Making the best of life


Mongo and Wench. Sounds like a gunslinger and his gun-toting side piece from the Old West. Those are also the adopted names of a couple who rode into Pagosa a few years back, infamous on the international stage of gunslingers in Cowboy Fast Draw.

As the sun set on their careers, these two found themselves as retirees, new characters in roles they never saw themselves playing. Mongo and Wench Miller have filled their new boots well and are absolutely charming.

I perused the Gunslinger’s Gazette looking for “Wench” Miller. I found her, complete in costume among a motley crew of old men with bushy beards and women in full petticoat and tight-fitting laced bodices.

Among the dressed-up trollops of the Cowboy Fast Draw, Wench fits perfectly in her roll in the association. She admits that she joined just to play dress-up in crazy costumes, but ended up competing in a shooting contest. She didn’t even know how to load her own gun when she came in 13th in the 2004 World Championship. She would go on to hold national titles in 2013 and 2017, winning the Worlds Ladies Shootist in 2018.

Wench and Mongo joined the Cowboy Fast Draw Organization in 2004. While in its infancy stage, the two became life members, numbers 57 and 58. Mongo would hold the position of regulator posse sheriff for 10 years.

The fast draw group stresses “Safe Friendship Rules”: 1. Safety; 2. Fun; 3. Competition.

Wench’s and her husband’s names light up billboards and marquees. They travel nationwide from border to border and coast to coast picking up world and national awards. They are having the times of their lives and are comfortable in their new skins.

Visits to secondhand stores for the perfect costume to match her name, now her standard uniform — a gun drawing, sharp-shooting floozy.

Shirley “Wench” Miller wasn’t always the scarlet woman she portrays today. She was a nurse for more than 50 years and wore the name tag “CFF, Certified Fun Fairy.” She threw herself into her work, where she managed 150 employees and cared for more than 500 patients.

I asked her how her husband deals with her charismatic, over-the-top, fun-loving personality. She said that he loves her for who she is. He’s an introvert and encourages her and enjoys seeing her operate outside the lines of convention.

As an Air Force child, her life has always stretched beyond the norm. This is something that would become evident at the young age of 5. It was then that she became the first Caucasian to win a hula solo in a competition in Hawaii. For Shirley, life has always found comfort under a spotlight, something that isn’t positioned to fade any time soon.

Shirley visited our little mountain community when she was 8 years old. She knew then that this was the place where she wanted to one day live. Shirley and her husband moved from Denver to Pagosa Springs in 2006. Today, she is on the board of the Loaves and Fish organization feeding Pagosa. She is the welcoming force who embraces everyone she meets with a warm fun smile.

Final brushstroke: Retired and in Pagosa. Whether holding a gun or a syringe, this is one character who makes the best of every hand dealt. She is a daddy’s girl who carries his words even up until now: “We can find bad where we are, but let’s find good.”

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