The rain didn’t stop numerous community members from attending the Mebane Historical Museum’s G.B. “Bushy” Cook presentation narrated by Phil Mace Sunday in downtown Mebane.
Every seat was filled, and among those who attended were descendants of Bushy, as well as people who knew him, or people who wanted to learn more about him. Mayor Glendel Stephenson and his wife Pat were also in attendance.
George Braxton Cook was born in 1889 to Joseph Woodard and Hester Mull-Cook in Haywood County, North Carolina. Bushy was the third of 11 children and began working in a textile plant at the age of nine. Although, Bushy received little formal education he was able to sign his name. He eventually ended up working in a cotton mill as a spinner.
In 1918, Bushy married Lula Jane Byrd and together they had 11 children. Cook’s youngest daughter Belvia Snow was at the presentation and said her parents were complete opposites when it came to height and personality.
“He was a strict disciplinarian,” she said. “Mama was very laid back. She used psychology on us. If we’d get to arguing about who was going to wash dishes she’d take one of us to the side and say go ahead and do it.”
The people who knew Bushy remember him having a long beard and thick, untamed hair. The nickname was given to him at first because of his thick, curly locks. He started growing his beard in the 1930s.
Bushy spent most of his life working in the mills where he acquired a skill for setting up Jacquard looms. The looms were invented by a Frenchman and was used to manufacture textiles with difficult patterns. Although, he was not a good reader he was able to look at the loom pattern and punch the cards to transfer the patterns to cloth.
In the 1940s, the Cook family relocated to Jewett City Connecticut. “They pay better,” Bushy had once said. While in New England his wife and the older children worked in mills and manufacturing plants. Later, his two oldest sons quit their jobs and joined the United States Army.
Snow said her father refused to shave his beard until his sons came home from the Army. “They both got home ok but by that time he was enjoying the beard so much he didn’t shave it off,” she said.
The Cook family moved to Efland in 1945 before World War II ended. After spending 38 years in the mills Bushy retired. A year after retiring he was spotted at a University of North Carolina football game. It was after that game when Bushy became the keeper of the UNC Tar Heels’ mascot Rameses.
During his time as handler Bushy took Rameses to New York City, where UNC played Notre Dame. The mascot traveled in a trailer built and painted white and blue by Bushy. He was the mascot’s keeper until 1957. That is also when he decided to shave off his beard.
Cook wasn’t just a ram handler, he appeared in events like “Singing on the Mountain. He also entered a beard growing contest. He marched in parades in and around Mebane, met interesting people, appeared on magazine covers and appeared with the House of David baseball team. He also has a road named after him in Efland.
Bushy and his wife moved Florida and ran a country store there for a few years before returning to Alamance County. Bushy passed away in 1974 and he was 76. His wife Lula, died 7 years later.
Even after his death, the newspapers continued to write about him and as said in one of the many articles printed about him,” Now there’s a fella who knows how to enjoy himself.”
At the end of the presentation the family members of Bushy were asked to stand. The handful of descendants rose to their feet and were given a round of applause. A few of the attendees shared their memories and stories of Bushy. The only response to those memories and stories was laughter.