He’s always got a joke, a smile and a helping hand for those in the cattle business. That is what has led Bob Mills of Gordon, Neb., to receive this year’s Silver Spurs Hall of Fame honor from the Black Hills Stock Show.
Mills isn’t a newcomer to the cattle industry or the show ring and because of that he has been called upon numerous times for his skills. When The Cattle Business Weekly caught up with him in early January, Mills was heading to the National Western Stock Show in Denver where he would help Vin-Mar Angus exhibit 18 head.
He has made a career out of being a respected showman and cattle producer. Yes, he does work for the state of Nebraska’s highway department, but that doesn’t seem to be his calling – cattle are.
Raised under the guidance of his grandfather, Mills began his interest in cattle when his granddad began to take him to county fairs and other stock shows. He began showing at the Central States Fair in Rapid City as just a youth and later at the Black Hills Stock Show.
At the age of 14, Sam Moore of Henry, Neb., brought on Mills to help show his Hereford cattle at some of the region’s most prestigious stock shows.
“He taught me a lot as a kid and I have kept on learning. If you ain’t learning you ain’t living,” Mills says.
From there the cattle show history and awards received begins to pile up. Mills says he has been very fortunate to meet and work with some of the best people in the cattle industry.
“It means quit a bit to be asked by some of these operations to help with their cattle at shows. You know if you weren’t your weight they wouldn’t ask,” Mills says.
Time with Black Hills Stock Show
He has served 20 years on the livestock committee for the Black Hills Stock Show. It’s a time he has valued because he has seen the progress the show has made, without losing its positive atmosphere.
“There is no better attitude, and no better opportunity to promote your cattle program in cow country than the Black Hills Stock Show. None,” Mills says.
His advice to cattlemen and women who are showing for the first time at the 2017 BHSS is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” This comes from a well-seasoned showman and a two-time cancer survivor. “The BHSS, from the people who put it on to the people you see once a year or have the opportunity to meet for the first time are of the best. Just enjoy it.”
With every industry things change, trends occur, fads happen. Mills wisely looks back at his spanning cattle career and remarks that it doesn’t mean those trends and fads weren’t right at the time – because that is what people wanted.
“I do think we are in a good place today. We are now geared toward the commercial cattleman and creating a better product that works for them,” he says.
Fellow cattle producers and his own family – wife, Tina, and now married daughter, Bailie Burress, have made his time fitting, showing and judging cattle some of his best memories.
“When I look back, what I have had the opportunity to do, learn and the people I have met along the way it is amazing,” Mills reflects. “This BHSS award means a lot to me because it means the fact that going to all the shows and being away from home was for something. I couldn’t do it without the family and friends I have. If it wasn’t for those people, it wouldn’t be possible.”