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By Sue H. Jones/Communications Coordinator, National Ranching Heritage Center—
“It’s me again, Hank the Cowdog!” This opening statement has appeared in more than 74 children’s books written by John R.
Erickson in an ongoing series that has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. That same opening line introduced a new podcast series that launched September 14 and starred Matthew McConaughey as “Hank the Cowdog.”
Successive episodes will be released each Monday through October 12 with Hank entangled in mysteries and amusing capers on the Texas Panhandle ranch he calls home.
Jeff Nichols, an award-winning film director and screenwriter, is the writer, director and executive producer of the five-episode podcast series. Nichols and McConaughey collaborated on the 2012 film “Mud” and have reunited for the Hank the Cowdog series. Supporting cast members are Jesse Plemons, Cynthia Erivo, Kirsten Dunst, Leslie Jordan, Joel Edgerton, Scoot McNairy, Michael Shannon and John R. Erickson.
Other executive producers joining Nichols and McConaughey are Sarah Green and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones of Tri-State Pictures, Mark Erickson of HTC Productions and Rob Herting of QCODE. QCODE is a new podcast and media studio focusing on working with creators to originate and innovate stories in the audio format with potential for later adaption in mediums such as television and feature films.
Podcasts are essentially radio shows that can be accessed on the internet or downloaded and saved on a phone, tablet or computer. The first of the five Hank the Cowdog episodes will debut on Monday, September 14 with successive episodes released every Monday through October 12. The free podcasts can be accessed through Apple Podcasts or other podcast hosting services. More information about the series can be found at www.hankthecowdogpodcast.com; https://apple.co/hankthecowdogpod; and sites on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
“The best way a family podcast could happen is the way it did happen,” explained Erickson, whose
9-square-mile ranch is 40 miles south of Perryton, Texas. “Missy Nichols, the wife of an experienced movie director, bought a Hank book for her son. Her husband read it to his son and said, ‘I love this.’” After the two laughed together and finished the book, Nichols told his assistant to contact the author.
In Erickson’s book series, Hank the Cowdog is the laughable self-declared “Head of Ranch Security” on a Texas Panhandle ranch. In the upcoming podcasts, Hank will find himself in the middle of a host of tangled mysteries and capers that span the cattle ranch he calls home. A motley assembly of characters will join Hank in his adventures, not the least of which is his less-than trusty sidekick, Drover, a small uncourageous mutt voiced by Jesse Plemons.
“There is a lesson in every story,” Erickson said. “Kids know the lesson by instinct. Just like cattle will go to a piece of ground and lick it where salt has been, kids find something that nourishes their spirit and go to it. It’s not there by accident.”
Each of the five podcast episodes will have an educational activity prepared by the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. These activities will be aligned with national curriculum standards and will focus on literacy, science, STEM and social and emotional well-being. Learning with podcast activities is a hands-on way to engage listeners and can be easily accessed for free at www.ranchlifelearning.com.
The National Ranching Heritage Center began partnering with Erickson in 2015 to provide a children’s Ranch Life Learning book series narrated by Hank the Cowdog. In a teaching style that is unique to the scruffy Head of Ranch Security, the books humorously teach readers about ranch life and include ranching as a business, livestock basics, ranch wildlife, ranch hands, horses and weather.