Pine Nuts: Celebrating the life of David Toll

McAvoy Layne
McAvoy Layne

On a pleasant summer afternoon we gathered together at the Jones Mansion in Gold Hill to celebrate a Nevada life well lived, extremely well lived…

Several of us stood patiently in line to articulate our encomiums…

Nevada has lost a favorite son, and the world has lost a sage.

David Toll was the SS Tahoe, the V&T Railroad, and the CC Mint, incarnate.

To know David was to know Nevada, for in his love for the Silver State, in his writings, in his lifestyle, he left not one town, not one event, not one Nevada stone, unturned.

Included in Toll’s accomplishments is the founding of Gold Hill News.

By his own admission, David’s proudest semi-professional accomplishment was to start a newspaper with no money in a ghost town…and he made a success of it.

David’s Gold Hill News was the best little paper in the west, earning numerous awards including his favorite, a bag of groceries from one of Nevada’s finest patrolmen with the words, “We know what you are trying to do, and we hope you succeed.”

Thanks in large part to Robin and their loving family, David got his last book published shortly before being called home, David Toll’s Nevada. It could as easily have been entitled, Nevada’s David Toll.

About Nevada’s wild horses David writes… “I took a few clumsy steps as if to follow not so much thinking I could catch them, but because they were so almighty beautiful that I ached to run along with them.”

David did run with Nevada’s wild horses. He was a man of extraordinary grace of person, manners, and gentle good will. Like you, I feel enormous grief, but also, feel honored to have lived in the same century as David…to have been privy to his uncanny insight and indelible humor. Mark Twain would have called him, “A regular brick.”

David was the muscle and bone of the Great State of Nevada. It is not an exaggeration to say, David was Nevada personified. His portrait should hang in the Nevada State Archives, framed in sagebrush.

Nevada was born of Native Americans, then came Kit Carson, and David Toll…he, who was Champion of Nevada, Caretaker of the Comstock Lode, and Sovereign of All He Surveyed, the Minister of Truth, the likes of which has never been seen before, and shall never be seen yet again.

A Nevada son, he kept his grit, his gravitas, and his grace, to the very end.

May he rest in eternal peace…our forever friend, David Toll.

As an addendum, I shall attach a correspondence David and I had some years ago…


            Now that the government has seized Mustang Ranch for back taxes, and is required by law to continue to run it, and is losing money, what are we to think of a government that cannot make money selling whiskey in a Nevada brothel?

McAvoy, King of the Party when Awake


            What you have just sent along is a myth. The feds never tried to run Mustang Ranch (although they’d have liked to) and so they never failed. Instead, after having asked Joe Conforte to run it for them and being turned down, they hired a manager and persuaded some of the girls to come back to work but could not open the doors because Storey County would not give them a license.  In a way it’s an even better story the way it happened because the punchline is that the federal government could not pass the background check.

            David, The Ministry of Truth


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