The letter hit the Buffalo front office with the impact of a draft notice. But it was clear what Cookie's ploy was. He wanted more money. The Bills went into immediate negotiation and signed Gilchrist to a new contract for about $30,000. Burr, hoping to squeeze all possible publicity out of what had begun as a sticky situation, asked Cookie to keep the new contract secret until a press conference could be arranged the following week. Cookie kept it such a secret that when the press conference came Gilchrist was not there. He was up in Canada jumping out of a helicopter to plant stakes in mining claims he and partner Bill Richardson own near the rich Texas Gulf Sulphur copper strike. That was startling enough for the Bills, but when they found out Gilchrist was leaping into lakes to plant his stakes, a shaken Burr went back to his desk and thought about taking a job as a mercenary soldier in the Congo. Cookie can swim like the Venus de Milo. "I don't know what they were worried about," Gilchrist said later. "One rule I live by is I never go any farther than I can walk back." Gilchrist and Richardson now have 27 claims near the Texas Gulf Sulphur strike, a few claims at Prairie Mountain, B.C. and an interest in a copper mine in Wales. Prospecting is a fascinating idea to Cookie, who has lived a prospector's feast-or-famine life since he was a child. "I met Richardson in a shoe store in Hamilton, Ont.," Cookie said. "He took a liking to me and gave me a tip on some mining stock that sold for 40� a share and rose to $8.50. He has confidence that if he wants to find a mine, he'll find one. He's taught me a lot about life, a lot about things I was too shy or dumb to ask about," Cookie said. "He's a beautiful man in his approach to life. Those prospectors, they'll have a million dollars on the table one morning and nothing the next, but it doesn't bother him either way. He's still the same guy."
Before he met Richardson, Gilchrist was hardly on the road to becoming a business tycoon. After the Browns cut him, Gilchrist played minor league football at Sarnia and Kitchener in the Ontario Rugby Football Union for two years and then graduated to Hamilton, Regina and Toronto for six years in the Canadian major league. He played both offense and defense, often was on the field the entire 60 minutes of the game. He was paid well, but not as well as he wished. To augment his income, Gilchrist started a restaurant in Hamilton. He called it Uncle Tom's Cabin. "I imagine the N.A.A.C.P. wouldn't like that name," Cookie says, "but I thought it was a good one. We served Southern-fried chicken and spareribs. Trouble was, I didn't know anything about the restaurant business, and I lost money. [On opening night Cookie discovered he had neglected to hire cooks or waitresses, and he had to do the cooking himself.] Then in 1957 I started an electrical maintenance business, I was just a kid, and I had 13 people working for me. I have a tendency to trust people too much. I wasn't firm enough with them. I lost money again. But I'm a better man for that experience today."
Despite his business failures, Gilchrist chose to remain in Canada. He has not become a Canadian citizen, but he lives in a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto with his white wife, Gwen, and two sons, Jeffrey Carlton, 6, and Scott Richard, 3. "There's prejudice in all societies, but it's rarely in the open in Canada." he said. "I'm the only Negro in my building. It's a different world for Negroes than it is in the United States. In Canada, people are friendly to me. In the United States, they have reservations. There are very few Negroes in Canada. The ones who are there are students, doctors and lawyers, building an integrated society on a qualified basis. There's no mass problem. Toronto is a cosmopolitan city with wealth and culture. The only city in the United States I would want to live in is New York. It's the hub of everything in the world. In New York they're interested in your productivity. Buffalo is a closed society. In New York I could maintain my individuality and still be productive without being a spectacle. I want people to respect my intelligence and approach me that way and be honest with me. If they do, I'll be the same with them."
Although he talks much about wanting to be respected for his intelligence, Gilchrist is not necessarily sorry he did not go to college. "In college you get an education to be put to practical use," he said. "I've done the reverse. I have no sheepskin to show for it, but the knowledge is stored inside my head. I'm proud I've advanced myself so far. I'm confident I can go further. A college degree might give me more confidence. I can see that. When my kids become 18 an education will be compulsory to get any kind of a job. They'll have the funds to go to college whether they want to or not. My father couldn't do that for me. He's a product of his environment, and his environment didn't dictate he should get an education. But I had an exceptionally good childhood. I was never a poverty case. I was aggressive and got what I wanted. I was never hungry or in rags, even when I had to carry coal for $1 a week to buy the clothes I wanted when I was 10 or 11."
It was during those years that Carlton Chester Gilchrist got the nickname Cookie. "There was an old man who lived at the top of a long flight of stairs," he said. "I used to climb those stairs every day and ask him for sweets. So they started calling me Cookie. I hated the name. When I got to Sarnia, they asked me if I had any nicknames and I told them Cookie, and that's what everybody has called me since. Jack Kemp calls me Chester, but hardly anybody else does. Cookie is good in one way. Kids remember it, and they identify with me. I try to do all I can for kids, especially underprivileged kids. I'm trying to start a boys' camp now. I've written to all the Negro athletes for their support. A lot of Negro athletes forget their heritage. I've never forgot mine. There's thousands of kids out there who aren't lucky enough to be 6 feet 3 and weigh 251 pounds, and they need my help."
His size is an obvious advantage, but it has often been an embarrassment to Gilchrist. He has never lifted weights and is not fond of working out. But he has an awesome physique, with a 20-inch neck and muscles that make one wonder if there would be a pair of shoulder pads to fit him if he ever did begin a weight program. "I don't like to be big like I am," he said. "I wear clothes that make me look compact. I have my shoes made so my feet won't look big, and my shirts fit tight. On the field I have the ability to be mean, to really clobber a guy. It's that powerful force to be successful that overcomes my shyness and natural reluctance to use my size. If I'm backed against the wall, I defend myself. But since I'm as big as I am, I don't feel I have to prove anything. I give other people the benefit of the doubt when they annoy me. Other players don't harass me, because I play clean. If I'm in a bar, say, and a person comes up to me and wants to fight and argue, then that person either has a weapon or else he is crazy. Either way, I don't want to have anything to do with him. I'll say I'm sorry and walk away if I can. Usually they take the suggestion and leave well enough alone. Since I've been in the AFL I've only been struck a blow once by an opposing player. Maybe I'm chicken about fights."
Gilchrist was not always so moderate, if he truly is now. There are stories of fights with teammates in Canada, and there is one fairly well-documented instance of a face-off with Jumbo Jim Trimble at Hamilton. "You take the first punch, since you're the coach," Cookie told him. That ended the dispute. At Kitchener, when he was 19, Cookie attacked the entire bench of one team. "I learned a lesson from that," he said. "Never start a fight in front of the wrong bench." There was a rumor in Buffalo last year that Cookie and 270-pound All-League Defensive Tackle Tom Sestak had put on an epic brawl. The fight did not occur. "But if enough people are interested and somebody wants to rent an auditorium, Tom and I will fight for $5 a ticket," Cookie said. The one fight Cookie admits to was in an exhibition game against Kansas City this year. "I was blocking," said Gilchrist, "and I accidentally slipped and grabbed one of their ends. I apologized and told him I don't block that way. But Smoky Stover came running over, and somebody called me a name, and then E. J. Holub got into it. Four or five years ago it would have been a free-for-all. But all that happened this time was a little shoving. Later I blocked harder and ran harder at those same guys until I felt I had made my point."
When they retire from the game, some pro football players have difficulty overcoming the urge to hit people. They are conditioned to Sundays of violence, and they miss the contact. "That will never be a problem with me," Gilchrist said. "I take the game as a game, in perspective with life. The game is played on Sunday. During the week it doesn't bother me. When I was younger, frustrations would build up. I'd get mad if some guy waited too long at a stoplight, and when I got to the ball park I wanted to take it out on somebody. But I have progressed as a man. I find other ways to take out those feelings. I'm a gourmet. I like to cook. I marinate steaks for two and a half days in a special wine sauce I make myself. I buy most of my wife's clothes. I'm interested in interior decorating. I read books that tell me how to live a better life. I'd rather take my kids horseback riding than watch television, but when I do watch television I prefer programs with strong motivation and good stories that make sense. My favorite TV show is The Fugitive. I can understand that guy. In fact, some of the players in Buffalo call me 'the fugitive.' But one thing I'm not is a sports fan. I can't see why anybody would pay $6 to see a football game. The only pro football game I ever saw was the Giants and the Redskins in 1960. If a football game comes on TV, I get up and leave. I play the game out of a competitive desire and pride, and I'm a natural for it. But I don't like to watch it if I'm not involved. I think maybe I would have liked to paint, but I've never had the peace of mind to sit and do it. If I had been disciplined and regimented early in my life, my potential would have been unlimited."
On the football field Gilchrist's potential is fantastic, and quite frequently his performance matches it. Against the New York Jets in one game last year he broke two AFL records by running 243 yards and scoring five touchdowns. Johnny Green, a Toronto quarterback when Gilchrist was playing there, described Cookie's power: "In Canadian football the backs can be in motion on every play. You'd be calling signals when you'd hear this rumbling behind you. It was Cookie barreling ahead. The quarterbacks handed off like bullfighters. The main idea was to stay out of Cookie's path." Jim Crotty, who has played in all three pro leagues as a defensive back, says: "Cookie could gain a lot more yards if he ran smarter. If he put a few moves on you, he could break away more often. But he can't resist the challenge of running over you." One of Gilchrist's memorable runs was a 22-yarder for a touchdown against San Diego two years ago. A few steps from the goal line he could have cut to the left and gone in untouched. Instead, he cut to the right, smashed into Linebacker Chuck Allen and knocked him into the air all the way into the end zone.
"You have to take my size and weight into consideration," Gilchrist says. "I'm not shifty. I can't sidestep. So I use my ability to the fullest extent. If I run over a guy, maybe he won't be there next time and I won't have to deviate. But I don't get any real joy out of trampling somebody. I usually carry the ball in my left arm. When I'm about to be hit, I lower my right shoulder and bring up my right forearm to make it tougher for the tackier to get a good shot at me. Most teams take away the inside from me, so I go outside more than up the middle. I try to get one-on-one with the cornerback, who is smaller than I am, and make him hit me from the side. You can bring a big man down if you hit him from the knees down, head on, but if I can make them hit me from the side I can slide off or spin away. When I go into a hole and one or two tacklers hit me head on, I spin and they don't have a chance for a second reaction. I've learned body control and change of pace through constant work. Of course, the main thing is I'm as big as most defensive linemen and bigger than the defensive backs, and I'm fast. That's my advantage. But I try to use my power wisely."