They’re Only Words, and Words Are All I Have …

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Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 2, 2019, 1:49 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I just checked the TV listings and see that PBR Bull Riding is on from Oklahoma City. Now, PBR stands for Professional Bull Riders, so what the message on TV indicates is that what is on is Professional Bull Riders Bull Riding.

What a surprise that professional bull riders would be riding bulls.

This is nothing new for a man who grew up hearing people refer to “PC College,” which, of course, is Presbyterian College College. When my job was writing about NASCAR, I was aware of the signs all over the state capital of Virginia that offered directions to “RIR Raceway,” and just in case you are tempted to dismiss this as Southern ignorance, Michigan had signs, the last time I went there, that read “MIS Speedway.”

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I could be wrong. Bull Riding could be sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon. After all, I am conversant with song lyrics that read: Gimme a beer or two and I’ll be fine / At least it worked every other time / I’m a ro-deo-deo-deo cowboy / Bordering on the insane. I’m familiar with the way Jerry Jeff Walker sang it, but it was written by Dave Gilstrap.

As a boy, I wished I was Irish, but both sides of my family are as English as English can be, all except for my grandfather Hudson Davis, who had dark complexion because he had some Cherokee blood. If I were in politics, President Trump would undoubtedly call me Geronimo.

As I’ve gotten older, though, in part because I write for a living, I’ve grown to love the English for their economy of language.

I love you, Heathcliff.

And I you.

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In the South, or the States in general, we have no economy of language. A Southerner asks, “What time is it?” An Englishman asks, “Have you the time?”

A Southerner dallies with words almost constantly. He (or she), instead of asking, “How are you?” might ask, “How you been gettin’ along?”

“Fine, and you?”

Southerners can “fine, and you” back and forth for five minutes. On this side of the pond, we tie our words up in knots, use too many of them, and prove we aren’t very smart by using words we think will show others we are.

Many occurrences in life routinely described as “surreal” aren’t. Many events described as “historical” are really “historic.” “Ironic” seldom is. I had a friend in college who used general terms of derision. I called it his “word of the week.” For a while, it was “brutal.” Then it was “obnoxious.”

That guy’s brutal. This game is brutal. Last night was brutal. The weather is brutal. This chicken is brutal.

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Kids today are fond of code words that can mean almost anything. Turnt. Lit. Faded. They rise up and subside as adults slowly figure them out. That’s why God gave us an Urban Dictionary on the internet. Nowumsayin?

For my entire career as a journalist, I have been conscious of people saying “like I said” of something they haven’t said.

Writers are often sticklers about language because, well, they write. Most people don’t care, which is why language keeps changing and not for the better. They become annoyed when some wiseacre such as I says that “black ice” is just another word for “ice.” Sometimes they try to defend it.

“Black ice is a slicker because it is a frozen mixture of oil and water,” someone told me.

“Oil and water don’t mix,” I said.

“Oh.”

Life is hard / No matter where you go / It’s a tortured path / Tough row to hoe / When the wheels spin / Got a heavy load / Hoping I can get / To the paved road.

 

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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For Old Times’ Sake

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Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, January 26, 2019, 12:01 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I was tooling around Spartanburg, driving a hot rod that looked like about a ’57 Thunderbird. It was two-tone red and white. I stopped at a drive-in for two hot dogs and a chocolate shake. I drove over to the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds and took a few hot laps around the old dirt track where NASCAR used to race.

I was dreaming. When I awakened, I sat up on the side of the bed. Sometimes I have no idea why I dream something. I don’t often dream at all. Sometimes I dream about a person who has been dead for 20 years and I barely knew even when he or she was alive.

This time I knew exactly why I dreamed what I did.

(Monte Dutton photo)

Yesterday I picked up my old pickup truck, the one that hadn’t been cranked in a year and a half and was just rotting in the yard, over near the fence. It needed a new fuel tank, a good deal of engine and transmission work and a whole lot of cleanup. I hadn’t even realized that some nearby hoodlums had busted out the passenger-side window. The interior was full of spider webs and mold.

It looked a sight. Now it looks a different kind of sight. Getting that ’95 Ford F-150 running again meant a lot to me, and it was one of the first things I thought of when I unexpectedly came into some money. I didn’t do the work, but the people who did put a lot of care into it that well justified the spending of some of my new money.

I can’t remember the last time I was as excited. In a way, it was kind of ridiculous. I remember many years ago when I took my teen-aged niece with me to write about the stock car race in Sonoma, California. We were about to take a ferry ride across San Francisco Bay, and a silver-haired man who looked liked he fancied himself Cary Grant pulled away in a Porsche Boxster.

Ella sniffed. “It’s ridiculous for a man that old to be driving a car like that,” she said.

(Monte Dutton photo)

Ford pickups take me back to a time when I terrorized the muddy dirt roads of the farm, taking hay to the cows and slop to the hogs. The family had many different brands of cars over the years, but we always had Ford trucks. I’ve owned two Dodge trucks in recent years and felt a little treasonous to the family legacy.

Last night I drove it to Laurens to write about the high school basketball games. I listened to the Derailers on the cassette player. I love it when the music meets my mood. The cassette had been sticking out of the player ever since the last time I cranked the Ford. Somehow it still sounded nifty.

I’m taking this bar exam / Under a neon sign / I’m gonna graduate to get your off of my mi-i-i-i-ind …

I wish I was middle-age crazy, but the likelihood is that I’m late-age crazy. If this is middle age, I’d hate old age, because I can’t imagine how miserable 120 would be. It’s sort of like colleges, one of which I went to and another I might watch play basketball this afternoon. Mid-major. What an absurd term. For there to be a mid-major, someone would have to be low-major. Furman and Presbyterian are low-major. There is honor in that. I wouldn’t trade my degree or my love of the Paladins and Blue Hose for the world. Two people have already asked if my beautiful old truck is for sale. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, either. I embrace my old-age craziness.

(Monte Dutton photo)

The truck doesn’t seem that old to me, but I lose track of the significance of its age. It is to my age what a ’57 T-Bird was when I was a kid. It’s like mentioning Willie Mays to a kid today. At some point, I realize the kid wasn’t born until 25 years after the Say Hey Kid hung up his cleats. It’s like hearing a deacon in the church reminisce about Red Grange back when I was sitting in the back rows for Sunday services, wondering if I still was sweating last night’s beer.

Of course, they don’t make ’em like my truck anymore. I don’t need those power windows and cup holders everywhere. I got a clutch pedal, five in the floor and a cassette player to match the hundreds of cassettes I never threw away.

I think I might listen to the Dillards after while.

This is a truck a man has to drive. All he has to do is guide these newfangled contraptions.

Of course, I’m probably going to have to buy one of them, too. I’ve gotten right attached to satellite radio.

 

 

Life is hard / No matter where you go / It’s a tortured path / Tough row to hoe / When the wheels spin / Got a heavy load / Hoping I can get / To the paved road.

 

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.

Life Gets Artificial

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Clinton, South Carolina, January 21, 2019, 12:02 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I was just reading a book (My Exaggerated Life, by Pat Conroy as Told to Katherine Clark), because it’s MLK Day and I thought I ought to do something beside editing news releases and obituaries and compiling a crime report, and I heard a crash. It was the sound of melting snow crashing off a roof, but it hasn’t snowed. I went into my office, which has become a place where items I send by magic come out of a printer and where large boxes gather because ridiculously I think I may someday reuse them, and, at first, nothing seemed amiss.

There’s a bookcase I constructed faultily about 30 years ago that’s full of NASCAR books. Two other such bookcases, also faultily constructed at the same time, are located in the house. The one between the living room and the kitchen holds non-fiction unrelated to NASCAR. The one in my bedroom holds fiction. In what was once but is no longer the guest bedroom, many boxes full of books that will not fit on these shelves take up most of the space.

One of the shelves in the NASCAR bookcase had collapsed, and now a row of books are scattered about and probably will be until other shelves collapse, as they will, and I will undertake a cleanup when it becomes severe because that’s the way I roll.

This is most eventful part of MLK Day so far.

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As for the weekend, I didn’t take a photograph of the blood moon but I looked at many. I watched men in striped shirts decide two professional football games. I immensely enjoyed a basketball game between men representing Furman and Wofford right up until the point that the Terriers won it. I could not stay awake until the end of the Chili Bowl dirt-track race, but I left the TV in the bedroom on and it was replayed all night long, so, eventually, I sat up on the side of the bed and watched Christopher Bell pass Kyle Larson on the last lap at about 6:30 a.m.

I know. Exciting stuff, all through the prism of television and social media. My last brush with live action occurred on Friday night when Clinton High School’s boys defeated Woodruff by a point.

I can’t say “it’s been real, man” because it’s been artificial. This has far-reaching effects on civilization, but I’m about as incapable of pondering them as I am of fixing the bookshelves. To my credit, I did wash a multitude of dishes, bowls, and silverware while, at the same time, cooking breakfast this morning.

On Sunday night, with the TV muted and captioning closed during the Patriots-Chiefs game, I played my guitar and sang songs by Steve Earle, Tom T. Hall, and me on Facebook Live from my recliner, which is also falling apart but remains comfortable. I was real. All watched artificially, 275 so far. Live, just shy of 200.

I just spent several minutes responding to Facebook posts, time I could have spent reading the aforementioned book, or working on the novel that is apparently on sabbatical. Artificial time isn’t altogether wasted, of course.

Without it, I wouldn’t have this blog.

 

Life is hard / No matter where you go / It’s a tortured path / Tough row to hoe / When the wheels spin / Got a heavy load / Hoping I can get / To the paved road.

 

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.

Both Sides Now

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Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 15, 2019, 9:53 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Money can’t buy love. Lack of it damned sure can’t. It has, however, put me in a much better mood.

Last week was the culmination of months of negotiation, ably handled by nephew who has business sense, that began when the mayor asked me if the Hudson M. Dutton who owned a plot of land outside town was I.

Now I have financial security again, fleeting though it may be. As best I know, I have paid off all my debts. Money doesn’t make much difference to me unless I don’t have much. Thus has it hung over me ever since that fateful day when my longtime employee eliminated my job.

Not that I was ever obsessed by it, but it was January 4, 2013.

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Please do not respond to the reading of this blog by offering me ways to invest my modest wealth. The aforementioned nephew, to whom I am grateful, is going to handle a good bit of that, too. I’d appreciate it if you don’t do something like burglarize my house. It’s the same unruly dump it was before.

I have already donated sums I consider appropriate to the tax-deductible organizations of my choice. My good fortune has been in the portion of the media in which I do not participate. For about half a year, I have recused myself.

A recreation park will be built on land that was formerly mine. I don’t see myself as any better off. I just have money that has replaced the land, which is not altogether a good thing. I didn’t sell all the land. For instance, I am presently sitting in a broken-down recliner in a house that still belongs to me. I still own the part of the farm that fronts the highway. My mother’s house has some space behind it to provide her some peace and quiet from the construction and racket that is to come.

I wasn’t sour or bitter. I have had enough grip on reality to consider myself the captain of my fate and master of my soul ever since my job of 16-1/2 years ended. I’ve worked as hard as ever, writing books, free-lance stories and otherwise carving out my own tiny pieces of a pie that hasn’t gotten any larger.

For over a week, ever since I pitched a small tantrum over the last ditches and potholes of government deliberation, my mood has improved. I’ve become more charming than usual to waiters, cashiers, athletes, coaches and assorted fellow men and women in general.

One of my favorite movie lines was from Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies: “I don’t trust happiness. Never have. Never will.”

This has been fortified by the fact that I’m reading an oral biography of the late Pat Conroy, My Exaggerated Life. Then there’s one of the lines from my favorite source of wisdom, Tom T. Hall: “I guess that he’s as happy as a thinking man can be.”

Sometimes I envy people who can blithely accept that which they don’t fully understand. I reckon I’m bad to think about it too much.

Enjoy it while you can, friends. A tornado’s liable to come tomorrow.

Life is hard / No matter where you go / It’s a tortured path / Tough row to hoe / When the wheels spin / Got a heavy load / Hoping I can get / To the paved road.

 

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.

To Think, Sports Was Once Considered an Educational Experience …

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Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, January 6, 2019, 4:45 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

An alarmingly large array of life’s experiences are stupid, but that’s too broad a topic for a blog being written while watching NFL playoff games.

Sports is also too broad a topic, and this isn’t going to be comprehensive. It’s going to be limited to what occurs to me while watching NFL playoff games.

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Rules vary too much. Sometimes I write about a high school football game on Friday and a college game on Saturday, and then I watch a pro game on TV on Sunday. It’s confusing for no good reason.

“Touchdown!”

“No, it’s not.”
“Why not?”

“In college, you can’t advance that ball. You can in the pros.”

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“What about high school?”

“Uh, I don’t know.”

Some differences make sense, but the majority do not.

Why must there be a difference between how interference calls are assessed? Why must there be a difference between a running play that “crosses the plane” and a passing play, where the receiver must maintain control when he falls to the ground, even though he had possession, albeit briefly, when he caught the ball? Why is there a two-minute warning? That goes back to a time when there wasn’t a scoreboard, and time was kept by the referee. That time has passed.

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Why, in soccer, is there a scoreboard with a clock, and yet the game ends when the referee, who has allegedly been paying attention to all the time not adequately measured in front of everyone by means of said clock, decides it does?

Why is it one foot in bounds in high school and college and two in the pros? Is it because pros are more skilled? If so, they’d be even more skilled if they’d had to get two feet down in middle school.

The stupidity starts before the game even starts. A coin flip is a random event, but, for some reason, it’s too complicated for the captain of the football team to get right, so a team can “defer” to the second half. I don’t think the game is made any better by having an option to “defer,” thus postponing any decision to the second half, where it is elementary, my dear (Deshaun) Watson.

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It’s embarrassing that a grown man has to pay an even more grown man to yank him back to the sideline every time the more prominent grown man gets emotional. It’s embarrassing for state troopers to play Secret Service for head coaches of football teams. One day, if Holly Rowe asks a tough question, a trooper is going to haul her off to jail.

Almost every receiver and every player trying to cover him interferes on every play. The official has to determine how much is too much and which player did the most of it. “Son, I’m sorry, but you can’t play for us here at Soda Pop Tech. You don’t know how to interfere.”

For years I’ve heard it said that the referees could call holding on every play, but, in fact, they only call it on a quarter of them. Forty years ago, offensive linemen were allowed to use their hands in order to reduce holding penalties. Since that rule was changed, holding has at least doubled.

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Yet too many rules are made to make the games easier to officiate. That’s why the only jump ball in basketball is at the beginning. Jump balls are fun to watch. The obvious reason jump balls aren’t held is so referees don’t have to throw the ball straight up.

In baseball, a player with a bat in his hand is a batter, unless he’s hit by a pitch, at which point he becomes a “batsman,” which seems to me a ridiculously archaic use of the language. He ought to be a hit batter, for gosh sakes.

“Hey, batter, batter, batter, suh-wing, batter!”

“Hey, batsman, batsman, batsman, get hit, batsman!”

Sports events have too much dead time. The officials started huddling and the offenses stopped. Between reviews, huddles and TV (or, if there is no TV, “media”) timeouts, it’s a wonder the athletes don’t start smoking again. There’s plenty of time to catch their breaths …

If they must have “media timeouts,” hey, let me have one. “Hey, ref, how about a timeout? I’ve fallen behind on my stats.” Everybody gets a “media timeout” except the media. And a 30-second timeout always takes more than 30 seconds.

“Hey, the games are too long!”

Wonder why?

I just looked up at the Eagles-Vikings game. Here’s what I just heard.

“Since the rule change this year, that third step makes it a legal catch.”

In a game played between professional football players making millions of dollars, they just had a fumble no one bothered to recover. So, naturally, it became an incomplete pass. Why?

Because it’s stupid. That’s why. I could go on, but this is a good place to stop.

 

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.

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 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.

This Was the Week that Wasn’t

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, December 29, 2018, 9:52 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Sometimes things just don’t go your way. That’s the slogan of my week. It could be the motto, but it would have to be in Latin.

Interdum res non solum viam vestram.

The week has been an adventure that wouldn’t sell because because the protagonist never gets a break. He feels like a ticking clock … and remains that way.

All a blur. (Monte Dutton photos)

The period between Christmas and New Year’s is full of crummy bowl games on TV and holiday basketball tournaments for the high school teams. Laurens County teams fanned out to Clover, Greenwood, Summerville and Chesnee, with one staying home to host a tournament, the Raider Rumble, of its own.

As best I knew, they all began on Thursday. On Wednesday, I was talking to a friend on the phone when he told me the Clinton boys were up 12 on Calhoun Falls. That’s when I found out the Emerald Classic was Dec. 26-28, not 27-29. I hated that because had I known it, I would have driven across Lake Greenwood to write about it. These things happen. As I worked at home on other things, the First Responder Bowl, matching Boston College and Boise State, was on.

Check that. For the first time ever, a bowl game, albeit a small one, was canceled by too much electricity in the air.

(Monte Dutton photo)

The Clinton coach, Eddie Romines, sent a text to the effect that he had thought he sent out something – an email or a text, maybe, or smoke signals, because the high school is only a couple miles away – when the dates had been changed. He might have, though the other media outlets in the county missed it, too.

Since I set up a composite schedule, I’ve had to adjust it quite a few times when notified of changes. Snow cancellations forced numerous moves. For instance, the Laurens Academy girls canceled a game against the Upstate Bearcats, then couldn’t play a game against Southside and wound up playing Easley Home School, a team from Easley aptly consisting of players being home-schooled. Each week, I check my schedule against those on the various athletic department websites before I publish the weekly list on GoLaurens.com. The Clinton website still listed the Emerald tourney as Dec. 27-29. If I had changed it, I changed it back. It’s all a blur.

While I waited for the results from Greenwood – Clinton won 69-47 – I watched a splendid football game between Minnesota and Georgia Tech. I’m kidding. It was a stinker. The Gophers won 34-10.

Evidence that Ninety Six has a girls’ basketball team. The Wildcats have played Clinton twice. (Monte Dutton photo)

On Thursday, the Raider Rumble began at Laurens District High School. The Raiders were scheduled to play at 2:30 p.m. and 7:50. I decided to attend the night game because I didn’t have time for both, and I could get some information about the former game before the latter started.

Little did I know that fate had intervened. Soon after I ordered a hamburger steak at The Hub, my favorite pre-LDHS-ballgame hangout, someone mentioned that the Raiders were playing … then.

Uh-oh,” I said.

See, Ninety Six didn’t show, and they didn’t find out till this morning, so Laurens played a game against Hillcrest that didn’t count, and the game tonight was moved up to 6. They’re playing Carolina now.”

You want the hamburger steak to go?” the girl who had taken my order asked.

I was a bit miffed.

Nah,” I said. “What? I’m going to try to eat a hamburger steak while it’s sitting in my lap and I’m taking notes? I’ll just go take some photos of the second half.”

At the moment, I was thinking, for the second night in a row, I could have seen Clinton play in Greenwood. As it turned out, Laurens won big, and Clinton lost big, and I took some photos of the Raiders’ romp in the Raider Rumble.

I didn’t go to a game on Friday because the District 56 school board called a special meeting that consisted entirely of going into executive session to discuss a personnel decision. A key personnel decision in Clinton is the hiring of a new football coach. I spent over an hour chatting amiably with Rosanne Braswell in her nearby office while the board deliberated in private. When they came out of executive session, they adjourned.

Once again, and for the third straight day or night, I could have been in Greenwood, where the Clinton boys’ basketball team was finishing third by defeating host Emerald in overtime.

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

(Monte Dutton photo)

Back home, with Washington State and Iowa State providing the backdrop, I cranked out basketball stories and selected photos until the wee hours of late-night talk.

The Clinton girls are 11-0 entering Saturday’s game in far Summerville. The Laurens boys played this morning for seventh place in Clover. The girls are playing someone at LDHS, where the Raider Rumble seems almost theoretical. Laurens Academy, a small private school, went 1-2 against the large public schools in the Lowe’s Roundball Classic in Chesnee. Georgia predictably handled the Presbyterian College women Friday afternoon in Athens. The men are at Jacksonville on Sunday.

I’m about to watch South Carolina play Virginia in the Belk Bowl, which I once attended. Then the eyes of the recently Precipitation, but normally Palmetto, State and Catholics everywhere are upon the game in Arlington, Texas, between Clemson and Notre Dame. My nephew is both a Clemson graduate and a Catholic. I suspect he would be undismayed if the Tigers won by 50. Then there’s the game the late Keith Jackson should have pronounced: Oke-luh-HO-ma! vs. Al-uh-BAM-uh!

I don’t think there’s any more basketball to miss until Friday. I think I’ll fix breakfast. It’s 12:17 p.m.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

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(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.