‘Hey, Let’s Me and You Run Us a Dirt Track’

 

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, December 17, 2017, 9:00 a.m.

It’s quite possible that the future of NASCAR is tied to the future of tracks that aren’t part of it. Many of the nation’s short tracks are aligned with the nation’s preeminent governing body, but most people think of big tracks and millionaires when they think of the Lords of Daytona Beach.

A driver has to suffer before he (or she) can spend, and the same is true of fans.

One of my overriding beliefs is fans can grow to like racing by watching on TV, but they have to go there, be there, breathe the smoke, hear the sound, and experience the speed in dizzying person, to love it.

I still love short tracks. I still love racing on dirt. I also love high school football and minor league baseball. As Rickey Skaggs sings:

Don’t get above your raisin’ / Stay down to earth with me

Every time I drive by the old dirt track near Chester (Richburg, says the sign), I start thinking the way kids do.

Hey, man, let’s start a band.

Hey, we could get together and open a bar.

We’ll always be friends, man. No matter how far away we get. People lose touch, but that’s never gonna happen to us.

Dreams don’t often pay the bills. Even when they do, the dreams die. They aren’t dreams anymore if they’re real.

For 25 years, I’ve been driving by that track, on Highway 9, between Chester and Interstate 77, usually on the way to Charlotte but, once upon a time, the way to Rockingham. On Thursday, I drove by on the way to meet someone from Charlotte for lunch at the Front Porch, one of few great cafes (it’s a kuh-FAY if it’s trendy and a KAF-FAY if it’s good) located off the exit of an interstate. NASCAR friends usually meet me halfway, and that’s Gaffney on I-85 and Chester on 77. As home folks are fond to say, it’s six one, half dozen the other.

Sometimes the sign says something like “Racing Every Friday Night,” but more often it says “For Sale.” As best I recall, scenes for a movie about Wendell Scott were filmed there a few years back. Not Greased Lightning, the Richard Pryor vehicle, but a more recent flick that I’ve never seen or heard much more about. I’d watch it if I knew where it was. I know where the dirt track is.

Every time I go by there, I think, Well, man, I bet I could manage a dirt track. It would be fun.

I imagine standing on a flatbed trailer in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot, wearing a bolo tie, cowboy boots and a Stetson, and carrying on like I was a latter day P.T. Barnum, and then I remember that there are no latter-day P.T. Barnums, even though there still is a sucker born every minute.

This time I finally stopped and snapped few pictures.

Dreams are still important, even after a man has reached the age where he no longer believes in them.

I’m thinking about adding tee shirts that read “I Got Cash Money … and I’m working steady” to my Patreon rewards. That’s the goal. Won’t you help me by clicking here?

As Christmas closes in, won’t you consider my books?

Posted in NASCAR | Comments Off on ‘Hey, Let’s Me and You Run Us a Dirt Track’

Boyhood Memories of Rapid Richard and Ol’ Wendell

Wendell Scott (ISC Images & Archives, via Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, December 15, 2017, 8:02 a.m.

Greenville-Pickens Speedway was the primary NASCAR venue of my boyhood. Twice a year, the half mile in the South Carolina foothills hosted Grand National (which became Winston, then Nextel, then Sprint, then Monster Cup) races. When I first started going there, it was dirt. Not many fans today can say they saw Richard Petty win on dirt. I did twice. When it was paved, the dominant driver became Bobby Isaac.

By Monte Dutton

I do not have the same perspective today that I did when I was 12 and under. Duh. I remember that perspective, though, and there’s no need to try to parse it against the experiences of all the years since. A kid keeps it simple. Joy is easier for a kid. At G-P, I was in heaven. A red-clay-tinted heaven, but heaven just the same.

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

History tells us that Wendell Scott, of Danville, Virginia, faced great obstacles, and it’s certainly true. For many years, NASCAR’s African-American pioneer wasn’t allowed to compete amid the Confederate flags of Darlington Raceway, home of annual races named Rebel and Southern. By the time I came along, those days, at least, were over. I remember being pleased at the picture I snapped of Scott flashing by the back straight in a Ford that was painted in a color, robin’s egg blue, that was common then but rare now. Basically, it’s blue-tinted white. Most of the time, Scott’s Ford was red. I took that photo with a Kodak Instamatic, and it was only slightly blurred, which was something of a miracle. I “panned” the car before I knew what panning was, unless it was for gold on Bonanza.

Bobby Isaac (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

What was great about Greenville-Pickens was the access fans had. As soon as the race ended, the gate at the flag stand opened, and fans streamed across the track to mingle with their heroes. Most drivers hung around to talk, sign autographs and pose for photos. No one could fail to be impressed by Petty, “the Randleman Rocket,” who was beloved even by those who wanted someone else to win. Richard stayed until he’d signed every program thrust in his direction. Years later, I asked him about why no one hated him, and he said it was because the fans were divided between Fords and Chevys, and they didn’t mind him because he drove a Plymouth. Nice try, but I think it was because, no matter how weary and covered in grime he was, he kept on smiling.

My brother, Brack, with Wendell Scott at Greenville-Pickens.

None of that may surprise you. This probably will. Wendell Scott was beloved, too. As a boy, I saw at close range lots of racial discrimination. Oddly, I never saw any of it at Greenville-Pickens. Scott was an independent who seldom had anywhere near enough money to be competitive, and, perhaps, if he had been perceived as a threat by the segregationists of 1968, they would have turned on him, and perhaps they did when I wasn’t there to see it.

In the grandstands of Greenville-Pickens Speedway, Scott was a revered figure. I think the fans respected him because he fought the good fight, whether it was Thursday night in Columbia or Sunday afternoon at Martinsville. I guess it was condescending. There goes ol’ Wendell, usually pronounced “win-DELL.” It was kind, though.

Scott looked weary, whether he’d just climbed out of his race car or not. He bore the weight of struggle and years of working twice as hard for half the rewards.

The dignity of that is one reason Scott is now a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Please consider becoming a patron of this blog by clicking here.

 

Posted in NASCAR | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Boyhood Memories of Rapid Richard and Ol’ Wendell

Among the First of the Dutton Deals

Ned Jarrett (Ford Motor Company)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, December 13, 2017, 8:58 a.m.

Was that only yesterday or 50 years ago?

Fifty-two. A little more. Racing-reference.info says it was July 25, 1965. I was seven years old when I attended my first NASCAR race, the Volunteer 500 at what was then Bristol International Raceway. This year I went to three Monster Cup races, two of them official. I remember more about the Volunteer 500 than all three combined. It’s as vivid as the crack in the air outside on this bright, chilly morning.

My first stock car race had been at the Greenwood Fairgrounds. I don’t remember much about it other than the cars were old Modified coupes, and Fireball Roberts drove one of them. A few years later, that dirt track went out of business. In 1981 and ’82, my job was writing about the minor-league baseball team at Legion Stadium next door. By then, the old dirt track was just a memory, but its concrete stands were still standing, as much a ruin as anything the Romans left but not as lasting. They’re gone now.

I guess my father realized I had the racing bug, so he let me go to Bristol, Tennessee, with his buddy Ralph Barnes, who ran the meat market at my grandfather’s curb market and was a partner of Daddy in the auctioneering business. Daddy was the better auctioneer, which was generally acknowledged between the two, but Ralph was a crackerjack ring man and gave Daddy an occasional break behind the mic for most of the time the two of them had left.

Richard Petty chats with Junie Donlavey in 1974. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ralph’s hometown was Forest City, North Carolina, and the adventure began with Ralph working a local auction there on Saturday night. We drove up to Bristol after the auction, five of us – Ralph, sons Marshall and Steve, adopted son Mooney Mims, and me – sleeping in the parking lot in Ralph’s 1964 Plymouth Fury. It looked a little like the one Richard Petty drove, and the way Ralph talked about “Richard,” you’d have thought they were best friends.

The grandstands were similar to a small-college football stadium. They reminded me a little of Sirrine Stadium in Greenville, where I had seen my first college ballgame the year before. We walked up an asphalt incline to the stands. Ralph’s boys carried ice chests full of Falstaff beer, “Co-Colas” and two loaves of bread. My mother had removed the bread, made sandwiches with ham, egg salad, and pimento cheese, then put them back in the bags where bread alone had originally been. The walk up the incline wasn’t easy, and I was glad being seven made me ineligible to tote anything.

I like to tell people “Jarrett” won the race, pause, and add “Ned Jarrett.” That’s when I don’t mind being old. “Gentleman Ned” spent four hours, two minutes, and 37 seconds, to hold off Dick Hutcherson, the only other driver on the lead lap, for a princely sum of $4,315. The top five made more than a grand apiece. Wendell Scott finished seventh. Petty only made it a little over halfway, citing failure of the differential, and, much to my consternation, we headed back to South Carolina before the race was over, but we heard all about Jarrett’s victory on the radio.

Fred Lorenzen was my first NASCAR hero. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

I’m pretty sure that’s the reason I became a NASCAR fan. Fred Lorenzen’s No. 28 Ford, which started on the pole but didn’t make it till the end, was the prettiest race car, or car in general, I’ve ever seen. Photos do not do it justice. It wasn’t white. It was sparkling white, with baby blue wheels and interior, and royal blue numbers. Lorenzen became my first hero. The driver who would become my all-time favorite, David Pearson, wrecked out, along with Marvin Panch, on the ninth lap. “Li’l David,” whose hair wasn’t silver yet, earned $250, cash money, and placed 36th and last.

In my first race, my favorite driver finished last. Had my father been there, he surely would have said, “If that ain’t a Dutton deal, I ain’t never seen one.”

If you’d like to invest in my writing, please consider a pledge by clicking:

https://www.patreon.com/montedutton

 

 

Posted in NASCAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Among the First of the Dutton Deals

It’s Not Over Till We Say It Is

A young man with a proud daddy. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, December 11, 2017, 10:34 a.m.

When I was in college, the career of my favorite NASCAR driver, David Pearson, began to decline. His last victory was right before I graduated. Pearson kept on making occasional appearances for the next six years, but I had to find a new hero.

By Monte Dutton

It’s why I’m not that saddened by the changing of the guard that has taken place over the past few seasons. Greg Biffle couldn’t find a ride. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Carl Edwards retired. Matt Kenseth lost his ride and decided he wasn’t willing to settle for less.

And Dale Earnhardt Jr.!

No one beats time. Not Earnhardt Jr. Not Stewart. Not Willie Mays. Not John Unitas. Not even Gordie Howe. Not me. Not you. Our careers have various spans, but they don’t last forever.

I love racing. That love is greater than any one person in it. When one generation supplants another, it may be sad, sentimental, and sorrowful, but the source of love lingers.

It won’t be the same.

Nope. Neither was America when FDR died, or baseball after Babe Ruth, or hockey after Wayne Gretzky, or late nights after Johnny Carson.

Darrell Wallace Jr. brandishing the golden shovel he won at Eldora (Getty Images for NASCAR).

It’s exciting. The sport is full of young men we shall get to know better. These kids aren’t cardboard cutouts. It just seems that way now. They are the voices of a new generation, and theirs is a tough job because, if NASCAR is to be prosperous again, it will be because they inspire a new generation of fans.

Hell, I can’t relate to William Byron. I know the poetry of Lord Byron better. It’s one of the reasons I want to go to the track more often. I don’t want to see these kids just when the cameras are on.

I know Bill Elliott. I want to know Chase, at least a little. I know Dave Blaney. I want to see Ryan from a closer proximity. As a fan, I gravitated toward the elder Elliott as Pearson’s career winded down. Why? Because, when the Greenwood Index-Journal allowed me to write about Darlington in late 1981 and early 1982, one driver reminded me of Pearson on the track he mastered more than anyone else. Elliott was similarly smooth. He is the only driver who ever reminded me of Pearson at Darlington.

A huge, bountiful crop is being harvested at the great speedways of the land. The future is being left in their hands. Some will become Hall of Famers. Some will become footnotes.

This year we’re going to watch the races as if we were baseball scouts. Some will have “trouble with the curve,” to borrow from a Clint Eastwood movie. Some will have “the right stuff,” to borrow from a Tom Wolfe book.

I’ve probably just got one more generation left in me. I’d like to make the best of it.

Quit your moping. Drivers are going to keep right on starting their engines.

Consider my modest literary efforts by clicking here.

If you’d like to be a patron of this site, all the information is here.

Posted in NASCAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on It’s Not Over Till We Say It Is

Things Have Changed Too Much

Dale Earnhardt, circa 1978.

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, December 10, 2017, 8:48 a.m.

About 48 weeks ago, I had the kind of sleepless, brainstorming night that, yesterday morning, led me to set up a Patreon account for this blog. I decided to write a novel about stock car racing, and it wasn’t a passing fancy. Abruptly, I set aside another novel, mostly completed, and, by April, Lightning in a Bottle was for sale. Before the summer was over, I had written two.

By Monte Dutton

Lightning in a Bottle began with a psychic lightning strike.

It had a practical side. The great majority of people who follow me on social media are NASCAR fans. For the most part, the people who read the first five novels – The Audacity of Dope (2011), The Intangibles (2013), Crazy of Natural Causes (2015), Forgive Us Our Trespasses (2016) and Cowboys Come Home (2016) – liked them. There just weren’t enough of them. I reasoned that, by writing a novel about racing, I could reach more fans through social media.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

The practical side has historically been underestimated by me. Writing novels is hard. I can’t justify it, nor do it effectively, without being in love with the project. Until that sleepless night, almost exactly four years after my personal date of infamy – on January 4, 2013, I was informed that my last day at the Gaston (N.C.) Gazette, after 16-1/2 years, was January 4, 2013 – I hadn’t even considered writing another book about racing, let alone a novel.

Suddenly, I missed it. I ached at its decline. Lying in the bed, unable to sleep, I wondered why, and the mechanism was recalling the NASCAR of both my youth and the first years I wrote about it for a living.

Last of the Mohicans? (Getty Images for NASCAR)

During those twenty years (1993-2012) during which I traveled to between 75 and 100 percent of the year’s races, the drivers changed. No one reminded me at all of Harry Gant, Dale Earnhardt, Sterling Marlin, Ricky Rudd, Geoff Bodine, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Rick Mast, Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, and many others. In my mind, racing hadn’t changed any more than its racers, and part of it was just a consequence of success.

Recent years have seen an end of success, or, to be fair, growth. I arrived on the scene at the dawn of the boom. My departure was certainly due, in part, to the decline.

I never stopped writing about racing. I just stopped being there.

What if a modern Dale Earnhardt came along? My cynical view was that NASCAR would chew him up and spit him out. So was born Barrie Jarman. He wasn’t based on Earnhardt. I never even thought about Earnhardt when I was creating him. What I gave Barrie was a working-class, wrong-side-of-the tracks attitude, coupled with the spirit of modern kids I write about nowadays on gridirons, courts, and diamonds.

Some things change. Some things don’t. Lightning in a Bottle and the sequel, Life Gets Complicated, are attempts at reconciliation.

Consider my modest literary efforts by clicking here.

If you’d like to be a patron of this site, all the information is here.

Posted in NASCAR | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Things Have Changed Too Much

Reluctant, but Righteous, Bucks

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, December 9, 2017, 5:25 p.m.

This is a result of a sleepless night. Sleepless nights have often formed the basis of works of fiction. A sleepless night led directly to the two novels I have published this year, both about stock car racing: Lightning in a Bottle and Life Gets Complicated. Cowboys Came Home materialized on a drive to Texas in 2016.

Last night the subject of my unrest was my financial troubles.

By Monte Dutton

I have reluctantly decided to attach a Patreon program to my website, montedutton.com. This isn’t my first effort to derive some funds from my site. Ads always have strings attached, and those of you reading this know I value my independence. The idea is that people who enjoy my writing will invest in it. They already like my point of view, whether on NASCAR or other sports. The blog will not be restricted to investors. Rewards will be attached for patrons, based on the level of giving. I’ve spent the day putting this together, helped in no small part by an FCS playoff football game in which North Dakota State drilled Wofford and an Army-Navy game right out of the George Clooney movie Leatherheads.

If this works – and most of my money-related plans do not – I will reinvest some of the proceeds in expanding my coverage beyond the bounds of my living room and DirecTV. It may send me to race tracks and ballfields of regional renown. My best stories always are crafted onsite. Usually the sites are places like Clinton and Laurens high schools, Presbyterian College and Furman University.

I need to get out.

This year Jeff Gluck, through his reader-supported jeffgluck.com, sent me to the races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His success leads me to this, but I’m not trying to rival his site and couldn’t if I wanted to. It would be absurd for anyone to take money they’re earmarking for Jeff’s site and redirect it to mine.

For all the details, please go to this link and see how it works, how much it costs, and what it means for you as well as me.

If I earn enough money, I’d like to return to Darlington, Bristol, Atlanta, Martinsville, and maybe even Talladega and Daytona. I make a little tour of short tracks, or minor-league ballparks, or other events that are in range.

I’m not doing this just to pay for travel. I’m doing this to make money, and to make money, one has to spend money, whether in rewards to benefactors or travel expenses.

But … I need the bucks.

I am not unmindful of the imperfect timing. I’ve been grousing for two weeks over how people ask me for only at the time of year when I’m least likely to have any. At the moment, my cash flow is backwards.

If you’ve got a little you can spare – and you like my writing enough to invest a little in it – consider becoming a patron of it. You will gain greater access and provide insight into what I should do. I will do what I can to reward you, and I appreciate your friendship and support already.

I think, if you read me, you value my independence, and I will maintain it.

 

(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.

Three novels — Cowboys Come Home Home, Lightning in a Bottle and Life Gets Complicated — can be purchased in uptown Clinton at L&L Office Supply and Emma Jane’s.

 

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Reluctant, but Righteous, Bucks

A Little Something To Brag About

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 12:10 p.m.

The news around here hasn’t been the best.

I was away for most of 20 years, though not technically. I was home on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for three quarters of those years, and the rest of the time I was chasing stock cars, a futile task. On January 4, it will mark five years since the newspaper in Gastonia, North Carolina, eliminated my job. Since then, I’ve been making a living, not much of one in terms of security, by writing novels and stories mostly about local sports.

By Monte Dutton

Hell broke loose this year in a variety of ways. In Laurens, the county seat, a campaign to get a new high school built failed miserably, and the folks up there, on both sides, are still mad about it. County Council has been fighting. A new sheriff defeated the incumbent a little over a year ago. Then Presbyterian College decided to stop giving football scholarships, and it caught a lot of people by surprise, and anyone who thought PC wasn’t important in these parts was dead wrong because people ask me about it everywhere I go. The school needs money, and that means it’s having to save a lot of it at the same time it’s trying to make more.

We could use something to perk things up. The Blue Hose men’s basketball team just might be it. Dustin Kerns, formerly an assistant at Wofford College in Spartanburg, has breathed life into a team that only won five games in the last of Gregg Nibert’s 28 seasons as head coach. He won more than 400 games.

The team has won five this year already, four of them in a row. The latest victim, South Carolina State, fell 88-77 at Templeton Center, where 459 fans, most of them in recovery from football shock, watched. This is football country. Folks hardly notice basketball until after the holidays. Folks are going to notice this team. They upset UNC-Greensboro and North Carolina A&T on buzzer beaters last week. The record, 5-5, is a bit better than it seems because the losses are to Tennessee, North Carolina State, Charlotte, Virginia Military and Nicholls State. The Blue Hose will almost surely rise above .500 when they host Toccoa Falls on December 14.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

It’s fun the way winning always is. Every varsity football team in Laurens County – PC, Laurens, Clinton and Laurens Academy – had losing records this year. The Raiders and Red Devils made the playoffs in their classifications, but that was about it. On the other hand, all the basketball teams are pretty strong. Basketball looks better in contrast to football that isn’t so hot.

Last night it was almost a coin flip for me. Clinton High’s boys advanced to the Class 3A upstate finals last year, and they were also at home against Emerald. I was not assigned to write about it, so I decided, on my website, I would rather write about the Blue Hose. The Red Devils, who defeated the Vikings, 66-45, play Laurens on Friday night.

At Templeton, one of the four PC seniors, Reggie Dillard, scored a career-high 26 points in spite of being sidelined for a while after taking a blow in the area of the male anatomy most likely to produce short-term pain. After each home victory, Kerns lines up the team to sing the alma mater. As best I could tell, Dillard was no longer singing soprano by then.

Junior Francois Lewis scored 23. Presbyterian outrebounded the Bulldogs, 40-31, outshot them, 49.2-44.6 percent, and out-deadball-rebounded them, 3-2, but the last is unimportant.

I watched from behind the bench, exchanging jokes with a former player, Danny Charles, and it wasn’t too tense or too safe because the Blue Hose led for all but the 11 seconds when it was 6-6. It wasn’t a runaway – South Carolina State was within three at halftime – but no one bit any nails.

The crowds will improve as word gets around. PC fans are still sorrowful about the impending football diminution, but they’re looking for something that excites them. Speaking for myself, this basketball team is going to fill that bill.

(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.

Three novels — Cowboys Come Home Home, Lightning in a Bottle and Life Gets Complicated — can be purchased in uptown Clinton at L&L Office Supply and Emma Jane’s.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Woe Is the Weekend

IMG_0409Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, December 3, 2017, 10:53 a.m.

Does the weekend begin on Friday night? It seems reasonable. If so, the highlight of my weekend has been the appearances of Carol Burnett and Lewis Black on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Maybe it will be exceeded by the 50th anniversary of the Carol Burnett Show tonight.

Yes. I’m getting old. Yes, I remember the Carol Burnett Show, not to mention Bonanza, All in the Family, Dragnet and The Andy Griffith Show.

RIRradio1 (2)

By Monte Dutton

I thought the highlight was going to be the Furman at Wofford FCS playoff game. Were I a Wofford graduate, it would have been. The Terriers won, 28-10. Alas, I went to Furman.

The better team won. All else is rationalization. Furman had a field goal blocked, twice ran out of downs at the Wofford one, suffered the indignity of the Terriers executing a fake field goal for their final score. I had hoped I would celebrate the victory with a nice steak supper. I wound up dining on hummus and wheat crackers in front of the TV. Furman won more games this year, eight, than the previous two combined, but making the playoffs means that every team except one ends its season with a loss.

My luck at Gibbs Stadium has not been the best. The only other time I had seen a game there was in 2008. My friend Jeff Snipes was dying of cancer. He and I had planned to go go, but he didn’t feel up to it. I called him from the game.

“The best way to describe it,” I said, “is that Furman is playing catch and Wofford is playing football.”

This Saturday was about the same.

It was just an unsatisfying day. I had high expectations of great games, and they didn’t happen. I’m glad Clemson won the ACC, but the game would have kept my attention had the Tigers not defeated Miami, 38-3. My nephew was at the game in Charlotte, and I’m sure he had a marvelous time. I spent the game reading a novel and switching to see if Wisconsin was making any progress against Ohio State and noting that the best game, Fresno State-Boise State, was comparatively unimportant here in the Eastern time zone. UCF defeated Memphis, 62-55, but, surely, that had to be basketball, right?

I’m still glad I went up to Spartanburg. Furman brought a huge crowd, and it was practically a convention of my best friends. Everything but the game was a rousing success.

Then again, ultimately, all that mattered was the game.

L&L

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

I drove home, half-watched all the games that were vitally significant to most people, and spent a sleepless night commiserating my money problems and trying to figure out new ways to take care of them.

In the unlikely event that you’d like to help … buy my books.

 

 

 

(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.

 

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scanning the Program Guide for the Thrill of Victory and Agony of Defeat

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, November 26, 2017, 12:55 p.m.

I don’t think my mind is shot yet, but I can’t remember all the football games I’ve watched. Alabama-Auburn and Clemson-South Carolina are easy. Furman-Elon was most memorable. I get some of the late-night, West Coast games garbled. Did Boise State play Fresno or Fullerton? Who was Hawaii playing? Oh, yeah. BYU. Colorado played Utah. Did that mean Colorado State played Utah State? I think they put some apples in an old oaken bucket. Everyone probably played for some empty kegs – everywhere but Utah, for sure – and when Arizona began playing Arizona State, Arizona wasn’t even a state. It was a territory. Back in the old days, it must have been Arizona versus Arizona Territorial.

By Monte Dutton

Furman’s 28-27 victory over Elon in the FCS opening round was the most pleasing, though not when my wi-fi went out for about a quarter and a half. Clemson-South Carolina was a great time for me to learn how to play the Have Gun, Will Travel (“Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam?”) theme, and I can’t believe it’s been 37 years since I graduated, 15 years since I picked up a guitar, and 10 since I learned how to play it with some modest degree of competence, and yet I never learned how to play the song, which is quite easy, by the way, except for the lyrics, which are hard.

He travels on to wherever he must / A chess knight of silver in his bag of trust / There are campfire legends that the plainsmen spin / Of the man with the gun, of the man called Paladin.

Auburn plays on the plains. Georgia Tech plays on the flats. Michigan plays in the Big House. LSU plays in the valley. Clemson has a valley, too, but Saturday’s game was at the Willy B., where the Second Amendment includes plastic bottles.

Notre Dame now seems to have a schedule that consists entirely of the West Coast, the ACC, and service academies.

The Carolina Panthers and the New York Jets have piddled their ways through a 3-3 first quarter, and I’ve been piddling away at this blog, so there is a certain symmetry between New Jersey, where, naturally, two teams from New York play, and my living room.

All NFL coaches currently look like they’re going deer hunting after the game. I don’t know why. There must be money involved.

I’m tired of Rob Riggle. I think Peyton Manning should get his own sitcom. I am not going to Sonic or KFC any time soon. Little Sweet is causing me to rethink my addiction to Diet Dr. Pepper.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that I knew the personnel of the NFL better when I was 10 years ago. An example: the Jets once had a No. 15 older than Josh McCown. His name was Babe Parilli.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The Panthers were an acquired taste for me. Back when they began, I was writing about NASCAR for a suburban Charlotte newspaper. I learned that the better the Panthers played, the less room I had to write about racing, so I sort of resented the pro football team.

That changed when I started writing columns at Bank of America Stadium after the NASCAR season ended. From hobnobbing in the locker room afterward, I liked Luke Kuechly as a person before I had any idea how good he was as a player. Now watching him play is a joy of watching football. He defines the old coach’s cliché “nose for the football.” I’ve seldom seen a linebacker with better instincts for finding the ball. I find myself watching him constantly.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

The Panthers won in MetLife Stadium on a day when they were ripe for the taking. The Saints were beaten by the Rams in Los Angeles. I watched more football since Thanksgiving than any man should. My appetite seems insatiable. For twenty years, I was this way because, when NASCAR ended, it seemed like football was just getting started, and I’d watch every R+L Carriers Poulan Weedeater Bowl Presented by the Geico Gekko. Now I see a lot of football, most of it in person at high school and small-college stadiums. It could be that I just love football.

A lot of this year has been sad. The local high schools had losing records. Presbyterian College, where I saw seven games, is de-emphasizing football, and mine is the least of the hearts being broken.

Furman, though! Alma mater! The Paladins have learned how to win again. They’ve won eight of their last nine games. They lost eight games last year. They play thirty-five miles away this week, and, if they avenge another loss, at Wofford, they’ll play far, far away, likely in North Dakota. I probably couldn’t make it to Fargo if I left directly after the Wofford game.

The Terriers are tough. But it’s a possibility. It seems as if anything’s possible for the Paladins again.

 

 

(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.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment