On a hot summer evening in Richfield, a vacant parking lot along Main Street will soon be the hub of activity. In one corner, a few cars have already staked out a location for the night. James Owens sits in his aging convertible, feet kicked back on the open driver's side door. As a friend drives by in front of him, Owens blares his horn and waves. The driver pulls quickly into the lot and finds a spot next to Owens.
It is a Saturday night and the ritual of dragging Main is about to begin in Richfield as it has for countless years in countless other towns.
Teens dragging Main is an activity that has been passed down for generations, one that is a staple of social life in the small rural towns.
Most places have a fairly well-established route, with turnaround spots and places to stop and watch. Certain people have fixed places where they can always be found, others move about, stopping here and there when they see someone to talk with.
"Over there is the cowboys," says Carly Pillow, as she points to a few pickup trucks across the parking lot. "Over there will be the preppies, and I guess this is where the bad kids hang out," she says with a shrug, indicating the spot she and her friends have taken.
As the shadows grow long and then disappear with the sun, the traffic grows.
Owens and his friends load into his car and take a few laps themselves. They head down main to Second South, wait in line to make a U turn, and cruise through the historic downtown section of Richfield. At the stoplights, they talk to the people in the car next to them and even try to continue the conversation as they drive, yelling from car to car. After a few laps, they pull back to the same spot they had earlier and rejoin the group.
On a similar night in Delta, the scene is the same. Some of the spectators have brought lawn chairs or sit in the back of a truck to watch the parade. At the west end of town, drivers make the turn to head back through town.
A light rain starts to fall, and at the gas station at the east end of town, the teens pack into the shelter provided by the awning over the gas pumps. A county sheriff has two cars pulled over after they took off too fast from a stoplight.
At the carwash about midway along Main, a small group of friends lean on their trucks in the pale light provided for the vacuums. The consensus of the group is the same as in Richfield they drag Main because there is nothing else to do in their town.
They talk about the people they see, sharing stories and gossip they have heard through the small-town grapevine. They agree that there is an age at which dragging Main becomes lame, pointing out a few of the drivers that they think have exceeded their limit. They themselves are already growing bored with the activity, and after a few laps, decide to go home to watch a video.