Big Love, Texas-Style

Polygamists live in a compound on our state's dry western plains

"Everybody's got the right to hump," countered his son. "It's not like you've got to participate."

Another local insisted freedom of religion is necessary for democracy, although his wife did express concern the polygs would eventually have enough voters to take over the county.

But nothing was going to stop these folks from having a good time on a Friday night, gnawing on barbecue, drinking beer and passing around a guitar. And it's not like they can't have a little fun at the expense of their neighbors, as was evident when local crooner Jon Cartwright picked up the guitar and started finger-plucking some blues in E:

Daniel Kramer
James Doyle flops his plane into the air...
Keith Plocek
James Doyle flops his plane into the air...

Plural girl blues. Plural girl blues.
Anniversary today, can't remember whose.
But them first few weddings I remember well,
Lucille, Elizabeth and Annabelle,
Then Gracie and Maude, I think Jennifer–
After that it's kind of a blur.

Plural girl blues. Plural girl blues.
Hey Lord, I got them plural girl blues.
Oh, you'd never believe how hard it gets,
With 13 wives and 40-something kids.
You can't even think with all the noise,
And you'll be plumb wore out, spanking the boys.

Plural girl blues. Plural girl blues.
Gotta head up to Wal-Mart and buy a hundred pairs of shoes.
Well, I got this one wife that I won't mention–
Says she don't get enough attention.
I said, "Woman, Good Lord Almighty,
Don't I see you every other Friday?"

Plural girl blues. Plural girl blues.
I got 13 pages of honey-do's.

No one outside the church knows for sure why the FLDS chose to hole up in Schleicher County, but there's plenty of room for speculation. The mind-your-own-business attitude of West Texas had to have been attractive. The land was relatively cheap, especially since the church didn't bother to buy all the mineral rights. (Although this oversight actually means a consortium of oilmen could decide to stick a derrick smack-dab in the middle of the property, a move that would please anti-polygamy activists to no end.) And Eldorado is also a safe distance from the Arizona-Utah border, where the FLDS is taking some serious heat for its dealings.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office recently took over the financial affairs of the Colorado City Unified School District, which had been under FLDS control for years and was used as a slush fund for the church. Reporter John Dougherty of the Phoenix New Times, a sister paper of the Houston Press, brought many of the transgressions to light over the course of a three-year investigation. Among the district's extravagances was the 2002 purchase of a Cessna P210 for $220,000. (Big Love's prophet owns a similar aircraft.)

But the town's problems don't stop there. When Warren Jeffs declined to appear in Utah court last summer to defend himself against civil charges, the state responded by assuming control of the United Effort Plan, a church trust with $111 million in assets. The UEP owns practically all the land in the Short Creek area, and church members have since refused to pay their property taxes, gearing up for a showdown should the state try to evict them. And just four weeks ago, federal authorities took two church members into custody, citing them with contempt of court for refusing to help apprehend the prophet.

All of this attention makes isolated Schleicher County look mighty attractive to a group of polygamists who just want to be left alone. So far they seem to be minding their manners: Schleicher County hasn't seen a significant rise in welfare payments, and the YFZ property taxes have been paid on time. But the county has a population of only 2,700, while Jeffs has an estimated 10,000 followers scattered across North America, so there's still the fear of a political takeover. And there's still the fear the prophet could hunker down in his white temple and dare the feds to come and get him.

And that wouldn't be pretty.

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