Willie Nelson, Wheels and Dolls: Good Words with Shotgun Millie

Photo: Steve Diamond Photography

This weekend, the Dagger Dolls face the Atomic Bombshells for the Minnesota Rollergirls Season 13 home championship. It’ll also be the final bout for Official Dagger Dolls Liaison to the Minnesota Skinny, Shotgun Millie. To get Rollergirls week started, I chucked some Qs at her and she chucked back some As.

Among topics discussed are advanced stats, wheels, Willie Nelson, the time she gave someone a concussion, and an important lesson she learned from the Garda Belts’ Second-Hand Smoke.

Me: Why aren’t you skating anymore? WHY!?!?!?
Shotgun Millie: Mainly, I have given so much to this sport for the past five years and need to take a breather. I am also fully embracing my car-free lifestyle and loving it! I sold my car back in May. This season, it’s been difficult to consistently make practices and give my legs proper rest with all of the added bike mileage. I’ll be honest. It’s tough to hang ’em up when I feel I haven’t played my peak yet.

FH: Are you staying involved with the league, or is this IT it?
SGM: I can’t quit cold turkey, no way! I will continue to be a league member, and I’ve got myself a seat at the stats table for Season 14.

FH: Have you already thought of ways to improve the statistical tracking of the league, and maybe the sport as a whole? Have you gotten into the advanced stats movement of the larger sports?
SGM: You’d think, with a B.S. degree in stats, I would. But nope, I haven’t – not for derby, not for larger sports. Once I get my hands on the books, though, I suspect that will change.

FH: How did you hear about, and ultimately become interested in, derby?
SGM: In my pre-derby life, I was a percussionist in a community band (Bloomington Medalist Band). Fellow percussionist, a.k.a. Shady O’Dread – now former Minnesota Rollergirl – kept at me to get into derby. She just KNEW I would dig it. It took a year or two of prodding before I finally signed up for Debu-Taunts, the Minnesota Rollergirls rec league. Was she ever right! I was hooked!

FH: Why the name Shotgun Millie?
SGM: When I was called up to the Debu-Taunts, I didn’t own skates and didn’t even know how to skate. Were those my biggest concerns? Oh no! I agonized over my derby name for weeks! Names in the running were Gal Gore and Scarface Grace, but nothing was sticking. About a month before Debu-Taunts started, I went to see Willie Nelson at Bayfront in Duluth. I sat third row and was convinced he smiled right at me.

A couple weeks later, I heard Bill DeVille announce on the Current “…and that was from Willie Nelson’s album Shotgun Willie…” I thought “Shotgun Willie, now THAT has derby name potential!” I went through the alphabet and got to M – Millie, my grandma’s name! She was a strong, feisty woman. There was no question from that moment: my derby name had found me.

FH: What did you not see coming during your first-ever bout?
SGM: Dementia Darling! She fell in front of me, and I fell on top of her. She got a concussion from that. I felt terrible! I stopped to make sure she was okay, forgetting that I needed to keep playing! My mom was at that bout. She was concerned about me playing this highly-aggressive sport, thinking I might become mean and ruthless. She was relieved to see I had not lost my compassion.

I should note that Dementia held no grudge, and later I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.

Photo: Joe Stradinger

FH: First time you were put on your keester: let’s hear it.
SGM: Oof! That was during a drill called “vet cannon” in bootcamp. It’s as bad as it sounds! Bootcamp skaters skated around the track while veteran Minnesota RollerGirls hit us. I was terrified! I remember skating out of bounds to avoid a hit from Harmony Killerbruise. She was hollering “No skating out of bounds.” I knew I was in the wrong, and looked back to yell I was sorry. I didn’t see Dropkick Donna coming, and she LAUNCHED me! I will never forget that hit!

My most memorable keester land at a bout … I was the last line of defense against Second Hand Smoke jamming. Very valuable lesson learned: NEVER present your chest – which is a legal hitting zone –  to a charging Second Hand Smoke! She hurled me with her shoulder into a helicopter spin (the end of which is captured above).

FH: How much of the Dagger Dolls’ three-year winless drought were you a part of? I know it’s a friendly league, but did frustration ever set in?
SGM: I was there for about half. I am quite competitive; but, at the time, I was early into my derby career and had so many skills to develop that I was more frustrated with myself.

Worth noting: our winless drought ended at your first bout, Frank; and, right after I showed the team an inspirational animated PowerPoint. Coincidence?

I was very enthusiastic about my PowerPoints. My team, on the other hand, collectively eye-rolled.

FH: The Dolls also lost Killsey McMurder (the other half of your two-headed monster) and Winona Collider (the other half of mine). Tell me about a time Killsey was “Peak Killsey McMurder.”
SGM: Killz was “Peak Killsey McMurder” in her last bouts before hanging up her skates. She came into Season 13 after her 1st season on the All-Stars. She always had a knack for playing, but it was refined after training with the All-Stars. We blocked together in some lines during her last bouts, and it felt so right! She was in the right spot at the right time doing the right thing. She definitely went out at her best!

FH: During your time skating, when were you happiest?
SGM: Two times come to mind…

I’m generally a stoic skater, very intense and focused, especially at bouts. Toward the end of last season, I was jamming more and getting lead jammer status more often than not. It surprised the heck outta me! I remember getting lead jammer and racking up points with a big goofy grin on my face. My teammates exclaimed after, “Oh my gosh, you were SMILING!” (Superfrank was there stomping and cheering on the sidelines.)

Sometimes at practices I get slap happy. We’d practice a new drill, and I’d be ridiculous and clumsy and I’d flail dramatically with sound effects and laugh at myself. I think my team found it funny, too. I was voted Surprise Goofball on the Dagger Dolls after my first season on the team.

Oh, and anytime I got to quote Wedding Singer – “They were CONES!” – when we’d do a drill involving cones.

FH: You’re from Milaca, I’m from Duluth, so we were basically neighbors up there. Were you the one chopping wood or the one bailing hay?
SGM: Bailing hay all the way! However, I must confess: I grew up on a dairy farm with two big brother and a big sis, and they did most of the heavy lifting. I DID take my fair share of body slams and figure four leg-locks from my brothers (and my mom wonders why I got into this aggressive sport!).

I Googled “hay bale” to make sure I spelled it correctly, and also got this!

FH: How much would someone have to pay you to get you to move back to Milaca?
SGM: Well, for starters, they’d need to turn the old armory into a roller rink before I’d even consider.

FH: How long/difficult was the transition from travelling mostly by car to entirely car-free?
SGM: It took me roughly two years to go entirely car-free. I’d been an avid bike commuter for years, so that part wasn’t a concern. The biggest hurdle – hard to believe – I was afraid to sell my car! How do I sell it? Where do I list it? What if a creeper tries to buy it? What if someone tries to screw me over? I asked lots of people for advice. Shiver Me Kimbers told me to just put a sign in the window and park on a busy street and it’d be gone before I know it. She was right! It sold in less than a week!

I’ve found there’s a baptism by fire aspect to adopting a car free lifestyle – a lot of problem solving – like how to manage excessive perspiration in public places, learning that my 29er doesn’t fit on the bus rack and a Peanut Buster Parfait does NOT transport well in my backpack side pocket.

FH: How far can you bike to, say, just go for a beer?
SGM: I can bike a long way. Realistically, I’d be willing to go 15 miles for good company and good beer, but it must have great food truck (I eat CONSTANTLY).

FH: Wanna bike there for a beer sometime?
SGM: Abso-friggin-lutely!

FH: Atomic Bombshells this weekend: who do you want to put that last big hit on?
SGM: I’m sure I’ll try to put a big hit on Diamond Rough, but not because I expect it to be a glorious. It will be funny, like watching a fly try to knock over a lion!

You can find more information and buy tickets to the March 4 bout at mnrollergirls.com.


RELATED: Still craving some Q&A? Check out the interview Dana and I had with Barry Bostwick, and my pool hall chat with the owners of Mpls’ newly-opened Utepils Brewing.