By Dave Simpson, guest columnist
Folks flying over Flyover Country – wedged in airliners like sardines, fed little packets of dry pretzels, oxygen deprived in their masks – don’t know what they’re missing down below.
Ever since I wrote about the friendly waves rural folks give each other when meeting on back country roads, I’ve been getting emails sharing stories about how different it is out here, where a friendly wave isn’t likely to be mistaken for a gang sign.
A longtime reader in Nebraska shared this:
“A few years ago, a few miles from Thedford, an RV from Colorado had broken down. I pulled over to see if they needed help. The man was amazed that the first car to come by had stopped and was going to head into Thedford to send help.
“He said that being from Colorado, that he thought no one would stop to help. He thought that after the first car stopped that he would just get back in the RV and take a nap, but soon realized he needed to stand outside and wave cars on by, as everyone was stopping to see if he needed help. He was very complimentary towards the people of Nebraska.”
Bingo! I’ve lived in these places, and I find folks on the Western Slope of Colorado, Central and Western Nebraska, and almost all of Wyoming are pretty much the same – independent as pigs on ice, fed up with big cities, and happy to assist a person who needs help.
A reader from Wyoming related this story:
He happened upon two women from California, their car stuck in a ditch, waiting for a wrecker. He had his tow strap with him, and pulled them out. And when their car wouldn’t start, he got out his jumper cables and got it going.
They asked if it was true that everyone in Wyoming owns a gun, and he said pretty much, but many of us have multiple guns, showing them the 30-30 Winchester in his truck.
“Their eyes got big as saucers as they held the old octagon barrel rifle,” he wrote. They tried to pay him, but, “I said, ‘No way! Guys like us in Wyoming live for moments like this. It’s what we do.’”
Two friends – both columnists, one from Nebraska, another a native Iowan but longtime Wyomingite – said the friendly wave has evolved in many places into a simple raised index finger.
The Nebraskan said her husband told her to do the index finger wave so she could keep both hands on the wheel. But, she does things her own way, so she stubbornly employs the full-hand wave, and now has her neighbors doing it, too, like long-lost friends.
My favorite story, however, comes from that longtime reader in Nebraska. A farmer near Arnold married a woman from St. Louis. Their farm was along a rural Nebraska highway, and they had an old pickup truck used on the farm. One day the wife came back from an errand and noticed that the old pickup was gone.
Her husband told her that “a man had walked up to the farm and said he had broken a fan belt. He (the farmer) told him to take the farm truck to North Platte to get a new belt. He didn’t ask for a name, so wasn’t sure who the man was.”
The wife “was dumbfounded. Told her husband he just gave his truck away and was convinced they would never see the truck again. Was questioning how she could have married a guy who would give his truck to a total stranger.
“A couple hours later the man was back, gave them money for gas, got his car going and was on his way.”
The farmer’s wife was astonished.
“Many times I’ve pulled over in a small town, just to make a call or check an email,” my friend from Nebraska concluded. “People will stop and ask if everything is OK, or if I’m needing help. Not being suspicious, just genuinely concerned about a fellow person.”
I’m pretty sure people flying over Flyover Country would be just as astonished as the farmer’s wife.
We should wave at them as they fly over.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org