By: Joe Mayfield
Country people know how to wave when they see someone driving toward them, or if they see a friend on a tractor plowing, there are certain ways to go about doing the right thing, in fulfilling your obligation to wave.
A few week’s ago while driving near the old mines at the end of “the old rail road bed,” near Hanceville, Alabama which is paved now, I looked up the road to see a man and woman riding their bicycles, they were going in the same direction as I, and were on the left side of the road. As I approached, the man using his right hand to wave by extending the hand and forearm, which was the proper way to wave, and also to let me know they were aware that I would be passing them. This person knew the rules of waving, as do most country people.
In this case, we were not face to face, and therefore did not have to push out our chin, and pull the head back; however, had they been riding toward me then the rules would have been different. Knowing such rules are very important, and one can usually spot a new comer to the community by the way they go about their wave, the following are the general rules, but there are times when special waves may be called for.
First of all, remember that most of these waves occur while two different people are driving toward one another, as they see each other; it is then that they must determine which kind of wave is called for. If you happen to be driving an automobile, and the other person is on a tractor, then the proper wave would be for the person on the tractor to wave first by lifting two fingers of the driving hand. This should be done with the hand and thumb holding the steering wheel for safety. As with all waves, everyone should practice common sense and safety. Should the person be driving a new tractor, then you should wave back by raising two fingers, as well as pushing the chin forward, pulling the head back, and then nodding approval of the new tractor.
Should the person on the tractor be plowing in the field, then it would be your place to wave first. If they look up, should they not look up due to watching the wheel placement then it’s OK, you did your part.
Later on that same day, if you happen to drive back by the person that’s plowing, it would not be necessary for you to wave, unless they were to look up and wave, then it’s proper to return the wave as you drive by with just pushing out the chin, then pulling the head back.
If you are driving past a neighbor and he is pushing a wheel borrow, then you should wave with the hand and forearm, to let them know that you don’t expect a return wave, however there have been occasions where the person driving past would insist on a return wave by going so far as to blow the horn, and continue waving, and feeling such a strong obligation to return the wave, if the person pushing the wheel borrow would in return loose one hand to wave, and in doing so would turn over the wheel borrow, and loose a load of dirt.
I should point out here that honking of the horn is frowned on, and is considered to be rude, and people will think you’re a “new comer” to the area. There are a few times when honking is acceptable, one is if the person driving toward you has a deer on the hood of their car, then you are merely acknowledging their good fortune as a hunter. The second acceptable honking would be if the approaching vehicle has tin cans tied to the rear bumper, and the words “Just Married” are wrote on the windows, then it’s OK to honk two or three times while waving.
Once you see a vehicle approaching you, it is then that you must decide which type of wave is called for, if you are able to see that it is a neighbor then a “Howdy Up” would be sufficient. A howdy up is where you raise just the first finger of the driving hand, while holding onto the steering wheel with the thumb and the remaining three fingers, and you should expect the same howdy up in return. Should you determine that the approaching vehicle is someone that’s new to the area, and then a full “Howdy” would be called for. A full Howdy is raising the first and second fingers as you hold onto the wheel with the thumb, and remaining two fingers. If the on coming vehicle does not return the wave that’s OK, you’ll know they are either new comers, or lost, and trying to find an interstate high way.
Also important to remember when waving is that if you use the forearm, that adds emphases to any wave, therefore should you drive past a neighbor plowing with his mule, and he is at the far end of the field, it may be necessary to use the hand and forearm, raised to a full “high” in order for him to see your wave, he in turn would return the wave by raising his forearm and a full hand in order for you to see his return wave. These are but a few of the rules, there are more, and if you are unsure of yourself, just ask someone that lives in your area.
By: Joe Mayfield
Published in U S Legacies Magazine Oct 2004