Pine Nuts: A Nevada Day for the ages |

Pine Nuts: A Nevada Day for the ages

McAvoy Layne

Nevadans are independent, opinionated, brash and lovable. Want an opinion on UNR football or the state of the union? Just ask a local in Virginia City. You’ll get an earful, followed by an offer to buy you a drink.

Free chili? Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki has perpetuated a chili feed tradition at the Carson Nugget that Attorney General Richard Bryan started back in 1982. Brian was at the feed this Nevada Day, along with former governors Bob Miller and John Sparks (portrayed by Michael Fischer). I had to thank Senator Dean Heller for providing us a paper trail from our electronic voting machines that can be audited, even though it has effectively prevented me from voting twice like I used to do, once in the morning as McAvoy and again in the afternoon as “Samuel.”

Did you get to see the Emancipation Proclamation on display at the Nevada Museum of Art? It gave me chicken skin all over and reminded me of an anecdote I had long ago forgotten. When President Lincoln was about to announce his Emancipation Proclamation he called a cabinet meeting and began the meeting by reading a humorous passage from a book by Artemus Ward. Everybody laughed, except Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who thought humor from the president was inappropriate. Stanton stood up to remove himself from the meeting. The president was quick to stop him.

“Secretary Stanton, please sit down, there are times when we must laugh or go insane,” Lincoln said. The president then introduced his Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln told Stanton what Mark Twain continues to remind us today, that humor is still the best medicine on the shelf. It keeps us from sourin’, and cuts down on the doctor bills like crazy.

Did you get to attend the fundraiser for the Storey County Library at Piper’s Opera House to top off Nevada Day with Shiloh and Mark Twain? I never had so much fun in a white suit.

When I was 10 years old my parents dragged me into Piper’s Opera House while on vacation in Virginia City. I stood in a reverie, fascinated by the box seating at the north end of the stage. My father had to take me by the arm and drag me out of there. Forty years later I would find myself sitting in that same box, waiting to deliver a commencement talk to the graduating students of Virginia City High School. I must have known back when I was 10 that Piper’s Opera House was to loom large in shaping my destiny.

In June of 1988 I received a call from Carol Piper Marshall (God rest her beautiful soul). Carol invited me to present 200 shows at Piper’s as the Ghost of Mark Twain over the course of the next four months. Of course I jumped at the chance to try out new material twice a day, six days a week on live audiences to find out which anecdotes to recite and which were too literary for a modern audience.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am so thankful to Carol and Piper’s for launching a 27-year odyssey that has allowed me to cross our great state of Nevada, half the other states, into Europe and Russia, out to the Sandwich Islands and back around to Piper’s Opera House to celebrate our sesquicentennial on Nevada Day with Shiloh and a house full of loveable old Nevadans.

Joyous journey? Grateful? As Tom Sawyer might like to answer, “Oh, I reckon not!”

To learn more about McAvoy Layne visit

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.