Pine Nuts: Best little paper in the west |

Pine Nuts: Best little paper in the west

McAvoy Layne
Pine Nuts

Our Nevada state flower — Sagebrush

Our Nevada state tree — Bristlecone Pine

Our Nevada state animal — Desert Bighorn Sheep

Our Nevada state icon — David Toll

Tonight, May 25, I have the honor of introducing David Toll to an adoring full house at the Nevada State Museum in the Frances Humphrey Lecture Series.

Those of us lucky enough to know David, know him as Norton II, Emperor of the United States, Protector of Mexico, Champion of Nevada and Caretaker of the Comstock Lode.

Our intrepid David is a Nevada treasure; he is Nevada personified. His portrait will someday hang in the Nevada Archives, framed in sagebrush.

Author of The Nevada Traveler, now the best-selling book ever published in Nevada, and a prize-winning journalist, David awakened the Gold Hill News from a 92-year slumber and made it the best little paper in the west, before publishing its final issue in 1975.

On the cover of that memorable issue is a portrait of Mark Twain with the banner, “Hell No! I Never Worked for the Gold Hill News!” Inside that publication, David writes: “Starting up a newspaper without any money in a ghost town is not the easiest job anybody ever took on.”

On another page of that classic Gold Hill News is an account of how Virginia City got “Railroaded” by a subcommittee of the legislature when they refused to allow the state-owned rolling stock of the V&T to be returned home to the Comstock, and instead, put it in a museum in Carson City.

Also in that timeless final issue, we find a letter to the editor from Squaw Tom, a colorful Nevada character about whom David would subsequently publish a most amusing book.

“We’re getting too many crooked politicians in the country. You don’t know who’s honest and who ain’t. When a man goes up and swears the oath with his hand on the Bible, he better not cross his fingers but how do we know he doesn’t cross his toes in some over-sized shoes?”

Along with being a matchless pal, David has been a wealth of reliable Nevada history and folklore to all of us fortunate enough to know him. I cite this example of an old piece of correspondence from somewhere around 1990 that I saved for posterity.


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

Ladies & gentlemen, I give to you The Ministry of Truth — David Toll!

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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