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Conventional wisdom would indicate that people are more friendly in the mountains than they are in more urban areas.
That may have been more true in the past than it is now. We seem to have more armed robberies and murders around here than we did 25 years ago. Still, it’s true that you get waved at a lot around here. Of course, if you live here full time you have good reasons for waving to the gas, telephone, postal, highway department and UPS people.
Waving at people on the highway is a fine old American custom. In the ’50s, sports car drivers, even in the cities, waved at each other. That’s pretty much gone. Motorcycle riders, unless they’re on Harleys, wave to each other. Considering how dangerous it is, maybe they figure it’s their last chance.
Here in the mountains, though, you mostly get waved at in the summer by people who are walking or riding horses.
If you come across a group of Cheley Camp riders, you will spend a little time waving at the young men and women who are clearly having the time of their young lives and want to share their joy with you.
That sense of enjoyment, and the wish to share it, is probably at the bottom of all the waving that goes on around here, winter and summer. The connection we make with a total stranger says, “Aren’t we lucky to be here, and to be able to enjoy the beauty of this day and this place?”
A friend of mine remarked the other day at the incredible odds against our being born as Americans in the 20th century, as opposed to all the other people we might have been born as, in awful places and in awful times.
Perhaps, when we wave to each other, it’s more than merely “Hello,” “Good-bye,” or simple recognition. Perhaps we recognize our fortunate status in an already fortunate time and place.
There isn’t any doubt, of course, that the mountains are a more friendly place than East St. Louis, for example. Try waving there and see what it’ll get you.
And if we seem to be waving less than we did 25 years ago, you may have to chalk it up to the creeping distrust of strangers which seems to be a fact of life these days.
Years ago we didn’t bother to lock the cabin when we left it. Now, waving at hikers and horseback riders seems to be the best we can do.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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