Roadie the Ranch Dog: The magic of a little orange mutt
Every child in America probably has a stack of favorite books, and ranch and farm kids ought to add one or all four books from Scott Haynes’ Roadie the Ranch Dog series to the stack. The Montana-born artist currently lives in Newcastle, Wyoming, with his wife Erin and children Roberta, 4, and Henry, 3, and makes connections to both locations in his agriculturally-correct kids’ books.
Scott spent the early years of his adult life working in several trades, including as a truck driver and hat maker, and worked for a large animal vet in Montana. In 2000, he incorporated art into his repertoire by hiring on with Leanin’ Tree, a greeting card and gift company that uses original art. Art was always a creative outlet for Scott, especially through his school years, but he had never drawn professionally.
Within the last five years, Scott has transitioned to writing and illustrating children’s books full-time, with his first creation as Roadie the Ranch Dog.
“I think it’s amazing to be able to just follow your dreams and take that big gulp and bite the bullet,” Erin said of her husband Scott. “It has been scary because we have two babies at home, but I admire him. A lot of men have these dreams, and they don’t do it; they just get stuck in the rut. It’s something I hope our kids see and do as well.”
Roadie was born after Scott heard that his hometown community of Saco, Montana, was considering cutting the arts and eventually music programs in the school; he told his wife this and, to his shock, she informed him that Newcastle was considering the same.
“I thought, if I was in school and they cut art, what would keep me interested in being creative?” he said. “Initially I wanted to get a bunch of books done and send to Saco School, thinking, maybe, it will spark a little interest for students to keep being creative, maybe they’ll keep drawing.”
Neither school district cut funds to art and music, and they can still encourage creativity in the form of Roadie in their classrooms.
Roadie is modeled after several dogs Scott grew up with, always mutts and generally a heeler cross. “They’re genuine and thankful you’re around,” Scott said. “I made him a mutt because people can be so tribal about their breeds; he can be an ‘every’ dog. Plus, kids like orange, so I made him orange.”
Currently removed from the ranching life and his hometown, Scott lives vicariously through his books, often pulling story lines from nostalgic tales of days ranching and farming with his father and brother. He also strives to create books that are true to ranching, books he would have enjoyed as a youngster.
“I didn’t read much unless what I was reading was accompanied by a lot of artwork, then I’d read the heck out of it. I was really into comic books for a bit, and there were a lot of words I didn’t understand, so I had to look them up. I learned a lot about vocabulary that way, and I think it’s what got me interested in being a reader now,” he said.
The books don’t preach ranching and farming ways, nor do they alienate kids who don’t live that life. Scott hopes that children who don’t live rurally get interested in and ask questions about agriculture through his books.
“In book four, [Where are all the calves?] I drew them pulling a backwards calf out of a cow. I debated not including it, but it’s nature, it’s life,” he said. “Other books are so dumbed down, like when they’re roping, the loop is up in the sky and the hand is way down. I wanted something real and set in the area where I grew up; I didn’t want to read about a Texas ranch. I loved where I grew up and wanted to represent this area a little bit.”
His four books: Roadie the Ranch Dog, Why Ranch Dogs make pretty good buddies!, Ten Darn Dogs, and Where are all the calves? include highway signs or license plates from Montana and Wyoming, small homages to where he grew up and where he now lives. The tack, weather, terrain, magpies and meadowlarks, and the Wyoming ball cap on his wife are also accurate to the area.
“Living in Newcastle, Wyoming, and being a kindergarten teacher, I think these books are a perfect representation of the life these kids are living,” Erin said of Roadie the Ranch Dog. “As a kindergarten teacher, I love them because of the art. The kids can read some of the sight words and can tell the story through the pictures. His illustrations, I think, are so amazing. I wish he would do more with that. He’s such a good storyteller.”
His fifth book, which he refers to as his team roping book, is a tribute to his father, who passed away before Scott created the Roadie the Ranch Dog books and always encouraged his son’s creative side.
“He was a giant supporter of my cartooning; my mother is too. When he was alive, I didn’t really do a lot with it,” he said. “I didn’t think it was manly, and I didn’t know how to go about it. I didn’t understand that I could make a career out of cartooning, but he knew I could.”
His wife, Erin, the brunette character in each of Scott’s books, is another big supporter of Scott, and often reads his books in the classroom at the request of her students.
“She has the whole series, but she doesn’t force the books on the students, they actually ask about them,” he said. “It’s surreal to hear the kids’ response to them and parents’ reactions to them. It’s amazing; I try to keep putting out the best stuff I can.”
His own kids are aware of the big deal their dad and Roadie are; to them, “that’s just dad’s book, that’s just Roadie,” Erin said. “They don’t really understand what it means for dad to be an illustrator like my kindergarten class does.”
The new book, which is expected to be available this spring, leaves Roadie at home to keep watch over the ranch while his people take off for a team roping. This doesn’t set well with Roadie, so he strikes out on another adventure to see where his people have gone.
To purchase any of Scott’s book or Roadie the Ranch Dog products, visit http://www.roadietheranchdog.bigcartel.com