Johnny McConnaughhay’s receptionist’s eyes were wide open, wider than he had ever seen. She looked at him as if he had done something wrong.
The concern that filled her eyes told him that he should hurry. Two men were waiting to see him in the lobby.
McConnaughhay, a veterinarian at All Queen City Veterinary Clinic, came into his clinic’s waiting room and saw two men waiting for him that day in 1988 in Hastings, Nebraska. The men wore tailored black jackets and black pants.
They told Johnny that they were on the advanced security detail for President Ronald Reagan’s visit to dedicate the new Gray Center for Communication Arts at Hastings College. The agents were looking for a veterinarian for the president’s bomb-sniffing and bodyguard dogs in case one of them was injured or sick during the visit.
President Reagan came and spoke at the dedication a few weeks later.
“Of course there was no drama at all,” Johnny recalls. “I went and watched the speech. President Reagan left and that was it.”
Except it turns out that wasn’t the whole story. The visit from the Secret Service sparked an idea in Johnny’s imagination for a novel for middle school-age students.
“When I was writing I thought I would take a different twist on my experience with President Reagan and write about veterinary medicine through the eyes of a veterinarian’s daughter,” Johnny explains.
Johnny’s two daughters, Abby and Maddi, were young at the time that he owned several mixed-practice clinics in Hastings, Nebraska. When he broke the news to his daughters they thought “it was the coolest thing ever.”
“I remember that I used to write little chapters for him to include in the book,” says Maddi who is now a junior in high school.
The book, Maddi Moo, Veterinarian’s Daughter, Presidential Adventure , is written for children ages 9 to 13. Even though the title says the book is about two 12-year-old girls, Amanda says that all young readers will enjoy the book.
“My dad made sure to add appeal for young boy readers, such as the character Jesse and the scene with the bull, Oscar,” explains Amanda, now a first-year law student at the University of Nebraska College of Law. “The book has a wide range of characters for all of readers.”
Johnny started outlining the book four and a half years ago. He finished it a year and a half ago, not realizing how much work it takes to write a book.
“My book is only about 75 pages,” Johnny says. “I can’t imagine how much time a Harry Potter or something like that would take. From a guy who is doing pretty much everything on his own with help from family and friends, it was just amazing to me how much work was involved.”
Amanda has acted as her father’s agent and has helped him get a copyright for his work.
“Intellectual property law is the area I got interested in while helping my dad with his book,” Amanda says. “I learned that it is an intricate process that is important to do to protect your work.”
Johnny decided to self-publish his book after he received rejection letters from publishing companies. Eventually, he wants to either find a publishing company or hire a professional agent to help him market his book to readers. He set up a website, www.maddimoo.com , to draw in Internet customers.
Hail storms, spooked horses, pythons eating blankets and a presidential visit keep the pages turning throughout the entire book. Young readers get to learn about veterinary medicine through the eyes of Maddi Moo and Wendy, the president’s daughter. Many locals in Hastings are asking Johnny when he is going to publish his sequel.
“I have started a second one, but I am waiting to see how this one turns out,” Johnny explains. “I know how much work is involved. The main characters would be the same obviously, but I am looking at ways to tie in other characters.”
Many of the colorful characters in the book are based on relatives and family friends of the McConnaughhay family.
“A lot of the characters in the book are real, but in different terms,” Maddi says. “It’s really cool that he could incorporate that into the book.”
Memories about the past help Johnny to write a book that will interest young readers. Memories have been the basis for the twists and turns in the book. Memories may also lead Johnny down the path to write again. PD