Cookietown revisited

Friday, February 12, 2016

When Walt Sehnert and I proposed Cookietown, USA! as McCook's nickname, we assumed the term originated in the mid-1970s during the height of the CB craze in America.

At the time, terms like Chi-Town for Chicago, Tulsa-Town for Tulsa and Shaky-Town for Los Angeles were being tossed around by truckers, and it's when the titles of Cookietown for McCook and Flat Rock for North Platte became popular with Citizen's Band radio enthusiasts in this area.

The CB craze reached its peak in November of 1975 when "Convoy," the CB song written by C.W. McCall and Chip Davis of Omaha, soared to Number One on the popular music charts in both the U.S. and Canada.

As it turns out, though, some people had been using Cookietown as McCook's nickname for many years before CB slang became standard fare in America.

Sunya Decker of McCook remembers hearing McCook referred to as Cookietown as far back as the 1950s. "My brother, J.D. Sailors, came up with the name Cookietown when he was in grade school," Sunya said. "He came up with it one day during the Girl Scout cookie sales," Sunya said. "It just seemed to fit ... Cookies in McCook. J.D. was only 8 at the time, but the rest of our family started copying off of him and using Cookietown as our pet name for McCook."

J.D. went onto a life as a Nazarene preacher. He now lives in Owensboro, Kentucky, and is noted as a leader of Nazarene quiz bowls, which are events which test the Bible knowledge of youngsters. J.D.'s parents were Lloyd and Georgia Sailors. Two of J.D.'s sisters still live in this area. They are Kathy Broz, who lives in Hayes County, and Sunya Decker, whose home is here in McCook.

This is fun. Finding out little known facts from days gone by. If others have stories about McCook nicknames, give me a call on my cell, 340-5972, or e-mail me here at the Gazette. My e-mail address is

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While driving down Norris Avenue the other day, I caught a glimpse of the whitened M on the hill south of McCook. It reminded me of the days in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when M Hill was a treasured tradition for students at McCook High School, who -- on occasion -- had outings in which they made a big deal out of re-painting the white M so it stood out better.

Is that still a tradition? And, if it's not, is it something that should be resurrected? Just asking. For sure, I'm not judging anyone because many other traditions have arisen though the years, all of which have contributed greatly to the Mighty Bison's dominance in statewide athletics and academics.

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When I asked for suggestions for McCook's nickname at the end of 2015, Mike O'Dell called to suggest that we put up a sign on one or more of the entrances to McCook, proclaiming the fact that our town is the "Home of Buffalo Commons."

I like Mike's idea because it focuses attention on two facts that illustrate the unique qualities of this town and this region.

Number One, as conceived in the controversial writings of Frank and Deborah Popper in 1987, McCook is at the center of a 139,000 square mile region in the Great Plains which is where the American Bison (also known as the "buffalo") grazed on the shortgrass prairie before settlement of the plains by eastern Americans and European immigrants; and:

Number Two, McCook is the home of the unique, iconic and pleasantly nostalgic Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival, which arose in the late 80s to show the Poppers, and the world, that we love this land and we are here to stay.

While at first there was a lot of animosity towards the Poppers, who contended the shortgrass prairie was not sustainable for long-term agricultural use, that agitation has faded away, and most folks are now grateful to them for coming up with a name which suits our area and points out a proud part of our historical heritage, when the mighty Bison roamed the Great Plains in massive herds.

We are the Buffalo Commons ... and we are proud of it. We've had a tough row to hoe, especially during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, but, by goodness, we have survived and we're proud of the quality of the people and the products this area has produced.

Let's build on our still emerging identity. Cookietown, USA!, M Hill and Buffalo Commons. What's in a name? There is lots and lots, ladies and gentlemen, if you know the history of how our town, our school and our region came to be the places they are today.

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