THUNDER ON THE PLATEAU – Crossville, Tennessee

US 70A branches west from US 70 at Crossville and descends to the flatland where the farming people earn cash by the sale of crossties, wild blackberries, huckleberries, and the furs of squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and rabbits. The meat of these animals constitutes much of their food supply.

Coon dogs are standard household equipment. The dogs are bright yellow, snuff-brown, or black-and-tan, long-eared, and sad-eyed. During the day they loll under the floor of the cabins and lazily scratch at colonies of fleas. At command they will rush into gardens or cornfields to chase out chickens or to lead pigs by their ears to the pens. These dogs, with short names like Drum, Ring, Gum, Rip, Biff, and the like, are the pride of their owners, who think the coon dog should replace the American eagle  -Tennessee: A Guide to the State (WPA, 1939)


Dirt was flying Saturday night at Crossville Speedway.  Excitement was in the air.  My adrenaline was up a notch.  Why didn’t I find this sport when I was 14?  It would have fit me like Barrel Racing.

It was a night with early fireflies and a cool enough breeze to dry the sweat.  I felt soothed by the sweet wholesomeness of the occasion.  The nostalgia helped me forget the world.  Of course, the economy has hurt this sport too. The gist of it as told to me is tracks are goin’ under everywhere.

Sandy had her crowd and willing participants, though.  Her husband bought this track for her and together they ran it until his death last April.  It was a hive of activity and I imagine she finds her solace in the whirl and thunder.

(Editors note: Crossville Raceway is a picturesque 1/3 mile, high-banked dirt track that sits atop the Cumberland Plateau in scenic Crossville where you can see some of the best short-track drivers in the country slingin’ ‘em sideways. Every Saturday Night, April thru September you’ll hear the thunder of fire-breathing Late Models, Sportsman, Street Stocks, Stock Trucks, Mod-Lites, Dwarfs, Legends, Hornets and Junior Hornets. General Admission is only $10, $5 for kids 6-11 and under 5 free.)


This dispatch came to us from our submission link. Tamara Reynolds graduated with a BFA degree and has been enjoying a career in photography for the past 25 years. She has been recognized commercially, garnering several awards at various competitions. Recently her Southern Route series was featured by New York Times Lens Blog and PBS News Hour as well as having images from the series “Selected” for AI-AP 29 and 30 publications and CA 2014. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee and is pursuing her MFA. You can view more of Tamara’s work on her website and blog.

Stratford Hammers v Walthamstow Wolves at Janson Road speedway in Stratford, London in 1951. On the outside is Harry Milsom, on the line Roy Garnham with Jimmy Morris of the Walthamstow Wolves at the back. The photograph comes from the Veteran Cycle Speedway Riders Association Archive