Mary Barbara McKay moved to Southeast Kansas in 1996 with her husband, Roderick McKay. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but her family moved to Denver, Colorado when she was 5 years old and she lived there until she was 21 years old, so she considered Denver her home. She has a degree in English from Creighton University, 1970, with supporting courses in Art, Philosophy and Secondary Education. She taught secondary school English for 8 years. Mary Barbara home schooled their 3 children through the 8th grade. When the last child started high school Mary Barbara went back to school and achieved a second Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from California State University, Sacramento in 1992. She worked as a nurse in Obstetrics and then in Home Care for a total of 8 years. After her husband built a country home for them on 40 acres of Kansas farmland, she stayed home and became a country woman with the help of her horses who taught her to accept life as God deals out, as they do.
Until she moved to Kansas Mary Barbara was a city dweller. Moving to Kansas at age 48 after 25 years of marriage, she found country life a “culture shock”–isolated, lonely, intimidating. Fortunately they bought a horse before they even started to build their house. Horses made country life interesting, worthwhile, educational and even fun. Horses taught her much about life she had never taken the time to learn. Horses accept whatever God hands to them, just as He intends for us to do. Horses became her teachers. Her husband, Rod, practically rode a horse before he could walk and was always an excellent horseman. His father said he was the best with horses of all his 8 children. Rod was raised on a ranch in eastern Oregon. A close friend of Mary Barbara’s was caring for her 90 year old mother with whom she had little in common. Her friend loved horses. To brighten her days, each day Mary Barbara sent stories of their life with horses. Soon her friend told her she had to turn the stories into a book. She said: “There are people who never feel love, but they can feel love through an animal even in a book or magazine. Your stories will help people in ways you will never imagine!” That is how she came to write her first book, The Good Horses, published in 2019. It has poems, Scripture quotations, her own drawings, paintings and photographs as well as stories of the 8 horses who graced their property.
Her second book is Writings from Vietnam. It was published in 2022. It is a compilation of her husband’s letters to her from Vietnam in 1969-1970. They had just met before he left for the Army in 1968. She kept all his letters from his time in the Army. He was a very good man. She wanted to publish his letters because she thought readers could learn a lot from what he wrote and apply it to their own lives. It is a tiny book, only about 125 pages, but it is very powerful.
After writing one another for 2-1/2 years through his time in the Army and for over 9 months after his discharge from the military, Rod moved near where Mary Barbara was teaching school and they married. They were married almost 47 years. They were blessed with 3 children, and 7 grandchildren. Rod died unexpectedly in his sleep the night of Valentine’s Day 2018. Mary Barbara lives in the home Rod built for them on 40 acres in Linn County and grows hay for her 3 horses. She likes to paint and draw and to write, and likes caring for her horses. She is a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Mound City, KS. She sings in the choir at Sacred Heart Church and is a sacristan. She was a member of the Linn County Art Guild, and Linn Country Kansans for Life, for which she served 2 years as President. She has entered various art shows in Bourbon and Linn County. Her books are for sale at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com and at Hedgehog Ink, in Fort Scott, KS.