With its graceful mural of three women plucking vegetables in a garden, the Merry Wives cafe offers an idealized view of polygamy. You dine next to folk, it might be added, who are living the reality.---
The Merry Wives is an eatery at the Border Store gas station on the Utah-Arizona strip that divides Hildale and Colorado City. It’s owned by members of Centennial Park, the 1980 breakaway from the fundamentalist Mormon church, the FLDS. The café’s very existence arguably reflects the more progressive politics, at least as far as business is concerned, that Arizona-based Centennial Park pursues.
While I was picking at a BLT and delicious french onion soup, I met Heber Holm. Holm left Colorado City when he was 16 and built a career in construction in neighboring St George. Times are slow though, so after years of answering what he says were thousands of questions, many based on “false stories,” about life in polygamy, he decided to offer folk who were interested enough to pay The polygamy experience: a guided tour of Colorado City. For $70 a bus takes you from St George to the Arizona strip and back. For 90 minutes or more, Holm guides you around the dusty town where he grew up. That day he was squiring round an intense teacher who spends his vacations learning more about historical issues.
Holm's van has been followed a few times by pick-ups, standard behavior by polygamists keen to deter outsiders from entering their burg. One of Holm’s polygamist sisters called Holm and asked him to stop. “I told her ‘Sorry,’” he says.
He says his clients aren’t that interested in the sexual practices of polygamists. Mostly he tells them about history, the beginning of the community, “following it through to where Warren Jeffs left it today,” he says.