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.

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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.

Run Along, Nothing to See Here: Just Random Thoughts

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, March 16, 2018, 4:15 p.m.

Trial and error. Risk and reward. Deadlines and commitments. Random meetings.

By Monte Dutton

A few nights ago, I bumped into a man I grew up with at Dollar General. I bought some soap and a box of Raisin Bran. Even though I live in a small town, and I haven’t made a trip that was even mildly ambitious in over a year, I don’t actually see everyone. I hadn’t seen this guy in ten years.

He was aware I write books. He’s still in town. He looks a bit the worse for wear, but I do, too. I knew his mother and father had died. I wasn’t sure he hadn’t. He looked a little pale, but I’d be very surprised if he was a ghost.

Some people I bump into a lot. Some people I wish I didn’t.

Such meetings are awkward. Time has too many gaps. Both parties are ill at ease because they’re worried they’ll say the wrong thing. Being ill at ease is what leads one to see a grieving person at a funeral home and ask, “How you been doing?”

And it leads to another lie. “I’m fine.”

Mayor Bob McLean welcomes eclipse celebrants to Clinton.

I’ve talked to the mayor, the city manager and a councilman today. Pretty soon, I’m liable to start thinking I’m somebody.

It is popularly believed that I love Clinton. I don’t. I just know it. Over my life I’ve gradually concluded I’m unfit to live anywhere else. As we used to sing when the band played the occasional knockoff North Carolina’s fight song: “We’re Clinton born and Clinton bred, and when we die, we’ll be dead as hell.” It’s the Clinton Red Devils. Get it?

Clinton High School opened a baseball-softball complex in 2017. Between the two diamonds is a building that provides concessions and relief for both. They share a flag pole, too, which means that when the national anthem is played, everyone at the baseball game stands at attention facing uphill and over the top of the grandstands. It sort of makes me feel as if the flag is gallantly streaming o’er the ramparts.

Sometimes I wish I could use a dial phone again. Not all the time. Just occasionally. For old times’ sake. I’d gladly give up Facebook direct messaging. If Twitter wants to go back to 140 characters, it’s fine by me. All it would do is shorten my book promos. I’d rather social networks didn’t give me enough rope to hang myself. What’s a click between friends?

I like the first week of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament better than the last one. I’m fond of upsets.

It is time to get the taxes done. Damn it.

I find baseball relaxing. I do not find walk-up music relaxing.

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.

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

Just Can’t Wait to Get on the Road Again

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 12:03 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

As the Statler Brothers used to sing, don’t tell me I’ve nothing to do.

As I peruse events in faraway Daytona Beach, I’ve been busying myself writing about local matters.

At the monthly meeting of the Laurens Commission of Public Works, a dozen or so citizens came to tell poignant stories of how impossible it is to pay their utilities. I felt their pain. So, too, did the commissioners who, with the those payments, have to pay their own bills.

CPW general manager John Young tries to explain.

CPW spent almost $1 million apiece on electricity and natural gas. January was excessively cold. The commissioners warned a week month earlier it was going to happen. That was the first meeting about which I wrote. I was naive. I thought, the weather is cold. Bills will be high. Duh. As it turns out, I buried that first lead.

Matthew Turner is about to be sworn in as the new Family Court judge. I remember when his father, Mike, was the bright, new lawyer in the county and was on County Council. I remember when the Family Court judge was Bill Craine, whom I helped in an unsuccessful bid for the General Assembly when I was a teen-ager. Bill was two judges back. Matthew says he still plays a lot of tennis.

Last night, the Clinton High boys opened the Class 3A playoffs with their best performance of the year to date. The Red Devils thumped Seneca, 70-47. J.D. Payne, who had been hampered by a sprained ankle when Newberry won the Region 3 championship in a tie-breaker game last week, had scored three points in his previous two games combined. He came out and scored seven in a row to start out and finished with 19. Jahleed Cook was the catalyst of the second half, finishing with 17. Now Clinton (16-7) must travel to faraway Camden, though that burg isn’t so far when compared to Daytona Beach.

Skip Lax, who was in my graduating class at Furman, now oversees the state’s officials for the High School League. He was at the Clinton High basketball game, which was a bit opportune because I was writing a story on Sam and Truman Owens, who are quite possibly the most distinguished set of brothers ever to referee, umpire and otherwise arbitrate sporting events in these United States. They’re being inducted into the Laurens County Athletic Hall of Fame next month, and I’ve been writing bios of them, as well as Red Devil legend Kinard Littleton, Laurens coaching great Bobby Ivey, and probably the best Raider ever, Rickey Foggie, who played quarterback for Lou Holtz at Minnesota.

Sam died in 2007. Truman is 86 and umpired a little softball as recently as last year. They officiated their 500th, 600th and 700th high school football games together, and the totals reached 795 when Sam died. In their spare time, Sam wrote a book on the history of Clinton, and Truman spent 41 years on City Council. Now that he’s curtailed his officiating, Truman shows up about every time the Red Devils take a floor, a field or a diamond. In the winter, Truman wears a stylish country gentleman’s hat about everywhere he goes. When it warms up, he’ll wear his Yankees cap. I fear that small towns don’t produce men like Sam and Truman Owens anymore.

“We loved every minute of it,” Truman said. “Sam and I worked together for about all our days.”

When I got home, I discovered an interesting coincidence. On Friday afternoon, Laurens Academy’s No. 1-ranked Class A private school girls’ basketball team, is playing a first-round playoff game in Sumter. That night, Clinton High’s boys are playing at Camden, a little over a half hour’s drive away. Destiny is such that I might just be able to travel way down there and write about both games. I’m not sure whether I look forward to that or dread it. It’s going to be a tough trick to pull. I’m a bit run down, owing to the sniffles and a cough, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it.

I’ve just got a hankering to get out of the county. I should be home by oh-dark-thirty or so after I file from some McDonald’s, where wi-fi is reliably available until midnight.

Newberry College

This morning, though a bit under the overcast skies, I drove over to CHS to watch Mark Wise, the county’s football Player of the Year, sign up to play football for the Newberry College Wolves, where he will join teammate Kody Varn. Mark, who played both ways for the Red Devils, wants to major in graphic arts. As three other members of the local media asked him about his decision, someone suggested that there might be a future in the media business. I told him don’t listen that nonsense.

(Steven Novak cover)

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. I’d appreciate it if you’d read about it and nominate it for publication here.

The Usual Ain’t Much Hap’nin’

There’s a chapter in there. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, February 6, 2018, 11:18 a.m.

This morning I wrote a NASCAR column for the Competition Plus website, which I do every week and will be posted before this one is over. I played a little guitar, trying to make sure I remember the words to a few more songs I might play online tomorrow night, when I go live on Facebook to sing and talk about whatever the people who join in want to discuss electronically. I’ll try to get people to support my writing through my Patreon page, and try to get people to buy my books on my Amazon page, and try to get people to nominate my next novel for publication on the KindleScout page.

To summarize … help!

By Monte Dutton

Yesterday I got this laptop working again by reinstalling everything. The downside is that programs I installed since I bought it have to be installed again, and I haven’t yet found the Microsoft Office CD, but it will probably turn up, lest I have to buy another one. I paid a few bills, and some others will have to wait until some more money comes in. No one goes to the mailbox with a greater sense of urgency than I, but many do the same. The upside is a heap of those programs didn’t do anything but take up space, and like most people, I need my space.

I bought groceries at the Dollar Tree, which is a good place to go if you’re low on money, and I’m low on money a lot. Things are getting better, though. I’m just going to be playing catch-up, and using ketchup, for a while longer.

Tonight Clinton High School plays its final regular-season basketball games, but both the girls and the boys are going to make the Class 3A playoffs, and there’s an excellent chance that they’ll have to play an extra game to determine the seedings by breaking Region 3 ties. With a victory, the Red Devil boys will play Newberry for the region title because they are both almost sure to finish with identical records, and each won once when they played the other.

I read a chapter of a novel last night while the usual earth-shaking news was on TV. I need to finish writing the first chapter of a new novel because, by the time I finish one, I’m like a bucking horse waiting to get out of its stall to write another.
This morning so far, I’ve been half writing and half watching two fine movies, Save the Tiger and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. I’m half watching Alaska: Fire and Ice right now.

Last night I cut down on the channels I get on DirecTV. I assume Clemson defeated Wake Forest. The channel it was on turned off with about a minute to play. I’m going to have to settle for Weather Nation instead of The Weather Channel. I’ve got weather on this laptop, so I doubt I’ll be caught unawares when Mother Nature gets riled.

Other than that, to quote my buddy Jimmy Mac, ain’t much hap’nin’.