Friends, neighbors join tractor parade to make Farmer Miller smile
Hellam Township farmer Marlyn Miller didn't have to go far to enjoy a parade in Sunday afternoon's sunshine. That's because his friends and neighbors brought the parade to him.
And what better than a procession of 63 tractors, plus assorted other vehicles, to lift the spirits of the 89¾-year-old Miller, whose father farmed before him, and whose son has carried on the family business?
Known as "Muggs" to his friends, Miller was well known for transporting hay bales by tractor to auction, for coming up with the idea of Drive Your Tractor to Church Day a few years ago and for driving a school bus in the community.
Miller had a stroke in November, daughter Gen Moore said, and he hasn't gotten outside much lately because it's been too cold.
"He’s been a good friend of ours. We’ve known him for years," Justin Hammers said. "I tried to think of a way to put a smile on his face."
So he and wife Carol Hammers spread the word on social media, asking local people to participate, he said. The Hammers own and run Northridge Repair, a farm-equipment servicing business in Hellam Township.
'This really blew up': "I thought it was just going to be a handful of tractors," Justin Hammers said. "But then I started getting all these calls and texts and thought, 'Wow — this really blew up.' It was amazing."
Hammers said he was thrilled to learn so many people, including his customers, would join in — so many, in fact, that he had to alert local police that the parade might snarl traffic.
Hellam Township Police said their officers and township fire police officers stopped "regular" vehicle traffic for the procession as it made its way to Miller's long driveway. Township fire police also participated in the parade.
"It really cheered him up," son and fellow farmer Butch Miller said of the parade. "It was just tractor after tractor. They did a great job."
As Marlyn Miller sat outside in the sun, surrounded by family, he watched in delight as the parade rolled past. All the while his constant companion Dotty — who is Butch's dog — stayed right beside him.
"He sure did get a kick out of it," Butch Miller said. "He was out there smiling and waving."
Marlyn Miller told The York Dispatch he was really excited about it and had a great time.
Heart of gold: Hammers said Marlyn Miller has done much for his own neighbors.
"He's a genuine, honest person (with) a heart of gold," he said. "Every year on holidays like Easter, he would show up with a trunkload of flowers to put on people's graves."
Sometimes, when the trunk would be filled with flowers, the farmer would put the overflow in his back seat, Hammers said.
Moore said her father has battled medical issues in addition to the stroke, including pneumonia in both lungs, but is better now.
"He's doing so great," she said. "He's got determination."
Moore said she thinks about 70 people showed up simply to watch the parade, including a number of family members.
Marlyn Miller has seven children, 19 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, she said.
'Holy smokin' tobacco': People in York County might remember him from York Dispatch articles in early 2016, after thieves stole the secondhand Kawasaki Mule he was able to buy after saving up for two years.
It was likely youths who stole it on Christmas Eve 2015, then wrecked and abandoned it in the Susquehanna River, some 7 miles away from the Miller farm.
Friends started an online fundraising campaign to replace it. But when Don's Kawasaki in Hallam donated a new Mule for farmer Miller, the money already raised was used to add a cap and heat to the four-wheel vehicle.
"Holy smokin' tobacco," Marlyn Miller said on Feb. 11, 2016, when his son Butch drove him to Don's Kawasaki, where the new Mule and about 40 excited friends and loved ones were waiting to surprise him.
Farmer Miller got quite a bit of use out of the tricked-out Mule, gathering firewood and doing other farm chores — with Dotty riding shotgun as always, Butch Miller said.
"He sure got a lot of enjoyment out of it," he said. "It was such a great gift."
Butch Miller said that as the weather warms, he hopes to get his dad back out in the Mule.
Marlyn Miller told The York Dispatch in 2016 that once a person is in their 80s, "you count each day as a blessing," and that's why he likes to be exact when giving his age — at this point, 89¾.
He'll turn 90 in June.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.