The Journal of Prevarication
by Jim Cook
Official State Liar of Arizona
Given the controversies over President Obama’s commencement speeches at ASU and Notre Dame, the Wickenburg Institute for Factual Diversity is playing it safe.
Posthumously, we will present an honorary Doctor of Deception degree to my hero, Dick Wick Hall. He died in 1926, at age 49. That ought to be posthumous enough.
At commencement exercises June 29, I’ll deliver a speech based on Hall’s writings, unless I can persuade one of our benefactors to do it. I have collected most of the silly stuff that DeForest Hall wrote under the names Bill Dick, and Dick Wick Hall.
We have rented the town of Salome as the commencement site. The mens’ auxiliary of The Hearsay Trust will provide refreshments.
Hall and Charles Pratt founded Salome in 1904, and Hall made it famous in the 1920s, when his wry yarns were published nationally. Hall called his town “Salome, where she danced,” after his partner’s wife tried to walk barefoot over the hot sands of western Arizona.
Hall operated an automobile service station, which he called the Laughing Gas Station. As he noted in his mimeographed newspaper, The Salome Sun, Salome is “surrounded on all sides by Arizona.” (Any similarity between The Salome Sun and this journal is pure imitation.)
We chose Hall after several players on the national scene declined the honorary degree. Actually, they sent men in black suits to tell us that we’d better not even ask. If that’s how they feel about it, fine.
Each year, the Wickenburg Institute for Factual Diversity graduates entry-level liars to staff government agencies, financial service companies, and special interest lobbies.
Graduates pay dearly for education in prevarication. The average degree costs them $149, after rebate.
Our enrollment is up during the financial calamity that grips the world. Maybe that’s not so surprising. Liars got us into this mess.
This year, we’re awarding 240 Bachelor of Prevarication degrees, 37 Master of Obfuscation degrees, and a dozen doctorates in such fields as Lying for Dollars, Immaculate Deception, and Forensic Lying.
We don’t do perjury, but our partner, the Wickenburg branch of the University of Maryland, offers a certificate program for legal lizards.
In our commencement address, I’ll repeat some of Hall’s trademark gags. This may be Challenging, because Hall’s stuff was written to be Read to oneself, not read out loud. His schtick Was to Use Random capital Letters, which is Hard to duplicate verbally.
I can get lost wandering around in Hall’s dry desert quips and odd yarns, but I’ll try to stay on point with stories like his famous pet frog. The Salome Frog carried a canteen.
Before golf became a leading industry in Arizona, humorists had fun purposely misunderstanding easterners and their game. Hall invented the Greasewood Lynx Golf Course, which was about 23 miles long, depending on which copy of the Sun you were reading. Golfers and caddies traveled horseback or by wagon.
Hall wrote weekly reports like this one: “The posse which has been out searching for Harold Bannister for the last three days came in last night and reported no sign of him Yet. Mr. Bannister is out here from Connecticut, playing on the Greasewood Golf Course for the last few weeks and was seen by the water wagon at the mouth of Snake Canyon, in between the 6th and 7th Holes on last Saturday, but has never showed up at the 7th Hole yet…”
We’ll wind up with this bit of advertising which was read at Hall’s funeral in Salome in 1926. It was from a sign near his station:
THIS IS THE LAUGHING GAS STATION
Where we sell gas and “ile”
And take your money with a smile.
Old Rockefeller made his pile–
And maybe we will, after while.
We are here to fill your tank,
And get your money in our bank,
So stop and see us as you pass–
And fill your tank with laughing gas…
Hall’s verse is much longer than that. If you want to hear all of it, come to our commencement.