Obituary: JACK “SLUG” MILLS
March 5, 1943 – December 1, 2022
Slug was born in Broadus, Montana in 1943, to Jack C. and Margaret (Williams) Mills. He was a large baby and the doctor commented “he’s a helluva slug”. The nickname stuck.
From an early age he worked on his family’s ranch. Work was important to Slug. One of his first jobs, away from the ranch, was herding sheep for Lawrence Capra. He earned a hefty 50 cents a day. He also worked for other area ranchers such as Darrold Mraz, Manly Moore, his Uncle George Williams, and Warren Stiles construction. After high school graduation in 1961 he worked construction and carpentry in Indiana, Michigan, and Washington State. Slug was preparing to serve his country in the armed services when he was called home due to the death of his father. He returned to the ranch and began his life as a rancher. In addition to running the family ranch he also worked as a custom weed sprayer to supplement income.
He married Mary Anna “Poppy” Gaskill in 1965, and they settled into their Montana home on Scott Creek, North of Boyes. They were married for 57 years. In 1967 his daughter Darlynn was born and in 1974 Charlee was born.
In 1967 & 1969 there were late April storms. And he, along with other ranchers, took a big loss in cattle and sheep. In 1972 he sold his sheep. Much later in life he admitted he didn’t have the patience for raising sheep.
In 1976 he purchased the Boyes store. While Slug continued to ranch, Poppy worked in the post office, and in 1977 they made the move to ‘town’. Slug and Poppy opened the Old West Trading Post on April 1, selling groceries, gas, veterinary and ranch supplies. The store continued operation until 1992. Now the store houses many items from Slug’s expansive collections.
In 1979 he went to Western College of Auctioneering. Auctions had been a lifelong interest. Then in the 80’s he went to real estate school and added this to his resume. Since that time Mills Auction Service has been busy with sales of real estate, ranches, estate, and antiques. The Mills Auction team was mainly family and Slug was so proud of that. For many years he donated his time to the Powder River and Carter County Fair auctions. He had an incredible knack for selling and/or bartering. Slug was always available and ready to help the community and its members by working charity/benefit auctions. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for those in need. Over the years he sold many properties. He was known for his no-nonsense style of business and believed in the contract of a handshake and your word.
Slug has always been a wreck waiting to happen. At an early age he began a long history of car accidents. In September 1959 he had a bad car wreck and was in a body cast until March 1960. Because of his injuries he was forced to miss many months of school. The school administration wanted him to return but felt he missed too much school to graduate with his class. He said he would only return if he could graduate with this class. The superintendent told him he would never be able to make up the hours. (School had previously been a social event for Slug). Slug took correspondence classes over the summer and returned to finish school and graduate with his class.
He had countless wrecks involving horses and vehicles. He had many broken bones, dislocations, bumps, and bruises. More recently he was knocked off his horse and mauled by a bull. He learned two things from this incident, ambulances are not designed for comfort and it’s much easier to heal when you are a kid. Life with Slug was far from dull!
Slug has a had a lifelong passion for history. He probably acquired this trait from his grandfather Roy Williams, whose donations helped start the Tri State Museum in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. In 1971, Slug built a private museum to house the artifacts and odd items that he had acquired up to that point. Because of his love for history, he enjoys collecting items of value, oddity or to preserve history. He has extensive collections of coins, guns, spurs, and bits. He knew a little about everything and a lot about many things. He finds it odd that anyone would not want to have at least one collection.
Through his mother, Margaret, and his interest in history, he became acquainted with and made many friendships with Native Americans. He loved the workmanship and beauty of the native arts. Over the years he collected many unique items.
In his 20’s & 30’s, Slug participated in amateur rodeos, mainly steer wrestling. He tried to ride broncs but said he wasn’t much good at that. He was very excited when he turned forty as he was able to enter the Old Timer Rodeos. His debut was at a hometown rodeo in Broadus. After he healed up, he decided to focus on steer wrestling, qualifying for the National Old Timers Rodeo Finals in 1984. After a bad bout with blood clots in his legs, he decided it was time to hang it up. He continued to participate in rodeo by announcing many rodeos through the years and served as auctioneer for nearly as many Calcutta’s.
In 1984, Slug began rebuilding wagons in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the Days of ’85 in Ekalaka, Montana. He organized and led a wagon train from Boyes to Ekalaka. This led to other wagon trains in Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska, and was a 2nd in the movie Far & Away. In 1989, Slug was the wagon master for the Red Circle on the Great Cattle Drive of ’89 from Roundup to Billings. While working on the drive he met many folks from all over the country and realized there was a market for family vacations in this style. He and other community members developed and promoted Powder River Wagon Trains. Slug served as wagon master for many years. He enjoyed traveling to promote this and was able to travel as far away as Germany and Switzerland.
A source of great pride for Slug was his children & grandchildren. He was behind them all the way, he sponsored many a grandkid, and would be sitting in the stands to watch them! He loved having them work with him on projects, auctions, or the ranch. A true family man.
He enjoyed traveling, meeting new people, learning about the history of anything and everything. Slug never met a stranger and was always willing to help someone in need. He was never lost. He did, in his words, ‘tour a few new roads’, though.
He’s said that if retirement is doing what you love to do, then he’s been retired all his life.
Family Receive Friends will be held from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Friday, December 16, 2022, at Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home in Broadus. A Funeral Service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 17, 2022, at the Broadus High School Gymnasium. Interment will follow in the family lot at Boyes Cemetery, Boyes, MT.