His biker friends call him Eightball. He's got a special parking space reserved at the downtown post office for his Harley. He sports a handlebar moustache that Kaiser Wilhelm II might approve of.
But beneath the rugged, Hessian appearance, G.L. "Gil" Cook Sr. is a sweetheart of a man who has probably spent more time volunteering for local children's organizations than raising hell with biker gangs.
"I get probably 30 or 40 comments a day from customers," says the 59-year-old postal clerk about his 'stache. "The young kids and babies will sit and look at me in awe because they don't know what it is." Some of the comments he receives, especially from the ladies, he wouldn't want published in the newspaper.
A father of two, an 18-year verteran of the U.S. Postal Service as well as a Vietnam vet, Cook yearns for the open highway when he isn't sorting mail or processing money orders. He says his bike, which has 50,000 miles on it, rarely sits still for more than seven days.
Cook began growing his moustache 20 years ago when he retired from the military. Before that, he'd grown it out each winter to play Santa Claus for children at holiday parties "so the kids could grab a hold of it and it wouldn't come off." There's no particular reason he does it; he says he chose the style "just to be me."
His daughter cuts the handlebar, once a year, on Mother's Day. "There's a lot of mustache wax in there," he says. Eating soup is not really a problem, "but I do use a lot of Kleenex."
-- Dan Wilcock
photo by Blanca Middlebrook