EDITOR’S NOTE: International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame member Bill Miller of Olympia, Wash., passed away on May 15, 2022, at the age of 96. On the anniversary of his death, David Hazlett of Ellensburg, Wash., and American Farriers Journal fondly remember his outstanding contributions to the industry.

The fundraising auction at the American Farrier’s Association (AFA) Convention is a highly anticipated event. It always has been a source of what is necessary to fund the many activities and functions of the AFA. I’m always amazed at the varied offerings of donated items, including some of the finest examples of forge work I have seen.

During the 1984 auction, something happened that anyone who witnessed it would not soon forget. Every occupation has its giants and those who have an influence that resonates far beyond their day-to-day activities. International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame member Bill Miller is one name that comes to mind whenever I think of such a person. Everyone who met him remembers his or her first impression of the man. Not a very tall guy, Bill had a full head of red hair, but what was most memorable was the ginormous mustache he sported for as long as anyone could remember. It seemed to enter the room before the rest of him, and with his slightly bowed legs, he left quite an impression. I don’t know if he ever minded the comparison, but the likeness to Yosemite Sam didn’t go unnoticed.

Bill taught and mentored scores of aspiring farriers and anyone who went through his program at South Puget Sound Community College was well prepared indeed for what lie ahead. I got to know him while attending the many clinics he sponsored through the school. I was privileged to attend one of the week-long clinics with fellow Hall of Famer Dave Duckett that took place in the spring for a number of years. Between the wisdom and knowledge dispensed by the two of them, I came away a lot closer to the farrier that I aspired to be.

Bill was a familiar sight at the conventions and his gracious personality, his great sense of humor, and his willingness to engage with anyone who wanted a few minutes of conversation made him someone you liked to see coming toward you from across the room. As an educator, his equal was hard to find. The farriers who are today enjoying a successful career in the business as the result of attending his education program are legion. I have always thought that the most enduring influence someone can have in any field of endeavor is to prepare the next generation of practitioners for success, and Bill did just that for decades.

The Auction

I’m sure Bill’s sense of humor played a good part in what ensued. He had a good friendship with Hall of Fame member Lee Green, owner of The Shoein’ Shop in Yucaipa, Calif. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the two of them together hatched the plan for the end of the auction that year.

As I recall, the auction had just about wrapped up when Bill appeared on stage carrying a stool, which he proceeded to place in the middle of the stage and, sitting down, he crossed his arms. Uncharacteristic for him, he was not smiling. Lee informed the audience that a most unusual, and unique item was coming up for bidding. Seeing no sign of either tools or any kind of farrier-related supplies on the stage with him, a quiet buzz went through the audience, all of us wondering what the heck Bill was up to.

The suspense concluded when Lee informed us that the item was, in fact, Bill’s mustache. There was a moment of consternation when most of us figured we had heard wrong, or perhaps Lee had gotten something mixed up. There was, however, one mustache in the room worthy of acquiring, but it was occupying most of Bill Miller’s face. When everyone realized the offer was real, the bidding began, slow at first, but the pace quickly picked up. In the end, Lee offered the winning bid for the prized item.

How would Lee acquire his prize? The solution was found in the barbershop in the hotel. The next morning, Bill sat in the chair while the barber carefully placed a stiff piece of cardboard under one side of his mustache. With one deft stroke of a straight razor, expertly shaved it onto the cardboard. The operation was repeated on the other half. When it was done, Bill’s mustache was on the cardboard and his upper lip was seeing daylight for the first time in many a year.

To this day, I understand that if you are in Lee Green’s Shoein’ Shop, and need to use the restroom, you will see that mustache, handsomely matted and framed, with a nice brass label under it, saying only, “Bill Miller’s Mustache.”

With so much more of his face exposed, Bill was roundly encouraged to grow that mustache back as soon as possible, and he did just that.

My apologies to Lee Green if I got any of the details wrong.