Enos Mills’ Unlikely Role in World War II

Not many people associate Enos Mills with the Second World War. I certainly didn’t until I ran across some notes my grandfather had taken in the seventies, twenty years before his death.There was a liberty ship with the name SS Enos A Mills. For those of you unfamiliar with liberty ships, they were hastily constructed cargo vessels built entirely for the purpose of sending supplies and materiel to the troops overseas. They hauled food, munitions, vehicles, whatever the troops needed to continue the fight, or sometimes simply stay alive. They were absolutely crucial to the war effort, and their construction pioneered new shipbuilding technologies.

Liberty ships were built so quickly that in four years of the United States at war, seventeen shipyards cranked out 2,751 liberty ships. On average, ships were being launched at the rate of two per day.

My grandfather, Robert H. Kiley, served as a radio man on the U.S.S. Boise (CL-47), mostly in the Pacific theater. Apparently he had seen the SS Enos A Mills during his time on the Boise. My grandfather had yet to meet my grandmother, Enos’ daughter, Enda, but had read Enos’ books in school as a child and recognized his name.


The SS John W. Brown, photograph courtesy American Merchant Marine at War, http://www.usmm.org.

I found some specs on the SS Enos A Mills:

  • Registry number 2537, Official Number: 244319.
  • Laid Down 15 Nov. 1943. Launched 4 Dec. 1943.
  • Liberty Ship EC2-S-C1Type: Emergency Cargo, 2 meant between 400 and 450 feet in length, S for Steam Engine, C1 for design C1.
  • Built by Oregon Shipbuilding Company in Portland, Oregon.
  • Carried a crew of 44 people.
  • Its Signal and Radio-call letters were KVIG.
  • Gross tonnage: 7,176, Net tonnage: 4,380. Deadweight tons: 10,480.
  • Length: 422.8 feet, breadth: 57 feet, depth: 34.8 feet.
  • Its steam engines produced 2500 horsepower.
  • The SS Enos A Mills was scrapped in 1961 in Tampa, Florida.

SS John W. Brown was a like model. It is one of the last two operational liberty ships afloat, and you can learn more about the SS John W. Brown at their website, where you can also take virtual 306-degree tours of various parts of the ship (which is pretty cool!) : http://www.ssjohnwbrown.org


Another view of the SS John W Brown. Image courtesy USS Kidd Veterans Memorial/Project Liberty Ship.

Dashiell and the Deer

First of all, I must apologize for my long hiatus from this blog. It is amazing how much time can pass when one is busy! At least now I have a story to tell. We just recently made our own Youtube channel, and I feel one of the videos should be explained in greater detail than what I gave in its description there.

A couple of years back, I was living in a downstairs apartment in Estes Park, Colorado. I had my dog, Dashiell, with me. We had an enclosed yard, with a high enough fence to keep him safe inside and other creatures safe outside. It was a pleasant winter day without too much wind when we were visited by a small herd of deer that frequented the area of town we lived in. Though, I think some explanation for this story is due.

Dashiell is a German Shepherd mix of some kind, with more black over his body than purebreds,


Dashiell, soon after we adopted him in 2009.

and a little more svelte than some purebreds I’ve met in the past. My mother and I adopted him after he arrived on an Oklahoma farm from unknown origins.

Our guess was that he was about three years old when he came to us. Someone had loved and cared for him, as he already knew the standard commands of “sit,” “stay,” “down,” et cetera. We immediately started training him for our home. After six months on the leash, we had taught him the difference between right and left, which comes in handy when walking him through a forest on a leash. Too many times with other dogs did I find myself and the leash tangled around a tree, occasionally with one of my legs involved.

Dashiell smells the camera.

“You keep pointing that thing at me! I think it must be a treat.”

We have now had Dashiell about six years. I have learned he doesn’t like walking through puddles, or up sandy hillsides like we tried to do at Great Sand Dunes National Monument. When he is outside our yard he generally follows his nose at such a rapid rate that I must keep him on a leash so that he doesn’t wander into traffic. He has taught me a great deal about himself, and myself.

Dashiell is a gentle dog, for the most part. When he was younger he wanted to scare off the thunder and lightning when a storm would rage. He lacked any fear of inclement weather. Fortunately, with some more dedicated training, he’s ceased chasing thunder. Winter is his best time of year, by far. Watching the look of joy on his face when he’s jumping through snowdrifts as tall as he, is a joy to behold for a dog-mom.

Things brings me back to the day of the deer visitation. My apartment sat at the edge of a small field, and I was surrounded by neighbors who had lived in the area for a number of years. Some of these neighbors would feed the local deer. This, not only being illegal, is something I don’t recommend. Wild animals are just that: wild. They have instincts and intelligence and can fend for themselves. Creating a dependence upon us for winter food is not in their, nor our, best interests.

A small herd of about ten deer would come through the unfenced portion of my yard on a regular basis. They would peer at my door sometimes, their ears forward, and then go back to their leisurely grazing. This day, however, Dashiell was already outside, his first day out since wounding his foot and getting a few stitches in between his peds.

Dashiell will only occasionally bark at wild life. Usually it is a curious bark, his version of “Hey, who are you?” If it is a coyote, he tends to be more aggressive, but still curious. “This is my place!”

When the deer arrived, Dashiell was excited, but not aggressive. For some reason, he seemed to show a particular curiosity towards one particular deer. I did not find out if it was a male or female, but the deer looked young. Dashiell bounced and danced, hardly ever making a sound. Between Dashiell and the deer was my fence. I grabbed my camera, put it on movie mode, and started recording. I do love my camera, but being built primarily for still pictures, its microphone isn’t ideal. I very nearly punctured my upper lip with my teeth trying not to laugh at the spectacle of Dashiell trying to engage this deer in a game of Wild Tag.

I was very glad for this fence. The other members of the herd became the peanut gallery at the corner of my apartment. Dashiell and the deer played for upwards of fifteen minutes, many of which I filmed, while the peanut gallery looked on. They seemed somewhat annoyed, at least to me. They sometimes stared at me, stared at their friend, stared at Dashiell as he bounced back and forth across the yard.

Never once did I believe that Dashiell was into harming that deer. Nothing in his body language displayed aggression, or hunger, or viciousness. His tail wagged too freely, his bounciness, even with a wounded paw, was too jubilant, and when he did bark, his voice was too playful and his volume too soft. If he did growl, it was with a closed mouth. He did not bark like a dog defending his property or his owner, with lips pulled back and teeth bared.

Dashiell was just having a good time, as, apparently, was the deer.

I will admit I was concerned a few times when the deer came forward to meet Dashiell, that the deer would try to get through the fence, or forget it was there and crash into it. This could have meant injury to either the deer, Dashiell, or me, as I was standing fairly close and filming. It didn’t happen, though. The deer and Dashiell had a good little visit and romp, my fence and I survived unscathed, and the herd of deer eventually walked on.

Watch the video here: Dashiell and the Deer

Dashiell and the Deer play in the backyard.

Dashiell and the Deer play in the backyard.

I’ve been a bit distracted and busy this spring. We are sitting under a blanket of almost two feet of snow, Long’s Peak has been missing for three days behind a curtain of clouds. April was such a beautiful month that I neglected my blog writing to pursue more outdoor activities. (We have eagles! And owls!) Some idle late-night internet searching for an idea invariably leads me to BuzzFeed, where I find very little information I need, but it did give me an idea!

Here’s nine things you may not have known about Enos:

Helen Keller

Helen Keller


1. He was friends with Helen Keller. His daughter, Enda, met her in 1922 when Enda was three years old. Helen wrote him a letter in 1916 telling him how much she loved his book “In Beaver World”. On of these days I’ll share it with you.




2. Enos didn’t drive a car, or had a license to drive one. By the time cars were prevalent in the Estes Park area, Enos had a small fleet at Long’s Peak Inn, with his staff driving them. A Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagon, and two Model A Fords to shuttle customers from train stations to the Inn. If he went into Estes Park on his own, he usually rode Cricket, his horse. Licenses weren’t issued in Colorado until 1931 at the earliest, nine years after his death.

3. It took him nearly fifteen years to get published.

4. He was not fond of cats, especially mountain lions. He frequently called them “game hogs” in his stories. He much preferred grizzly bears, so much so that he raised two cubs, Johnny and Jenny, for a year after their mother was killed.

5. He spoke at the Tuskogee Institute in November, 1908, to the whole student body. Booker T. Washington was the principal at the time. Enos’ usual theme with his talks were on forestry and tree conservation, sometimes ending with a bear story.

6. Enos, with his wife Esther and daughter Enda, stayed at the Hotel Rosslyn in Los Angeles in 1922, during his tour of the west coast. At the time, the luxury hotel was only ten years old and in its heyday. Some online searching didn’t reveal much except that it is now in a dodgy area of L.A. Although, I did find some old photos of it.

Hotel Rosslyn, 1920's

Hotel Rosslyn, 1920’s

Hotel Rosslyn, 1924

Hotel Rosslyn, 1924

7. Although he was allergic to wheat, Enos did enjoy the occasional waffle. Esther mentions it in a journal she wrote about raising their daughter the first few years of her life. Eating wheat products gave him something of a sour stomach, but when he wanted waffles, he wanted waffles!

8. Enos climbed Mt. Vesuvius in 1900 during a trip to Europe. The soonest it had erupted before his visit was on April 24, 1872 (Enos had just turned two years old), and the next eruption would occur on April 4, 1906, both eruptions had lava flows. The Vesuvius National Park website is here: http://www.epnv.it/grancono/index.asp

9. Enos corresponded with two presidents: Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was the president that signed the bill creating Rocky Mountain National Park, not Teddy. Enos also spoke before Taft when he was giving a talk on bears at the White House.

When I think of some more little snippets and tidbits, I’ll add to this, but for the time being, have some trivia to impress your friends at parties, especially if they are Enos Mills fans!

Casualties of Copper: The Berkeley Pit, Montana

While wiling away the little free time I had at my previous job, I ran across http://sometimes-interesting.com. The articles are fascinating, well written, and each article is illustrated with enough high-quality photographs to warrant second and third looks. I admit, the article I first landed upon was about the amount of bodies on Mt. Everest, which, if you’re into the harsh consequences of pushing Mother Nature’s boundaries, you should read: http://sometimes-interesting.com/2011/06/29/over-200-dead-bodies-on-mount-everest/

If you have a weak stomach, stay away from that one. (It is a good read, though. I personally loved it. It made me dig out a book on Everest that had slipped between all my other books.)

A few weeks later, Mr/Ms/Mrs. Sometimes-Interesting posted this:

Casualties of Copper: The Berkeley Pit, Montana.

Ka-pow! The article immediately grabbed me, with the instinctual thought I always have when I run across something out of my usual reading range: Did Enos see it? Will this tell me something about him that I didn’t know before? Just a little snippet, I’m not asking for much!

The Berkeley Pit was dug decades after Enos Mills had worked there. He never saw it. Enos quit working at the Anaconda Copper Mine in 1901, but his time there gave him a unique perspective on what can happen to an environment if we pay no heed to how our industry can affect nature. He was well aware that the juggernaut of American Industry couldn’t be stopped, and he did little to try to.

Enos A. Mills, about the time he landed the job at the Anaconda Copper Mine. Or, at least one of the few times anyone could get his hair to behave. I could do a blog post just on all the funny pictures of his hair. Love the tie, I bet it was yellow. My great-grandfather, rockin' the yellow polka-dotted tie in 1887. I love it.

Enos A. Mills, about the time he landed the job at the Anaconda Copper Mine. Or, at least one of the few times anyone could get his hair to behave. I could do a blog post just on all the funny pictures of his hair.  Love the tie, I bet it was yellow. My great-grandfather, rockin’ the yellow polka-dotted tie in 1887. I love it.

Enos instead focused his efforts on saving what precious lands remained, and keeping them protected for the sanity and health of all of us who get to visit these wild lands. I’m tremendously fortunate to live on the cusp of a national park. My situation is unique in that us Millses have been in the same valley since 1871, and have remained here in one way, shape, or form almost the entire time. For those of us who live in cities and industrial areas, getting a real breath of fresh air is sometimes a unique and cleansing experience, and exactly what Enos had in mind.

I found the article enlightening and more than a little heartbreaking, as I had not done much research on the Butte, Montana, area. I knew Enos had been there, and had worked there over the span of about 13 winters, traveling or returning to his homestead in the summer and autumn. To be honest, I don’t know much about Enos’ time in Butte. I’m sure some biographers have gone into great detail about it, or at least made some assumptions, but I’ve got other books to read. No one asks me about what he did in Butte. People ask me what Enos did for Rocky Mountain National Park.

I would like to visit Butte, someday. What’s offered online about the town is interesting in an overview sort of way, but it doesn’t really show me the Butte Enos lived and worked in. Although, I did come across this:


Hey, it’s the longest running house of ill repute in the continental United States! (I make no claims that Enos ever went there. I make no claims that Enos never went there, either.)

Enos says very little about Butte. I’ve always compared it to the icky day job that paid for his youthful jaunts. He belonged to the University Club, a Poetry Club, he played baseball with the company teams sometimes and learned his trade quickly. We know he read a lot, we have his library card. When Enos was there, every walk of life went through that town. It was a hub of excitement, progressive ideas, and probably smelled really interesting, too.

It was probably good pay, and something to tolerate until he could go on walkabout back to his homestead here, near Estes Park. I don’t feel all that compelled to talk about my years as a waitress. It paid the bills and I got to travel a little, and I learned a lot about food and booze and people. Probably not unlike what Enos went through.

As it is, I will be keeping my eye on http://sometimes-interesting.com. And, I’ll be keeping my eye on news from Butte. I love it when someone can open my eyes to something, keep it up, buddy!

Musings on The Flood, by Elizabeth M. Mills

My mother, Elizabeth M. Mills, loved the idea of a blog so much she started writing, something she rarely considered except in short form. I’ve been having trouble thinking of relevant topics, and she’s been rather prolific lately. This is likely to be a precursor to her having her own blog. If you read us both, you’ll pick up on our different styles rather quickly. Without further ado, here’s Elizabeth’s first blog entry. Enjoy!  -Eryn V. Mills.

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“Playing in the outdoors—especially when there is intimate association with birds and flowers, trees and waterfalls, mountains and storms—is one of the best ways of training the senses.”
Enos A. Mills

An autumnal flood here…I just didn’t see it coming.    Elkanah,  Jane and Carlyle Lamb would have been preparing to leave for Fort Collins and  Enos would have been out tramping or on his way to Butte, Montana.  They didn’t experience such a thing or they would have written about it. So much about our autumnal atmospheric experience was odd.  It was warm, foggy rain, without much lightning. No snow.  It was mysterious to be  in non-electric blackness. Enos’ “alert, awake, aware” was coming in handy…again. Sleeping sitting up, ready to jump at the slightest not-right sound. Not being able to hear anything above the roar of the new torrential tiny stream and the waters charging down Long’s Peak.  Could not shake the delightful feeling I was camping at Jim’s Grove on Long’s Peak when I was little, mesmerized by the excited waters of the alpine stream sounds and brighter than normal twinkling stars.  Trees smelled so pure, the air was so delicious to breathe deeply. The sky was a color closer to that blue-purple hue, that we get after a good atmosphere scrubbing, but this was a deeper color that I haven’t seen in many….many moons.  Sunrises were greeted with anticipation for light and a sigh of relief.  Sunsets were relished with exhaustion and trepidation.  Everything could have been so much worse.

This had been a pond in Enos' day, a languid stream in the last few years, and for just a little while during the flooding, ponds again.

This had been a pond in Enos’ day, a languid stream in the last few decades, and for just a little while during the flooding, ponds again.

Enos’ cabin was nice and dry, as it sits on one of the dry spots on Twin Sisters.  The Gallery was badly flooded with the new stream being divided by the building. Two weeks before the water, we moved the exhibits back the Museum, nice and safe.   My rain gauge went neglected, I was too busy playing with the water to empty it.

Fun definition:   Autopsy –  Greek: seeing with one’s own eyes

The Narrows, Longs Peak

The most popular question of my life…

There’s been many a day that I’ve been asked, “And how many times have you climbed Longs Peak?”


The expression upon the face of the one asking, usually accompanied by either a gasp or some disdain, has become rather thrilling for me. It used to annoy me, since the act of scaling one of the most dangerous mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park seems to be a prerequisite of being a member of this particular Mills family.

My great-grandfather, Enos A. Mills, held the record for the number of successful summits until recently, when it was broken by Jim Detterline. My grandmother summitted when she was eight years old. As did her daughter (my mother), Elizabeth. I was supposed to.

The Narrows, Longs Peak

Do you see the little man? I think that’s where I would freak out.

As a child I heard stories of how dangerous the mountain is, how steep the “Narrows” is, how slippery the Trough and Homestretch are. How long the whole hike is. How there could still be stretches of ice that could send one to an ultimate demise in late July. Enos was able to take horses up to Boulderfield, cutting out half the hike. At the time, only a dozen people or so were attempting the peak. He could take his dog, Scotch. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t read many of Enos’ stories.

The original plan was that I would go up Longs with my father, a man who walked swiftly and would occasionally outpace my mother and I on shorter simpler hikes. Or in the grocery store. We would be accompanied by my uncle, an accomplished climber who claimed to know the peak very well. My uncle also had really long legs.

I was short for an eight-year-old.

This recipe, for my little mind at the time, could only result in an emotional disaster. I would get exhausted, want to go home, inevitably cry mid-tantrum and get yelled at during an inopportune moment. Say, on the edge of the Narrows. It seemed to amount to a generally miserable time to be had by all.

The day of my ascent grew nigh. Plans were being discussed, phone conversations among family members went long as they prepared for my initiation into…whatever this was going to be. I swiftly became a morose brat.

One day, my mother turned to me, gave me a long, stern, motherly look. I braced myself. I knew the question and I knew my answer. This event seemed so important to so many people, particularly my grandmother, that I was terrified of the emotional aftermath and the initial argument between my mother and I.

“Eryn, do you want to climb Longs Peak?” asked she.

Firmly, but at the same time a bit shaky, I said, “No.” I steeled myself to the coming fallout. A corner of my room where I would cry in frustration beckoned.

“Okay.” She simply shrugged. “You don’t have to.”

I had to pause, remember to breathe in. Collect my thoughts. “Oh. Really?”

“I climbed it twice. There’s nothing up there. If someone has to drag you up that mountain to prove some point, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.”

I think my father, once he heard, was rather resigned about it. I’m not certain he had been looking forward to the trip, either.

The weight of just the idea of the trip had been lifted off my tiny shoulders. If there were arguments between my mom and grandmother, I usually went to another room or went outside. Grandma was pissed. I didn’t care, really. As far as the rest of the family, at least on this matter, my mom had my back she remained steadfast about it. After a while only visitors and friends pressed the issue.

Then I turned nine. The deed had not been done and the tradition was too late to uphold. I had nothing to prove then. I didn’t care much of what the rest of the mountain-loving community thought of me. I still don’t. No, I have yet to climb it.

Solitude at a gem above 9,000 feet.

Solitude at a gem above 9,000 feet.

I do still enjoy hiking. However, when it comes to climbing, I do not share Enos’ enthusiasm for it. If it’s an outcropping with lots of places for my fingers and toes, I’m all for a bit of scrambling fun, especially if it’s at a somewhat reasonable incline. Wandering the pathless woods, treading isolated glens carpeted with alpine flowers, most certainly my cup of tea. Skirting the shoulders of the jagged remainders of a distant glacial age and straining the muscles of my neck to behold the indifferent gazes of these great peaks, only then to come home and spend twenty minutes with a thesaurus to write this paragraph, certainly! Maybe that’s what Enos and I have in common.

Enos and Longs Peak had a rare relationship. He fell in love at a young age with it, and could not stray from it for too long. He loved the peak in an Edwardian-era romantic way and wanted others to feel the enlightenment he gained from knowing it. Always did he want to know it better.

He explored and dallied elsewhere, as someone with any sort of curiosity would do. One cannot appreciate home without relinquishing it for a time. Longs Peak was the great love of his life, right up until he met my great-grandmother.

Longs and I have an entirely different relationship. Any curiosity I may have had about scaling it has long since vanished. It slips away even further when someone insists that I must climb it. All through my childhood I have lived with that mountain’s moods and shadows and winds.

For me, Longs Peak is more of the silent best friend, the friend I can ay the trials and troubles of life at its feet and it neither complains nor offers any sage advice I wouldn’t come up with on my own. It’s my compass point. As long as I know, even generally, where it is, I know my place in the world.

Another current deterrent it the number of people on the Longs Peak trail these days, even in bad weather. When I venture into the quiet wild, I go for some peace, to scrape out the inner lining of my brain pan so when I return home, I am calm and centered. The idea of following a hundred people up a steep and treacherous mountain, with another hundred huffing and puffing behind me, negates any hope of peace.

I therefore choose another path, and sometimes I choose something that has no path at all.

Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak, and Mt. Lady Washington.

Mt. Meeker, Longs Peak, and Mt. Lady Washington.

“Nature gives t…

“Nature gives the nectar of the gods to those who leave the madding crowd and visit her alone. I see all her moods, all her changing scenes. Rambling the mountains by moonlight is an enchanting experience. In winter the peaks stand in soft white silence, the icy walls glow in tempered sheen, while on the snowy forest aisles are exquisite moon-toned etchings of the pines.” Enos A. Mills, The Rocky Mountain National Park