Patrick F. McManus was, in my opinion, the best outdoor humor writer ever. He wasn’t the first to use self-deprecating humor, and he wasn’t the last, but he was the best at it. Many of us who spend more than a little time outdoors make fun of ourselves when retelling stories of our adventures, but McManus was a genius with that storytelling technique. He built a fabricated history – based loosely on his own upbringing in Sandpoint, Idaho – around his misadventures and bungled escapades. He created characters like Crazy Eddie Muldoon and Rancid Crabtree as friends and mentors for his fictionalized younger self, and others like Retch Sweeney and Alphonse Finley in stories set later in time.
There aren’t many hunting and fishing enthusiasts who haven’t read at least a few McManus stories. His stories graced the back page of Field & Stream, and later Outdoor Life, for decades. He compiled those stories into books, which continue to sell like hot-cakes throughout the country.
But in addition to being a world-famous humor writer, McManus was a journalism professor at Eastern Washington University in Spokane. Hopefully he rubbed off on a few of his students enough that one or two of them will step up to fill the giant waders McManus left behind. A person didn’t have to be a student in his classes to want to be like him, though. I am sure I’m not the only one who has tried – and failed – to write humor as well as Patrick McManus. Maybe someday I’ll be half as good as he was, though.
In honor of Pat McManus, laugh a little today. If you need help doing that, just pick up a copy of his book, “The Grasshopper Trap,” and read the story “Mean Tents.” Or any of the stories, for that matter. Just keep laughing. Pat would want you to.