“I loved growing up in a small town,” smiled Tracy Lynn. “It was a lot of fun. I spent all of my time in the woods, four-wheeling, horseback riding, fishing and going to rodeos. Or course, I had a strict upbringing, being the daughter of a preacher.”
Her father was the pastor at the small local Baptist Church, and her mother stayed home to raise the children.
“My mother is the kindest, sweetest, most open-hearted person I know,” said Tracy Lynn. “She is both my mother and my friend.”
Tracy Lynn grew up with one sibling, a younger brother named Levin. “I am very close to my brother,” said Tracy Lynn.
She met her husband, Capt. Willie Mills, when she was just 17. “He moved to town when his family bought a cattle ranch,” she explained. “He trained quarterhorses for his parents and traveled around the country competing.”
Their first date was not your typical trip to the movies. Instead, they went to New Mexico, where they competed in futurities. A futurity is a horse race for two-year-olds where the competitors are selected far ahead of time, sometimes as early as birth and before. They came in third.
“It was the first time I had travelled anywhere,” said Tracy Lynn. The couple married when Tracy Lynn was 21, and their life of travelling continued.
“We kept going even after our first daughter, Falon, was born,” said Tracy Lynn. “We went all over Florida with the horses, then back out West to Texas and New Mexico. When we had Amber, we decided to settle down.”
They chose Georgia as their new home, and started a farm with Tracy Lynn’s brother, Levin. “We farmed peanuts, tobacco, vegetables and watermelon,” she said. “I really loved our life in Georgia. We canned our tomatoes and put up our own vegetables for the year.”
The couple also raised emus, and between the two endevours, it was a lot of hard work. But just like with the farm, they had help.
“We worked with Willie’s sister Melina and her husband John on the emu farm,” said Tracy Lynn. “It was hard work, but it was fun. We would have classes of students from the local schools come to visit the emu farm. We incubated the emu eggs and raised them ourselves.”
During this time, Willie was also making the trip to Charlotte County to fish during mullet season every year. Then he made a suggestion that led Tracy Lynn and the entire family to Gasparilla Island.
“He said. ‘Let’s move down to where my family is in Charlotte County,’” she laughed. “He wanted to fish for a living. So that’s what we did.”
Sixteen years ago the couple packed up their two daughters and made the move.
“I fell in love with the island,” said Tracy Lynn. “I love tarpon season and I love the beach. Our daughters love to tarpon fish more than anything else in the world, and they spend every weekend out on the beach.”
The only thing missing from Tracy Lynn’s life were her beloved woods. The solution was a campsite in River Ranch.
“We have access to 77,000 acres of wilderness and I can trail ride my four-wheeler, which is my ‘heaven,’ ” laughed Tracy Lynn. “We camp, cook outside and do a little hunting. Sometimes we hang out at the resort and the kids can ride horses, go to the rodeo and experience the dude ranch style of living.”
The girls also share their mother’s love of four-wheeling.
Tracy Lynn thinks that she has the best of both worlds now.
“I have the water and the woods,” she said.
Falon and Amber each have a child of their own now.
“They have blessed up with two little grandsons,” beamed Tracy Lynn. “Clayton is six years old and loves to go out fishing with his Papa. He can already bait his own hook, cast and bring a trout or a redfish to the boat. He loves the woods like I do, and he cries whenever we have to leave them.”
The most recent addition to the family is little Braylon, who is only three months old.
“I just know he’s going to love the woods just as much,” said Tracy Lynn. “When we go, tons of family and friends go with us, too.”
Tracy Lynn knows what her dream world is, and she shared it with her husband one day.
“It would be to live in Boca Grande during tarpon season, then spend the rest of the year on a huge ranch with lots of animals,” she described. “I would be surrounded by my kids and grandchildren.”
As it is, she stays busy year round. She owns a small homewatch and cleaning service.
“Being Capt. Willie’s wife is a lot like a full-time job, too,” laughed Tracy Lynn. “I love to help out with all of the tournaments during tarpon season. I also work one day a week at Special Effects and sometimes fill in for our friends at Barbara Anne’s Jewelry when they need us.”
After tarpon season, Tracy Lynn’s husband, along with his brother Waylon, nephew Eddie, cousin Marty and Uncle Michael will be heading to the Panhandle to fish commercially.
“I will go back and forth visiting,” said Tracy Lynn. “Our youngest daughter, Amber, is getting married here on the island in October, so I’m going to be very busy with planning and making sure that everything goes off just right.”
Tracy Lynn shares her name with her husband’s fishing boat. This came as a bit of a shock to her when it happened.
“We had been talking about what to name her, trying to figure out a combination of the girls’ names, but it just wasn’t working out,” she said. “We went back and forth trying to find a way to make Falon and Amber work, until one day he told me that he had decided on a name. But he wouldn’t let me know the name he had picked.”
In fact, Tracy Lynn only found out that the boat was named after her when Wille sent her to pick up the custom decal from The Barnichol.
“It was a complete surprise,” she said. “He called me and asked me to stop at the store on the way home, and that’s when I found out.”
Tracy Lynn has been a lucky boat this year, placing in several tournaments and taking first prize at the newly revived World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament.
“I am so proud of Willie for winning the WRTT,” she smiled. “We are both excited and so happy that the tournament came back. I’d like to thank the Chamber and all of the businesses in town for the hard work they have done for the tournament.”
Besides trips to the Panhandle to see her husband and helping her daughter to plan her island wedding, Tracy Lynn has one more thing planned for this summer, once tarpon season is over.
“I am going to take a few days to spend with my mom and my Granny Ruby, who I absolutely adore, over in Okeechobee, which is where I was actually born,” she said.
Then back to Boca Grande for another cycle of the seasons that make up island life.
“Willie has stone crab traps and he still fishes for mullet every year,” said Tracy Lynn. “Between that and tarpon and back bay guiding, and of course the wedding, we will be a very busy family this year.”
Tracy Lynn has been a horse trainer and racer, a teacher’s aide and a small business owner.
She is a child of the woods and the water, the daughter of a preacher, the wife of a captain, the mother of two daughters and grandmother to two boys. Tracy Lynn is a Florida girl, through and through.
Tracy Lynn and Willie Mills will be celebrating their 28th wedding anniversary this January. Hopefully it will be one of many more to come.
E-mail (required, but will not display)
Notify me of follow-up comments
Click for a larger view