catalenamara (catalenamara) wrote,

I’ve always wondered what they did with the surplus boys...

I see the polygamists have made the news again. I was catching up on a stack of newspapers, and saw a front page article from the June 13 issue of “The Los Angeles Times”. This seems to be a pretty popular theme for the Times; they’ve run an article on the polygamist communities in northern Arizona/southern Utah several times over the past few years.

(In the 1970s I used to send property tax bills to some of these folks.)

This recent article explained a question I’ve always wondered about: what do they do with the surplus boys? (I’m assuming this wasn’t as much of an issue for polygamist societies in the past; they would have disposed of excess boys by the usual method – sending them off to war.)

I was stunned by the answer: teenage boys who have violated one of the rules (i.e., listened to a CD or worn a t-shirt), are hauled up to St. George, Utah and dumped by the roadside just outside town. I’ve never been able to understand people who do that to animals – but to do this to their own children?!?

In the 1970s, I used to work for the property tax department in that particular Arizona county, and it sure was a hassle keeping track of those tax records. ‘John’ would own one house with ‘Mary’, another one with ‘Emma’, another one with ‘Rachel’, etc. The church owns most of the land, so, unlike most property tax bills, the structures are taxed separately from the real estate. So we had to have an entirely different set of tax records set up (not just for them, but also for people living in buildings ‘grandfathered in’ on land that later became government property).

I remember my boss would go up to Colorado City once a year to see if there might be anything else he could add to the tax rolls. (Popular job, eh?) Everywhere he went, he had to have a local with him to introduce him to people, otherwise no one would talk to him. Literally not say a word. And they had guards posted on the roads going into town.

Can’t blame these people for being suspicious; the state of Arizona sent a bunch of sheriff’s deputies up to Colorado City in the 1950s and arrested the entire town. Hauled them all down to Phoenix. Very bad PR, all these women and children in detention centers. So they let them go, and they headed home and carried right on with what they’d been doing before.

This area is incredibly isolated. Because the Grand Canyon cuts across half of northern Arizona, in order to go to Colorado City from the county seat, you have to drive from Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada, then to St. George Utah, then back down into Arizona.

I learned from the LA Times article an additional detail about how the women dress – my boss had described them all as wearing bonnets and long dresses. The article said the women also wear trousers beneath these dresses. That can’t be fun in the summertime.

In college, I had a friend from a polygamous family who once showed me her family tree – I thought my head was going to explode from trying to figure out all these siblings who might have been born three months apart.

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