Mickey Miller's last book describes 19th-century china doll's journey to Colorado mining camp

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Steamboat author Michala "Mickey" Miller's book, "Westward in a Trunk," has been published posthumously. She died in August 2012.

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Courtesy photo

The manuscript for "Westward in a Trunk" was finished not long before Steamboat author Michala "Mickey" Miller died in August 2012.

Past Event

"Westward in a Trunk” book release

  • Tuesday, September 17, 2013, 4:30 p.m.
  • Off the Beaten Path, 68 Ninth St. , Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free

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— Former longtime Steamboat Springs resident and author Michala “Mickey” Miller didn’t live long enough to see her second book published, but her survivors will host a poignant book signing for “Westward in a Trunk” on Sept. 17.

"Westward in a Trunk," released by Western Reflections Publishing Co., tells the pioneer family history of the author’s family with a china doll with the unlikely name Harmettio, who came along for the ride as the vehicle for storytelling.

Mickey’s daughter, Cathy Miller, a 1981 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, wrote this week that her mother completed the manuscript shortly before moving from Steamboat to a nursing home in Tulsa, Okla.

“Submitting the manuscript along with old family photos helped her persevere as her health was failing,” Cathy Miller wrote this week.

Mickey died Aug. 6, 2012, four months before the manuscript for “Westward in a Trunk” was accepted for publishing.

Cathy Miller wrote that the task of seeing the book project through to the end was worthwhile.

“I am so glad to see the book in print!” Miller said.  It was a lot more work than I anticipated. Mom would be so happy to know it is done.”

The delicate doll that the book centers around originally was in stock as a piece of Christmas merchandise at the small general store in Elizabethtown, Ill., owned by Mickey’s grandparents. The future Harmettio was given by Mickey’s grandmother to her mother, Ethel Bruce Cloonan, while she was an infant in 1899.

The doll survived a fire and a major flood in the small town on the Ohio River before traveling with the family in a trunk to a fluorspar mine at the Colorado town of Three Way, Miller wrote.

When Ethel married mining engineer Mike Cloonan, from Leadville, Harmettio traveled with the newlyweds by car, train and finally horse-drawn sled to North Park in 1925. She was loved but mistreated throughout the years by Ethel and Mike’s two daughters, Miller wrote.

Miller described how her mother became an author: “Mickey, originally spelled Mickie, was born in 1933. She grew up spending summers at a ranch house near the mine and winters in Walden. She met her future husband, Al Miller, when he was a ranch hand in the Park.”

The couple married in 1958 and, after living in four states, returned to Colorado in 1967, first to Denver and in 1968 to Steamboat Springs.

"Previously an elementary teacher, Mickey completed the Famous Writers Course by mail. She then wrote nonfiction articles about people and places in the West published in periodicals such as Fence Post and The Denver Post’s Empire Magazine.

In 2001, Mickey’s first book, “The View from the Folding Chairs,” a compilation of true short stories from her youth while growing up during World War II, also was published by Western Reflections. It took her 15 years to write the book.

People who attend the Sept. 17 book release at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore also will have the opportunity to meet Harmettio.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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