Coming off of an exhausting day of handling cattle – it was exhausting to a blue-blooded cowdog; it would’ve outright killed a regular dog – Hank decides that he deserves a holiday. And when he sees Slim Chance revving up his truck for town, he switches into full Syruptishus Loaderation mode. That is to say, he sneaks into the truck and hitches a ride to town.
But all does not go as planned. Because Hank never planned for Slim to abandon him in town, leaving him to stay with his sister, Maggie. And he certainly never planned for the mean neighbor dog, Rambo, to take a liking to Maggie and a hatred to Hank.
Can the head of ranch security bring order to the city?
Usually I try to separate my thoughts into separate categories. You know – romance, relationships, character qualities, philosophy, etc. But this time they all seem to run together, so I shall address them together.
The story begins as Hank decides that he is overworked and underappreciated (an attitude he generally espouses), and awards himself a visit to the city. When Slim Chance leaves him there, Hank makes his way to his sister Maggie’s house. Maggie never appreciates Hank’s visits and for good reason – he spends most of his time telling her pups glorified stories of his life most of which are calculated to make them envious of his style of life (including his exploits with Miss Beulah the Collie and Missy, the Coyote Princess). In this instance, though, his presence is helpful, because Rambo (the ‘Car-Barkaholic Dog’ of the title) has decided to terrorize Maggie and her family. He tries to coax Maggie into kissing him (she refuses as a matter of principle) and steals the pups’ bones. Before Hank sees Rambo he boasts of how he’ll whip him and show him who’s boss, an attitude which quickly changes when he sees Rambo’s size. However, after faltering, Hank is encouraged by the righteous attitude of his nephews and the six of them attack Rambo, driving him from the yard.
However, this victory is only temporary, and Rambo threatens to attack them again as soon as they relax their guard. Maggie and Hank have an impassioned discussion over their course of action in which Maggie believes that they must give in or be destroyed. Hank responds,
“I’m thinking of the children, too. I don’t want ‘em to grow up cowards, afraid of every bully who happens to be bigger and louder than they are. There’s a very important principle involved here… Before I’d let you surrender to that jerk, I’d go over that fence and challenge him to a fight to the death.” [pg. 83]
Yay for Hank! Unfortunately Maggie convinces him to leave while she surrenders to Rambo.
“Before I could think about it any more, I ran straight for the back fence, leaped high in the air, climbed over the top, hit the ground, and ran south down the alley as hard as I could run.
Yes, I was running away from everything I believed in. I was running away from myself, my pride, my past, my cowdog heritage, everything that mattered. And what really made me sick was that one part of me was glad to be running away! [pg. 84]
While he runs, Hank plots a better way to end Rambo’s threats and, in the end, rescues his sister and her family. I appreciated the moral progression in the story. Hank doesn’t always act honorably, but when he doesn’t he knows himself for what he is – a coward. However, even though he fears Rambo, he still finds a way to outwit him.
Mild euphemisms such as ‘gosh’, ‘darn’, and ‘heck’ are used. Hank argues with Drover and Rambo.
Conclusion. This has probably been the best plotted of all the Hank books I’ve read so far.
Note: This a review of The Case of the Car-Barkaholic Dog, not the entire Hank the Cowdog series.