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As I Remember

Clarence Cook, second from the left, with cousins Blanche, Ross and Amy Cook at Wilson’s Bridge near Gays River in 1925. —Cheryl Kellett Collection Towards the end of his life, Clarence Cook (1909-2000) of Gays River Nova Scotia wrote a memoir called As I Remember. He wrote about various origins of the name Cook, where he thought they originated in the old country and about relatives and friends of his boyhood. His description of the arrival of his earliest ancestors to Nova Scotia, some two centuries earlier, draws from a deep well of storytelling that sounds almost biblical. This is how he described their journey to the place they came to call home:

“I do not know the year they came to Canada. I do know they docked in Halifax and walked on a trail in the woods from Halifax to what is now Cook’s Brook…this was probably the 1700s.

“They had heavy loads to carry from Halifax, the women as well as the men carried their belongings on their backs.

“Finally they met friendly Indians and our great ….. grandfather bought a birch bark canoe from them for 50¢ and the luggage was packed into it, and then carried on the shoulders of the men. One day they arrived in a place they fell in love with. There was a beautiful brook there…the men built a fire and then caught trout from the brook and the ladies fried them on hot stones. This was part of their supper on their land just found.

“They made beds on the ground under pine trees. Great, great ….Grandfather read the Bible by the light of the fire and prayed. The next morning he told his Family. ‘We will stay here and build our home and I will call this place Cook’s Brook.’”

It is a wonderfully poetic account, reminiscent of the origins of the “Five Islands” in Cobequid Bay. That story originated with the Wabanaki and Mi’kmaq peoples about the original creator, Glooscap. Glooscap, it was believed, resided at Cape Blomidon, a beautiful sentinel into the Bay of Fundy from which he could look up and down the Bay. His bed was formed by what is now Nova Scotia and his head rested on the pillow of Prince Edward Island. In a ferocious feud with a pesky beaver, Glooscap heaved giant handfuls of mud toward the tormenting creature. Those fistfuls of red rock and soil survive to the present day as reminders of the mighty powers of Glooscap.

Both use language to communicate that which would otherwise be inexpressible. Over the time since Glooscap and William Cook walked the earth, we have new tools to study our past, among them are science and history, including geology, archeology, linguistics, genetics and psychology, all of them adding points of view about this mystery called life and its ever-changing significance.