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There’s a new dog in town: Hank the Cowdog statue unveiled

Author John R. Erickson talks rebuilding after Perryton Fire, new podcast
There's a new dog in town: Hank the Cowdog statue unveiled
There's a new dog in town: Hank the Cowdog statue unveiled(Perryton-Ochiltree Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page)
Updated: Nov. 12, 2020 at 10:59 PM CST
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PERRYTON, Texas (KFDA) - Thursday evening, the Perryton Chamber of Commerce unveiled a Hank the Cowdog statue outside of Perryton’s Museum of the Plains.

“There are not many small town kids who grew up and wanted to be an author, became one in their home town and could survive long enough to be honored in this way,” said the author of book series, John R. Erickson.

He said he’s proud to be from Perryton and feels honored that the city would honor him in this way.

It’s community support that, that helped the Ericksons get through a tragedy.

More than three years ago, the Perryton Fire devastated their family and other area ranchers, as it burned 318,000 acres across multiple counties in the Texas Panhandle.

This fire claimed the Erickson’s home, but they have since rebuilt, and are even venturing into a new platform for the Hank The Cowdog series.

After the fire, John and his wife Kris lived in a modular home on their Roberts County ranch.

With the help of their sons, they decided to rebuild in the exact same spot where their home once stood.

To this day, the smell of smoke still haunts the Erickson’s. The sightings of recent fires in Roberts County still bring them back to the day they lost everything.

“Since the fires in 2017, we’ve been on alert every spring since then,” says John Erickson, author of Hank The Cowdog series. “We haven’t had any fires close to us, but they’ve been close enough where we can see smoke. Even if there’s a fire around Amarillo, we see the smoke in the air, and we smell it and it brings back unpleasant memories.”

He says Kris keeps a bag ready to go in case they have to run. They’ve even bought high quality smoke masks that are used by firefighters in the event they are trapped in the Canyons of their ranch once again.

Erickson continues to write two Hank books every year and record them as audio books.

His books are getting new life this year in a new podcast series starring Matthew McConaughey.

Hank the Cowdog Podcast
Hank the Cowdog Podcast(KFDA)

Erickson’s son, Mark, is the executive producer.

“It’s one book, The Case of the Unchanted Forest, broken out into five scripted episodes that are about 20 minutes a piece give or take a couple minutes,” said Mark. “I’ve grown up with this story, all the stories, but this one in particular, and I know exactly what happens in the story. But after an episode, it leaves you on a cliffhanger and I got that feeling like ‘I have to find out what happens next,’ even though I know what happens next.”

Along with McConaughey, the podcast has an all-around A-List cast, including Jesse Plemons, Cynthia Erivo, Kirsten Dunst, Leslie Jordan, Joel Edgerton, Scoot McNairy, Michael Shannon, and, of course, John Erickson.

John said, in the beginning, he wasn’t sure how he would respond to other people doing his character voices, but he believes the writer and director of the podcast, Jeff Nichols, did a great job preserving the legacy they have built and protected for 35 years.

“I think he was very sensitive to our expectations, and he stayed very close to the language in the original book and he used his good instincts to choose actors and actresses who he thought be the characters," says John.

The podcast series has seen a success. At one point this September, it was the number 10 podcast on all of Apple Podcasts.

“I’m very proud and appreciative,” said Mark. “It was a lot of hard work by a bunch of people who brought their talents together to pull this off and I’m just very proud that it’s being received so well.”

“It’s very gratifying,” said John. “I thought McConaughey did just a superb job. He has a real understanding of that character and he is able to do so much with his voice. He is a true professional in his field.”

As for what’s next for Hank the Cowdog, John says they’re in talks about more podcasts and possibly a television series.

The podcast has partnered with The National Ranching Heritage Center out of Texas on an educational curriculum.

It’s available on Apple Podcasts and all major podcast platforms.

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