John R. Erickson’s latest Hank the Cowdog book draws on his experience with last year’s Perryton wildfire that scorched nearly his entire Texas Panhandle ranch.
In an interview with KFDA News Channel 10 in Amarillo, Erickson shares that he wrote his most recent book The Case of the Monster Fire as thank you to the people who helped his family and to show the strength of people in the Panhandle.
“[The books are] our special gift for the kids who live in this tough hard country,” Erickson says. “It's not beautiful the way some country is. It looks kind of ugly when the wind blows and it doesn't rain. But, it produces wonderful people, and they're strong and resilient, and we still have a sense of humor.”
On March 6, 2017, the Perryton Fire burned 318,000 in the Texas Panhandle, including almost 90% of Erickson’s his 6,000 acre ranch. Erickson and his wife Kris were able to survive, making it out with a few belongings. They lost their home, a guest house on the ranch and the office where he writes his books.
“Got out with two laptops, and Kris' mandolin and the clothes we were wearing. We're probably lucky to do that. After the fire, I had no place to write,” Erickson says.
Sometimes it takes Erickson up to three years to write a book, in this case it was just three weeks.
“I thought, this may not need to sit for three years because it came out fast and just about perfect,” Erickson says. “It's a story for all of us in the Panhandle who went through that awful experience and for kids who have never seen a prairie fire before.”
The book’s description says:
After his many years as a typical bachelor cowboy, Slim Chance is convinced—against his will—that he needs to build his own herd of cattle and invest in the future. So, he takes the plunge, takes out a loan, and takes his newly-bought heifers to a pasture on Viola’s father’s ranch. But, just about the time his new herd is calved-out and his investment is beginning to look promising, the dry and windy weather conditions put the entire county on High Alert for fire danger. Hank is sure that he and Slim can defend the ranch against anything that comes their way, that is, until they come face-to-face with a wildfire unlike any grass fire they’ve seen before. Will Slim be able to get the cattle to safety in time? And, more importantly, what about Slim himself? You won’t want to miss this hair-raising and heart-warming tale of cowboy-bravery, true heroism, and the blessings of friends and community!
The Case of the Monster Fire has been dedicated to all of the people who helped Erickson’s family. He also gives a special thanks to Scot and Tina Erickson, Mark Erickson, and George and Karen Chapman.