While respect for the land that nurtured his people, for his ancestors, and for the generations of family that lovingly surround him grace almost everything he does, Chief Flying Eagle is no grave Indian. A meltingly lovely tenor, Mills slides in and out of show tunes when he cooks — “Shoefly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy! – Makes your heart light and your tummy rowdy!”
Dance moves are necessary to explain exactly why lobster salad (with a little extra lemon) on a toasted hotdog bun express culinary perfection. (Cool sweet lobster. Acid of lemon. Warm, crisp outside of roll. Soft, sweet inside of roll.) Dance moves — and the guy can dance — are just another verb in the Mills vocabulary.
“My name as a kid was Path Finder,” Mills told me after a flurry of hip shimmies, “I never felt like I was a Flying Eagle,” he admitted, those eyes sparkling like waters running with jumping herring.
In 1972 he opened his own restaurant, The Flume, “near the herring run” in Mashpee. From 1972 to 2004, The Flume was considered the best place to taste beautifully prepared, honest Cape Cod foods. Mills learned to cook from his parents, who made feathery fish cakes and a fish stew as complex and flavorful as a soupe de poisson, and working in the best Cape Cod kitchens: The Coonomesset Inn, Wimpy’s and The Pompenesset Inn. Far ahead of its time really, The Flume combined the best of traditional restaurant dining with supreme respect for local ingredients. Herring was on the menu, served with cucumbers.
Three of Mills’ five children live in a development he built around the old family homestead; the street, Edna Oakley Mills Way, is named after his mother. There are homes on Edna Oakley Mills Way for sisters and nieces, too. Grandchildren seem to be everywhere. At the circle, where the road rounds, is a memorial to Ferdinand Wilson Mills and Edna Oakley Mills, his parents, thanking them for their full lives of dedication to the town of Mashpee.