Because this is likely to be a long post, it's going to arrive on the installment plan. It could be the result of a long drive (including a 40 MPH, single file stretch between Ogallala and the Colorado border decorated with four jackknifed semis). Or it could be that it's a stew that has been simmering for the last three or four weeks. Buckle up.
Weeks before I left, I joined a Facebook group called "You know you are from North Platte when ...", at the suggestion of someone from the local paper. It was a good way to make advance connections and arrangements, even though most of the people who post appear to be from North Platte, not in North Platte. For the most part, it's a stroll down memory lane; people post questions or old pictures and people wax nostalgic. Then this happened:
And finally, a new post in the group.
It strikes me that if anything belongs in a Facebook group called "You know you are from North Platte when...", it's a political discussion that gets smothered at birth. In nearly four weeks, at the climax of the most controversial and widely-discussed election of my lifetime, not once did I hear a actual conversation among people with different political views. Now this is just my informal coffee shop observation, and I am comparing North Platte with my world back in Washington, DC, where political discussions take the place of sports talk in our social gatherings.
There's been a fair amount of analysis lately about "bubbles" and "red feeds and blue feeds", which focus on social media as an engine of division. But I am not so sure. This was the culture in North Platte -- and probably other similar communities, as well -- long before Facebook. This brings me to the heart of my original question, "Who would I be if I had grown up in North Platte?" Stay tuned.