Summary: The third in a series of messages based on the Matthew texts chosen by the Revised Common Lectionary for Advent of 2007.
Judgment and Trouble in the World
**The opening illustration is based on pages 299-321 from the book Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides.
In the fall of 1849, a fur trapper named James White became frustrated with the slow moving pace of his wagon train along the Santa Fe trail. White, his young wife, Ann, their infant daughter and a few other pioneers set out ahead of the wagon train; hoping to make better time on their own. White and the others felt certain that they had moved through the most dangerous Indian territory while traveling in the company of the larger wagon train.
Earlier in 1849, a writer named Charles Averill had published a book called Kit Carson: The Prince of the Gold Hunters. The book was based on the legend that had grown from the real life adventures of Kit Carson, a fur-trapper whose abilities as a “tracker” had brought him into employment with the United States Army. Averill’s book presented Carson as a “super-human” hero who wrestled bears, finds treasure in caves, kills multitudes of Indians – and, at the predictable climax of the book, rescues a young girl who had been kidnapped by the savage Indians. The real-life Carson was an accomplished cowboy, fur trapper, and tracker, but he was not the Superhuman that Averill’s best-selling novel made him out to be.
Just a few days after breaking from the wagon train, James White and his cohorts were attacked by a band of Jicarilla Apaches. An army investigation of the attack site accounted for the bodies of everyone but Ann White, her infant daughter and Mexican servant. Ann, the baby and the servant had likely been abducted by the Jicarilla. Kit Carson was assigned as the scout to the cavalry regiment that would track down the Jicarilla and rescue Ann White, the baby and the servant.
Carson was an excellent tracker and within days, the cavalry troop had come within striking distance of the Jicarilla that had abducted Ann, the baby and the servant. A disagreement between Carson and the Major leading the Cavalry regiment resulted in the delay of an attack. Aware of the presence of the US cavalry, the Jicarilla broke camp and escaped during the night.
As Carson and the Cavalry surveyed the abandoned camp in the early hours of the morning, they found the body of Ann White. She had likely been murdered during the night; just before the Jicarilla’s made their escape. Amongst Ann White’s belongings, Carson and the Calvary troops discovered a well-worn copy of Charle’s Averill’s Kit Carson: The Prince of the Gold Hunters.
Around the camp fire that evening, one of the members of the Cavalry troop began reading the book to the illiterate Kit Carson. This was the first time Carson had encountered his own myth. The stories from Averill’s novel came to haunt Carson. Nearly 10 years after the incident, he once confided in a friend that “he came to imagine Ann White reading it during her captivity.” He feared that the book had given her a false hope. He said, “Knowing that I lived near, I have often thought that as Mrs. White read the book, she prayed for my appearance and that she would be saved.” Carson felt a deep sense of failure. The bodies of the baby and the servant were never found.