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No superhero needed, just kindness and concern

Staff Writer

Photo courtesy Jackie Hanson
Ted and Jackie Hanson have released the first installment of a series about a young boy named Dakota and his horse, Latigo. The Pagosa couple worked together to create a children’s book that teaches youngsters to be thoughtful and kind, avoiding the superhero stereotypes and violence found in many contemporary works.

They didn’t come from the land, but from the wanderings of all lands.

Ted and Jackie Hanson, now residents of Pagosa Country, took note during the 30 years of their traveling the country together, from small town Iowa to the big and cold city of Anchorage, Alaska.

However, with all the stories, Jackie and Ted only started thinking of writing in 1995 while in Angel Fire, N.M. While there, they wrote down the idea for what would become “Dakota’s First Roundup,” the first book in what they hope will be a series of chapter books geared toward elementary-age children.

“We wanted to write something that would teach them to be kind,” Ted says.

“To be kind to animals and to be kind to people. To take responsibilities for their actions,” Jackie adds.

Ted and Jackie had thought of doing a series of nonviolent cartoons while living in Dallas. The idea came to the Hansons after the shock they experienced when moving from Alaska down to Dallas.

“Talk about a culture shock,” Ted says. “We were surprised when we woke up the next morning.”

Jackie recalls a news story she heard after moving there: Individuals would hide underneath cars parked along the street. When a woman carrying a handbag passed by, the individual would slash the woman’s ankles, right around the Achilles tendon, causing the woman to fall. The perpetrator would then shimmy out from under the car, grab the bag and run.

“It was horrible,” Jackie recalls.

However, the Hansons did not envision some great superhero would come save them and  make the world a safe, just world to live in. In fact, they said what they were seeing on TV for children and in the book stores for children was all about superheroes, but, that material included  weapons and violence as well. It might have promoted justice, but the superhero cartoons and comics justified the use of violence as a means to an end. In Jackie and Ted’s eyes, violence should never enter the picture. If you teach children how to live right, they thought, with emphasis on caring about the people and the environment around them, then there would be no need for superheroes.

However, creating a cartoon was not to happen then for Ted and Jackie; the opportunity fell through, mainly due to the egregious production costs for a cartoon series. Yet, the germ of that idea stayed with the Hansons. Kids, in their opinion, needed media that promoted nonviolence, that promoted love and kindness.

So, while in Angel Fire, they wrote a rough draft of the first installment of a series about a young boy named Dakota and his horse, Latigo. However, it wasn’t until last year, with the Hansons living in Pagosa Country, that the draft was looked at with serious consideration for publication.

For 10 years, Ted and Jackie lived and took care of a horse ranch in Arboles. While there, nature and animals became an integral part of their lives. They took in stray cats, took care of dogs and, at one point, a whole lot of horses.

“People were going to get rid of forty horses,” Ted says.

“We couldn’t let that happen. That’s just not right. So, we took them,” Jackie says.

“These animals live to serve you, and then to just discard them when times get tough, that’s just not right,” Ted says.

One time, they found a weasel, just a baby, that was in need of care. They cared for it, called Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife officials who came and identified the animal, and helped bring the animal back to full health.

“When they brought back the weasel, and Ted took him to the lake to let him go, at first he didn’t want to get out of the cage. When he did, he ran a ways to the lake, then stopped, turned back around and stood up and looked at Ted,” Jackie says.

“It was like he was smiling at me, thanking me. It was the neatest thing,” Ted says.

However, that job tending the ranch ended, and Ted and Jackie came from Arboles to Pagosa Springs. Before they left Arboles, Jackie made sure to find a loving home for all of the many horses, except the two they’ve kept.

While the move was not something planned or wanted, like many of life’s unexpected turns, it was a blessing in many ways, and pushed Ted and Jackie back to their artistic roots. They took their children’s book on Dakota, dusted it off and, together, rewrote it.

“Ted does the outline, and I go back in and elaborate on the details,” Jackie explains.

Dakota lives high in the Rocky Mountains with his family. The book begins with a high country thunderstorm that rolls through the land. Dakota’s on a cattle drive, though, so his first priority is care of the herd, second priority is himself. The other, more experienced cowboys on the drive ride ahead. Dakota rides drag, staying in the rear, and hears the cry of a calf. Dakota is faced with a quandary: ensure his own safety by staying with the herd, or turn around to get the calf? Of course, Dakota decides to rescue the calf, during the thunderstorm, climbing down a cliff, risking his own safety, and for what? Well, for one calf. And is one calf worth it? For Ted and Jackie, the answer is “yes.”

The book is available for purchase at amazon.com. Ted and Jackie are also planning a reading at a yet-to-be-determined date at the Sisson Library.

For more information, see their website, www.cowboys-toys.com.

This story was posted on January 17, 2013.