By Sarah Schrock

Generation Xers may remember the beginning of social networking that emerged as the Kevin Bacon game. This game posited that any actor or actress was connected to Kevin Bacon by no more than six degrees of separation, making Kevin Bacon the “center of the entertainment universe.” One can now enter an actor’s name into a search engine powered by an algorithm and connect him/her to Kevin Bacon, listing the degrees of separation.

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn and all the popular social networks, prey upon the same theory of six degrees of separation, linking people through connections. I believe if someone smarter than me wrote an algorithm, we would prove that the Methow is actually the “Center of the Universe.”

This weekend I visited Ketchum, Idaho, for a mother-daughter ski trip in celebration of my recent rite of passage into my 40s. Within 72 hours, I struck up conversations with four complete strangers, all of whom had connections to the Methow Valley. First a weak connection — the guy who snapped a photo of me and my sisters. He had some friends who own property here and are planning to move in the near future.

But the connections got stronger and closer to Twisp.

During my brown bag lunch after a skate ski, I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman named Franky who had just finished a backcountry ski. Upon introductions, he said to me, “do you know Sam Lucy, he’s my first cousin.” My reply: “Well yes, and I know his wife, his kids, and his sisters!” Sam tells me his cousin is an avid backcountry skier in the Big Wood River Valley and “one the last great hosts.” I believe it because within five minutes, Franky gave me his card and offered to take me and my hubby on a ski tour next time we come to town.

Immediately following this connection, one of his ski companions revealed she knew Lew Holston and Florence Sawyer. My response: “Well yes, he’s stuck needles in me, and Florence was my kids’ preschool teacher!”

Finally, the most-random connection involved a master boot-fitter with a European accent named Lars. As he was casting my feed in a paraffin wax mold to help my falling arches, he said to me, “so you’re from Twisp, do you know a cowboy named J.P. Doran?” My reply: “You mean John Doran, the cowboy poet who wears a kilt? Yes, of course I know him.”

Lars goes on to tell me about how he needed a camping spot one night on a road trip in Montana near the Battle at Little Bighorn. So John and his buddies in the U.S. Cavalry School, camped out for their annual reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand, took him into their camp for the night and have been friends ever since. According to John, this run-in with the Austrian in Idaho is an example of the “Cavalry Connection” that casts its net in far off corners of the world.

Whether it’s the “Cavalry Connection” or meeting “one of last best hosts,” the human connection of the social network offers an authenticity much more fulfilling than accepting a “friend” request online. As I write this, there’s a fog of grief and shock surrounding the fire at the Twisp River Pub this morning. No other family has been more riddled with the grave reality of fire than perhaps the Studens, and like any watering hole in a small town, closure of this establishment will impact all of us.

It’s a tangible piece of the web that binds us all, and how strong the fabric is that holds it together. So cast your net out and your arms wide to send some support and love to all the families who rely on this landmark for their livelihoods. As far as I know, Facebook doesn’t have a “hug” button yet.