COARSEGOLD – Reader Sherri Buchanan wrote in with a story suggestion about “the wonderfully inspiring man who stands on 425C and 41 and welcomes the commuters with a wave and a smile. We would love to know more about him.”
You may have seen the man Sherri refers to if you head south of Deadwood on 41 in the early morning. He’s on your right, if you’re driving toward Fresno, stationed most days at the single lane road at 425C.
He’s waving. You’re driving. Commuters are heading in and out of the foothills, parents taking kids to school, Chippers and buses and trucks… oh my!
And there he is, grey hair and a beard, brindle dog on a leash, sometimes a cup o’ Joe in his hand and his other hand is… waving.
He’s the waving man of Coarsegold, and he’s out there at the intersection of 41 and 425C seven days a week. His name is Bill Briggs and for seven years he’s been greeting people every morning for about half an hour, starting at around 7:15 a.m.
“My wife says I’m nuts,” admits Briggs. He’s been married to Mary for 38 years and together they own Daffodil Hill, a nearby home and gorgeous property known for its many hundred of rolling rows of yellow flowers sprouting faithfully each spring.
Briggs estimates that in seven years of living in the foothills he’s only missed a total of approximately three weeks off from waving.
Nowadays, Briggs walks a dog named Buddy, a lovely companion Katahula who essentially adopted the waving man along the way during one of his walks. Long before Buddy joined the team, Briggs began his adventure the way lots of good things get going: accidentally.
“I’ve walked every day for years and year,” says Briggs, a former Navy Radioman, who is active in volunteer organizations including Citizens on Patrol (COP) and Caring Veterans of America.
“I used to walk to the top of the hill,” recalls the former resident of San Jose, pointing up toward the top of Deadwood.
“I’d get up there and be breathing hard, and stop to catch my breath. People would wave. In San Jose they might have given you the ‘finger.’ Here in Coarsegold, people waved and they smiled.”
Briggs explains he simply felt happy when people responded to his wave, too.
He was always looking for ways to make the world a little brighter place, anyway, and this seemed so… easy.
“I thought, ‘gee, I could do that!'” says Briggs about offering the joy a simple wave and smile seemed to lend. “And I’ve been doing it every day since.”
Some might pass by Briggs every morning, wave, and never think about what he does for the rest of the day. It turns out, he’s a busy man, closely involved with two local organizations that serve mountain residents in a different way than waving, but with the same good results.
Briggs is one of Madera County Sheriff’s Citizens on Patrol (COP), a program that plays an important part in law enforcement. COP members in the foothills have logged an impressive 8,889 man hours last year alone.
The nonprofit organization of roughly 40 personnel is supported entirely through donations and fees from members’ dues, funeral escorts, service groups and other fundraising efforts.
Besides his service with the COP program, Briggs is also an actively participating member of Caring Veterans of America. That’s the group that has staged a series of well-attended Veterans Stand Down events in the mountain area this year. Briggs himself served 6 years in the Navy, starting in 1962, as an RM2 on the U.S.S. Wasp, an east coast aircraft carrier.
Now with his feet planted firmly in the Coarsegold foothills amidst the gentle hills and daffodils, grandfather Briggs likes to stay mobile and says the key to good health and humor is to keep moving.
That’s why you’ll see him, one hand in the air, waving to friends and strangers alike, at the intersection of 41 and 425C. Wave back. Now that you know Bill Briggs, you’ll be happy you did.
Reader Sherri Buchanan has a message for Briggs: “We would like him to know that we look forward to seeing him each day and that he brightens our mornings.” If anyone ever wants to stop by and say hello to the waving man, he’s let it be known he likes his coffee with a little half and half. Thanks, Mr. Briggs! We owe you a cup.