Growing up on the Rocky Mountain Front in the 50's and 60's, Ron Mills fit perfectly into his career as a guide for curious tourists looking for that big trophy. Little did he know that 75 years later he would become a published author.
"My daughter about ten years ago, she said Dad you gotta write down some of the stuff you say around the campfires every evening," Mills says.
Hal Herring, who wrote the book's foreword, says Ron took that assignment literally.
"Ron had the unique ability to write a story in the same way it's told across a campfire, which I had not seen very much and still don’t see very much."
But you wouldn't know that just by talking to Ron. During our conversations at the Augusta Museum, where Ron volunteers, he had a way of making everything seem not only really easy, but from a cowboy's perspective, pretty practical too.
"I don't know anything about writing, I just slopped it down the way I remembered it,” says Mills. “I've always been not real long on finances so I thought well if I could make a buck maybe I better try it."
Under the Biggest Sky of All was officially published this past fall. It has a little bit of everything--excitement, adventure, and a lot of laughs. Ron talks about experiences with moonshine from back east, two hungover employees who drank coffee from a pot that had a dead mouse in it, and a fan favorite: Chester, who helped Ron guide.
Chester is described by Ron as a “crude bachelor.” But also, completely loveable, and sort of like the harmless uncle we all have.
"And just such a good person. He had a heart so big. And his drinking got bad at times but God if you knew him, when my kids were little every Christmas he would spend Christmas with us and my kids always got a gift. And they loved him"
For all the fun, things weren't always easy growing up in rural Montana back then. But Ron doesn't seem to mind.
"To me looking back growing up was different because we didn't have electricity and always short of money, but I don't remember it hurting us much. We all lived through it."
It's simple, but it's true. And it's a message that comes across loud and clear to those reading the book.
"In all of this kind of difficulty and hardship, people are having a rollicking good time and I think that's very rare," says Herring.
You can purchase Under the Biggest Sky of All at the Augusta museum, drug stores in Conrad, Choteau and Fairfield, the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Blue Ribbon gift shop in Great Falls, and Hoglund’s in Great Falls. You can also purchase the book on Amazon here, or mail Ron a letter and a check to P.O. Box 2, Augusta, MT 59410. The book is $19.95 plus $4 shipping/handling.