Nellie MacKay Rost of rural Marmarth celebrated her 90th birthday surrounded by many of her 11 grandchildren, 40 great-grandchildren, and 7 great-great-grandchildren May 7, 2016 at the exhibit hall in Baker.
By Sherry Vogel
Nellie Elizabeth MacKay was born May 3, 1926 on the MacKay ranch west of Willard. Her mother, Marie Honstain MacKay, was attended by an area midwife, Mrs. Sparks. Nellie spent the first five years of her childhood playing along the Lame Jones River with her brother Al. When she became school age, she and Al would ride horseback in the nice weather, traveling two miles, to attend Gregerson Country School. She remembers that in the winter her father, William “Billy” MacKay, would heat rocks in the oven, then place them under tanned hides which covered her and her siblings to keep them warm as he delivered them to school.
By third grade, the MacKay kids attended school in Baker. They boarded at the Fallon House until one incident when her sister, Ella, brought home bed bugs. After that her dad purchased a house in town. Nellie and her sister Anna Mae spent their high school summers herding sheep. They slept in a covered wagon. Nellie received a new bicycle as summer wages the summer of her junior year. Then the next summer, after her graduation in 1944, she earned a trip to California to visit her Aunt Ella and Grandma Honstain. She enjoyed the long train ride and passed time playing cards with soldiers. Many years later, one soldier would pass through Baker, and recognized Nellie. She didn’t recognize him until he mentioned he’d cheated at cards when the train passed through a dark tunnel.
When attending a rodeo in Medora, ND, Nellie was attracted to the laughter of a young bronc buster by the name of Murril “Tubby” Rost. “Must have been some laugh,” as the young couple got married Aug. 17, 1946. The Rosts worked various jobs throughout the years and lived in a number of communities throughout Montana. After working on a dairy farm in Bozeman in 1951, they moved back to Baker.
The fall of 1952, Nellie was stricken with polio. Nellie said, “My doctors told me I would probably never walk again. They did not know my determination.” She crawled, hobbled, and willed herself to successfully walk again.
Throughout the years, Nellie being a hard worker, has managed or been employed at the Biffle Cafe, Ismay Bar, Green Dragon, Eastside Truck Stop, Palm Tavern, Heiser’s, Sleeth’s, and the Corner Bar. She worked beside her husband in the dairy business, cattle ranching, livestock feed business and house construction. She also backed him when he worked in the oil field and worked in road construction.
In 1970, Tubby and Nellie purchased a small ranch east of Marmarth. They have raised cows, chickens, as well as llamas and ostriches. Tubby passed away Oct. 12, 1997. Always a country girl, Nellie remains on the farm. With the help of her family and friends, she is active in raising a small herd of cattle and a few chickens. She still drives a riding lawn mower to mow her yard, pitches loose hay to her cows and plants a garden every year.