One lucky boy to draw straight flush |

One lucky boy to draw straight flush

McAvoy Layne / Guest column
McAvoy Layne

Nevada is a state of mind. Before you roll the dice, you say, “C’mon, Honey, Baby needs a new pair of shoes!” And everything outside of Las Vegas is Cowboy Nevada, except Incline Village, where we either have two homes or two jobs. Those with one job and one home are rare as a straight flush. I just happen to be one of those lucky boys to draw a straight flush.

Forty years ago, I was living on the Island of Maui, and happy as an ophi clam at high tide, when I vacationed at Tahoe to discover Ski Incline, now known as Diamond Peak.

While riding up in the chairlift I looked over my shoulder and saw a blue lake that seemed to stretch out to the horizon. The lady sitting next to me asked what I did, and I told her I had a job my father thought should be illegal.

“And what might that be?” she asked with a smile.

“Morning radio on the Island of Maui.”

Following a pregnant pause, she put her hand on my arm and asked, “How would you like to do morning radio here?”

So over the next two weeks I went from surf bum to ski bum while maintaining the same job my father thought should be illegal.

I had fallen in love with places before, and lived in the comfortable confines of Cape Cod, Carmel and Kauai, but never wanted to marry a place, until I met Incline village.

On morning radio here, I got to tell the kids whether it was a school day or a snow day, and they followed me around in Raley’s while I shopped, “Mr. McAvoy, do we have to go to school tomorrow?”

“I don’t know, we’ll see how I feel in the morning…”

The esteem was almost too much, and as if that were not ridiculous enough, because I reported ski conditions I was invited to ski free at all resorts within driving distance, including Diamond Peak, where I became the lucky owner of a locker!

Then Mark Twain tapped me on the shoulder, and I started visiting as many as ten schools a week while teaching Nevada history and folklore. It became a magical journey that has spanned 35 years and 4,000 programs, ending with a perfect offramp this coming summer with “Mark Twain’s Nevada” at St. Pat’s cozy outdoor amphitheater here in the village, and Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City, where it all began.

There will be a few fun events between now and then, and the one I am looking forward to most is Carson City’s First Annual Mark Twain Days Festival, April 21, 22 & 23. Check these sites for fun events: and (Sam would be so damn proud.)

On my way out, I’m encouraging folks like you to consider giving yourself another life through the art of Chautauqua, and I sincerely do hope Chautauqua might start you on a journey as enjoyable as mine …

McAvoy Layne has been preserving the wit and wisdom of Mark Twain for more than three decades. Layne is a winner of the Nevada Award for Excellence in School and Library Service. He plays the ghost of Samuel Clemens in the Biography Channel’s episode of Mark Twain, and the Discovery Channel’s Cronkite Award winning documentary, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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