House owned by author of 'Hank the Cowdog' destroyed in TX panhandle fires

Published: Mar. 7, 2017 at 10:37 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2017 at 2:14 PM CST
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PERRYTON, TX (KCBD) - A barn, pickup and tractor are all that are left on the M-Cross Ranch after fires in the Texas Panhandle devoured more than 400,000 acres. The M-Cross Ranch is home to the author of the Hank the Cowdog books, John R. Erickson.

Erickson and his wife Kris were able to escape the fire without harm, according to his daughter, many of his cattle were killed in the fire. His horses survived the blaze. The family is still surveying the damage to the property.

The M-Cross Ranch is located about 25 miles southeast of Perryton, Texas, and just north of the Canadian River valley.

Erickson and his wife are now staying at their home in Perryton. Family members also say the Hank the Cowdog books are in a warehouse in Perryton and were not damaged in the fire.

Here is an update from John R. Erickson's son, Mark:

Mark H. Erickson

FIRE UPDATE: Today I've received scores of text messages, phone calls, facebook messages and emails conveying sympathies for my family and asking for the scoop on what happened. I wish I could respond to each of you individually and personally, but I am way behind on that. Many of you haven't heard back from me yet. Many more only got a short, "thank you" response. Please know that I am genuinely grateful for your kindness. I'll try to cover the bases here and then hopefully respond to all of you in due course.

[Recommended Accompanying Tunes: Jason Isbell, '24 Frames']

I'll start with the big one: we are okay. We smell like a bunch of walking camp fires (and don't look much better), but we're all fine.

The rest of it (on a scale of 1 to 10): 
Livestock: 8 (*I think)
Pets: 6
Ranch: 0.25

I could only manage a flying rough count on the cattle, but so far, we're looking pretty good. I'll be shocked if we don't lose any, but I haven't seen any dead ones yet. I think we lost one horse, but the other five are in good shape.

We've got a couple un-accounted-for pets.

The ranch got pretty well roasted. My estimate is that we lost about 90% of our grass. When I got there at daylight, I figure we were about 60% burned, but the wind shifted directions all day, resulting in a sort of 'mopping' effect on the pastures. It's hard to resist anthropomorphizing the Wind and the Fire, conspiring together to devour each blade of grass like a couple mischievous gods.

The house burned to the ground. That's the other big one. Two barns survived, but most of the buildings are gone. I can't tell you how weird it was to stand in the middle of the ashes of the house I grew up in, a place so familiar, become so alien and desolate.

My parents are doing very well, all things considered. Yes, it's a lot to process, and it's going to take time, but they are sturdy, optimistic people. Both of them have an unsinkable sense of humor. I think my dad is most sad over the loss of his book collection and his letter correspondences with John Graves, Herman Wouk and Elmer Kelton. The ladies of the Perryton FUMC have set my dad up with some new duds and there are promises of lots of food. I'm looking forward to some chicken tetrazzini and green bean casserole.

When I left the ranch at dark, the whole Canadian River Valley was smoldering like Inferno. There are so many families across the Panhandle tonight dealing with different versions of this same story. There's a strong neighboring culture throughout the ranching community. Everybody pitches in and helps out everybody else.

The last I saw, there were spot-fires all over our ranch and the standing grass on the south side was burning. We'll see what it looks like in the morning. From what I can tell, the fire crews are stretched thin, but they're working hard and long and doing all they can. They're on the case, doing the Lord's work. Pray for them.

We will be okay. We will rebuild, the grass will grow back (ahem, pray for rain) and life will go on. Many of you have offered help, and we may take you up on that. There will be a lot of rebuilding, but that is just a process. There are many people who have lost homes. There are some who have lost loved ones. Those irreplaceable losses are the real tragedies.

That should be plenty long. Now I'm going to have a swig of that brown liquid corn juice and rack out.

According to Erickson's bio on the Hank the Cowdog website, he has written and published 75 books and more than 600 articles. He is best known for the Hank the Cowdog series of books, audiobooks and stage plays.

The Hank the Cowdog series began as a self-publishing venture in his garage in 1982 and has become one of the nation's most popular series for children and families. Through the eyes of Hank the Cowdog, a smelly, smart-aleck Head of Ranch Security, Erickson gives readers a glimpse of daily life on a ranch in the West Texas Panhandle. USA Today calls the series "the best family entertainment in years."

Erickson was born in Midland, Texas, and his family moved to Perryton, Texas when he was three years old.

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