DONNA — Squeak, squeak, squeak went the front wheel of his tricycle as he was riding back and forth, back and forth across the concrete porch of their home. Jack was three. Big brother, Jerry (go to valleytowncrier.com, enter Jerry and Patty Cook in search field), was eight. Squeak, squeak went the wheel until Jerry couldn't stand it anymore. Finding his dad's oil can, he squirted up that wheel until the squeak had fled. Setting the can down in the corner of the porch, Jerry went on his way knowing all was well.
Jack continued back and forth across the porch. Only the next time he turned the corner he fell from his tricycle right on top of that oil can's spout. Plunging into his head above his right eyebrow, the spout went in as far as its base. Upon hitting bone, the spout bent and went around his eye socket ending with the tip of the spout about to break skin on his right cheek.
"It didn't knock me out," Jack Cook, Casa del Sol, said. "I just got up and ran around calling for Bubba, my nickname for my big brother." Instead of Jerry, Jack's dad came running, startled to see the oil can sticking out of his young son's head.
“Dad assumed the can had stuck straight in my head and followed his first reaction. He took hold of my head and pulled the can out. Then I passed out. He thought he had killed me,” said Jack, laughing.
Luckily it only required a few stitches and Jack was fine. Knowing he could have had an early exit in life because of that oil can, Jack viewed the can as a trophy.
“My dad used to use that can. When he passed away I went into his tool shed and that was the first thing I grabbed,” he said. “I didn’t want anything to happen to it.”
No matter the circumstances, young Jack admired his big brother and trusted him with his life.
One day when Jack was five and Jerry was 10, they were watching TV. An act was on where a man was throwing knives at a woman standing still. Confident this was something he could do, Jerry grabbed a butter knife, took Jack outside and put him against the house and assumed a pose. Throwing firmly, the knife sailed through the air and landed - almost where it was supposed to — but not quite.
“It hit me right in the corner of my left eye. As I grew that scar moved up to my eyebrow,” he said, laughing again. “I have the scars to prove how much I trusted my brother.”
Born and raised in Oklahoma City, there were 13 other boys on his block in the same grade. Consequently anything they wanted to do, they had enough for a team — football, baseball. Playing games at each other’s homes, riding their bikes to the movies — they stuck together.
“We’d be gone all day and there weren’t any parents that worried about where we were or what we were doing. When the streetlights started to come on at night, you would hear mothers come out in the front yards and start calling names. As long as we showed up when we were supposed to, it was great,” said Jack.
Wanting to play the trumpet like his brother, he finally ended up with a trombone — one with a special attachment to fit his, then, short arms. It must have been a good fit for it worked for Jack during junior and senior band, community bands in his town, and went on to become the instrument for his son.
“After my son put the horn down, I picked it back up and started playing again,” Jack said. “It was a lot easier than I thought.” While in the Valley, he plays with the Rio Grande Valley Concert Band.
From college, Jack went to work at a 3M plant in the photographic film division. However, as film waned, so did that division and Jack moved on. Department manager at Wal-Mart was his next stop until he decided on something a little different.
“I had an opportunity to work in an oil field,” he said. “I was a shop hand in charge of the equipment and explosives. I loaded the guns which went to the well site to go down the hole and fracture rock formations. I loved that job. It was so different. Every day was different, exciting.”
Alas, after six years the oil field business took a downturn and that company went out of business which gave Jack another chance to try something new.
“For the last 10 years I worked in a machine shop,” he said. Wearing a variety of hats he was a machine operator, a production manager and quality control.
Over the years Jack had been married and has two children and seven grandchildren. Jerry had married and moved around a bit so the brothers didn’t get to see each other as often as they would like.
About six years ago Jerry asked Jack to come along with them to some of the Samborees with he and Patty. Attending the Samborees, meeting their friends, it became apparent to Jack he’d like to do this more and spend more time with his brother.
Investigating how he could do it full time he was encouraged by Good Sam State Directors and Sambassadors to look into cleaning RV carpets. It appears those carpets are not your run of the mill household carpet.
“It’s a nylon carpet with a mesh backing with layers of mesh, latex and more mesh. But if you clean it with a standard truck mounted carpet cleaner which has water temperatures of 200 degrees and sprays at 500 to 1000 Psi, it could melt the carpet,” Jack said. “If you soak the backing it could damage the subfloor because there’s not much padding there, also causing the backing to delaminate.”
He researched what type of carpets he’d be dealing with, what was the best type of cleaner and began to see there was a way he could hit the road. Adding upholstery cleaning to his on-the-road RV carpet cleaning business, he now teaches classes in cleaning RVs carpet.
“I teach them what to do when they have a carpet spill, what to do immediately, how to get spots out,” he said. “I really enjoy the work, the problem-solving. When they think their rug is ruined and have tried everything, I can go in there and clean it. That’s very gratifying.”
A year ago Jack left his work behind, sold his home and hit the road full time, trusting his big brother again to lead him down the safe path.
“We love museums. Where ever we go, we try to see the museums in the area. Pioneer Village west of Hastings in Nebraska had an astonishing collection - right out in the middle of cornfields! It’s the last place you would expect to find a museum.”
Traveling to the Valley it was the first time he had seen a body of water like the Gulf.
“It’s unimaginable how much water there is on this planet,” he said. “I enjoyed going barefoot on the beach and picking up shells. I’d never done that in my life. All of these are ‘firsts’ for me - the traveling, the seeing things I’ve never seen. I’ve always been a late bloomer. At 60 years of age, I’m beginning all these new things.”
His children were glad Dad was finally getting out of Weatherford, Okla., and having adventures. They follow his journey and every once in a while they,’ll ask, “Is it still an adventure Dad?”
Entertaining other Winter Texans with his brother by his side, singing and playing his horn, the world is a big place and he has a lot to see and do.
“We’re doing this while there’s time,” Jack said. “It’s not something you want to look back on and say… ‘I wish I had.’ While we have the time and the ability, it‘s something that either we’re going to do now or not at all.’