The Other One-Fingered Salute

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I was driving back from an errand when suddenly a childhood memory triggered me to raise my index finger at the next car that came at me from the other direction. Why?

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First off, here’s the pickup that was coming down the road towards me. I mean this very one, which I called “That Most Feminine Truck” in its CC. Of course, it’s a close relative to my truck, although mine is a wee bit more butch. Since it was a kindred spirit, I had the impulse to gave a friendly little wave. Do you ever wave at old cars like yours coming the other way?

But just as that impulse erupted, I was suddenly transported back to rural Iowa in the early sixties, riding with Mr. Yoder behind the wheel of his Studebaker pickup. I spent several weeks every summer back then with a Mennonite farm family near Kalona, Iowa, in the seat of one of their old tractors, preferably (full story here). When we’d drive into town or to another farm, Mr. Yoder would raise his index finger at cars, trucks or tractors coming the other way. And just as often, the driver in the other vehicle raised their finger back. The rural-America one-finger wave.

It was only done on the gravel and tarred secondary roads, not on the highway. And it ended as soon as you approached town, or if traffic density somehow reached a certain threshold. Anyway, I’d long forgotten the impulse, but seeing that old Ford truck triggered the memory. Apparently, it’s still going strong in many parts of rural America, but one has to get a lot further out of town for it to be common.

The driver of the Ford truck noticed it at the last second, undoubtedly only because he noticed the similar truck and looked at it and me, and gave a more conventional but restrained hand wave back; maybe not being totally sure I was really waving at him. I wonder if he knows that his truck is famous as “That Most Feminine Truck”, and I’m the one that called it that. He might not have waved back if he did.

So then I pulled over to arrange a quick shoot with my camera of the one-finger wave. Now I just needed a car to come along; the first one turned right at the intersection before it got to me, but the second one was just perfect. But they didn’t even notice my finger.

The one finger wave only works if both drivers are actually looking for it; which is of course what it’s all about. Rural folks expressing interest in each other, by actually taking their eyes off the road to look at the other driver and acknowledge the kinship.

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