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The Olasky Interview - John Erickson


WORLD Radio - The Olasky Interview - John Erickson

Life on the range with Hank the Cowdog

John Erickson Illustration by Jeffrey Smith

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, October 19th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview.

Today, a conversation between WORLD editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky and author John Erickson.

EICHER: Erickson is best known for his Hank the Cowdog books—there’s 76 of them—though you may also recognize him from his articles each month in our WORLD Saturday series. A few months ago Olasky dropped by the Erickson ranch “and sat down for a spell.” Here’s a part of their conversation.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: What drew you to this particular place?

ERICKSON: It was a deep canyon country, cut by the Canadian River. And very sparsely populated. There’s only one school in Roberts County. And it's about an hour and a half drive from here. So homeschooling was a great option, and she (Kris) loved it on top of that.

OLASKY: And you're pretty well self-sufficient here, it seems in lots of ways. You have your own generator, if the power goes out.

ERICKSON: Yeah, you have to be pretty self-sufficient to live this far out in the country. We don't have even any neighbors that are close by. The nearest neighbor is 7 miles, and next nearest is 12. And the next nearest is 19. And the people in this part of the country are people who enjoy solitude. And I know that if I got in trouble, I could call my neighbors and they would come help me...if they are answering their cell phones that day. If they have a signal that day. But I don't see our neighbors, but maybe once a year.

OLASKY: You have beef from your own cattle?


OLASKY: Stored in freezers.


OLASKY: So in what ways is your self sufficiency limited?

ERICKSON: There's never been a landline phone in this Canadian River Valley. And so when we first bought this place, I used to come down to work and I had no way of contacting Chris, if I'd had a problem. A few years later, we got our first cell phones and the reception is kind of spotty, but we certainly depend on cell phone service now. And on internet service. I do most of my correspondence through emails because it's 40 miles to the nearest mailbox. That makes me rather dependent on electricity.

OLASKY: The nearest doctor is 40 miles away.


OLASKY: You're 78. Now, what do you do in case of a medical emergency?

ERICKSON: I've only had a few of those. And I went to the emergency room. I drove 45-minutes into Perryton and then got stitched up or went to the chiropractor. And, but we have had very few medical emergencies where we're both in good health.

OLASKY: How does your lifestyle affect the way you think about stuff?

ERICKSON: We have our share of things in the form of furniture and clothes, but it's certainly not extravagant. I think where I live and the way I live, might make me more mindful of non-material things than I might be if I lived in a different place in a city.

OLASKY: So you're preserving the environment here. Would you call yourself an environmentalist?

ERICKSON: Ranchers seldom if ever call themselves environmentalist because that it has political overtones, but I'd say that most ranchers are environmentalists—and they were before the term ever came about in the media. It's a philosophy of life that's built into animal husbandry and farming and agriculture. That you have to care for the place where you live. And you have to care for the animals that you're taking care of. And to me, it doesn't make sense for a person to call himself conservative if he doesn't have a strong desire to conserve the earth that we're living on.

OLASKY: So how would you define your own conservatism then?

ERICKSON: Frugal, modest. And I think that those qualities are still present in this part of the country. It's just a way of living. But it also reflects itself in politics.

OLASKY: Okay, let me ask a couple other questions about a trend in human events that you and I—now that we're both old guys—have to be aware of. What do you think about death?

ERICKSON: Well, it's definitely part of the natural process, and it was going on in the Bible, and I see evidence of it in the local newspaper, the Puritan Herald, when I open it up, I read the obituaries. I feel comfortable that this is part of a process that is much greater than just my ego. It's a process that Abraham went through and Moses and all the apostles and there is a lot about death in the Old and New Testament, and a lot of wisdom about how we prepare ourselves for it, and how we should live our lives.

OLASKY: So how do you contemplate at some point, I hope not soon, your own death?

ERICKSON: Well, it's going to happen and I hope that I'll be prepared for that. And I think about it a lot. I read other people writing about it, I read things in the Bible. And I will, I think, have some satisfaction in thinking that I did the best. I did what I could to dignify the memory of my parents, the people in my community, in my church, and didn't shame my wife. And I brought some laughter and smiles to children and families.

I'm gonna do that as long as I can. And so far, I'm going to my office every morning and twice a year, I knock on Hank's door. I've never known from the very beginning if he would answer but he always has.

OLASKY: So it's possible then that after you die, Hank books will go on for several years (CHOKES UP)...

ERICKSON: I see no reason why they wouldn't.

OLASKY: Thank you, John.

EICHER: That’s author John Erickson talking with Marvin Olasky. To read more of their interview, we’ve posted a link in today’s transcript at wng.org/podcasts.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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