December 19, 2018

Advent 2018

"The Tale of Horace Tabor and Baby Doe"

 

I have been fascinated by ghost towns and dead towns since I was a teenager:  those once substantial communities that simply no longer exist or exist in severely shrunken forms.  Lately, I have been re-reading about western mining ghost towns...places which gave birth to many glorious expectations.

 

In 1878, Horace Tabor and his wife Augusta were living in Leadville, Colorado, where he was a fairly prosperous merchant.  One day two prospectors came in to Horace's store and asked for a grubstake (supplies in return for a share of all future earnings), so for $17 worth of supplies, Horace gained a third share.  Well, you can guess what is coming.  They hit a big silver vein and Horace soon became a very wealthy man, investing in a dozen mines, becoming lieutenant governor, buying a mansion in Denver, and building the Tabor Grand Opera House.  In 1883 he divorced Augusta and married a woman half his age named Baby Doe in a ceremony at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, attended by President Chester A. Arthur.  Horace was in Washington filling a one-month senatorial vacancy.  He returned to Denver and bought a villa for Baby Doe, along with carriages and jewels.  They had two daughters. 

 

Horace had made many bad investment decisions, but the financial panic of 1893, along with the repeal of the Silver Act the same year, ruined him.  The villa, the jewels, the carriages were sold at auction.  In 1897, at age 70, he went out prospecting alone.  He died in 1899 in the small hotel room in which he and his wife and daughters lived.  History records his last words to his wife:  "Hang on to the Matchless," his only remaining mine, which he thought might someday make her rich again.  Baby Doe returned to Leadville, moved into a tool shed near the Matchless, and lived there for decades, hanging on to the mine.  She was found frozen to death in the shack in 1935.  She was 80 years old. 

 

Both Horace and Baby Doe had expectations, perhaps glorious ones in their eyes.  Horace expected his wealth to last, Baby Doe expected her wealth to return.  They both were wrong.  Sometimes our expectations are just wrong--sometimes comically, sometimes tragically.  Sometimes, as in the case of Horace Tabor and Baby Doe, our failed expectations are remembered by history and even become legendary.

 

The world has an insidious way of forming and transforming and deforming our expectations.  And those of us who claim the name of Christian and seek to follow Jesus are no more immune.  So, as we move through the season of Advent and its glorious expectation that God would come to earth to save his people and transform his creation, how do our expectations look?  Are our expectations a faithful part of our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ?  Are they something we keep separated from Jesus?  Are they even something that Jesus warns us about (...do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth...love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you)? 

 

As we celebrate the coming of Christ this season, may we welcome the transformation which Christ can bring into our hearts and our minds and our bodies and our relationships and our characters...and even our expectations.

-- Wyc Rountree

 

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