Pine Nuts: A step back in time

McAvoy Layne
McAvoy Layne

Of the 4,000 times I have had the pleasure of pretending to be Mark Twain, each is worth remembering, and a few are worth writing down for the grandkids. Then every once in a while, my memory is jogged to bring forth an evening that I had not thought about since the night it happened, several years ago now. And this happened yesterday when I stopped into Camp Richardson to see if any changes had been made in the past few years. As I walked into the lobby, a distant memory of an evening there drifted peacefully through my mind, and I had to smile.

Several years ago, my planned outdoor program there as Mark Twain was rained out, and moved into the lobby, where twenty basketball fans were watching an NBA playoff game. They were not happy, as they were asked by management to watch the game without sound, and they would have to listen to Mark Twain at the other end of the room. I, on the other hand, was pleased beyond measure, for being from Nevada, I had a little action on that game, and was suddenly able to watch it over the heads of my audience.

Well, it was a barn-burner of a game and went right down to the wire with a buzzer-beater to win it for my team, and as the final shot went through the hoop I could not contain myself, and shouted, “It’s good!” Of course I had to follow that with, “It’s good to be back to Camp Richardson, where life is easy.”

The basketball fans were quick to look around when I shouted, “It’s good!” And were smiling at the discovery that Mark Twain was a basketball fan. I remember I made more on the game that night than I did holding forth as Mark Twain in the lobby of Camp Richardson. Some days are diamonds.

How lucky to have 3,999 fond memories and only one not so fond. I remember we were at the Pony Express Pavilion on a very windy night, a Washoe Zephyr strong enough to blow empty chairs all the way to Mound House. A setting sun was also blinding an anemic audience that was painfully sparse. The County Fair was in full swing, and a huge monster truck was driving paying passengers on noisy joyrides ‘round and ‘round the pavilion. One could not hear oneself think, so the nice folks in the front row could neither hear nor see me. Had I been given a choice, it would have been a pistol or poison for me.

Mercifully, once my program came to a premature close, a sympathetic stranger offered to buy me a drink. We’ve been the best of friends ever since. Some days that start out to look like bear scat, turn out to be diamonds…

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