November 30, 2007
Kum & Go — We go all out!
Coolest Business Name in the West.
Buffalo, Wyoming is a town of about 4000 some twenty miles south of Banner, the settlement where I am staying. Buffalo’s main attraction is the Occidental Hotel, which has hosted Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Calamity Jane, and Teddy Roosevelt. Its main industry is methane gas production. Its main street has the charming Sagewood Cafe, where I enjoyed a vegetable sandwich with dilled cream cheese and a Henry Weinhard’s vanilla cream soda (almost as good as Diet Dr. Brown), and the Kum & Go convenience store whose sign is shown above, where I stopped for some vanilla soda to take home.
I first knew Kum & Go when I visited Wyoming in 2005. The faintly salacious name amused me. The company was founded in 1959 by William Krause and Tony Gentle, who sought a name that would emphasize convenience and speed for your shopping experience. They played off “come and go” by using the founders’ initials.
Maybe Krause and Gentle were staid 1950s businessmen who didn’t realize the name would have a high amusement factor. I was twelve years old in 1959 and certainly wouldn’t have gotten it. (I was a little slow on the uptake with Laugh-In’s “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls!”, and I was a lot older then.) The company always sold merchandise with their logo, but sales increased in 2006 when a t-shirt showed up on an actor in some movie comedy. Now there are blog rings and Flickr sites which feature nothing but photographs of Kum & Go signs.
I didn’t go to Buffalo today solely to photograph a suggestive sign. Now that I have a car I’m itching to see more of the countryside. I’m in a different, wilder place than the places I visited in 2005. There is something about these wide open spaces that calls to adventure, to risk taking, to fulfillment.
The manuscript I worked on yesterday and today (yes, I did write 500 words this morning) is a coming-of-age piece in which the central character struggles to understand the changes that are happening in her. She doesn’t enjoy the juvenile television programs she once rushed home from school to see, she witnesses her father tell a lie to a car mechanic about why he needs the car fixed right away, and she is burdened by a secret she knows about a neighbor. The resolution I am writing toward will see her deferring her acceptance of these puzzling things and hanging onto childhood for a little while longer.
That character is, of course, drawn on me. The things that happen to her are manipulated versions of things that happened to me. I can’t write the ending of her story any differently. I’ve tried, and having her embrace change and grow quickly just doesn’t ring true.
I had a banner year in 2007, and here in Banner, Wyoming I contemplate 2008 and the ways it might be different, and better. As I gallivant under the wide Wyoming sky, cloudy and subdued and suggestive of struggle today, I gather the courage to come and go in faith.
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