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Uncle Lone Ranger

When I was a young boy, I’d go over to Grandpa Cook’s house some evenings and listen to the radio.

After listening to the World War II news commentaries by H.V. Kaltenborn and Fulton Lewis Jr., which I thought were pretty boring, we’d listen to the thrilling adventures of The Lone Ranger.

The narrator commanded us, “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats…”

I was pretty disgusted when I found out William Tell had stolen the Lone Ranger’s stirring musical theme: Brump–bumparump–pumpapumpapump-bumparump…

I would imagine the scenes in the radio drama, but I figured Grandpa could actually remember what they looked like. I knew that the Lone Ranger was Grandpa’s uncle.

Grandpa didn’t talk much about family, and I don’t either. The only reason I bring it up now is that three of my first cousins are running for governor of California (none of them is Austrian). It’s time I got our ancestors out there for all to see.

As with most families, the Cooks have been a mixed bunch–some winners, some losers. If I reach far enough, I find I am related to Ogden Nash, Mark Twain, Lizzie Borden and Sam Spade. Hartley Hazard, an early-day country singer, was a distant relative, and a big influence. I also take heart from Edgar Allan Poe, a relative on Mom’s side of the family.

The first Cook to come to these shores, fourteen or fifteen generations ago, was Raleigh Cooke, a Puritan who was supposed to have been on the Mayflower.

Raleigh missed the boat–not the last Cook to do so. One of our family stories says that on the way to the docks, Raleigh was waylaid by varlets and knaves. Another story says he dallied with strumpets. Yet another version, the one I think is probably true, says he stopped to help a little mongrel dog who had an injured paw, and that caused him to miss the sailing.

Raleigh was a simple man–that was one of the things that set the Puritans apart–but what he lacked in determination, he made up for in stubborness. He swam to America, pushing the little dog ahead of him on a log. They landed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina nearly a year after the Mayflower left England.

The natives said no, they had seen no Puritans, but they gave Raleigh some young tobacco plants to get him started as a farmer. When the next shipload of colonists came along, Raleigh married Gwyneth, whose husband had fallen overboard during the journey. Raleigh and Gwyneth had 14 children.

A number of their descendants staggered–sorry, I’m reading my notes wrong. The number of their descendants over fourteen or fifteen generations is just staggering.

Now, here is one of those tricky details that make genealogy so challenging: Raleigh’s name wasn’t actually spelled “Cooke.” When he left England, his name was spelled “Poole,” which just sort of naturally evolved into “Cooke,” and then “Cook,” over succeeding generations.

However, one branch of Raleigh’s descendants took their original name seriously, and clung to it through the years.

The scholarly Gene Poole was an early-day geneticist; “genealogy” is named for him. Religious fundamentalists in his hometown, Strumpwick, Massachussets, thought his research in genetics was the work of the devil. For one thing, they misunderstood the meaning of the term “seminal research.”

The churgoers stoned him and spat on his porch. Gene Poole died penniless.

Gene’s brother, Colonel S.E.S. “Cess” Poole, held patents on several improvements to septic tanks, and invested early in vitreous china bathroom fixtures. He died rich, and things went swimmingly for his descendants.

Most descendants of Raleigh, however, eventually changed the spelling of “Poole” to “Cook,” except for one daring eccentric who went to court and had his name changed to John Pierpont Morgan.

I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandfather, Stanton Earl Cook, who was usually called Earl. He was born in Wyoming or Nebraska in 1879, and died in Phoenix in 1963.

He was on his own at age 10 because his father, Lemuel Cook, a stagecoach driver and the brother of the Lone Ranger, had died young. Grandpa was farmed out to relatives, but they were not kind to him, so he took off to be a cowboy, a freighter, a drayman.

One evening in 1942, Grandpa told me the sad story of the incident that brought down the Lone Ranger. Until now, I haven’t even shared this story with my cousins.

The Lone Ranger’s given name was Rational T. Cook, and he was called “Rash” for short. Rash didn’t get along with the rest of the Cooks, so he became the Lone Ranger and set out to bring righteousness and justice to the frontier. When he first started, the frontier was right around Creston, Iowa, so the job wasn’t all that tough.

One fateful day, Lone was riding out of a little town where he had just routed the nasty, snarling villains and restored law and order. Idlers on the bench in front of the mercantile asked each other, “Who was that masked man?”

The Lone Ranger was at his peak. Ebullient with success, he cried out “HI-YO SILVER–AWAY!” a little too vigorously.

He ruined his vocal chords, just like that. In those days, people who wore a mask and served truth and justice didn’t have very good medical benefits, and what good was a masked avenger without a strong baritone voice?

Lone, a.k.a. Rash Cook, spent the rest of his working life as a security guard in the Chicago stockyards. He married a widow named O’Leary and helped her raise a passle of kids.

Tonto moved out to California, where it was easy to find work as a companion.

Silver, still virile, was put to stud. Family legend has it that the blood of Silver was in such famous steeds as Seabiscuit, English Muffin and Trigger.

I guess I’d call the Lone Ranger my great-granduncle. Grandma Cook, who had been Ella Pearl Throop, stayed in the kitchen while Grandpa and I listened to Lone Ranger. Male bonding, you know.

Earl and Ella had five sons. The middle son, Kenneth, married Ruby Mae Dodson. I was first-born of their three children.

I was named James Earl after my mother’s father, James Nathan Dodson, who was born in Flat, Texas; and Grandpa Earl Cook.

I didn’t get to spend much time with Grandpa Dodson, who lived mostly in Texas. I’ve reported in the past how as a young man, Jim Dodson founded the Flat Tire Company in his hometown. It did not prosper.

Mom’s side of the family is every bit as colorful as Dad’s, what with Edgar Allan Poe, Lily Langtry, Stephen Foster and Samuel F.B. Morse on various branches. Those stories will have to wait for another day.

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