Pine Nuts: A bridge, a gun and Mark Twain |

Pine Nuts: A bridge, a gun and Mark Twain

Over the course of 13 slow-drifting summers I had the unique experience of sharing Tales of Tahoe as Mark Twain on two cruises a day into Emerald Bay aboard the Tahoe Queen.

Over the course of more than a thousand cruises I got to meet upwards of 200,000 people and hear almost as many new stories. It was pleasant and rewarding, though somewhere out there today, there is a bride who wants to kill me.

Herein lies my confession …

To become Mark Twain I would add 108 years with a can of Frosty White Hair Spray, though on some days it would get windy out there on the lake and I would turn into a brunette right there on the poop deck. So I kept a can of Frosty White Hair Spray up in the wheelhouse for such emergencies.

Our captain would marry couples on occasion out there on our Lake of the Sky, which was very special for the bride and groom, and for me too, as I would get to steer the Queen while the captain was conducting the solemnities.

Once the couple was happily married, I would join them on the bow and propose a toast. As it happened, I had a day off and was not onboard when the unfortunate incident happened, though the crew would tell me all about it.

A star-crossed bride, about to take her vows, went up into the wheelhouse to make last minute preparations. Noting how windy it was out there on the bow, she must have felt lucky to see a can of hair spray, which she grabbed, closed her eyes, and fired away, battening down the hatches so to speak. Regrettably, she failed to read the fine print, Frosty White, and out she stepped.

There were no mirrors up there in the wheelhouse, so she had no idea that she had just aged 108 years.

Well, the crew told me they had to stuff napkins in their mouths to keep the laughter down, as the groom thought his bride had turned into her grandmother up there in the wheelhouse. The wedding ceremony went ahead, they said their vows and kissed. Then the bride’s mother handed her daughter a mirror and the trouble began. Wedding pictures were canceled and the fur started to fly.

The crew, meanwhile, knew exactly what had happened, and couldn’t wait to tell the bride it was Mark Twain who left the spray in the wheelhouse and when he would be arriving back on the Tahoe Queen. The bride then advised the crew that she was going to go out and buy a gun and shoot Mark Twain.

That was the summer I retired from the Tahoe Queen, and though I do miss cruising into Emerald Bay every day, I don’t miss wondering when that unhappy bride might seek me out, march up to me on the poop deck, and exact her revenge.

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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