Monday, June 1, 2009

A Spark - My Town Monday

Where does the urge to write come from? For me it started with a love of books and great stories. From the time I could read I devoured tale after tale and today's My Town Monday I'm going to go back in time to one of my earliest reading memories.

In the early 80s I was a student at Oakdale Elementary here in Amarillo. And while I always liked school, my favorite class by far was that one magical hour each week when had library time. I must have been in about the second or third grade when our librarian sat us down and read us a a hilariously funny tale about a misguided, and over-serious cowdog. The dog proclaimed to be head of ranch security and while large of heart, he was a bit small of brains. And even cooler, the fictional ranch the dog lived on and guarded just happened to be situated right in the Texas Panhandle.

That dog's name was Hank, and after the librarian read a few chapters I was hooked. Of course I wanted to check out the book, but she only had one copy and with other classes to read to the librarian denied my request. I was desperate to know how Hank's adventure ended, but despite my disappointment I selected another title. Probably an Encyclopedia Brown tale. However, the librarian sensed my dejection and handed me a flyer.

With a kindly smile, she explained," The man who wrote Hank the Cowdog still lives near Amarillo. This Saturday he is going to be at the museum down in Canyon. He's going to read some from the book and sign autographs. I'm sure he'll have books available to buy. Maybe your parents will take you."

Of course I went right home and begged and pleaded to go. Ever the proponent of literacy, my mom quickly agreed, and that Saturday I sat on the concrete floor of the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and listened to John Erickson read aloud. At the time I believe there was only one Hank the Cowdog book, but over the years the series has continued to grow and flourish and there are dozens of Hank titles now. As well as audio books, cartoon, and other assorted merchandise.

Did that long ago Saturday reading make me want to be a writer? I can't say that for certain, but I do know that Mr. Erickson and Hank built upon my love for books and that he was the first author I ever met in person. He smiled and signed a book for me that day. A book that sadly is gone now along with all of my other signed books that I had collected over the years. The fire took them but the flames did not take my memories or my love of books.

If you have never read any of the Hank the Cowdog series you should check it out. John Erickson still lives in the Texas Panhandle. In the small town of Perryton, Texas which is about 2 hours north of Amarillo. You can check out the Hank website here and read about John's refusal to take no for answer. With a stack of rejections and $2,000 of borrowed money he started his own publishing company, Maverick Books back in 1982.

And I'm also proud to report that this year, my son, a second grader, discovered Hank in his school library and we are several books into the series now. I say we because even though he enjoys reading them to himself, the boys like it even more when I read them aloud using a variety of goofy voices. I do a mean Drover if I do say so myself.

For More My Town Monday posts check back here throughout Sunday and Monday for links from all over the globe.

Lyzzydee -- Scratby, Norfolk, England
Jenn JIlks - Muskoka, Ontario, Canada
Cloudia -- Honolulu, Hawaii
Chris -- Hong Kong, China
Debra -- Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Barbara Martin -- Toronto, Canada
Clare2E -- New York City. New York
J Wnter -- Cincinnati, Ohio
Mary -- Olmsted Falls, Ohio


David Cranmer said...

I have an almost identical experience with a title that escapes me now. Something like The Mystery Cottage? Anyway, our school librarian hooked me each week while she was reading that and I desperately wanted to borrow it but had to wait until she was done. And then every other kid beat me in snagging it. You shot an old memory back--thanks.

Charles Gramlich said...

I never met a writer until well after I'd already decided I wanted to write. Strangely enough, it was his untimely death that actually led to me quitting writing for about five years. Someday I'll have to recount that story.

Miriam S.Forster said...

I attribute a lot of my reading (and eventually writing) obsession to the fact that I was read to a LOT. By my parents, teachers, and everyone who walked in our door if my mother is to be believed. I'm very grateful for all of those people.

(And I adored Encyclopedia Brown as a kid. Him and the Great Brain...)

lyzzydee said...

Isn't it strange the things that stick with you and trigger things off, I have always been an avid reader, I liked the escapism and all the things that I could imagine, I remember being really upset when Stephen King became popular, I considered him to be my own personal author, mainly as he wasn't 'big' over here, I am mentally scarred!!!!
Anyway, I have actually produced a post this week!!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Two series that I loved as a kid were "Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the "Adventure" series by Enid Blyton ("The Castle of Adventure," "The River of Adventure," etc.) No books are as vivid ever again as the ones you read and love as a child!

Jenn Jilks said...

What broke my heart when we moved, was losing bookshelves and spare bedrooms to store books.

Reading is an obsession! So is writing!
MTM is up.

Snowbrush said...

Thanks for sharing some more of your story, and for the reading tip.

grace said...


My brother and I used to get them on tape before long car rides (some of which took us through Amarillo)--Erikson did his own reading and they were fantastic. So funny. So wonderful. (not as good as you I'm sure.) I was always a big fan of Pete the Barn Cat.

Teresa said...

Love this post!!! My favorite part of childhood was being read to.

Sepiru Chris said...


My visual MTM on Hong Kong is up here...And, I think you hit on a common memory to many of us. Not Hank, but rather that early love of books and characters and the compulsion to enter the other world.


debra said...

My post is up. I will return to read.

Barbara Martin said...

My MTM post is up Travis. I will be back later to read yours.

Clare2e said...

I didn't read Hank the Cowdog, but I just love the idea of that series. I would've eaten it up in second grade, too.

At WomenofMystery, our MTM is up on BEA, BookExpo America which was in NYC this past week.

powdergirl said...

That was a really nice post, brought back memories : )
My family home burned down too, TWICE.
It really sucks to lose all the tangibles even though you still have the memories.

the walking man said...

The writing does start with the reading. I wonder why some people get infected and others not?

eviljwinter said...

For me, it was my 2nd grade teacher reading us Henry Huggins. By junior high, I was inhaling paperbacks.

My MTM is up:

debra said...

When I was a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on---including cereal boxes.

My kids loved the Boxcar Children, Indian in the Cupboard, Johnny Tremain, the Black Stallion books and a host of others. We always read, both aloud and independently.

Thanks for a look at your reading past :-)

Melanie Avila said...

That's so cool you got to meet the author when you were little. I have no idea where my love for reading and writing started -- it's just something I've always done.

Deanna said...

Heidi was the book I wore out. Reading was my passion and still is!

Terrie Farley Moran said...


thanks for this. I do believe that I developed a taste for writing because I love reading

Thanks for telling us about Hank.

I am off to find him for the grandkids!


Reb said...

What a great memory to have though and I am glad you are sharing the stories with your sons now. Too bad not your signed book though.

Hit 40 said...

You are a heck of a writer! My school library lady would adore your post.

I have been trying to cut back on spending, but my youngest wanted some new books this weekend. I can also never say no to a book.

Encyclopedia Brown Rocked!!! He was my hero. And...

so cute!!!

Thank you for clicking follow on my blog. I am flattered.

Angie Ledbetter said...

God bless that school librarian.

Phats said...

This was a cool My Town Monday, nice work Travis :)

Bubblewench said...

I used to love the library. I can still remember how it smelled and how warm and inviting it was. It was my favorite part of school too.

Cool series!