen.

Okay. I was never that mighty. And I haven’t fallen. The last time I fell was on the sideline of the Clinton High School spring football game in 2017.

On Tuesday, I merely wilted.

On the practice fields, a half mile or so from Wilder Stadium, the current Red Devils were hosting a round-robin scrimmage of pitch-and-catch (7-on-7, it’s called) that also included Laurens, Daniel, Emerald, Ninety Six, Union County and Woodruff.

Chris Liner

It was hot. It was humid. All I had to do was stand around, take pictures and chat with players and coaches. I’m old. At the end, as Andrew Webb was talking to his team, I looked into the players’ eyes and realized I was worse off than they were. I interviewed the Red Devil coach. Then I walked over to the next field and interviewed the Laurens coach, Chris Liner, and then I looked off in the distance. Heat waves twitched between me and my truck, which was up a hill, across a road, maybe 200 yards away, and I realized the last time I was this exhausted, and this hot, and this dehydrated, was also when I was on a different practice field, in this town, 43 years ago.

Mistakenly, I thought such days were over.

Oh, I trudged up that hill. In the old days, it was a rule that I had to jog up another hill, and I couldn’t take off my helmet, and at the top of the hill, the rest of the way to the locker room was slightly uphill, and many were the days I was just as parched, just as exhausted, and, in 1975, I’d had less water than Tuesday because, in those days, they thought water might give me cramps. In fact, before I showered, I swallowed a fistful of salt tablets because, in those days, they thought salt would prevent me from getting cramps.

Much has changed, the most pertinent being that I am old and fat and no longer play football but write about it. The sole progress is that I write about it a good bit better than I ever played it, which isn’t necessarily saying much.

I got back to the truck. The interior made me think of a live volcano. I pushed a button that opened the windows. I cranked the truck and its air conditioner. It took a while to get up the energy to drive.

To drive!

When I got home, water sure tasted great. It took a while to get up the energy to write.

To write!

I processed these photos, which were better than I thought possible because I do much better taking photos by looking through the camera than by holding it away and shooting via the video display. Looking through the camera had been impossible because the humidity had turned the viewfinder into a fog. Then I wrote two stories, one about the human drama of the athletic competition and another about Laurens’ summertime workouts in general. I had already written such a story about Clinton.

I’ve written faster in my time. Many nighttime sporting events come to mind.

Eventually, I felt fully recovered, shaved, took the day’s second shower, and headed up to Laurens to write about City Council in action. It was cool. The only problem was the air conditioner made it a little difficult to hear what people were saying. A minor annoyance. It was much easier than feeling faint as my mind processed the events of farflung games of catch.

I’m not as good as I once was. In fact, I’m not even as good once as I ever was.

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Steven Novak cover

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.

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.

It’s the World Gone Crazy …

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 17, 2018, 3:02 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I don’t care whether I hear Laurel or Yanny. I don’t know where I go to hear it, or, for that matter, them. Whoever or whichever they are. As I get older, I get less inquisitive about such matters.

I am not without curiosity. I just reserve mine for pressing issues such as how many more KFC commercials I can watch before I snap and go on a three-state rampage.

The truth is that no man knows when it’s coming.

Friday, May 17, 2018, 11:24 a.m.

Yesterday was a no-go. I just didn’t have the inclination to forge on with little on my mind. Sometimes I stumble into coherence. I was sipping coffee uptown. In the absence of anything worthwhile, I did busy work.

The busy life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life.

That’s the way it goes, right? Or is that just the way it is?

The moon may have a little to do with it.

Suddenly there is coincidence in what little I wrote yesterday. Even humor is dangerous. One would think danger humorless.

There’s been another school shooting. Santa Fe, Texas.

A few weeks ago, a kid here was arrested after posting somewhere that he was going to “shoot a school.” His parents turned him in and wrote a statement about how their son had suffered from mental illness for many years.

“Shoot a school.” Forty years ago, someone would have spray-painted the wall of a mobile unit at 3 a.m. before the big football game that night.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

It happens enough now that everyone worries about it. Just not enough to do anything sensible. They get sensible for a few days, but that’s just “fake news.”

One of our candidates for governor was “the conservative buzz saw” until her latest round of ads. Now she’s loading her pistol and shooting a rattlesnake. That makes her “the conservative shot for governor.”

Meanwhile, Catherine Templeton’s campaign (presumably, lawyers are involved) has sent “cease-and-desist” letters to media outlets demanding that they don’t run certain commercials supporting the election campaign of incumbent Henry McMaster. It’s not technically a reelection campaign since McMaster was appointed by President Trump to succeed Nikki Haley.

What’s amazing is that any political ad could possibly go too far. Here. In South Carolina. It’s like finding a snow-cone stand in hell.

But I digress.

I don’t believe anything in commercials anymore. It’s popular to jump up and down about “fake news,” which, generally, in a few days, becomes “news.”

(Steven Novak cover)

I don’t accept George Hamilton as Colonel Sanders. It ticks me off every time Reba McEntire goes “1 … 2 … 3” and doesn’t sing. A lot of commercials have been embedded in supposedly, uh, independent broadcasts. One of these agents is named Michael Waltrip.

Life requires a sense of the absurd. That’s what was required for me to write my latest novel, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s not a comedy, but it is a comedy of errors. The central character is an out-of-work sportswriter.

If only I knew any out-of-work sportswriters, the novel would be more authentic.

(Steven Novak cover)

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.

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.

‘I’m Mad as Hell and … So Is Everybody Else’

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 10:22 a.m.

Sameness has become weird, which is unsustainable because if the weird becomes the same, it will cease to be the weird.

One would think there would be limits. To this point, one would be wrong.

Life reminds me of a Tom T. Hall song called “Everything from Jesus to Jack Daniel’s.”

It’s the all-new American diet / Trying everything from Jesus to Jack Daniel’s / You get on it and your’re on it / For the rest of your life.

On the up side, Hall’s conclusion was that the secret to a better life was trying a little bit of Jesus and a little bit of Jack Daniel’s, and leaving out everything in between. I could see me trying that defense at the Pearly Gates.

It seems as if everyone is just a little bit madder, and a little less reasonable, and a little bit less inclined to accept the possibility that maybe, just maybe, they might be wrong about something.

Curt Sapanaugh and Bobby Austin wrote a song for Glen Campbell called “Try a Little Kindness.”

And if you try a little kindness / Then you’ll overlook the blindness / Of narrow-minded people / On their narrow-minded streets.

This song would not chart today.

On Facebook the other day, someone posted a gaudy missive about how people who drive slow on the Interstate in the left lane ought to be executed. I thumbed down the feed. No one seemed inclined to dissent. Just to make a small, insignificant stand for patience and civility, I posted:

Relax. You’ll get there. Go easy.

I don’t think anyone even “liked” it. I imagine my grandmother – she’s been gone 15 years now, and thank God she didn’t live to see this – having a noose placed around her neck as she’s being dragged from her Plymouth Reliant.

“I had my flickers on!”

“Yeah, right, Granny. For fifteen miles! You had every chance to mend your ways.”

It seems as if everyone is either mad at Trump or about him. I never hear anyone say, “Well, he is a bit much, don’t you think?”

Everything is becoming a sport, with the exception that little of it is sporting.

I understand this. I’m this way about sports. I love the Boston Red Sox. I despise the New York Yankees. Some Yankees I respect. I am incapable of liking them as long as they are Yankees. Occasionally, I watch Yankee games but only as long as I think they might lose.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

But it’s a sport. It’s a game. Imagine hopscotch played for millions. In spite of the millions, it’s still supposed to be fun.

Kris Kristofferson wrote that “everybody’s got to have somebody to look down on.”

As far as human impulses, ingrained for centuries, toward mindless hatred, sport is a comparatively harmless venue. It’s a rationalization but a fairly good one.

It’s a great time to be a hypocrite here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Hypocrisy is so prevalent and institutionalized that hypocrites are spending most of their time calling other hypocrites out. Haters hate the haters who hate them.

Freedom is going so wild I’m afraid they’re going to do something about it.

 

(Steven Novak cover)

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.

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.

This Was a Friday Night that I Ain’t Got No Money

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, April 14, 2018, 1:30 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Friday was incomplete on the sports front, that is, unless going to a gathering to support youth tennis counts as sports.

It didn’t seem particularly sporting. The food was great. A bunch of people got together to play their guitars and sing songs. I talked with people I don’t see very often. Chuck Waldron, who loves tennis as much as I love writing, asked me to participate, and I’m going to the fundraiser tonight with my guitar and some signed books for the silent auction. I’ve known Chuck and his brother, Glenn, for my whole life, or, at least, since I started going to school.

You’ll have that if you live in your hometown.

I took some photos of the soccer match between Mid-Carolina and Clinton at Wilder, a stadium that yawns for soccer matches. (I don’t mean that the crowd was quiet, but rather that the local football stadium affords plenty of room for a spring sport.) It’s a better place, though, than the other field used for soccer on the Clinton Middle School grounds.

The reason I watched soccer was that it started earlier than baseball, and I had someplace to go. Mid-Carolina won, 3-2, but it was exciting, and I stopped in a parking lot to talk on the radio on the way to the barn out in the country where the ribs, tenderloin, Frogmore stew, cake, brownies, and guitars were. Some people brought beverages.

As it turned out, the local website (GoLaurens/GoClinton) for which I work crashed, rendering local news effectively less worthy, and it messed up the timing of a story I had written earlier in the day and made the soccer match and baseball game less pertinent, particularly since, at this moment, the website is still down.

Dr. Steve Gaines and I talked about our days as football teammates, and I watched some kids from the Clinton High tennis team play pool. Outside, I played a couple of my songs to Lynda Mills, who taught me high school math. She left early because she was planning to play tennis this morning.

This environment was conducive to hearing slightly familiar people say, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“I recognize you, but I can’t remember who you are.”

Next are the hints I don’t get.

“Seriously, who are you?”

It’s impossible for this to be comfortable. Then I found out the other fellow was combining me with my brother, which is hard to do.

I got home and learned with great satisfaction that the Red Sox won again.

(Steven Novak cover)

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.

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.