Literature / Hank the Cowdog

"It's me again, Hank the Cowdog."
Hank, at the beginning of each book.

Hank the Cowdog is a series of children's books written by John R. Erickson starting the titular hound. The adventures consist of the goings-on at the West Texas ranch where Hank acts as the "Head of Ranch Security." He is assisted (if you can call it that) by Drover, his sidekick and a chronic coward. Together, they work tirelessly to keep the ranch safe from any threat, be it moles in the garden or blood-thirsty coyotes raiding the chicken coop, with Hank's ego and Drover's bad leg providing plenty of humor along the way.

This series provides examples of:

  • And the Adventure Continues: More than one book has ended with this tone, implying that the work of the Head of Ranch Security never ends.
    Hank: Case closed, and back to work!
  • Animated Adaptation: The first book was adapted into an episode of CBS's Storybreak.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Beulah (collie next door who has a boyfriend) and Missy Coyote (coyote princess who was once offered to Hank if he would attack the ranch).
    • Beulah herself has the choice between Plato (Betty) and Hank (Veronica). She consistently chooses Plato, but there are hints that she'd like to choose Hank.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    Drover: She had pretty brown eyes...
    Hank: Were they pretty and brown or pretty brown? This could be important!
    Drover: Both. They were pretty and brown. And pretty brown.
  • The Case Of: The series began using this pattern with the eighth book, The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse. At this point, the majority of the books in the series follow this template.
  • Cats Are Mean: Pete the Barncat often teases and takes advantage of Hank and the other characters. Other cats aren't shown to be much better.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Missy Coyote
  • Clucking Funny: Chickens are described by Hank as being so dumb that they only have six words in their own language, three of which are just different cries for help. J.T. Cluck, the head rooster, is shown speaking fluently on other occasions, so he may be smarter than your average hen.
  • Cool Uncle: Hank to his sister's children (puppies?). His sister has a different opinion.
  • Drunken Song: "Monkey Business"
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The story Monkey Business has Hank finding a monkey in a crate and using him as his own personal servant, inflating his ego in the process. The monkey later starts talking and usurps Hank's command, calling himself the Pasha of Shizzam. But it turns out it was All Just a Dream.
  • Exit Pursued By Two Coyotes: Sinister the Bobcat in Lost in the Dark Unchanted Forest.
  • Expospeak Gag: Hank usually describes his physiology as if he were a high-tech piece of machinery, especially when he's getting ready for a fight.
  • Extreme Omni-Goat: The story The Case of the Dancing Cowboy (which was originally serialized in newspapers and later released via audio, but not in a printed form) has Drover mentioning how he once knew a goat who "ate tin cans and ketchup bottles''. (And rose bushes.) Hank doesn't believe a word of it.
  • Fantastic Racism: The coyotes are portrayed like stereotypical Native Americans of The Western genre, with a leader named Chief Many-Rabbit-Gut-Eat-In-Full-Moon.
  • Girl Next Door: Beulah, the neighbor's collie.
  • Good Ol' Boy: The cowboys, especially Slim. Rip and Snort are described by Hank as "good 'ol boy coyotes" who love nothing more than fighting, eating, and singing (in that order).
  • Guile Hero: Hank likes to think he's this, but more often than not his schemes blow up in his face. He has his moments though, such as in "Murder in the Middle Pasture" when he escaped a nasty situation involving a Gang of stray dogs and the Coyotes by goading them into fighting each other.
  • Heroic Dog: Hank, having sworn an oath "to protect and defend all innocent children against all manner of monsters and evil things."
  • Horsing Around: Hank hates horses because, not only do they think they're better than everybody else, they will go out of their way to try and prove it.
    Hank: If there's anything worse than pretense, it's reality. And anything that weighs 1200 pounds and bites, kicks, and stomps must be considered reality.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: In "The Case of the Measled Cowboy", Little Alfred fixes Slim a plate of hash when he's down with the measles. Later, Slim notices the can it came out of and states that it was dog food.
  • I Can Explain: In The Case of the Measled Cowboy, Hank begins to rehearse his explanation to the woman of the house, Sally May, for the tremendous mess that he and her son made in her absence. Subverted in that he admits he can't get any farther than "I can explain."
  • I Was Named "My Name": Hank is content with the Slim naming him that, as that was the name his mother gave him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hank isn't nearly as strong, smart, or charismatic as he boasts he is... but when the cards are down and someone's in danger, he still charges into battle as though he was.
  • Lame Excuse: Whenever Drover suspects the slightest possible risk, he'll complain about his leg hurting. Once or twice Hank has done the same thing when he's really scared.
  • Little Known Facts: Hank always tries to impress Drover with exaggerated explanations of natural phenomenon. Drover, of course, believes him.
  • Living Crashpad: On one occasion, Drover ended up on Hank after they jumped a fence.
  • Lord Error-Prone: Hank pretty much epitomizes this trope; he's a canine Don Quixote who actually winds up against legitimate enemies most of the time. There's even a sequence where he and his sidekick, Drover, confuse a thunderstorm with an enemy invasion.
  • Lovable Coward: Drover
  • Luke Nounverber: The coyotes' names like "Girl-Who-Drinks-Blood".
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Madam Moonshine, the witchy little owl. She often provides magical assistance to Hank when it suits her, although she does have some odd mannerisms, like referring to him as "Hank the Rabbit."
  • Malaproper: Hank himself. Sometimes he catches it and tries to correct himself, with varying degrees of success. Blunt Metaphors Trauma is also a defining narrative trait of his.
  • Mama Bear: Sally May, mother of Little Alfred and Baby Molly. Unfortunately, Hank is quite often the target of her scorn for "corrupting" her children. Still, more than once she's stood up to some pretty serious dangers to keep her kids safe.
    • There's also a mother cat in one book, who runs off a bull when it comes too close to her kittens.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Slim's shack. In fact, Slim in general.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Sinister the Bobcat and Scraunch the Terrible.
  • Narrator: Hank tells each adventure himself, if the opening line didn't tip you off.
  • Now You Tell Me: During The Secret Laundry Monster Files, Eddy the Rac rescues Hank from an attempted drowning at the hands of his cousin Bubba. He then tells Hank that Bubba hates dogs and he should never tangle with him in the water.
    Hank [with a stern glare]: That's great advice, Eddy. Too bad you weren't around ten minutes ago when it might have done some good.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Hank may not be nearly as smart as he likes to think he is, but Drover is nowhere near as dumb as Hank thinks he is, particularly when it comes to his own safety.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: In The Garbage Monster From Outer Space, Sally May has declared that she plans to give Hank away after he runs away and is ultimately discovered rooting around in some garbage cans. Little Alfred tries to make a deal with her. When it fails, Alfred bursts into tears and says Hank is his friend and he loves him. Sally May relents, although she warns Hank about getting into any more trouble.
  • Rascally Raccoon: Eddy the Rac is a cute little orphan raccoon Hank runs into occasionally. He's a nice kid, but his Trickster Archetype creeps up on him often.
  • Spoonerism: Hank is prone to these, e.g. "I pushed the nose open with my door."
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Rip and Snort, the coyote brothers.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: Drover, about half the time.
  • Translator Buddy: Snort to Rip.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Played with; Hank tends to flavor the stories to make himself appear stronger and braver than he really is, but when he comes to a really humiliating defeat like losing a fight or running away, he'll tell the reader to send the kids off to bed so they don't hear it.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Hank is terrified of, appropriately enough, snakes.
  • The Voiceless: Rip, who only grunts in affirmation ("Uh") or negation ("Uh-uh"). Lampshaded by Hank who tries to get Snort to swear an oath beginning with the line "I, Snort the coyote, and my brother Rip who never seems to talk..."
  • You No Take Candle: The Coyote Dialect as we hear it. Hank talks about it as if it's an actual language, but it's never clarified whether or not we're just hearing a translation.