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'Hank the Cowdog' author performs in Goliad

By KBell
Sept. 27, 2010 at 4:27 a.m.

Jake Plunkett, 6, holds on to his friend Caden Jander, 9, with a surprised expression on his face in response to author John Erickson reading the Halloween story to the audience in Goliad on Monday.

GOLIAD - David Coultas sat with his feet in a third-row seat of the Goliad High School auditorium, his head buried in his new book, "The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog."

The 8-year-old Cuero student was undistracted by the hundreds of people bustling around him, young and old alike, and the man seated just a few feet away whose words had him captivated - John Erickson.

Erickson performed songs from his 56-book series and read an excerpt from Hank the Cowdog book No. 9: "The Case of the Halloween Ghost" Monday night.

David's mother, Tawnya Coultas, 30, said having grown up in the country, she acted out Hank's adventures as a kid and had seen Erickson perform in the '80s. She remembered the experience so fondly, she knew her son would enjoy it, too.

"Now we can have some bonding time," Coultas said. "Seeing (Erickson) speak will help him remember the stories and give him a connection - to know that somebody actually wrote the stories."

That was David's reaction exactly.

"He's real?" David said was his first thought when his mother told him they'd be seeing the author of one of their favorite characters.

The performance Monday was made possible by a Goliad Education Fund grant applied for by fourth-grade teacher Shannon Sawyer, who has read "Hank the Cowdog" books to her children and students over the years.

Sawyer said she was grateful she got to spend 2 ½ hours with Erickson after picking him up from the Corpus Christi International Airport.

"It was very neat to listen to how he came up with all of his stories," she said. "He has stayed true to his craft all these years."

Erickson shared a bit of his personal story and inspiration with the audience, too.

He said the books were intended to appeal to his small community in Perryton after he and his wife became frustrated with reading books and watching movies with characters "you wouldn't let in your house."

"That's the only reason your kids have Hank the Cowdog. Because two people in a small town thought it was unacceptable for the entertainment business to give your children poison."

Erickson told the crowd of more than 300 he writes his books with the idea that he would never want to shame his mother.

"That's just the kind of thing people from small towns understand," he said.

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