If you were born and raised in Montana, you know a simple “hello” isn’t exactly how we say “hello.”  I know, I know. I get it. That sounds banana sandwich crazy. On a recent trip to my hometown of all 100 people in a rural farm/ranch community, I was quickly reminded of how exactly to greet a stranger, friend, neighbor, or someone you might have a distaste for because they still owe you $20 from high school, DAVE!

Here is the Montana Hello Rundown for all you transplants and city folk.

The Two-Finger Wave

This greeting is strictly reserved for driving on back roads.  It’s customary to slow down (especially on a dirt road) and raise your index and middle finger on your steering wheel hand to the passing driver, and vice versa. It’s a simple gesture, but it shows politeness and acknowledgment of the other driver as a hard-working, good ‘ol Montana resident because most likely they are driving a beat-up old Ford with a load of feed or fencing tools heading back to the ranch.

The Upwards Head Nod

Again, very simple, but it means more than most out-of-staters realize. This greeting doesn’t only say “I acknowledge you,” but oh so much more. Yes, it can mean an easy “Howdy," but let's take a look at the context and environment in which this should be used.

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Let’s say you’re in a bar and you run into a six-foot walking tree trunk that you got into a scrap with last year, and this breathing human mountain stomped you into a mudhole, but you stood your ground for all twelve seconds. If he gives you a head nod, it means, I respect you, even though you cry like my sister. Make sense? The upward head nod can be used and easy brush off as well. Maybe you’re walking in the grocery store and you see your nosy neighbor across the aisle. You know if you engage in conversation over the power tools you borrowed two years ago, it’s going to turn into a whole afternoon in the lettuce section because you obviously broke all of them. While keeping your distance, just give the quick head nod, break eye contact, and move on. Don’t look back. Don’t replace the power tools because he should have known you were going to use them to build a zoo for sharks and they were obviously not waterproof.

The Downward Head Nod

Now, this is my personal favorite, because, well, it’s personal.  This one movement chin drop says “Hello, I respect you.” This move is reserved for friends or teammates.  Imagine your coach is giving a good old-fashioned butt chewing during halftime and you and the other team captain know it’s up to you to win the big game. In the middle of the speech, you both make eye contact and give the downward head nod as if to say, “We’re brothers. We’ve got to sacrifice ourselves to win this game and make our fathers proud because they don’t believe we’ll amount to anything.” You just got chills, didn’t you?  Straight Friday Night Light’s chills, right? Boom! That’s the Downward Head Nod.

The Sideways Head Nod

This move is very specific and shouldn’t be used lightly.  This is more of a request for assistance greeting. It’s to give some indication to another party that you need them to “Come take a look at this,” or "I need you to meet me around the corner to show you this rash, and I don’t want Karen from H.R to write me up again."

In short, don’t actually raise your hand and say hello in Montana. That’s for crazy people, out-of-staters, and grandmothers.

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