The Journal of Prevarication
Here lies Jim Cook,
official state liar of Arizona
A decade of working to make lying the official language of Arizona has been hard, dangerous work. But it has been rewarding.
We broke the news that Arizona will be closed on Mondays this summer. We not only located the Lost Dutchman Sawmill, but we found the Lost Dutchman himself, and his elusive mine. A mine is a terrible thing to waste.
One of our defining moments was when we proved that the first airplane flew in Arizona in 1897. It was powered by a steam engine. Some contend that a boiler explosion does not constitute propulsion. However, the plane left Glendale in a hurry, and came down near Yuma two days later. The pilot, Guavo Schmidt, was not far behind.
Elvis has dropped in five times to tell us that he is alive and well, and working in various lounges in Las Vegas. I knew Elvis back in the seventies, and he seems to get younger all the time. I think he has a crush on Miss Ellie.
Yes, The Wickenburg Institute for Factual Diversity is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Our Grand Deception Days celebration was scheduled for next Saturday.
By an uncanny coincidence, that’s the same day as the second annual Grand Desert Days Festival in Morristown, where Miss Ellie and I had a prior commitment to perform on Saturday. Come on over and let us kid you.
How did we come to take on the mission of freeing Arizonans from the shackles of fact? Years of newspapering had left me jaded. Politicians, promoters and preachers tried to shape the truth to their benefit. The constant spin made me a bitter, broken man.
I retired in 1994, but continued to write magazine articles until the first time I received a pension check and a Social Security Check in the same month. I quit writing for a while, and took up folk music.
Miss Ellie came up with the idea that has led us to fame and fortune. We were traveling across Northern Arizona by train when I pointed out boogie bushes to Miss Ellie and her sister Kathy. I told them how boogie bushes get up and move in the night, confusing anyone who uses them for landmarks.
I had never told a lie before. It felt good. My friend Marshall Trimble had recently been appointed Official State Historian. I told Ellie, “I wish I could get someone to appoint me official state liar.”
She said, “They wouldn’t have to, you know.”
The genius of her idea floored me. I printed up some business cards, and started publishing The Journal of Prevarication.
The Institute for Factual Diversity was born in Phoenix, but we moved to Wickenburg late in 1999.
Lying was hard for me, at first. Part of my mind said, “Hey, this can’t be true,” and another part said, “It’s not supposed to be true, genius.”
(As my dad used to say, “Listen, stupid…” He always called me “Listen.”)
I worked hard at improving my lying skills. We have received compliments from many of our readers, and only a few have unsubscribed.
Still, we are often accused of telling the truth, and that hurts. The competition is fierce in this world of spin, perjury, deception, hype, bull dandruff and fanciful advertising. Sometimes I catch myself believing that the Jack in the Box chain is actually run by a big guy with a cue ball for a head. One time, I caught myself believing a congressman.
On Saturday, April 18, Miss Ellie and I will be among the musicians performing at the Grand Desert Days Festival in Morristown. We’ll be playing and singing at noon, and I’ll tell stories from my books at 12:45. I’ll be autographing books all day long. So will several other Arizona authors.
The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Morristown School. That’s just east of U.S. 60 (Grand Avenue) on Rockaway Hills Road, the road next to the Morristown Post Office.
There will be a classic car show, games for kids, and vendors offering food and arts and crafts. The festival benefits literacy programs for children, and a Grand Avenue Library Initiative for Morristown, Circle City and Wittmann.