Nurmi Simm chose to use the nom-de-plume, Cowboy Billy Hill, because it resonates better in a western setting than his real name. In the small moving business, it also has echoes of The Beverly Hillbillies. Nurmi Simm was born in Estonia before the Second World War. As a child, he experienced both Russian and German occupation of that small Baltic country. With his family, he fled with tens of thousands of other refugees from the second Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1944. He spent four years in refugee camps in Germany before his family was able to emigrate to Canada. He grew up in a small northern Alberta town and graduated from high school there. He earned B.Sc. and B.Ed. degrees at the University of Alberta and, for several years, taught high school science and mathematics in Alberta.