Howling Wind Does Not Stop Pegleg


Last updated 3/5/2024 at 11:10am

The annual Pegleg Smith Liar's Contest, held Saturday at dusk on March 2, was a huge success despite the howling wind and weather advisory that kept some contestants home.

The annual event is held at the American Legion, Post 853, in Borrego Springs each year on the first Saturday in March. This year an audience of about 150 listened to the 11 contestants that vied for the title of greatest prevaricator of the evening.

The judges, Jim McKenna and Rick Dobbins, awarded points for audience reaction, delivery, whether or not contestants included Pegleg or lost gold, and costumes or props that added to the story. The American Legion provided shelter from the wind and offered a delicious pulled pork dinner that quickly sold out.

Starting the contest was "Pegleg" who claimed it was not his fault that he could not find the mine. He insisted it was "not his fault" – it was the fault of San Andreas.

First place went to Michael Johnson who had an incredible story about desert pupfish, fish tacos, and historical figures tied into the area history.

A first for this contest was awarding 2nd place to "Coyote," a dog who helped tell the story told by owner Nancy McRae and sister Bonnie. Coyote tracked down a thieving husband who stole the gold after cheating on his wife.

Lisa McNatt with a baby "Peggy" and Carol McKenna as Pegleg tied for 3rd place. Greg Lee recited a Shakespeare sonnet made into a Pegleg yarn.

This was the 108th, 90th, or 75th running of the contest, depending on who you believe. Hollywood set designer and early "Borego" homesteader Harry Oliver, claimed that the contest began in 1916, although he later said that his "Pegleg Club" began in the mid-1930s. The first official contest was held at Pegleg Monument on January 1, 1949.

The contest is based on the stories told by mountainman Thomas Long Smith, known as "Pegleg" after he lost his leg in an Indian fight. He claimed to have found gold in this area in 1829, and he promoted his "lost mine" in the bars of San Francisco in trade for whiskey for years until he died in 1866.

– Diana Lindsay