Remembering Hulan Miller – far more than just a customer

It’s taken a while for me to put this on paper for a few reasons.

None of them are meant, or should be taken, as any disrespect to the subject of this piece. 

One, I simply wanted some of the emotion to subside for me, and much more importantly, for the people who knew him much better than I. They are many. 

As all expected, his funeral was standing-room-only. 

To know him was to love him. I miss him deeply, I can’t imagine what his family is going through by comparison.

Hulan Miller

Hulan Wayne Miller was born March 19, 1938 in Broken Bow, Okla. He was extremely proud of his Okie heritage. I teased him about it for a long time before ever admitting I was half Okie too, from my mom’s side. 

If you’d asked Hulan, he would have told you his greatest achievement was his 50-plus-year marriage to his wife Carol. He was also very proud of his daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

I only knew his daughter Julie very well – for quite a few years, in fact before I knew her father, really.

From my experience with her, the extreme work ethic and character was passed down well. In that respect, I would put Hulan in the top ten of the greatest men I’ve known. The possibility of reaching the top five exists; I just can’t narrow it down that far without feeling guilty about actually ranking the  amazing people I’ve been blessed enough to know in my life. 

The impressive thing to me is that virtually every one I have gotten to know was over the counter in my gun shop. 

Contrary to what the media would have us believe, gun nutz tend to be of some of the highest-caliber (pun intended) individuals on the planet. I did many “gun deals” with Hulan over the years and enjoyed every one. I always made him the best deal that I could and he knew it as he would always ask me “now, are you making money on this deal?” 

You gotta love a guy who cares more about whether you’re making a living than if he’s getting a good deal. The weird thing is, that makes you want to give him an even better deal the next time. That was absolutely not his intention, but that’s the way it works! They broke the mold with that guy.

Hulan was a teacher in both Sweet Home and Lebanon and, in fact, got the Land Lab going at Lebanon High School through great personal sacrifice, which included calling in favors from all over the county. That seems to be forgotten history, but it should not be. I was relayed many stories of his days teaching shop and welding. 

We shared one other passion: trucks. Hulan was a Ford man for many years; indeed, he was even featured in some Ford advertising back in the day. You know those old, “This cowboy really uses his trucks and he drives a Ford” kind of junk. 

Somewhere along the line, Ford ticked him off and Hulan moved over to GM. I got to know him during that era and, as you might guess, I had to tease him about that. After a few years he moved up to driving Dodge/Ram trucks. 

(It was all because of me; I take all of the credit.)

In truth, I think it was more in spite of me, as I don’t think he really cared what my opinion of trucks was; at least that’s the impression I got. 

I think Hulan just found that the Cummins motor made the most sense in his trailer sales and manufacturing business. I remember praising his good sense when he bought a Ram half-ton diesel, as I wanted one myself. 

Every time I saw him I asked if he was taking care of “my” truck. Not one to put up with the inconvenience of a broken-down vehicle, his regularly got traded off at around 30K miles. 

When “my” truck came up for trade-in, Hulan came in and offered it to me for what the dealer was going to give him. My reply was that I really appreciated it but I couldn’t make it work right then.

His answer was, “I don’t care when you pay for it.” 

I took that as a great honor.  When someone with Hulan’s character offers to trust you with that kind of value on your own character, it means something. Being FAR from truck “poor,” I couldn’t justify buying it, and having two kids starting college, it made even less sense.

I tried to be clear about it but I’m not sure he knew how much it meant to me.

When we needed to move my youngest daughter’s horse, my wife’s truck blew a power steering hose, taking out the power brakes as well in this model of truck. That truck being the only one in our fleet with the gooseneck hitch necessary to tow our horse trailer, we had a serious problem. 

Hulan came to the rescue. He was at my shop when my wife called with the bad news and he offered up his Dodge Diesel dually, which was worth more than all of my trucks combined. He didn’t hesitate for a second.

Everyone in my family already thought he was pretty cool and saving the day for the horse just solidified his standing with the females around here. In fact, he had a way of charming women with his authenticity. Women tend to have a better judge of character (at least initially) in my experience, and they all loved Hulan.

He built his trailer sales business in Albany and manufacturing plant in Oklahoma (he just couldn’t sever those ties down south) with the help of his family and dedicated friends. He attracted and raised high-quality people and those people can get things done. 

When you can be as successful as he was, with the integrity he had, you have really accomplished something, and he did! He was one of the most honest people I’ve ever known and he ran his businesses old-school. Heck, he didn’t even text. 

I may be wrong, but I don’t think he ever used a computer. He visited his dealers in person, frequently. Not just phone calls; he drove tens of thousands of miles a year to take care of his people – not only the dealers, but his partners and employees as well. 

I actually first met Hulan at the church we went to when I was a kid but didn’t really “know” him at all. The age discrepancy was so great that we just didn’t interact. 

Later I got to know Julie when she would come and sell strawberries from their family farm, every summer. Then Hulan eventually started coming into my shop, first as a customer and then as a friend. We lost Hulan on Oct. 6, 2019. It’s taken me months to be able to get this out. 

I think writing it solidifies to me that he is truly gone. Even though I attended his funeral, in my mind, I think I could just pretend that he just hadn’t come by the shop in a while, not an uncommon occurrence due to his busy lifestyle. 

The consolation to me, I’m sure his family, and most likely to everyone else who knew him, is that if there was ever a man who deserved to go to heaven it was Hulan Wayne Miller. Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Gun Owner and, most important to me: a great and true friend! 

I’m not sure if there was ever anyone who liked to go to McDonald’s for a Diet Coke more than Hulan, (well, maybe my parents). It saddens me greatly that he will never call me again and ask me if I want him to bring me a Coke. 

I always said, “only if it’s regular, not unleaded and I’ll buy if you fly.” 

I never got to buy, but he would always fly.

If you think I’ve gone overboard and have really buttered his bread, well, you didn’t know Hulan. If there’s any justice in the universe, he’s flying again. 

We’ll always remember you … Hulan.