Farmers have been waving to each other since they farmed with horses. They were waving to each other probably even when they farmed with oxen and that would take us back to prerecorded history.
It is a tradition that is done today even in our satellite-controlled tractor, operating a computer-controlled implement while sitting in a climate-controlled cab. This would mean the farmer has about the same importance as his tractor’s hood ornament.
However, waving does give the farmer something to do while crossing the field and signifies several things. First, it is a friendly greeting. Second, it signifies the operator is still awake or trying to stay awake by moving a body part. Third, it means that everything is going well unless the farmer is holding up a sign that says, “Help, I’m trapped in my cab and can’t get out. Send food.”
Waves have their own style from a courteous raising of one or two fingers to showing an entire hand with all fingers extended. A more enthusiastic greeting involves the moving of the hand and various fingers.
The friendliest wave is when the window is down, putting the arm out the window and using fingers or the entire hand to greet the passerby. That one is a personal favorite. A nod of the head is optional and a good idea.
In rural country, a wave is almost expected, especially when the drivers recognize one another. The lack of a wave can mean a snub at a minimum and usually indicates that something is not right between the two parties, especially when neither party initiates a wave, preferring to look straight ahead as if no one else is there.
During those moments, you can almost see the frost in the air.
Waving seems to have its own standards of etiquette and fortunately, the government has not yet established waving standards nor has it decided to tax waving, at least for now. I am assuming that politicians do not read my minor missives because I certainly would not want to give them any ideas.
I am a chronic waver and enjoy waving at any opportune moment. The road past my house is busy with semi trucks arriving or leaving the ethanol plant. With the plant driveway less than a half mile from the highway plus having to stop at a railroad track means they are moving slowly when I meet them.
I wave at every truck I meet because it is the friendly thing to do and there is an act of respect when two drivers acknowledge each other in the course of their day’s activity. It also helps breaks up the routine of a job that can be isolated by its very nature.
At the speeds we are traveling, we even have a few moments where we can look each other in the face. Once the wave is completed, I check their door or license plate for any identification on whom I am greeting.
Waving from a distance, such as from a tractor or combine cab in the field, to someone passing by on the road requires more effort. I like to spread my fingers out and rotate my hand while holding it in bright light. Raising a finger or two while sitting in the shade of the cab means your wave probably will not be seen and who wants to be accused of being a snooty farmer? Not me.
Waving is a given that borders on a requirement in our agricultural brotherhood of farmers, elevators and implement dealer employees, seed and fertilizer dealers, livestock haulers and more. It is a brotherhood that includes women because that is the kind of people we are.
As there gets to be fewer of us all the time, that is why it is important we keep waving.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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