Fort Worth

Why is this four-legged ‘Head of Ranch Security’ making news in Fort Worth?

John Erickson, author of the popular ‘Hank The Cowdog’ series of books, is an inductee into the 2019 Texas Literary Hall of Fame. This honor was created by the Friends of the Fort Worth Library in 2004. Laura Bush and Sandra Cisneros are past honorees.
John Erickson, author of the popular ‘Hank The Cowdog’ series of books, is an inductee into the 2019 Texas Literary Hall of Fame. This honor was created by the Friends of the Fort Worth Library in 2004. Laura Bush and Sandra Cisneros are past honorees. STAR TELEGRAM

People angling for fame need to get pointers from some Texans with a natural knack for grabbing headlines.

First, a sad-eyed Artemis stole some of the limelight from Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s presidential announcement. Then, came word that late President George H.W. Bush’s service dog, Sully, was honored with the 2019 American Kennel Club Paw of Courage award.

By Friday, another Texas dog — a headliner popular to elementary school students —was poised to get some attention. Never mind that this Australian shepherd is a fictional canine.

If you haven’t heard of Hank the Cowdog, ask a third-grader.

Hank is the central character in the “Hank the Cowdog” book series by John R. Erickson of Perryton. Like the author, Hank lives on a ranch in Perryton — 377 miles from Fort Worth in the Texas Panhandle. Hank calls himself “Head of Ranch Security” and solves cases on his ranch.

On Friday evening, Erickson was to be honored as a 2019 inductee into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame, which was founded by the Friends of the Fort Worth Library in 2004.

Plaques with each year’s honorees are on display in the west hall of the Fort Worth Central Library. The plaques are displayed under mural called, “Texas Tales,” painted by Marjory Stark Buckley.

Well-known authors include Laura Bush, Sandra Cisneros, Jim Wright and Larry McMurtry.

“I will be in with some very important names in Texas writing,” he told the Star-Telegram Friday morning. “It’s a great honor.”

Erickson, who has read his books to students in Tarrant County for many years, said his stories were inspired by his ranch life in the Texas Panhandle. He was trying to tell funny stories to adults, but Hank’s subtle humor wooed youngsters.

There are 73 titles today, including “The Case of the Monster Fire,” inspired by the 2017 wild fires that destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres in the Panhandle. Much of Erickson’s ranch was destroyed.

Erickson said his books are meant to be read out loud — following the story-telling traditions of farming and ranching communities.

“I’m the original audience,” he said. “I write to amuse myself.”

2019 Honorees

Susan Wittig

Albert Glenn Dromgoole

Gerald Duff

John Erickson

Jan Reid

Red Steagall

Fort Worth librarian Jana Hill demonstrates how to find digital copies of the Star-Telegram. More than 120 years of the Texas paper are available online.

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