Pine Nuts: The only Genoa cowboy who never stepped in it
Genoa! Don’t you love Genoa? Genoa is everybody’s second favorite town, next to their own. In all my years, I have never heard a discouraging word about Genoa. Well, I did hear one. An old sourdough turned to me once and said, “I only have one discouraging word about Genoa.”
“And what could that be?” — I asked with sincere interest.
“There ain’t no twilight. When the sun drops behind that Carson Ridge, it’s like the lid of a coffin slammin’ shut!”
Of course, I had to shoot him.
The Reese’s started a little way station there along the Mormon Trail and people stopped to “Pause & Ponder,” which almost became the name of Nevada’s first settlement. Many of those settlers were Italian, so they decided to call God’s little green acre, “Genoa,” after the birthplace of Columbus.
So fiercely proud of Columbus were they that they put on display in a room of their first little hostelry, a skull of Columbus when he was a boy. This proved to be such an attraction, that they put on display, in another room of the hostelry, a skull of Columbus when he was a man. So Nevada became the state of attractions thanks to Genoa.
The Territorial Enterprise got its start in Genoa in 1859. Highlighting the first edition were two goat ropings, a hanging, and a posting of jury duty, complimented with an advertisement for Stoughton’s Bitters. The secondhand Washington printing press doubled as the jail, as it was the only thing in Genoa that a prisoner could not drag off. So they handcuffed him to the printing press, which served the prisoner well, because when they let him go he was current, and knew where all the good jobs were to be found.
Snowshoe Thompson carried the ink and paper for the Enterprise on his back all the way from Hangtown in the dead of winter. I asked Snowshoe once if he ever got lost.
“No, I was seriously disoriented for a couple of days once, but I never got lost,” he said.
I lay a rose on Snowshoe’s grave every year about this time, and then go have a drink to him in Nevada’s oldest tavern. This year when I walked in as “The Ghost of Mark Twain,” someone shouted out, “Sam, close the door, you’re letting the smoke out!” I love the old Nevadans that inhabit that tavern.
I’m oftentimes asked, “So, is it, “Gen-O-a,” or “GEN-oa?”
Well in Nevada we tend to harden our vowels. We say “Nev-add-a” not, “Nev-ah-da.” There’s a street in Reno with a Hawaiian name, “Moana, which we call Mo-Anna.” And you take the Reno baseball team, the Aces? Well, we’ll leave it at that. Anyway, it’s, “Gen-O-a.”
Thirty years ago I was riding my bike in Jacks Valley, training for the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii when I strapped a recording of Hal Holbrook’s “Mark Twain” on my hip and was beguiled. I wondered if I might be able to present Mark Twain in the schools as an educator in a costume. Thus inspired, I read the 18,000 pages Mark Twain left us, had a suit made, and began an incredible 30-year journey that has been most gratifying.
Not only did Genoa enable me to survive that triathlon, but also Genoa inspired me to become The Ghost of Mark Twain in that summer of 1987, and for that gift I extend my heartfelt appreciation. Thank you, Genoa, for giving me another life. You’re everybody’s second favorite town.
Learn more about McAvoy Lane at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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