Funny and Family-Oriented: Hank the Cowdog

John R. Erickson

Meeting an author in person is always a delight.  John R. Erickson, best known as the creator of the Hank the Cowdog series, walked out in front of the crowd of parents and kids at our conference with a banjo slung over his shoulder and an honest-to-God BIG Texan cowboy hat.  His seminar on writing and creativity was a long-series of tales and songs that had the entire crowd laughing.

Mr. Erickson embodies the writer’s adage to “write what you know”, having been raised in the Texan panhandle and worked as a ranch hand.  His quirky animal and human characters are based on dogs, horses, and people that he has known and they thrum with life.

And his stories are funny, funny, funny!  Hank the Cowdog, as head of ranch security, takes his job VERY seriously.  His sidekick, Drover, loyal and long-suffering, helps him out and doesn’t criticize Hank’s many bloopers.

Sixty-one great tales make up the Hank the Cowdog series at present.  Even more impressive is the fact that John Erickson himself reads the stories for the audio books and he is GOOD.  All the voices and accents!

For those of us who are aspiring writers, Mr. Erickson stands as a model for integrity, independence, perseverance and excellence.  At the beginning of his efforts to bring his authentic, humorous stories to publication, no East Coast publishers would bite: “too provincial”, they said.  Millions of copies later, they have eaten their cowboy hats. 

Mr. Erickson, with the support of his good wife, Kris, started Maverick Books in his garage and the rest, as they say, is history.  Viking/Penguin now publishes the books, while Maverick Books retains the audiobook manufacture.

More on this fascinating writing and publishing story is found in his book, Storycraft, published in 2009 by Maverick Books, a collection of Mr. Erickson’s reflections on faith, culture and writing.

I read it cover to cover this summer – riveting!

In the chapter “Hank and Theology”, he comments: “In humor, the impact of the message is never quite under the author’s control.  When the audience laughs, we’re never sure whose face has caught the pie.  This makes humor a risky medium…Humor is a gift from author to audience, and once it’s passed along, it can’t be called back.  Writers who insist on controlling the message will never feel comfortable taking such a risk.” (p. 96, Storycraft. Perryton, TX: Maverick Books. 2009).

 Don’t we crave good, wholesome humor?  This series possesses it in spades, both for adult and child.  I recommend the audio versions of the stories with original songs performed by the author.  If you haven’t experienced this world yet, you are in for a treat.

Are you a bonus features fan like I am? If so, the author’s website will delight and amaze.  It is chock full of audio commentary, author biography, links to articles by the author, games and contests for kids, and lots of colorful illustrations:

Categories: Children's Books, Humorous, Inspiration, Music, Read Aloud, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Funny and Family-Oriented: Hank the Cowdog

  1. Laure: Thanks for the very kind words about me and Hank. I’m not surprised that you related to Story Craft. I want to call your attention to a new YA novel just out, Wilder Good, by S.J. Dahlstrom. He is a young husband and father whom I have mentored, one of very few. He has a pure heart and writes good stories. God bless your work. John R. Erickson

    • What a treat to hear from you, Mr. Erickson! I will certainly check out the author you recommended: S.J. Dahlstrom. A pure-hearted storyteller 🙂 Thank you for opening up your own life in Storycraft for our benefit. I am still chewing on much of the wisdom and experience within its pages.

  2. P.S. Thinking of the books you feature reminds me of something that happened this week. The vet came to check on a cow and brought his little girl. She was interested to see our horses and told me she has a pony. I asked what kind, and she didn’t know so her father told me “a dapple gray.” “Oh,” I said, “I always wanted a dapple gray pony, and I wanted to name it “Merry-legs” for Black Beauty’s friend. Their blank looks made me ask if they’d read “Black Beauty,” and they hadn’t. I was shocked, but then I realized that must be a book that has gone out of fashion. How sad! I thought EVERYone knew the story of Black Beaty! He and Ginger and Merry-legs felt like friends I knew, growing up. How much the kids of today miss out on!

    • You really “get me”! my tag line mentions “hidden treasures in books” and that is because I don’t want the kids of today to miss out on any of the wonderful riches we received. (I just turned 50 this year). Now that I am so old I have something to offer. I love what you are doing with Narnia for your grandkids. Do you know that I JUST told a cousin about you TODAY while touring their new house complete with hidden room. Merry-legs! I remember!

  3. Our kids enjoyed these!

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