Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flagstaff to St. George via Colorado City

Monday, June 15.

Of course I got up first. Thank GOD for coffee. We drove to the storage rental place and unloaded the Harley, suited up, and took off.

Jes is a wonderful riding companion. She doesn’t complain, keeps her balance, and hangs tough when the ride gets difficult (more on this later).

We rode up Hwy 89 out of Flagstaff, took the alternate 89 turnoff.

This took us to the Arizona Strip. The Arizona Strip is the part of Arizona above the Grand Canyon and below the Utah border. There’s a whole lot of nothing there.

The weather at first was cool, sixty something, but gradually warmed up to the eighties and we began unzipping and removing extra clothing.

Our stop for the night was planned to be St. George, UT, but we wanted to go through Colorado City, first, because it is home to the FLDS church. The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of the traditional Mormon Church, owns most of the land in Colorado City and the neighboring town. Driving through it gave Jes and me the willies.

The first thing you notice is the very large homes, many of which have no final treatment, siding or brick, done to the exterior plywood walls. These homes are often situated in walled compounds…not fences as you might know them, but eight and ten foot solid walls; you can’t see in or out, and that is intentional. There are other homes, also large, that are nicely finished out. Why are the homes so big? And, why do many have as much playground equipment in the back yard as some schools do? Stay tuned for the answer.

The second thing you notice is the absence of children, or anyone else walking around, as you would normally expect at 4 o’clock on a weekday. No kids riding bikes, nothing.

This is not to say that there weren’t kids, but they were all escorted by a woman (usually young), and they were all obviously on their way to someplace. The women and girls all wore the same kind of prairie school dress…long, blue or pink, and with a white frock. Their hair—no matter what age—was also the identical coiffeur: pushed up in front, long on sides and back. The boys wore identical dark slacks and blue shirt.

Suddenly, a string of big cars came from a side street. The drivers were men and all wore the same dark suit and light-colored tie. Apparently, a meeting of some sort had let out.

No dogs, no cats, no barking, no horn honking, no sounds of laughter (I’m sure they DO laugh at the right time), no typical city-life activity whatsoever.

The very little kids would watch us with big eyes as we drove by on the Harley, and you read the excitement in their faces, but their “keepers” quickly shut them down. No one returned our wave, save one young girl who drove a 4-wheeler full of kids in their matching kits.

Now, back to the big homes: they are big because the men have more than one wife, all of whom try to have hordes of children.

Now, here’s the scary part of our experience in Colorado City: if here, in America, we can have a cult or extreme religious sect seclude itself such as the FLDS does and brainwash its members such as the FLDS does, imagine how horrifically the self-isolating groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere can determine the kind of life those in their power have to live.

Mike Sledge

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