Not long after we moved out to the country, my husband and I were driving along the gravel roads when we passed a truck going the opposite way. Both my husband and the other driver lifted their index fingers off of their respective steering wheels and nodded to one another.
“What’s that now?” I asked.
“This?” Kyle said, pantomiming the #1 with his first finger. “It’s the Farmer Hello.”
“Did you know him?”
“No. Well, maybe. I don’t think so,” Kyle shrugged.
“So it’s just to be friendly?”
“Yes, I suppose it is,” Kyle said.
Over the last nine years, I’ve Farmer Hello’d (or Country Waved or any other thing you want to call it) about nine bazillion times. After the initial ten or so first-finger hellos (and zero middle finger not-hellos) I drove past a woman in a minivan who gave me a whole hand hello and I felt so guilty about my lackluster effort that I started enthusiastically waving to everyone I pass.
I also discovered pretty quickly on that you don’t need a car or a farmer for a Farmer Hello; it’s common practice for any interaction between two or more human beings in general proximity to a farmed field. Taking a walk? You’re up for a wave. Mowing the ditch? Lean in for a wave. Riding your bike, or your golf cart, or your Razor? It’s wave time.
I said “general proximity to a farmed field” because you don’t even need to be in the country for a Country Wave. We spent a day in Cavalier this summer and passed ten or so people driving through town to the State Park, and every one of those folks tossed up a greeting when they saw us coming.
I love, love the Farmer Hello. I’m a friendly sort and so I dig it for that reason, of course; but what I really like is that it’s an acknowledgement that two strangers exist in the exact same place in the exact same moment on a giant planet that is billions of years old. Which I don’t think we think about very often.
There’s a little slough by my house that is usually filled with a bunch of different kinds of birds looking for a drink and a dip. I spend a lot of time watching them because I’m a bird creeper and they have never asked me to stop. My minutes of amateur avian research have taught me that despite the variety of waterfowl available in proximity, birds will generally only hob-nob and quack-quack with their own species – and, if two flocks (murders, gangs, whatevers) of the same species show up, each group will stick with their buddies instead of getting to know some possible new pals. I don’t think this behavior is out of bird rudeness; I just think these animals have only so many hours in the day to focus on eating and flapping their wings and staying alive and tweet-tweeting with their own fleets (colonies, banditry, whatevers). And so their brains just disregard everyone and everything else.
My years of amateur human research tells me that people aren’t that different, which is why the Kiss Cam is so popular at sporting events. Because you can be at a hockey game surrounded by 15,000 people and what you see is your own little party (and maybe the couple having an interesting conversation behind you), and everyone else is just noise. And so when the Kiss Cam pops up on the Jumbotron it’s like, “Oh, look! Turns out we’re not alone in this giant building – those two people are here, too! Clap, clap, clap, clap!”
In addition to my time spent watching birds, I also waste precious wing-flapping time scrolling the Internet for stories about the moments when strangers find one another in a planet full of noise. Here are a few of my favorites:
It’s Christmas Eve! For the first time in 16 years, my husband and I (and our kids) aren’t able to go up to Canada to celebrate with his family. The Kosiors typically have a multi-day to-do, including a Boxing Day cousin skate at Kyle’s hometown natural ice arena – a photo of which is above. I picked this photo because we’re thinking a lot about our Canadian Kosiors, and also because I didn’t really want to drive around looking for someone to wave to so I could take a picture.
Have a happy Christmastime, and enjoy this week’s news – about carolers, Christmas stories, and a Great Conjunction. Read on.
Neither the pandemic nor the weather could stop dozens of carolers in Bottineau, who took to their vehicles in order to spread good cheer. (KX Net)
Valley City-ers opened their wallets in order to deliver 226 arrangements of flowers to the residents of area assisted living facilities. And in double-nice news, people outside the region also sent in donations once they heard of the effort. (Fargo Forum)
When Bismarck pediatrician Dr. Stephen McDonough retired, all of the families he helped showed up to send him off. (KFYR TV)
For the 33rd year, North Dakotans have penned 500-word Christmastime stories. (Dickinson Press)
Watford City is now “home” to a Facebook group for people to give and get help. (KX Net)
And in nice news from around the globe, photographers everywhere captured the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (the closest the two planets have been to each other in 800 years) on Monday. Click here to see a small sampling of them. (Good News Network)