Dick Hunt's Blog

April 29, 2010

A Man Called Billy Mills

Filed under: Current — Dick Hunt's Blog @ 11:03 am

A Man Called Billy Mills
by Dick Hunt. April 25th, 2010.

I knew him as a very austere bachelor who dropped in at the Ranch whenever he felt like it. He never owned a car or a phone or a T.V. He loved horses and his Collie dog. He lived in a two roomed shack with no indoor plumbing and no electricity. He had a upright Piano, a Violin and a massive collection of sheet music.

He was born in England, was a popular steeplechase rider, much adored as a capable rider and winner of races on the famous racecourses. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and a accomplished violinist. He was in demand in Musical circles in Churches and Concert Halls. And he was engaged to be married to a lovely young woman.

But she jilted him and married someone else. He threw it all away and came to Canada, bringing little but his music, his violin and a few keepsakes. I have no idea of dates but he was a regular visitor at our family home from soon after my birth until he was compelled to leave his little property and move into a care home in the early sixties.

Meanwhile, whenever he dropped in at the Ranch or anywhere else where a piano was available, he played beautiful music for hours on end. He always spent a few days with us over Christmas. He was never invited but always came, driving his spanking team of horses and with the Collie. He drove a cart with high wheels except in winter when he had a cutter. He drove in, put his team in the barn and never went near them again until he was ready to go home, knowing we would look after them. He told yarns for hours on end to anyone who would listen. He nearly drove my Mother crazy by wanting a listening ear and being in the way as she was going about her work in a busy home with five children and many hired hands to feed.
After I was ordained we lived in the Town of Stettler, fifty miles to the northwest of the Ranch. Billy was at that time in a Care Home 30 miles east of Stettler in the Town of Castor. One Saturday afternoon in the early sixties, the doorbell rang and we opened the door to find Billy standing on our porch. He had his club bag in his left hand and it was obvious that he was our house guest. We found a bed for him, fed him, listened to him and in due course he went to bed, around ten PM.

I went back to the books. I had a busy week behind me but much study still ahead to prepare sermons to preach at four services the next day. I have never preached the same sermon twice, always adapting my sermons to the various people who were before me. Billy came out of his bedroom across the hall in his red flannel underwear, rubbing his eyes on the way to the bathroom. On the way back he stopped by the kitchen table and asked me the time. It was midnight. Then he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was preparing sermons. He wanted to know if I worked late every night and I said no, only when I am behind in my preparations. He was not deterred and obviously had something on his mind.

I pulled out a chair for him. I knew that when he left England he had also left the Church. Other than playing for weddings and funerals he never entered a Church again. And he often said, “when you are dead it is six feet under and that’s it”. But that night the words tumbled out. He said that he had sat with his old friend Bill Tullick (who I also knew) when he died and Bill had seen heaven open and all the Glory and Joy and God and Jesus and the angels and it was beautiful. Then he said that he had been wrong to say that there was nothing after death for his old friend had showed him a glimpse of Heaven and God was there. My own Father had showed our family at his bedside the same picture the night he died in the hospital in High River, Alberta.
Other people have shared with me the same picture down the years, when dying. Billy then asked me when the services were the next day . I told him and he volunteered that he should go to Church, wanting to know which service would be best for him. He decided he would go to the Sunday evening service at 7 PM. I think he was putting it off as long as possible. So I did the 8 AM, the 11 AM and the 2 PM service way down in the country. He stayed at the house all day while Ruth and kids went to the 11 AM service. After supper, he went to the Church with me. On the way over, he told me “I should not spare him but just give him what for because of all the years he had been away”. I said, “Bill I never preach to one person but to all the folks who are there”.

He sat away back in the darkest corner of the Church. He crouched down as though he was scared to death and took no part in the service even though he had been thoroughly familiar with it for all his young years. He went home with me after the service and we had a cup of coffee with Ruth before going to bed. And he never mentioned anything about the matter again to me. He left the next morning to catch his train back to Castor. And I never saw him again. I hope for his sake that he sought out another listening ear to help him in his search for “The Peace That Passes All Understanding”.

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