In the month of June I crossed the Virgin Mountains to the great red desert of southern Utah where I found a man called Joseph who had ten wives. Word of Alexander Joseph had spread throughout the land. It was said his wives were beautiful, talented and strong. It was said that he could sleep with three in the afternoon and have “a perfectly warm sexual experience with a fourth at night.” It was said that he had been kicked out of four states, that 300 men had taken blood oaths to kill him, and that the FBI and IRS were stalking him but he was armed to make his stand, squatting on federal land.
His wives, it was said, lived in peace and without jealousy. They spoke differently than most women of their time. They knew their place, and because I did not know mine, I drove across the desert to seek out the Josephs and find the flaw in their story.
What is shocking about this country is that there is no shade anywhere. No trees, nothing but salmon-colored sand that stretches to the next mountain range. From this sweeping expanse rise pinnacles of rock, red mounds and crooked fingers pointing at the sky. Pilgrims in the hills see angels and whirlwinds, and if you turn on your radio you will hear the word of God.
Glen Canyon City, where the Josephs live, consists of several dozen trailers, a Stop ’n Shop and an old Cafe, the Red Desert Inn, which the Josephs own. When I pull off the highway, a teenage girl is sitting on the porch of the cafe. Gnats swarm in the a...