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Erickson and Hank the Cowdog Find Their Happy Ending Following Texas Wildfires

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When last year’s wildfires struck the Texas Panhandle, we reported that John R. Erickson (author of the best-selling “Hank the Cowdog” children’s book series) and his wife had to flee their home built 30 years prior, including the bunkhouse from which the books were written. Everything was reduced to a pile of rubble.

His literature has taught Texas youth to read for over 30 years, and his chapter books have been a part of school libraries in the Lone Star State since the debut of Hank in 1982. However, Erickson is also a full-time rancher who incorporated stories from his experiences into his books. Hank is a self-proclaimed ranch security dog for M-Cross Ranch who fights tornadoes, angry bulls, and snakes, among other foes. Erickson himself has dealt with a fire or two, and in each story, he’s found a happy ending. However, in real life, Erickson was having difficulty finding the silver lining in the clouds of smoke that billowed up from the wildfires.

Cowdog’ Find Their Happy Ending Following Texas Wildfires
Photo: Facebook/FOX34 Lubbock

“I don’t think I could find a happy ending out of this,” he explained in an interview. “I like music that resolves, chords that resolve. How do you get the destruction of a home you love and the memories to resolve?” Erickson grew up in the Texas Panhandle and is a sixth-generation Texan. He made a living as a cowboy and wrote humorous stories as a side project for the Cattleman magazine. After running out of nonfiction concepts, he wrote a story as told from the perspective of a dog who was named for one at the ranch where he worked. The first run of “Confessions of a Cowdog” introduced the characters of Hank’s world, and from that, the project grew.

The series was adapted into the first book which Erickson self-published from his garage. He did all the promotion himself, visiting FFA conventions, schools, and local libraries. Since that first release, he has sold over 9 million copies of the “Hank the Cowdog” books, and they’re even translated into Spanish, Chinese, Danish, and Farsi. In the spring of 2017, Erickson celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Hank series, and then the wildfire consumed more than 318K acres, 1,900 hogs, and 2,500 head of cattle, and the Erickson home. That same day, a fire burning close to Amarillo also claimed the lives of three people.

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