Tahoe Pine Nuts: The day Frederick Douglass met Jerry Rice
An interesting happenstance occurred a few years back, whereby I was invited to participate in a benefit for Robert Lewis Stephenson School down in Carmel, California.
I can’t imagine why I was invited, unless it could have been my personal relationship with Stevenson as an impressionist of Mark Twain.
But whatever the reason, I was on deck and ready to play tennis in a match against a young athletic looking fellow by the name of Jerry Rice.
I happened to have heard of him, as Joe Montana had called me on my previous birthday to wish me a happy 150th, and this was the guy who was catching so many of Joe’s touchdown passes.
Well, in the first game of our match I tried to lob Mr. Rice with a shot that I was confident would leave him in shock and awe, but somehow he managed to defy Einstein’s description of gravity and drove that tennis ball back at me with such velocity that I maintain the swollen lip to this day. That is why you might see me sipping my soda through a straw at the Sunday camp meetings.
As Mr. Rice attended to me on the sideline, he asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him he could sign an autograph to my 10-year-old son, Mac, which he was happy to do. I had lost the match but had won a gift for my son.
Upon arriving home I presented Mac with Jerry Rice’s autograph, replete with salutation, “To Mac.” He was visibly pleased and asked where he could display it.
I told him anywhere, and he pointed to a regal portrait of a 60-year-old Frederick Douglass hanging above the pellet-burning stove. So together we removed the glass from the Douglass portrait, inserted Mr. Rice and replaced the glass.
The next afternoon after school, Mac invited his good friend Michael Lucido over to the house to show off Jerry Rice’s autograph.
“Michael, check this out, there it is, take a look … Jerry Rice.”
Michael took a long look at the autograph, then a longer look at the regal portrait of Frederick Douglass and pleaded, “That’s Jerry Rice?!” My son was calm, and I was proud, as I heard him respond to Michael, “No, that’s Frederick Douglass. He’s dead. All my dad’s heroes are dead — mine’s still alive.”
Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery 150 years ago this month.
That portrait of Frederick Douglass with Jerry Rice onboard will go to my son when I cash in my Tahoe chips, and Mac will have the satisfaction of knowing that, while his childhood hero is still alive, he has adopted some heroes of his own who are dead, and have been quite dead for a century and a half.
And that is the true story of how Frederick Douglass met Jerry Rice.
To learn more about McAvoy Layne, visit http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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