MAKING OF A NOVEL … or … “How I Wrote
The Blue Ribbon” By: Ron
your life is easy. All you have to do is write a novel.
Of course, you have to live a little before you’ve
got anything interesting to say. Which means, you could
end up with a house full of heartache and lots of gray
hair by the time you’ve got enough to tell a story.
In my case, it took 443 pages and every one of them
felt like a year.
Blue Ribbon” isn’t a novel that happened
overnight. Much of it was lived by the characters before
anyone knew a novel was being hatched. If I remember
right, an imaginative dress designer and the richest
girl in town getting to know each other wasn’t
the start of the story at all. The story behind the
making of the paperback novel that’s creating
such a buzz right now goes way back to a hot afternoon
on July 8, 1945. That’s when a plump, dark-haired
young bookkeeper named Jackie Kauffman got off a bus
and walked along a dirt road to a farm house in Lancaster
County, Pennsylvania, and got herself a Collie puppy.
Me? Forget about me. I wasn’t even born yet. Jackie
and I wouldn’t meet for another twenty years and
that’s getting ahead of our story.
M. Kauffman grew up in a big Victorian house on the
edge of a town called Manheim. There were two Kauffman
girls: A glamorous one who looked like a movie star
and a plain one who would spend her life working at
a dull job in a big company and never marry. The plain
one was Jackie, later to become the wealthy Esmeralda
in “The Blue Ribbon.”
was quite a romantic, this unmarried woman. Her rambling
house was filled with paperback novels and there were
lists of sensual names for the many puppies she registered
over the years. The name “Lochranza” was
selected from such a novel. She said it was the name
of a retreat for the Scottish monarchy.
Kauffman girls didn’t have a father at home and
I know Jackie grew up missing her Dad. But, Mother,
a bitter, scowling woman, had chased him off and never
liked men much after that. She ruined a love affair
for Jackie by sending the police after the man and catching
them. If I tell you Jackie was in her Thirties at the
time, it might give you an idea of the power exerted
by Mother Kauffman. Maybe that’s why Jackie’s
heart went out to Collies: They’re always cheerful.
Maybe that’s why she took off for dog shows almost
every weekend: To get away.
Kennels was a perfectly maintained enterprise advertising
in all the right magazines and winning top honors when
it was my turn to look for a puppy. I remember the clean,
beautiful dogs; the flowers everywhere; the carefully
mowed lawn and the freshly painted house. I remember
Mother Kauffman, much like the character Dorothy Jacobus
in the story none of us knew I would one day write,
busying herself as she swept the porch – listening
to every word.
my first purebred puppy that day, I didn’t know
I was meeting the one who would take me into the world
of purebred animals where I would “make my name.”
I didn’t know I would be trusted to handle the
Lochranza Collies in the show ring for Jackie, help
to develop the bloodline and that, one day, Lochranza
Collies would be known throughout the world. I just
knew I had found a friend.
liked to read to me. She read every one of the Albert
Payson Terhune books to me as I brushed and fed the
dogs. And she liked to cook good, old-fashioned Pennsylvania
Dutch pot pie. Oh, I miss that! Mmmm!
the years went by, she would call me to the kennel every
time a new Collie magazine arrived. These were my lessons.
And she was tough! We would sit at her kitchen table
and go through those magazines page by page, studying
every picture and reading every article.
do you think about this dog?” she’d ask.
like him,” I’d say.
Can’t you see how long he is in the hock? You’d
better take another look!” she’d scold,
real stern. And then she’d laugh.
think she liked me.