It’s 1968. The winds of change are descending on Fairmont and engulfing the small South Carolina town in a tornadic frenzy. The public schools are finally being completely integrated. Mossy Springs High School is closing and its black students are now attending formerly all-white Fairmont High; the town is rife with racial tension. Several black youths have been arrested for tossing firebombs at a handful of stores. White citizens form a private academy for the purpose of keeping their kids out of the integrated school system. The Ku Klux Klan is growing.
Reese Knighton arrives on the scene at precisely the right time. The principal of Fairmont High School, Claude Lowell, becomes superintendent of the school district. Lowell chooses Preston Shipley, currently the football coach, to replace him as principal and hires Knighton to coach the team, thus forcing Knighton to find common ground with Willie Spurgeon, the successful Mossy Springs coach who has been passed over for a job he richly deserves.
At The Intangibles’center is the Hoskins family, their relationships to those living within the town of Fairmont giving rise to a memorable cast of characters. Tommy Hoskins is a local businessman and farmer who is a supporter of the team, on which his older son, Frankie, plays. Frankie’s best friend is Raymond Simpson, who lives in a shanty on the Hoskins’ farm. Another of Frankie’s friends, Ned Whitesides, is a spoiled bigot. Clarence “Click” Clowney is the talented, rebellious quarterback from Mossy Springs. Al Martin is the staunch black tackle who becomes the glue that keeps the integrated team together. Twins James and Joey Leverette are the sons of professors at local Oconee College. Curly Mayhew coaches rival Lexington Central. Laura Hedison is a white cheerleader. Jorge Heredia is a tennis player at the college who sells drugs on the side. Aubrey Roper is a college girl who exerts a corruptive influence on Frankie Hoskins. The county sheriff, a turncoat within the team, Ned Whitesides’ father, the loyal assistants, militants both black and white, a doctor, a lawyer, local businessmen, and others all add fuel to the fires of prejudice and fear of the unknown that are raging in the town of Fairmont.
This is a story of a high school football team that puts aside its differences, never realizing that, outside its bounds, the world is unraveling. It’s a story about the cultural changes, good and bad, that take place when two societies shift and finally come together.
Ultimately, The Intangibles is a story of triumph achieved at considerable cost.
Mossy Springs High School was on the west edge of town, bordered on one side by a few acres of forest and a small stream. On the other side, across the street, was a bowling alley and roller rink.
“That place give you any problems?” Knighton asked.
“Oh, it has its pluses and its minuses,” Spurgeon replied. “When we notice somebody laying out of class, we got a pretty good idea where we can round him up. You find a few bad influences hanging around the place, ‘specially at night. I reckon the woods out back is just as bad. At lunchtime, students sneak out there to smoke. They’s a creek in there. One time I found a six-pack of beer tied around a root in the bank, just laying in the creek getting’ cold. I told the principal about it – I believe it was Mr. Tom Lindsay back then – and he went down there and hid till somebody come and got it. Damned if it wasn’t two of my ballplayers.”
Knighton smiled. “There’s some things you wish you didn’t know, huh?”
“Mr. Lindsay suspended them boys for two games. Me, I’d whole lot rather take the punishment out of ‘em in laps and wind sprints.”
They left the school through a back gate at the end of the woods. The football field was to the left, old and rusted. Some of the planks were warped on the visitors’ side.
Spurgeon drove Knighton’s truck through a neighborhood of old wooden houses and cinder-block apartments. Tiny black kids on hand-me-down tricycles recognized Spurgeon and waved at him. Adults craned their necks and squinted their eyes, trying to see who the white man on the passenger side of the unfamiliar vehicle was. Willie Spurgeon was not the kind of man to own a pickup and looked out of place driving one, especially with that Sunday-go-to-meeting suit on. On a concrete basketball court, a gang of teenagers was playing in street clothes. The pickup pulled off the edge of the road.
“That’s Clarence Clowney,” said Spurgeon, pointing to a tall, light-skinned kid. “He could be the best we ever had.”
“They call him Click, don’t they?”
“Why, yes. How’d you know that?”
“I watched the team play one night.” Knighton paused, letting the sentence soak in. “Mr. Lowell had just called me about the job, so I drove up here one night and sat in my truck on that bank behind the end zone. You were playing Sturkey. I wanted to find out as much about the situation as I could. I wasn’t busy. You know, our team at Central didn’t make the white playoffs this year.”
He spent 20 years (1993-2012)wriing about NASCAR for several publications. He was named Writer of the Year by the Eastern Motorsports Press Association (Frank Blunk Award) in 2003 and Writer of the Year by the National Motorsports Press Association (George Cunningham Award) in 2008. His NASCAR writing was syndicated by King Feature Syndicate in the form of a weekly page, "NASCAR This Week" for 17 years.
Monte Dutton is also the author of Pride of Clinton, a history of high school football in his hometown, 1986; At Speed, 2000 (Potomac Books); Rebel with a Cause: A Season with NASCAR's Tony Stewart, 2001 (Potomac Books); Jeff Gordon: The Racer, 2001 (Thomas Nelson); Postcards from Pit Road, 2003 (Potomac Books); Haul A** and Turn Left, 2005 (Warner Books), True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, 2006. (Bison Books); and is an Editor/Contributor of Taking Stock: Life in NASCAR's Fast Lane, 2004 (Potomac Books).
The Audacity of Dope, 2011 (Neverland Publishing) was his first novel, and Neverland recently published his second, The Intangibles. Another, Crazy by Natural Causes, is in the works.
Visit the author’s site: http://www.montedutton.com/
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