Notes from the Road: How to Do the Western Wave

It’s no secret that life is a little bit friendlier out here in Montana’s Yellowstone Country. We chat with our grocery store cashier, know the names of all the other pups at the park (regardless if we know their owner’s names) and even our UPS delivery guy is on our Christmas list.

Which is why we’re huge proponents of a little thing we like to call the Western Wave. A friendly gesture to acknowledge your neighbors, whether you know their grandkids or barely know their name, the Western Wave is an important thing to master before setting foot in any friendly Yellowstone Country town.

Step 1: Own an SUV

The Western Wave is used in a very specific situation: to acknowledge a fellow human being while you’re behind the wheel of your SUV (please note: for Westerners-in-Training, practicing the Western Wave in the passenger seat is perfectly acceptable).

We’re not saying that you can’t give a proper Wave while at the helm of a slightly battered 2000 Honda Civic, but if you’re going for pure, unadulterated Western authenticity, you’ll want to get yourself an SUV, preferably with a roof box. That, or a bad-ass, mud-slingin’ pickup truck.

Step 2: Get the Motion Down

The traditional Western Wave is performed as such: sitting in the driver’s seat, glance up and notice a fellow Montanan (or female Montanan, if we’re going to be gender-specific) crossing the street. As they stroll in front of your vehicle, they happen to glance through the windshield at you. You:

1. Look them squarely in the eye

2. Raise the index finger of your left hand

3. Nod your head ever-so-slightly in recognition

If you’ve done your job correctly, the participating party will flash a smile and a nod of their own. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back; you’ve officially embraced the first step of living the Yellowstone Country lifestyle.

Step 3: Practice, Practice, Practice

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, you might as well go for it. Western Wave to everyone: little kids on Big Wheels, a high school student lugging their enormous backpack, the sweet old lady from the local cheese shop. The Western Wave, after all, is a little gesture that just says "Hey, I noticed you today." The more Wavers the merrier, we say.

Advanced Tips

If you’ve been practicing your Wave for a few weeks and you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can start adding a little flair. Try these:

Two fingers instead of one. Try it. It’s much harder than it looks (which of course elevates you to premier status).

Wear a cowboy hat. Bonus points for tipping those two fingers off the brim.

Mix it up. Once you’ve got the basic motions down, try an up nod. Next, do a down nod. See which one feels right for you.

Western Wave while holding a cup of coffee. Now, we’re not advocating beverage consumption and driving (especially when you’re trying to shift with your right hand) but if you can manage to grip a hot thermos of joe, control the steering wheel AND tip a finger to your fellow Montanan? Well, you’ve just outdone yourself.

Do you have a different version of the Western Wave? Leave your tips for us in the comments below.