Polygamy is in the local Utah news again, if in an off-handed manner. The Kingston polygamous clan is said to have gotten $156,000 in federal farm subsidy payments for farm lands it owns.
Like the group, "the U.E.B." in the fictional Big Love on HBO, the Kingston family, led by the late Charles W. Kingston, formed a cooperative in 1935. The Kingston Family is a very business-savvy group, having amassed a fortune estimated at $150M (lowball) to $170M (also lowball, according to some). The number of their businesses in the local area is in dispute because some of them could be hidden under other names. I know a few of them; I pass them by on my way to work.
For instance, this building, which during the week is Standard Restaurant Supply, doubles on Sunday as a church. The family wouldn't find it necessary to spend money on a chapel when they have a building like this, available on Sundays when the store is closed.This nondescript, run-down building is one of the family business' headquarters. You can see my hand with the camera in the side view mirror of my work vehicle. I took the picture before anyone showed up for work. When taking pictures of people who are so strongly paranoid, it's always best to be on the paranoid side yourself. Notice that both buildings are in bad repair. Overgrown trees, peeling paint, very shabby. To put on a fancy front isn't the Kingston way. Not when it costs money. The building is reputed to be without a telephone, which strikes you as odd until you consider that telephones cost money, and that people spend valuable work time talking on them. I also doubt any family members working there have cell phones, either.
The way the Kingston kingdom works, according to several sources, is that family members are required to work in family businesses, but aren't paid in the usual way. They are paid in credits good for all family businesses, so they can buy food, clothes, etc., with those credits. I don't understand how they pay their utilities, but I can see how the credits system keeps an oppressive measure of control on employees. It's a lot like the old company store concept in the coal mine industry, where miners spent money for groceries at exorbitant prices, paying their employers back most, if not all, of their salaries.
Another couple of stories from a few years ago showed the family's complete contempt for government, except their own. Some Kingston wives and children lived in a coal yard. The women were visited by their husbands, who had other homes. When one of the women would get pregnant she'd go to the welfare office, claiming she didn't know who the father was, and then collect welfare. This is a system the Kingstons call "Bleeding the Beast." I like that term, and I give them credit for being creative crooks when stealing from the public.
Some years ago, when Charles W. Kingston was still alive, the state came down hard and made him pay up about a half-million dollars in fraudulent welfare claims. I don't think he spent any time in jail, though.
Big Love this past week showed Bill and his polygamous cronies nervous over the arrest of a fugitive polygamous leader based on real-life Warren Jeffs. In real life this arrest did indeed bring more attention and heat on the total community, although not all polygamists are the same. They have a core belief in what they call The Principle (of polygamy), but many of them have their own sects, and some of the sects have had active warfare, not unlike Mafia families shooting it out.
There are a lot of polygamists all over the Western United States, Canada and Mexico, but many non-confederated. There are an estimated 50,000 in Utah alone, but I have no idea where that number came from. It would be impossible to count them because like cockroaches, they scurry when the light is turned on them. I don't doubt that there are a lot, though, in every community, some better disguised than others. Big Love is fiction, but like the Mafia stories of The Sopranos, it has its basis in truth.
Ciao for now.