Not so much moseying in Sisters these days


Last updated 2/14/2023 at Noon

Merriam-Webster: mosey intransitive verb: to move in a leisurely or aimless manner.

I’m not in agreement with the “aimless” part. Those of us who mosey regularly have a purpose. We just can’t tell you what it is at the moment we are moseying.

Last month took us on a road trip to Montana. That routed us through Oregon towns like Madras, Shaniko, Wasco, Biggs Junction, Boardman, and Umatilla, all places where folks still mosey. Especially on Saturday mornings and after church on Sundays.

They’re easy to spot. If in their vehicle, more than likely a pickup, they’re driving five miles under the speed limit. Which, when the speed limit is already 20 or 25, can fray the nerves of through traffic.

If on foot, they’re sauntering — just another word for moseying. If the sidewalk is narrow, then it’s a big decision for the non-moseyer. To make an awkward pass, or just get in line. We don’t want to seem impolite or in such a hurry, meaning important — places to go, people to see, things to do.

When a driver moseys you’ll get the inevitable steering-wheel wave. The one taught by rural grandfathers to sons and then to grandsons. If women give this Americana hi sign, it has so far eluded me. Not that women don’t mosey.

Texas Monthly magazine defines the tradition thusly:

“The hi sign is strictly a highway courtesy, an automotive gesture developed for the modern age. A person on horse or on foot raises his whole hand, but the demands of travel on wheels dictate a specialized wave. Body language for “howdy,” the hi sign is the simplest of waves, merely the raising of the forefinger of the driving hand, which does not budge from its draped position across the top of the steering wheel, the attitude struck by most long-distance or travel-wise drivers.

“The other arm is out the window or on the armrest, depending on the weather and your driving speed. Giving the hi sign also provides an opportunity to stretch a cramped hand, thus accomplishing two purposes at once. It wastes no energy; it is a model of efficiency, like all nonessential movements by country folks who must save their labor for the land. But be alert. The hi sign is brief, often lasting only a second.” — Anne Dingus

There’s a whole lot of subtle style put into the wave. And it’s not always only the forefinger as is custom in Texas. In Oregon it is usually two fingers, and a slightly raised thumb. Go ahead and do yours now. I’ll wait for you.

Whether it was making our 50th pass on Main Street as a teen or meeting an oncoming tractor on a back road, the steering wheel wave was, and remains, a simple gesture that connects generations of folk.

Jeep people have their own trademark movement. Motorcyclists put forth a version of the basic nod or biker wave.

Even on Cloverdale, the steering-wheel wave is no longer very common, and on Cascade, Hood, or Main, it appears headed for extinction.

You see a lot of moseying in nearby places like Madras, Culver, and Prineville, where it’s still an art form. Not so much Sisters anymore. Maybe because we have so many urbanites now. For all I know, moseying might be banned in Portland, Seattle, or the Bay Area.

Moseying is not to be confused with strolling. There’s a healthy amount of strolling in Sisters, like on the 4th Friday Art Walks or the Sunday farmers market. The Quilt Show could get a patent on strolling.

Strolling is a leisure activity. Moseying is more like surveying, taking the pulse of things. It doesn’t look like it of course, but moseying takes some effort, a degree of work.

When you hear or read of folks in Sisters Country concerned about the character of the town changin’, maybe some part of that worry is that we don’t mosey as much.

Have we lost a sense of curiosity? Are we so busy, so consequential that we no longer have the time or inkling just to slow down a bit and rediscover Sisters? How do we teach kids to mosey in the digital age?

So, take up the challenge and mosey on into town this weekend. With any luck you’ll find a few others. They’ll be obvious not by what they are doing but what they aren’t.


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