A fire on the day of a child’s birthday is the type of event that can haunt them well into adulthood, turning what should be a day of celebration into one dominated by the painful weight of loss.
That could have been the case when a Jones Creek family lost their home the morning of Jan. 11. Instead, community members and firefighters pulled together to make a 7-year-old girl’s birthday memorable in a positive way.
Shelby Clark was home with her four daughters that Saturday morning when she smelled smoke and told the girls to go outside. A small birthday celebration for 7-year-old daughter Tailyn was on the agenda for later when her partner, Chase Cooper, got home from work.
The party supplies and gifts went up with the house, though, and it seemed less a priority after all the mixed families’ belongings were lost in the flames. A quick-thinking neighbor rallied community members to still pull off a party.
A future firefighter mentioned the situation to Jones Creek Fire Chief Gus Cancino and put things into motion.
“It was kind of a bad deal,” Cancino said. “This was a fire on her birthday … So the fire department pitched in some money and bought the kids presents and took them over to them.”
Family friend Miranda Heritier also stepped up. She started a Gofundme account for Cooper and Clark’s family, saying the young couple didn’t deserve that tragedy, and brought the girls to her house to bake a birthday cake.
The effort touched the young family.
“We were really caught off guard,” Cooper said. “We’ve had a lot of emotional support — the firefighters, community members — just lots of support. It’s been really amazing … They went out of their way to make a kid’s birthday.”
Those acts of kindness will be remembered throughout the family members’ lives and undoubtedly paid forward in some way. And for Clark, Cooper and their children, undoubtedly the best gift that day didn’t come in fancy wrapping paper.
Residents should dig deeper into Brazoria County history
People shouldn’t stop educating themselves about history just because they passed a class in high school. There is too much to learn between the sweeping strokes provided in classrooms.
That especially is true in an area as rich in history as Brazoria County, where a colony and a republic formed the foundation of greatness that still fills the spirit of Texas. Too few people know what is in the underbelly of the region’s past, both good and bad, which is why the “History Talks” series can be so valuable for both new and longtime residents.
“One of the reasons we started the talks is because textbooks tend to skip over this area, even though this area was one of the first major settlements in Texas,” said Jennifer Parsley, a historical interpreter. “It gives us a lot of room to play because there is so little written about it.”
Pasley presented the most recent monthly history lesson at Stephen F. Austin-Munson Historical County Park, one covering The Great Chicken Massacre. In the story, slaves had to butcher and cook 500 chickens in one night, a seemingly impossible task, but as the story has passed from one generation to the next, how much of it is true isn’t clear.
But that is part of what makes history fascinating, and why more locals should take an interest in finding out how the area planted the seeds that made Texas and continues to be an important part of its past and future.
Venable’s chamber work went beyond job description
West of the Brazos communities pride themselves on their history, and those who can trace themselves back to the early days of the colony and republic wear that lineage as a badge of honor.
Callie Venable’s connection to the First Capitol of Texas only goes back more than three decades, but she has sunk her roots as deeply into the community as anyone who has historic ancestry in West Columbia.
She moved to the West of the Brazos city from Angleton in 1985, setting up a home and small business. For the last decade, she has led the West Columbia Chamber of Commerce, helping transform it into a welcoming home of boutiques and invited eateries.
The time came this year to pass on the reins, however, and Venable will be missed for the passion she brought to her role as the business community’s biggest cheerleader.
“I feel like I’ve been the mama hen and these are my baby chicks,” Venable said. “I’m truly going to miss the businesses.”
She’s not going anywhere, just stepping aside to focus on her photography business and family. It’s all but guaranteed, though, she will continue to be a spark in making things happen in West Columbia.