Yvonne Hollenbeck and Robert Dennis sent the news of the death of Troy McNaught Westby, age 103, on January 30, 2019. Respected and admired by many, Troy McNaught Westby was a poet and artist, active all of her life.
Her son, poet Slim McNaught, wrote about his mother in a feature at CowboyPoetry.com:
My mother was born Troy Hare on January 5, 1916 on a farm east of Glasco, Kansas to parents of Irish and English descent…
In 1935 we moved to a ranch south west of Wanblee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This log house sat on the bank of Bear Creek, with the barn and corrals on one side and the house on the other and a large cottonwood tree laid across the creek for a footbridge.
My mother has been a prolific writer all her life, with shelves and boxes of writings, plus many that have been lost or destroyed over the years. It wasn’t always easy keeping material safe from little varmints in the old log houses of the time, plus the weather that came in through the cracks when the chinking crumbled and fell out. When I was small it seemed to me she spent a lot of time mixing mud from the “buffalo wallows” and chinking the openings between the logs in that old ranch home.
Later we moved some miles east of there into a frame house in the “Buzzard Basin” where she lived until she moved to town in 1956 after I had married and took over the ranch.
The first poem she remembers writing was for an English assignment in the eighth grade. She doesn’t remember the poem or how it went, but in it she compared death to crossing a river. That startled her teacher. The earliest poem she still has a copy of (“The Sandhills”) was written in 1933 and published in Ranch Romances, a popular western magazine of the time….
Her first teaching job was in a one-room country school building on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1941. Students there ranged from first grade through the eighth, with some of the older boys bigger than she was. She rode horseback eight miles to the school on Sunday afternoon, stayed in an area sectioned off with sheets hung on wires for her living quarters, then rode back to the ranch Friday night (or Saturday morning if the weather was bad). That school was across the county line, so I had to go to school in the county in which we lived for the first two years she taught there. The last year she taught there, the State Superintendent of Schools allowed me
to stay with her and go to school there. That was my fourth grade year….
The next several years she held the teaching position at a school building that was moved in and located one-half mile from our ranch. She then moved into Martin, South Dakota in 1956 where she taught the grades for several years. During that time she furthered her education until eventually she gained a composite major in Education and a Major in Art. She was then able to teach in both the elementary and secondary divisions.
In 1960 she started teaching in the Rapid City, South Dakota school system. She taught first grade at Meadowbrook Elementary two different times and High School Art the last nine years at Old Central High and West Jr. High.
She retired from teaching in 1978 after thirty seven years in the profession but continued to substitute teach for several years. In 1984 she moved to Mesa, Arizona where she resided until moving to New Underwood, South Dakota in 1997….
From the time I can remember, my mother painted, usually in oil paint; played many different stringed instruments plus piano and accordion; and wrote poetry. In between all this she also fulfilled her duties as a ranch wife when not in school: working cows, fixing fence, riding windmills, and all the other things that needed done. Before I could walk, and until I could get around on my own horse, she hauled me with her in her saddle…..
Since the 1930s she has had many poems and stories published in several western magazines and anthologies. In 1981 she and I co-authored and published a book of our poetry Away Out West. Since that time she has published two more books and currently has another about ready to print. Her second book, Portrait Of Life In Rhyme, contains several styles of poetry written from years ago to the present, including sonnets, haiku, free verse, and others. Her third book, They Say In Rhyme, consists of thirteen paintings with a children’s poem for each painting. She intended this book just for her great great grandchildren, but gets requests for copies from
folks who see it.
Read the entire piece and find poems by Troy McNaught Westby at CowboyPoetry.com.
Five generations of McNaughts, 2006