There are a lot of things that make me feel like I am home- like I am in Montana. Certain customs reduce the friction of life. When two dirt road traversing vehicles cross paths in this state, there is an unwritten rule, and I am noticing its violation more frequently: The Wave.
You know what I am talking about. You're on a seldom travelled dirt road, maybe the Gravelly Range Road, but it doesn't really matter. When you see an approaching vehicle you slow down, scoot your car over a little bit, and when you are just about to pass by, you lift a few fingers off the steering wheel and wave. A head nod is also an acceptable substitute. This was and is standard operating practice in the region I grew up in. It's a good thing to do.
Having attended school in Bozeman, as well as Missoula, and done a hell of a lot of exploring in the surrounding hills, I have noticed that the closer your proximity to these two cities, the less the probability that you will get the wave. Things have changed since Maclean said," The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana." When I am braving the gumbo of eastern Montana, or packing my gear to a different stretch of the Big Hole, I always get the wave.
Should I get a little pissed off when my wave is returned by a blank stare, or worse, a disgusted glare? As if I am trespassing on their solitude? Well, I do. We are both on the same road, likely for the same reason. Of course, the wave's criteria is arbitrary, but if you are traveling at a moderately slow pace, say, less than 25 MPH, are on a dirt road, or haven't seen a fellow traveler for quite a while, the wave is appropriate. Frontage Roads are optional.
So next time you cross paths with a fellow mountain or rural expeditionist in their own gas-powered chariot, acknowledge their existence, celebrate the closeness with which all Montanans have a propensity for, add a little friendliness to the woods, and give the wave.