WILLCOX Favorite Son and Daughter Award
Favorite Son 2015 - Jimmy Cook
A favorite son was honored at the 33rd annual Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame Banquet at the Willcox Community Center Oct. 1. The Arizona Range News sponsored the award.
Steve Reno, advertising representative with the Range News, made the presentation that night to James B. Jimmy Cook II. The Range News was honored to have the opportunity to recognize a favorite son or daughter for 2015 and expose them at the evening's banquet, he said.
Reno said that Cook fits the criteria of "all our favorite sons and daughters in the past, including being raised in Willcox, graduating from middle school and high school in Willcox, a supporter and promoter of this area who has attained recognition outside of Willcox, as well as making a difference in the lives of people in Willcox.
Cook would join a prestigious list of former favorite son and daughter luminaries and dignitaries that includes Gus Arzberger, Joe Lane, Danny Keiller, Anne Huffman, Eddie Browning, Pat Stark, Ellen Clark, Howard Bethel, Jake Weaver, Dave Harris, Frank Gonzalez, Gilbert Davidson, Homer Hansen, Ross Estavillo, Gary Clement and last year's honorees, Manny Gonzalez and Darryl Broome, Reno said. "Our favorite son or daughter for this year hasn't been revealed yet, and even the winner of this award doesn't know it yet, but they'll probably figure it out a little before you do as I reveal some more details," he told the audience.
Reno described Cook as "a well-known businessman and longtime volunteer, actively involved in the community, and has made a name outside the Willcox area through involvement in prominent agricultural groups and programs."
"He could've been a cowboy like his father and uncle, both Hall of Famers, but he just didn't care much for cattle or even horses," said Reno, adding, "He liked horsepower, but more on that in a moment."
"Let's go back to when he was a little tyke, maybe four or five growing up as, how would we say, oh, I guess you could say he was characterized as a spoiled only child," he told the audience. Reno relayed a story from Honey "Big Sis" Nicholson about one of their summer trips to the California ocean. Nicholson had "held him in her arms as they walked into the water and the waves," specifically instructing him "not to jump around in her arms - as he was already doing - and that if he would calm down, she would lift him when the waves came."
Cook did not listen, and "jumped as soon as the first wave came, going directly up and underneath the chin of his teen-age sis, who bit down hard on her tongue in the process." Nicholson "quickly gulped and swished a large amount of ocean water to stop the bleeding that followed." "Oh, she recovered enough to reach shore and repair the damage, but our little favorite son still gleefully recalls the day he broke her tongue," Reno said.
As a teenager himself, Cook loved baseball and basketball, played in the band for Mr. Bowman, and drove fast cars, he told the audience. "Yes, the horse power that we were talking about earlier," Reno explained. As one of his friends, Ronnie Calvert " a frequent passenger " would point out, his cars "would lose a lot of armrests." Calvert pointing out, of course, that he was holding on for dear life on some close calls in traffic," he said. "Speaking of close calls, our favorite son would later save his passenger and friend in a different set of traffic circumstances," Reno told the audience.
"It happened when they were hiking the Grand Canyon as adults on a scouting trip. Calvert recalled, "We were hiking back up the canyon at night, because it was cooler, and he heard the hooves of horses and mules coming our way." He alertly pushed me up against the wall of the trailhead or I would have been stampeded or pushed off the side." That was a close one." Reno called Cook "quite the prankster" in his teenage years, according to Calvert.
"He would have parties in his house and find somebody sleeping," pour shaving cream in their hand then get a feather, tickle their nose and, voila, shaving cream all over. A classic," he told the audience.
Calvert even admits, ""I remember once when I was dumb enough to fall asleep at the end of one of his parties and they put Clearasil all over my face." They let the stuff harden, woke me up, and yelled, that girl threw up all over your face." Another classic." However, Cook's prankster days "harken back to an even younger time," Reno said. "Ken Dunlap likes to remind our favorite son of that day when Kenneth was working on a rooftop and felt a stinging sensation on his butt, only to look down and see a little prankster with a BB gun."
Reno's presentation fast forwarded to Cook's adult days of hunting and fishing, with a story told by Sheila Riggs, wife of close hunting buddy Donnie Riggs. "One time we were railing up the Gila " in other words, crossing the Gila River back and forth in a sand rail toward the San Francisco " and the men were fishing along the way. Well, she said, "Let me rephrase that. They were catching fish with their hands." "I was so impressed," she continues, "with this way of catching fish as I had never seen anybody catch fish with their hands. Being a Mississippi girl we always used poles to catch fish." Anyway, these grown men would scream like women when the catfish would latch onto them."
Cook "thought he had everything covered in case anybody got suspicious as he had fishing poles hanging off the side of his sand-rail. Just as we were coming out of the river there sat a game warden." Everything was fine until the game warden looked inside the ice chest and asked how we caught the fish. Me being so proud of the way the boys were catching them, blurted out "Oh they caught them with their hands!"
Cook turned to his best friend Donnie Riggs, and said, " Do you want to write the check or do you want me to?" Reno went on to tell a hunting story in which "our merry prankster got a little taste of his own medicine." Riggs said that as a good friend of Cook's, "we haven't missed too many deer seasons together." "This one deer season, my wife had gotten a buck early in the hunt." Then we were having a hard time finding any other bucks." As the hunt went on, the bucks were scarce so I decided to liven things up a little bit," he told the audience. Riggs, who still had the deer hide and head of his wife's deer, decided to put it up on the hill behind the house. "The next morning when we left the house, someone in on the joke said, "Hey, there's a buck up there just lying under a mesquite." No one seemed to want him, but our favorite son took the bait and said, "By God, I'll take him." Cook and his wife then took off after the deer. " I told him we'd go around the hill in case he missed, because I knew we couldn't keep a straight face." After the fireworks were over, we went back around the hill and yelled at him, "Did you get him?" Cook said, "hell yes!" So he goes out to get his buck and finds out what I did." When he found out that he had shot a hide and a head, he knew he had been had."
Reno told Cook that "despite being 67 years of age, your best years are not all behind you." "We are honoring you for being a good Willcox boy, who, by the way was popular enough in high school for Connie (Dunham) to tell this story."
"When we moved to Willcox, he became good friends with my brother and I considered him a friend. Because he was the only one I knew back then, and I was too shy to ask someone else, I instead asked him to the Valentine dance as friends." Oh my gosh were the girls mad at me." They all liked him, thought he was wonderful and funny and so good looking." So they wanted to beat me up for asking him out." He apparently, was quite a catch."
Toward the end of the evening's presentation, Reno described Cook as "the son of a cattleman, who preferred fast cars and a drag race strip, went on to a college education and met the mother of his two sons in that time, marrying her and passing up a possible law career to bring her back to Willcox and run heavy equipment and eventually grow trees."
He said that Cook "loved golf and supported the high school program and the Men's League, got involved in supporting scouting because that's what his two boys preferred over baseball, and got involved in the Elk's Lodge and their charitable activities." Cook also "became a farm manager, served on Sen. DeConcini's Ag Advisory committee, served as an outside consultant in California, Argentina and South Africa, and became a general manager of the Bowie Pistachio Plant," Reno said. As Cook went up to accept his plaque, Reno thanked those who contributed to Cook's story, including his wife Kathy Cook. When it came his turn to speak, Cook thanked everyone, and said, "I thank all of you and love all you guys." Cook said he was "somewhat suspicious of my wife, Kathy," as the "main instigator."
He also had an inkling something was up when he walked in the door of the Community Center that evening and spotted his card-playing buddies.
"When you see all your card playing people all set to go without the cards, you get a little suspicious," he told the audience. "I thank you and love you all," Cook repeated in closing.