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Pine Nuts – Jim Thorpe Part 2

April 25, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

Before I became Mark Twain and embarked upon a thirty-five-year journey, I was Jim Thorpe, Member of the Sac & Fox Nation, and the best athlete in the world. But let me explain…

In the fourth grade I went to the Orinda Theater with my brothers to see “The Jim Thorpe Story” starring Burt Lancaster. In that movie, a young Jim Thorpe misses his school bus, and races that bus to school. He runs over hills and dales and beats that bus to school by a full minute.

I was very impressionable in the fourth grade, so the next morning I hid in the bushes at our bus stop, waited for our bus to come & go, and took off running down a cow trail toward Del Rey Elementary. I could see the bus as it stopped to pick up more of my classmates, while I ran steadily ahead. Then the bus would pull ahead of me, and it was game on! As the bus turned into Lost Valley I lost sight of it, but ran gallantly on, as Jim Thorpe.

When I arrived at Del Rey I discovered the bus had already arrived, unloaded my classmates and was parked comfortably in the yard. I’ll never forget the look on the secretary’s face as I entered the school office all flushed, hot & sweaty. She pushed her glasses up onto her nose, put her hands on her hips and asked, “Well, who do we have here?”

“Jim Thorpe, Ma’am.”

“Well, Mr. Thorpe, you got yourself a tardy slip.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

She made out my tardy slip and handed it to me like it was the Magna Carta or something. Actually, it was my Declaration of Independence, for suddenly it was official. It said right there on my tardy slip that I was Jim Thorpe, and I walked down that empty hall toward my classroom with a spring in my step. I might have lost my race with our school bus, but for that moment in time I was the world’s greatest athlete, and my heart was big as a basketball.

That same day I checked “The Jim Thorpe Story” out of the school library and read it under the covers with a flashlight after my mother had kissed me goodnight.

I remember how it made me smile to read that Stockholm’s King Gustav had placed an Olympic Gold Medal around Jim’s neck and declared, “You’re the world’s greatest athlete, Jim Thorpe.” To wit Jim replied, “Thanks, King.” And I made a mental note to say thanks when I was awarded an Olympic Gold Medal. I’m still waiting for that opportunity.

I guess it goes without mentioning, that the next book I would check out of our library at Del Ray Elementary was, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

As a Chautauquan you can never fail, for it is a success to be one…

Listen to the Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

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