Tennessee Adventures :: Kayaking With FLDS Mormons
Aimee and I had just met each other working as promo girls at the local county fair. We bonded over her “Eclipse Tea” which I instantly knew meant we had a lot in common. Despite wearing work uniforms we both radiate that hippie witch vibe and the week we worked together was the full moon eclipse crossing directly over Nashville. Safe to say we were instantly best friends and felt like the universe aligned us to meet.
I was stoked to meet Aimee because aside from being an awesome and laidback person she was the country girl I had dreamed of befriending before moving here. Aimee is a southern girl with roots that run centuries deep in Tennessee. She had knowledge of swimming holes, waterfalls, rivers and knew of little kayaking camping shacks deep in the woods. She says "fixin" and "holler" and has that southern sass everyone should be a little scared of. She is the only person I have ever met to shoot a down a drone with a cross bow. Personally speaking, Aimee is goals.
The first night we went out for margaritas Aimee said some of her friends might be joining us. When I returned from the bathroom there were two men sitting at our table so I introduced myself under the impression they were Aimee’s friends. As we got deeper and deeper into the dinner conversation I started to internally question how these boys who had grown up on the Arizona / Utah border, had a 6th grade education and traveled the country doing welding jobs had come to meet Aimee. At the same time the margaritas were flowing, they weren’t rude and they paid for everyone’s dinner so I didn’t really care too much to add all my suspicions up. During our dinner conversation it came up that one of the men had been a kayak and rafting guide in Zion national park and was fully capable of fixing Aimee’s broken kayak. We all decided that when the fair was over we should all go kayaking before the boys left town and were off to their next welding job.
The day of the kayaking trip I had the easiest job, to just show up. When I arrived I jumped in Aimee’s car and the boys followed us with all 4 kayaks loaded in the bed of their truck. A few minutes into the drive Aimee blurts out, “So I think we are dealing with some bath tub baby mormons!” All of a sudden all of the clues started flooding back to me, like who the hell actually lives on the Arizona / Utah border besides mormons? They were super pale and blonde, they were “cousins”, they said they had no real education etc. They had said multiple times “we were probably raised really differently than you” but I was raised in San Francisco so I figure majority of the population was raised differently than me haha. They had also purchased enough food and alcohol for a family of 15 for our few hour kayak trip. Anyways, Aimee and I accepted our fate as the mormon’s polyamorous kayaking dates and kept on keeping on with our speculations as a secret.
We couldn’t have planned a more perfect day. Being a Monday, we had the river all to ourselves. Aimee had prayed to the weather gods to keep the rain away for one more day and it worked. The wine, beer and smoke was flowing as easy as the river. I swear nature was talking to me that day because I kept having all these stoner nature metaphors pop into my head like "life just flows man, it is faster on the bends like we have to adapt to life faster dealing with curves".
A few river bends and coors lights deep one of the boys decided to confess their religious upbringing. He told us that they had escaped polygamy from the LDS mormon cult, they had 65+ brothers and sisters and a lot of their younger siblings and parents were still involved so they send money home. They kind of round aboutly stated they didn't want to marry their cousins and had left for that reason. Aimee and I politely acted like that wasn’t super weird and what we had already speculated. Aimee and I were trying to give each other "I told you so" looks while smiling and practicing being tolerant of others.
I am not sure if you know about the FLDS mormons, but I have watched a fair share of escaping polygamy in my day. The LDS mormons are the ones still being controlled by their prophet from prison while he serves a life sentence + 20 years for child sexual assault on his 12 year old brides. So like not only were these guys mormons, they were polygamy cult, dressing like pioneers and marrying your uncle mormons.
My goal was to make them feel accepted, like who cares? Christians are fucking crazy too, Catholics rape children, etc... like religion has been exploiting people forever. Plus they escaped and left, and you can't help what you are born into. Bottom of the line is they were nice, fun and genuine and that is all I can ask for in a friend. We all hugged it out and let them know we thought they were still really cool guys. It dawned on me that we were probably the coolest girls they had ever met.
So to ease over any awkwardness in the situation we decided to cover ourselves in river mud. We covered ourselves head to toe, let it dry and continued floating down the river rejoicing in how epic life is when you just be kind to strangers. What is better to unite the people than all natural exfoliants?
At one point we were all so faded and bonded together we thought we could just keep floating to the Mississippi River and then down to the Gulf like Huckleberry Fin. I mean the mormons did bring enough food to last us a week. We figured we would start a GoFund Me on our phones and a social media page in which our supporters would bring fresh supplies to the river banks. We would gain media attention kind of like Forest Gump when he went for a run and become those youtube famous people who kayaked covered in mud across America. When we actually saw the pictures of ourselves after the trip we decided no one would have supported us based on our appearance haha.
I love learning about the world through people and through experiences. So if you learned anything from this story it is don't judge people, be nice to everyone and let people open up to you on your own terms. I like giving people the opportunity to open up and share what they want about their past. It is one of my pet peeves when I am getting to know someone and my friends pipe in about how I need to go ask them about their darkest moments to understand who they are. Also I really liked that they were successful welders and that you really don't need a fancy school or any school really to be successful. Meeting the LDS mormons really opened my eyes to a very unique little subculture in America that I got to understand through someone who lived it and not just on TV or through the media. I was very thankful for this day, as it still is one of the only times I have gone kayaking in Tennessee and had great company.
After our kayak trip we said goodbye to the mormons and they drove off to their next wedding job, never to be seen again except for an occasional text message asking if we want to sell Del Terra oils for them. We weren't interested so we stopped answering. But for those few days in the summer of 2017 we shared some good times. Now Aimee and I have a great story to tell about that one day we befriended some FLDS mormons who escaped polygamy.