A country wave

By Helen Row Toews

February 16, 2017 12:00 AM

A small thing that tells us we belong

Polite and friendly are two words often used when speaking of Canadians.
While they are fine descriptors of the population in general—or most of it—perhaps we can add a little more to the mix.
I’d like to draw your attention to a phenomenon seen only in Canada’s rural areas; the country wave.
It’s a silent salute shared between the occupants of two vehicles passing, like ships in the night, down a gravel road—the only observable differences being a cloud of choking dust and a lot of water.
Allow me to explain.
We country folk wave, without discrimination, at all those we pass.
They might be our neighbours or we may never have laid eyes on them before.
It makes no matter.
It’s simply a gesture of camaraderie and acceptance that can’t be found anywhere else but down a country road in our great land.
Of course, this is not to be confused with the courtesy wave, which is a brief signal of gratitude to a fellow motorist who has shown consideration on the road, or the apology wave given after some dumb manoeuvre is made— like cutting off another vehicle.
The latter is usually accompanied by a guilty grin, a slight shrug or a decided averting of the head and eyes as they protest to passengers, “Not my fault. He appeared out of nowhere!”
Certainly it’s not the flirtatious wave; randomly wiggling all fingers at shoulder level, almost exclusively used by women with effective results.
Nor the regal wave popularized by the Queen in which the hand is cupped and moved slowly to and fro at a steady, measured pace.
This signifies good breeding and restraint.
You’ll never catch the Queen flapping her arm wildly, like some nut, to seize the attention of a friend across the street.
We’ve all seen or been a part of the brotherhood wave between truck drivers and motorcyclists.
This isn’t what I’m speaking of either, although it’s getting closer.
This wave is very exclusive.
Only those belonging to either group are included in the signal.
It’s more a sign of professional respect between those who understand the difficulties of their jobs or a collective love for a mode of transportation representing freedom and nonconformity.
No, the country wave can be described in this short tale.
When I was a child, our family often went for a Sunday drive.
We would ramble through the countryside wherever the wind blew us, enjoying the swaying fields of grain or vast expanses of lush green pasture, dotted with grazing cattle.
My father unfailingly lifted a hand of greeting to each passing motorist, as they did in turn.
Wondering how the heck my father could know everyone in a 100-mile radius, I recall questioning him on it one afternoon, miles from home.
“How do you know all these people dad?”
“I don’t,” he responded, smiling down at me from beneath his worn brown Stetson.
“It’s just what country folks do.”
I don’t suppose he had given it much thought, as may be the case with us all.
However, if you consider it, this simple expression of friendship assures us we do not stand alone.
For better or worse, we’re all in this together and share in the common bonds of community and solidarity found in folks living close to the earth.
It’s a silent communication which guarantees help should the need arise.
People in the country pull together in tough times and rejoice together in good.
It’s a wonderful kinship we sometimes take for granted out here in the sticks. 
All tied up in a little wave.

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