In the 1950’s and early ‘60s, my mother, Alma Milner Burroway, then approaching her own sixties, set down the story of her life from age four to age ten, when she and her mother left a bustling little Ohio city on Lake Erie to follow her father to a rough mountain camp at a marble quarry in the Arizona Territory. When she wrote, Mom was probably the only person still alive who had been at Marble Camp from its early days until it closed.
Imagine that the year is 1909 and you are a four-year-old girl in a busy Midwestern city when your family is unexpectedly uprooted and set down in a rough mountain camp high in Arizona Territory. Here, where only Apaches have lived before, strangers are warning you to beware of tarantulas and look under every rock for centipedes – but what do those dangerous things even look like?
You’ve had your hands full caring for your first kitten, and now Papa has presented you with your first burro! And Mama is set on dressing you in sashes, hair bows and slipper shoes just as if you were still in Ohio, when everyone else in camp is wearing denim and heavy work boots.
That is the life-changing adventure little Alma Milner went through more than 100 years ago, and it left her with memories so vivid they read like a novel- by turns tragic, funny and charming.
Now in print for the first time, this story is the only historical record of a lost time and forgotten place. But it is also a child’s romp, told entirely through wide eyes of a girl aged four to ten, whose resolute mother didn’t so much win the West as set tea cups in front of it and teach it how to be polite.