Pine Nuts: We may know at 14 what we will be doing at 70 |

Pine Nuts: We may know at 14 what we will be doing at 70

McAvoy Layne

Fourteen is a most formative year. That’s what some prominent psychologists are saying anyway. Our creative compass finds its true north at 14, and whether we follow it or not, we are drawn in that direction from that moment on.

One recent study involved musicians. What could have been the germ to create so many successful musicians who were 14 in 1954-55? What could have been the spark to ignite so much good music even until today, when those musicians would be in their 70s? Elvis.

Bob Dylan, 14 at the time Elvis released “That’s All Right” related, “Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.” Others busting out of jail that year would be John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Carol King, Brian Wilson, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jager, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix, to name a few.

This phenomenon, this cluster of creative musicians, inspired by one artist at the tender age of 14, caused me to wonder what was going on when I was fourteen. I had to think long and hard about that year as I was a pathetic and hopeless freshman nothing-burger in high school.

Not only did I not know a hawk from a handsaw, I didn’t care. All I knew for certain was that I was going to play quarterback at UCLA. As it turned out I was a diver at Oregon but I had the conference right.

What momentous event might have occurred back in 1957 to plant a seed in my fertile but barren brain?

Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, and I watched, but much as I enjoyed the music, the muse did not strike a chord in my heart.

Allen Ginsberg wrote the poem “Howl” — I was not moved to write poetry. But wait a second, in our freshman year at Miramonte High we were required to read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was an adventure story to me then. How could I have guessed I would be working with that book in Nevada schools at 70, proclaiming it to be a strong indictment against prejudice and a central document to 19th century cultural America.

Digging deeper into the recesses of my memory of 1957 I recalled a trip to Virginia City that we took as a family. We visited Piper’s Opera House during that visit and I remember standing in front of the luxury box at the north end of the stage. I got into a reverie and my dad had to take my arm and drag me out of there. I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time, I might have just been feeling, but half a century later I would be sitting in that same box in a white suit, waiting to deliver a commencement address to the graduating class of Virginia City High. It gave me chicken-skin to think about it.

In closing I would ask you to consider what was happening when you were 14 that might be shaping your destiny today, and too, what might be happening for our 14-year-old kids of 2014 that might be impacting what they will be doing on the morrow…

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at