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A Real Scorcher

The Journal of Prevarication
By Jim Cook
Official State Liar of Arizona

In the summer of 1897, a Phoenix entrepreneur had a bright idea. He figured he could profit by selling the large, beaded lizard known as the Gila monster to people back east, and to easterners who had just come to the desert.

Gila MonsterA Gila monster is pretty, in an ugly sort of way. His hide is beaded in a sort of paisley design. His venom will not kill a human, but if he locks his lower jaw onto one of your limbs, the lizard has to be amputated.

The businessman asked a Pima man if Pimas would be willing to supply him with Gila monsters. The Pima recoiled. Did the white man not know that if a Pima touched a Gila monster in summer, the temperature would begin to rise, and never stop rising–extreme global warming.

Until last Tuesday, I had only seen Gila monsters in captivity. Then I encountered one on the desert about five miles south of Wickenburg.

I took some digital photos and e-mailed them to several friends, who are very tolerant of my photos. A few of them had their own Gila monster stories.

One friend admired my courage in getting so close to the big lizard. Being the honest man that I am, I confessed to using a ten-power telephoto.

Besides, a Gila monster doesn’t move very fast. He lumbers along on short legs.

Now, if it had been a Mexican scorch lizard, also known as a Sonoran dragon, I wouldn’t have had a chance. The scorch lizard moves along at a fearsome rate.

In one of Charles Darwin’s oversights, the scorch lizard does not have feet adapted to the hot desert floor. He is a tenderfoot.

Accordingly, he has to run like a bat out of hell to get from shady spot to shady spot. Fortunately, he evolved with long legs, like a reptillian terrier. The scorch lizard runs so fast that few people have ever seen one, much less photographed one. He has long, venomous fangs hanging down from his upper jaw, but rarely has time to use them.

A highway patrolman, noticing a tiny cloud of dust racing across the desert, clocked a scorch lizard at 118 miles per hour. He said it sounded like a stampede of centipedes going by.

That was a relatively cool day, in the range of l05 degrees. When the temperature gets above 115, the scorch lizard can actually create sonic booms.

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