My favorite traditions are the accidental kind. I really can’t stand all the stuff heaped on us by the media and big boxes trying to get us to buy into, say, Christmas hype starting in September. But I have stumbled into moments in my life that continue to bear repeating. Of all of these, I think Stopping for Kolaches in West Comma Texas just must be my favorite.
I can no longer remember the first time I went to the Czech Stop off of exit 353 for those little sweet and savory pastries. But it has to be going on fifteen years or more now that I pull over, whether I need gas or not, and fill up my personal tank with cherry cream cheese and apricot cream cheese kolaches.
So many summers I tossed little Henry in the back of one crappy old beater or another—no air conditioning, windows down, whipping up the highway Jersey bound or back down again homeward bound—and always came The Stop. I was (still am) so enamored of West that when I was a lifestyle reporter for the Dallas Morning News I convinced my editor to let me do a piece that involved spending an entire day in the Czech Stop, watching the comings and goings of so many just-passing-through truckers and tourists as well as all the locals.
I’ve had so many opportunities and honors in my life as a writer—bylines in lots of big places. But I have to say of all the accolades and kudos I’ve received, nothing thrilled me more than all those years after I wrote that article when I stopped in West and there it was, my article, framed and hanging above the register.
On a quick trip up to Fort Worth this week, I felt an odd combination of dread and eagerness in the pit of my stomach as the mile markers worked there way up to 300 and then beyond, knowing that West was just up the holler. And then there she was.
I’m not sure what I expected to see in the aftermath of the explosion. And I didn’t see much to let on that so much loss had occurred. But I could feel it in the air. And, too, I could also feel the buzz of Let’s Carry On. The Czech Stop was packed with a line snaking through the store. I loaded up on kolaches—more than usual just to be helpful, you know? And I dropped a check in the disaster relief bucket. And I thought about the loss of so many lives.
|These are now a permanent part of my ass.|
Here’s what really got me though. Taped to the front of the store were the missing dog fliers—pets that were lost in the explosion, maybe dead, maybe on the run, who knows. With all due respect to the human loss and pain, those dog fliers were a punch to the gut for me as I still wake up sometimes and do a dog count over here and realize we are two down from where we were just three weeks ago.
In these crazy times of media frenzies fed by internet races to see who can outpace whom in reporting on Big News and Great Tragedy, what happened in West, Texas was overshadowed by what happened at the Boston Marathon. Not that tragedy is or should be a competition, but that’s how these things shake down.
And so, word on the street is that in a rush to be helpful, many people contributed to funds to help the Boston victims while the folks in West are still in tremendous need.
I know I am forever haranguing y’all to give to this cause or that. And recently I was thinking maybe I should just start the $5 Per Week Club, where 2,000 of us kick in $5 every Monday to go to some good cause. Ah, but that would require more organization than I can muster. And so I will just keep asking you to help on a case-by-case basis.
Please y’all—West, Texas needs us. Lend a hand. $5-- that's all I'm asking. More is great, but every little bit really does help. Here's how you can kick in:
And here’s a link for the Austin Bakes for Westbenefit this weekend—a great excuse to fatten your ass in the name of helping.
President of the Office of Good Deeds