Longtime Hellam Twp. farmer loses Mule in burglary

Liz Evans Scolforo

Marlyn Miller has been living and farming in Hellam Township for 56 years.

"I've worked hard all my life," he said.

Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016--Marlyn Miller is joined by his son's dog Dotty, a border collie/Labrador retriever mix, inside the pole building which housed the 2002 Kawasaki Mule the pair used to get them around his farm. The vehicle was stolen on Christmas Eve.

He and his wife raised their seven children — five girls and two boys — on the East Ore Bank Road farm where Miller still does some farming, although these days he rents out much of the farmland.

"My kids are getting older. I'm not, but they are," he quipped. His son, Marlyn "Butch" Miller, now farms the property. Together with his dad, they keep things running.

Still, the family patriarch admitted his "spokes" (legs) don't work as well as they once did, which is why he saved his money for about two years to buy a four-wheeler.

Saving up was necessary, Miller explained in jest, because farming is "sort of an expensive hobby."

A man and his Mule: Last summer, around August, Miller found his four-wheeler — a used green 2002 Kawasaki Mule.

"This thing was used on a golf course to pick up golf balls," Miller said. "Got it from a fellow in Red Lion. He even brought it over. We settled up, and I had my Mule."

Hellam Twp. farmer Butch Miller regularly gave rides to his dog, Dotty, in this used Kawasaki Mule his father saved up for two years to buy. The Mule was stolen on Christmas Eve 2015. (Photo courtesy of Robert Arthur)

That Mule turned out to be a workhorse for Miller. He used it to get around the farm and to haul whatever needed to be moved around, such as hay bales.

"It's just a handy thing," the widower said. "I'd go back in the woods, cut a little firewood."

It helped him zip around pretty quickly for an older guy. Miller is 84½ years old.

"When you get to this point, you count each day as a blessing," he said, which is why he adds the half year when giving his age.

Rode shotgun: Dotty, a mixed border collie/Labrador retriever owned by Butch Miller, often accompanied the elder Miller on Mule excursions and was regularly treated to rides by the younger Miller.

"She just loved to sit in that thing and ride in it," the patriarch said.

"Butch always drove Dotty around," neighbor Robert Arthur recalled. "They're inseparable. ... She doesn't leave Butch's side for anything."

Arthur said the Millers drove Dotty around a lot because she was over the moon about those Mule rides. He also said the Mule was the elder Miller's pride and joy.

"They were on it constantly," Arthur said of the trio. "Now it's gone. It's a shame."

The elder Miller noted the Bible warns against stealing, and summed up the situation with an old Pennsylvania Dutch idiom: "Ach du lieber!" It basically means "good heavens" or "oh dear."

Christmas Eve burglary: Sometime on Christmas Eve, burglars broke into the Millers' pole building and stole the Mule, which wasn't insured. The crime amounts to two felonies — burglary and theft of a motor vehicle.

Hellam Township Police Detective Justin Golder said he suspects the culprits are the same four young men or teens who stole items after breaking into a shed on a Fahringer Drive property just a half-mile away from the Miller farm. That crime also happened on Christmas Eve, as did a third similar incident on West Ore Bank Road, he said.

The Fahringer Drive property owner provided police with a copy of a surveillance video featuring all four young men, who were frightened away by a motion-detecting security light.

Golder said he suspects the young men were targeting all-terrain vehicles and also tried to steal a truck. Joyriding could be the motive.

Did Mule crash? The detective said Miller's Mule "is probably in a wooded area, crashed." Officers checked several areas on foot but found nothing, Golder said.

Golder said people who've seen the video so far have given police the names of "multiple" possible suspects, all of whom have been interviewed. None of those leads panned out, he said, including one in which police executed a search warrant to obtain the cellphone records of one suspect.

Then on Jan. 12, burglars stole two dirt bikes from a barn on Accomac Road, one of which has been recovered, the detective said. And earlier this week, a neighbor near the corner of Hill View and Picking roads noticed a person dressed in black and carrying a backpack, according to Golder. The person took off running and jumped into a vehicle after the neighbor turned on an exterior light, the detective said.

How to help: Hellam Township Police Chief Mark Sowers urged anyone with information about the burglaries to call York County 911 right away and ask to speak with a Hellam Township officer. Residents who prefer to use a non-emergency number to reach 911 can call (717) 840-2971 or call Hellam Township Police at (717) 434-1310.

GoFundMe campaign: Hellam Township resident Kevin Heiser has started a fund to replace the Millers' Mule. To donate, visit his page here. The California-based online crowd-funding platform allows people to raise money for a variety of reasons, according to the site.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at