Posted October 10, 2007 in

 Thomas “Peg Leg” Smith, a mountain man from Kentucky notorious for his consumption of whiskey as well as wild exaggeration, struck out west to the California heartland in search of fame and gold. He barhopped down the coast and east to the hot, blustery desert, where he discovered a gold mine and buried his fortune in a dry, rocky stretch of the Borrego Springs wasteland. Problem is, he buried it so well that even money-hungry fools who swallowed every detail tooth and nail during one of Peg Leg’s drinking binges failed to uncover the mother lode. And through all the sweat, blood, tears and lies, Peg Leg emerged as a cult hero—so much so that they would propagate his fibs and honor his deception by erecting a monument on the very site of his supposed buried treasure. Who ever said that a white lie hurt anybody?

Peg Leg lives on 150 years later, at dusk around the campfire every year on the first Saturday in April.  America’s biggest lying contest (all right, “story telling,” if you must put a positive spin on it) is hosted by the Committee to Assimilate Curious Tales of Incredibility (CACTI) and features local historian and celebrated raconteur, Phil Brigandi. Arrive as temperatures fall and tell the most ludicrous lie possible in five minutes or less (or more) about Peg Leg’s lost goldmine. Who knows—you might wrestle the much-recycled trophy from Brigandi’s grasp. On the other hand, should you fail, take the lesson home and come back the better liar next year, nursing your craft over a Jim Beam or two on friends and lovers. On this one night of the year, it’s perfectly acceptable to lie your way into history. (Nancy Powell)


The Peg Leg Smith Liar’s Contest takes place Saturday at sunset, seven miles east of Route S-22 and 1,000 feet north of the Peg Leg Smith Memorial on Henderson Canyon Road, in Borrego Springs. The event is free and open to the public, and presentations are in the order of sign-up. For directions, visit the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park web site at


Be the first to comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.