The following article by David Strange originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 19 Sep 2012. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
I was speaking with a very nice woman the other day whose comments caused me to remember why I love Bullitt County.
The woman's accent and fast pace of speech told me that she was definitely not a native, even before she told me where she was from. In fact, she had lived and traveled in many places across the United States and Canada before moving to Bullitt County to retire.
"I LOVE Bullitt County!" she said. "I have never experienced such honest friendliness."
"People here sincerely care about people."
"They even wave!"
And indeed, with few exceptions, people in our area are very friendly.
Caring about others is so common here that we are surprised when others are surprised at what we do. The lady related to me how, when she and her husband first moved to the area, a neighbor family came over with a homemade casserole (almost a tradition in some local neighborhoods) to welcome them to the neighborhood. "I had never heard of such a thing." she said. "I at first was suspicious of their motives. I've really had to adjust to the idea of people having honest, unselfish, good intentions."
Newcomers to the area can sometimes misjudge the slower lifestyle of locals as sluggish. But what might at first be considered slowness is actually calmness. A caring patience. A willingness to take time out of life to think of others' well-being. I find that way of thinking is extremely foreign to many people who have not lived here.
I remember many years ago, while riding in a car with a friend, we pulled up to a red light behind another car. The red light turned green; the front car did not move. The light changed back to red; and then again to green again. After two full cycles of the stop light, I finally turned to my friend and asked him, "Um....Shouldn't we blow our horn or something?"
"Nah." He replied. "He's probably got something on his mind." Funny thing was, there were probably two or three cars behind us and they did not do anything either.
Now today, the fastest time known to man is the time between a red light turning green, and the time a horn blows.
But even today, when a horn is blown, most natives will wonder, "Who was that? I wonder where THEY'RE from?"
Or if we blow our horn, then we feel at least a little bit guilty about it.
Our part of the country might be one of the only places on Earth where people wish the car had a softer, friendlier, horn sound so it wouldn't be so disturbing to others when used.
Often, when we are forced to use the horn, we will even wave at the targeted person in sort of an apology for having to do it.
Waving is a tradition that is common here, but strange to many others.
For decades, my wife and I have enjoyed sitting on our front porch. When a car would pass by on our country lane, we'd wave. Most of the time the people in the car would smile and wave back. But on occasion, when we would wave at a car, the occupants would just stare at us in amazement as they passed, as if dumbstruck.
"Tourists." We'd say. "Maybe from out of state.....Probably from Louisville."
My grandmother-in-law, Carrie Harris, was famous for waving, and fondly remembered for it. In her later years she was known as the little old lady who sat on her porch on Highway 1020 near Preston, energetically waving at everyone who would pass. Now this kind old widow had worked hard in menial jobs her whole life, raising five children, on her own, through poverty, the Great Depression, and ill health. But I do not remember ever seeing her without a smile on her face and a ready wave of the hand.
In fact, in what I suppose was a sign of the changing times, passersby would sometimes mistake her friendly wave from the porch as a sign of trouble, and would stop to see if she was OK!
I believe, beyond any local tradition, it is just common kindness to wave.
Heck, many of us still wave at other cars as we pass on the road. My wife, not a big waver herself, sometimes asks me, as we drive along, "Who was that?" as I wave at a passing car.
"Beats me." I'd respond if I didn't know the person. "Just a friend I don't know."
Waving can be a challenge nowadays. With darkened and reflective car windows, closed for the air conditioning, it is often difficult to even see a person in the car, much less know if they are waving back. But it doesn't matter. It is more attitude than reason anyway.
I do admit to sometimes taking a non-waver as a challenge. Years ago it happened that, when walking an aisle at my workplace, I would pass a certain man almost every morning. I would give a polite wave and say "good morning." He would just glare at me or stare straight ahead as we passed. We did this exchange for several days until finally, after waving, saying my "good morning," and getting the usual non-response, I cheerily added, "see you tomorrow!" I swear he cracked the slightest grin. And the next day, and for the rest of the time I knew him, he would return my wave, smile a little, and say "good day."
I suppose it is inevitable, but I hope that the pressures of a frantic, modern, lifestyle do not change too much that local attitude of people. We each have more and more things to do and little time to do it all in. But I ask you to take a breath once in a while.
Slow down a bit.
It's OK to pause, smile, to think of others without blowing your horn.
Wave once in a while.
Carrie Harris would want it that way.
Bullitt County comes from a long line of friendly.
Copyright 2012 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.