Showing posts with label North Platte. Show all posts
Showing posts with label North Platte. Show all posts

Friday, April 24, 2015

Railtown, U.S.A.

I've been away from the keys . . . and 3 Chords & the Truth . . . and the blog . . . and lots of stuff for the past three weeks. Time to get back to it -- them.

So, I'll do just that by posting this, some pictures from an overnight trip to North Platte, Neb., my old stomping grounds that's simply known as Railtown, U.S.A. North Platte is the Union Pacific Railroad. The U.P. is the largest employer in the city of 25,000 in west-central Nebraska, and North Platte is home to the largest rail yard in the world -- Bailey Yards.

Bailey Yards is where the railroad repairs trains, classifies rail cars and puts them together into east- and westbound trains. The yard is massive -- more than eight miles long and 3 1/2 miles wide at its widest point. The locomotive repair shop works on some 300 engines a day and handles thousands upon thousands of rail cars daily as well.

SO, WHEN I was in town the other day, a visit to the yard's visitor center in the Golden Spike Tower was a must.  You get a helluva view from eight stories up.

See, I told you the place was massive. Below is just a small part of Bailey Yards. A small part. Small.

ON THE other hand, you can get in some quality trainspotting, too, in downtown North Platte, down by where the city's old train depot once stood.

FINALLY, being that this is the Great Plains, ye shall know a town by its grain elevator.

3 Chords & the Truth is coming up next at its usual bat time on this same bat channel. Be there, aloha. That is all.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Off the traks in Rail Town USA

You'd think that in a city that bills itself as "Rail Town USA," the daily newspaper would know that it's "Amtrak," not "Amtrack."

You'd think. You'd also be wrong.

Thus goes the sad decline of what used to be a damned good little newspaper in North Platte, Neb. I know. Once upon a time, I was a reporter there.

And I daresay everyone who mattered at the Telegraph then knew how to spell "Amtrak" just as well as "Union Pacific," the railroad that's the reason North Platte can call itself Rail Town USA. (The newspaper, however, calls it "Railtown USA" in a Sunday news story. Whatever.)

Actually, it was construction of the UP that gave North Platte its reason to be at all. And with the world's largest rail-classification yard in town -- yep, Union Pacific -- it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask that Telegraph web editors know something about railroads.

For instance, how to spell "Amtrak."



This is what happens to a good newspaper when it inevitably falls under the dark spell of mediocre people beholden to an out-of-town corporate owner. When "community journalism" is just another job for just another editor and just another publisher, and the bottom line is just another entry on a balance sheet in Omaha.

They don't make editors like Keith Blackledge anymore -- or hold newspaper staffs to standards as high as his, either.

THEN AGAIN, why should Rale Towne USA be any different from anywhere else today.

Monday, February 06, 2012

As seen only on colorful Channel 2

There's a reason this Super Bowl ad Will Ferrell did for Old Milwaukee beer ran only on KNOP in North Platte, Neb. And, really, it's the funniest thing.

Let me explain something about
Channel 2 -- and, really, this is rich. See, back when I lived in North Platte in the early 1980s, KNOP had this really

UPDATE: The editors at Deadspin are such a bunch of tools. They entice the entire media universe to link to their YouTube video . . . then, after everyone does, they make it private, thereby breaking every embed. Watch fast. We expect them to copyright-flag this YouTube version any second now, concerned as they are about the legal rights of Old Milwaukee.

Stay classy,
Gawker Media.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The irreplaceable editor

There's something I need to say.

You know how people -- mostly in corporations and crap -- say no one is irreplaceable? That's bulls***. The folks in North Platte, Neb., learned how irreplaceable Keith Blackledge was when he retired as editor of the North Platte Telegraph.

They learned how irreplaceable he was when he was no longer at the little daily newspaper, and no longer was taking punk kids right out of college and turning them into grown-up reporters and editors who, frankly, learned more in North Platte than they had in several years of journalism school. North Platte also learned how irreplaceable Keith was when -- suddenly -- the little newspaper that could . . . couldn't. Well, at least not nearly so much as it had under the steady -- and sometimes bemused -- leadership of Keith Blackledge.

People learned how irreplaceable one newspaper editor was when he no longer sat in that corner office at the Telegraph. When he no longer could will, it seemed, a little city to do what needed to be done, establish what needed to be established and build what needed to be built.

They also learned how irreplaceable Keith was when he grew too frail to serve on the approximately 98 trillion committees and boards he had served on for decades and decades.

AND NOW we all are learning how irreplaceable Keith Blackledge is as a presence in our lives -- as a living example of how to love the place where God has put you, do a job to the best of your ability and then teach your charges how to do that, too. We're learning that because time waits for no man -- not even Keith -- and it finally has taken that presence away from us.

We can't replace it. We can't replace the best damned boss we ever had -- those of us who were blessed enough to pass through the Telegraph newsroom on our way to somewhere, alas, not as good.

Almost three decades ago, a know-it-all, smartass kid from way south of the Mason-Dixon Line trekked out to the Sandhills of Nebraska to give Keith Blackledge a spring and a summer of hard work, some more-or-less decent news stories and, no doubt, a serious case -- or 20 -- of acid indigestion, with the odd migraine thrown in as lagniappe.

In return, Keith gave me a graduate-level, hands-on education in community journalism, a well-deserved ass-chewing or two, several friends for life . . . and my dear wife of 27 years -- the wire editor I stole from him on my way out the door.

I got the better end of the deal. Keith, meantime, was left holding an IOU I couldn't repay, not even if I had six lifetimes to try.

At the wedding shower, he also gave me the best advice I've ever gotten. Keith advised me that I should take care of all the monumental things in Mrs. Favog's and my marriage -- you know, world peace, geopolitics, erasing the national debt and divining the meaning of life -- while letting my new bride handle everything else. You know, like what I'll wear, where I'll go, where we'd live, what we'd eat, when I should just shut the hell up . . . stuff like that.

So far, it's worked out pretty damned well.

Except that I just broke Keith's rule about cussing in the newsroom.

I only can hope that the best damned newspaperman ever will forgive me this one last transgression. After all, I was -- and am -- replaceable.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

No place to go, nothing to do

From Facebook:
I live in North Platte Noww. Im only 13 and its boring there is nothing to do.. Whats up with all the drugs people say we do.. Yeah we do hang out at the park but so does everyone else. Its a community we know each other its not a big exciting city, but its a great town to live. We have fun in our own ways. You make friends that you will probably have for a lifetime. I love North Platte.

Kid, everybody thinks the grass is greener somewhere else, but usually it's not.

In Omaha, which is about 20 times the size of North Platte, kids hang out at the park, or at the mall, or in the Old Market and complain that Omaha is boring and there's nothing to do.

You're right, North Platte is a great place. When I lived there nearly 30 years ago, I grew to love the place. I met people who are friends to this day.

Most importantly, I met my wife.

BASICALLY, North Platte took a kid from the Deep South seeing how far away from home he could land a job, and it turned him into a Nebraskan.

For that, I will be forever grateful.

But here's the beauty of a small city like North Platte -- it's big enough to offer opportunities but small enough for a 13-year-old and her friends to make a real difference and accomplish great things.

For example, it's small enough for you and your friends, and maybe your parents, too, to find an underused property -- or maybe an old, rundown building the city would like to tear down or fix up -- and offer your free labor and enthusiasm to fix it up for, say, a youth center. Which would give kids something to do.

Or maybe you could start your own low-power radio station. Or your own North Platte youth-oriented website. Or organize summer showcases for local bands.

Or maybe kids could all get together to volunteer helping the poor or the homeless.

Or maybe you could just ask the Union Pacific whether you could have a paper-airplane flying contest atop the Golden Spike monument.

Actually, that sounds like fun. Even to a 49-year-old.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Us in 1929

When I arrived in North Platte, Neb., during the last gasps of winter in 1983, something struck me about the place -- especially as a native of the Deep South.

There weren't any black people to speak of. I mean, the place was as white as the snow on the ground.

AS IT turns out, there were reasons for that. I'd wager that something close to being chief among those reasons would be what happened Saturday, July 13, 1929. ("Darkies"? A newspaper in Prescott, Ariz., thought it respectable to use the word "darkies" in a headline -- or anywhere else? Really?)

The North Platte incident was especially eerie in light of what happened here in Omaha a decade earlier, on Sept. 28, 1919.

DON'T THINK we're much more civilized these days, and don't think there aren't groups out there ready and willing to play with fire in these "interesting times."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

College Football Nirvana

There's no crying in baseball.

But for Nebraska football fans, reading this blog post by Louisiana-Lafayette's radio play-by-play announcer may have brought on some misty eyes. May, hell.

WHAT JAY WALKER wrote did cause more than a few of us to well up a bit:
I've been to nine SEC stadiums. (I'll go to a tenth next season at Georgia.) I've seen the grove at Ole Miss, experienced the Gator Chomp, the Mississippi State cowbells, been a part of Alabama football in both Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. I've been called "Tigerbait" in Baton Rouge and experienced some pretty good hospitality in South Carolina.

I've said hello to the folks at Illinois and Minnesota. Felt September heat in Tempe, AZ.

Been to Manhattan, Lubbock, Austin, Stillwater and College Station. College Station was probably the best. Folks say "Howdy" when they see you. And they say "welcome."

Haven't been to the Horseshoe, the Big House or Happy Valley. Nor have I seen Touchdown Jesus.

But I've been to College Football Nirvana.

It's located in Lincoln, Nebraska.

From the time we touched down ("Welcome to Lincoln," the police officers doing the escort said) to the time we left the stadium ("Thanks so much for coming, have a safe trip home. We hope you'll come back again") every Cajun fan felt like a guest.

That's right. A guest. Not the opposition...not the enemy....a guest.

Check into the Cornhusker Marriott, not far from campus. Fans of Big Red Nation are already there. Smiles, handshakes....welcome to Lincoln. Good luck tomorrow.

Board the bus for dinner. Arrive at Misty's, Lincoln's famous steakhouse (I mean, you gotta eat a steak, right?). There were about 25 in our party. We had to wait about twenty minutes for them to get everything ready. No problem. As soon as the patrons saw the Cajun gear, they wanted to talk...introduce themselves....welcome to Lincoln....thanks so much for coming. Hope you enjoy the game.....

Is this for real??

And, it continued throughout the evening and into the night. We made lots of friends. We Cajun people make friends pretty easily, but it's even easier when folks want to be friends.

In Lincoln, they all want to be your friend.

Gameday is different in Lincoln. They tailgate, sure....but it's tougher because, well, there's just not a lot of tailgaiting spots. But they do open the soccer field next to the stadium. Families can let the kids roam free. Nebraska radio does a pregame show there. And, a band plays during the commercial breaks.

I did an interview at the soccer field with the Nebraska radio folks. And then, had a pretty good trek to the media entrance. At each gate, the sight was the same. Hundreds lined up, waiting for the gates to open so they could get into the stadium and watch their team warm up.

By the time Nebraska came out, about 45 minutes before kickoff, the stadium was about 65% full. There was no "hey, let's stay outside and pound a few more beers."

Because it was gameday. And they came to see football.

By the time the band was ready to come out, 86,000 strong were in their seats. They stood and clapped along when the Cornhusker Band played "Fight on Cajuns" to honor their guests. And when the band played "There is no Place Like Nebraska" I knew that the statement was true.

WALKER GETS IT. Nebraska is a special place, and game day in Lincoln is something akin to the concentrated essence of a state.

And, at least in Nebraska circles, the Louisiana blog post has gone viral. It's even featured on

I think I know what came over the Cajuns' radio guy. It happened to me in 1983.
Actually, it really started in high school in Baton Rouge, when a Nebraska-native buddy would sing the praises of his home state at every opportunity. And it built a few years later when -- as a student at Louisiana State -- I started following the Cornhuskers in addition to my LSU Tigers.

I was hooked in Miami at the 1983 Orange Bowl, when the Huskers beat LSU 21-20 and I couldn't quite decide who the hell to pull for. But I was awfully happy Nebraska won and knew I had to get to this special place out on the Plains.

THAT YEAR, I took some time off from college and -- somehow -- landed a spring and summer reporting job at the North Platte Telegraph. There, I made friends for life and got the equivalent of a graduate degree in community journalism before I even had finished by BA at LSU.

Out in the Sandhills, I fell in love with Nebraska and knew this place would someday be home. It didn't hurt that I fell in love with the Telegraph's wire editor.

And one fine day in early August, I asked her to be my wife. In Lincoln. In the shadow of Memorial Stadium. At NU's football picture day.

So, I married the pretty wire editor in North Platte on the day we packed up a red Nissan Sentra with Nebraska 15-county plates and a red Chevy Vega with a Louisiana plate and an NU window decal. We then headed south for my final 27 credit hours at LSU and her introduction to culture shock, Tiger football . . . and a year of lame jokes about the state tree of Nebraska being a telephone pole.

Sometimes in Baton Rouge, life can be one big "Tiger bait!" when you're "not from around here." Even when you're nowhere near Tiger Stadium.

SOME 26 YEARS LATER, Nebraska is home. Has been for the last 21 of them -- just like I knew it would. And it all started with Big Red football . . . and with the classy fans who so love "dear old Nebraska U."

As folks say today, Nebraska fans "represent." No matter where they are, they make present what is so special about this place we call home.

And you never know where something like that will lead.

Thanks for coming, Cajun fans . . . happy to hear y'all passed a good time.

Come again soon; bring andouille. I'll get the gumbo started -- best in Omaha.

And because your play-by-play man is such a stand-up fella, this LSU grad will never call UL-Laf(ayette) "You'll Laugh" again. Nebraska is wearing off on me.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What's wrong with being a hick?

I love Omaha, but one might argue -- contra the theme of the "Eastern Nebraska State Song" -- that one sign of being a "hick" state is going to great and self-conscious lengths to convince the rest of the country that you're not a hick state.

Besides, what the hell is so wrong with living in a hick state? I fell in love with Nebraska a quarter-century ago when I moved to a "hick" town in the "hick" part of the state.

I FELL IN LOVE with the Sandhills and that feeling of complete freedom you get when you look out over the grassy dunes that stretch as far as the horizon . . . and beyond. And I fell in love with living in a town where, if you don't know everybody, soon enough you probably will.

I fell in love with friendly and unpretentious people. And with giving folks a little wave when they were driving one way on a lonely road and you were headed the other.

Finally, during my stay in a hick town in -- yes -- a "hick state," I fell in love. And I married my sweetheart in a hick ceremony, in a hick house, in that wonderful hick town.

And while I'm happy for all of Omaha's growth in the two decades we've lived here -- and while it's exciting to see downtown become more and more hip and cosmopolitan every day -- telling the world Omahans aren't "hicks" and we don't live in a "hick state" ain't gonna convince Blue Staters of anything.

Not that anyone ought to give a rat's ass what they think anyway.

IF YOU LIKE where you live, and if your kids are well educated -- if they master their studies, if they likewise learn to be honest and kind and love God and their fellow man -- and if crime is low and neighborliness is high, isn't that good enough?

Because, after all, a lot of the things we value most when we pick a spot to grow roots come from the better, "hick" angels of our nature. Now, call me a hick, but I think it's high time we embrace the best of who -- and what -- we are.

And if that be "hick," "rube," "hayseed" or "Gomer," so be it.

If Noo Yawk don't like that, it can lump it. 'Cause I don't give a flying cowchip one way or another.