All posts by Lauren Ball

Four Stories to Make You Shiver and Pee Your Pants Laughing

This time of year people are always looking for the perfect scary story.

Each one of these stories gives me that indescribably pleasant shiver and also have the added benefit of making me laugh out loud.

1. The Big Woods

Found in the book How I Got This Way.

Mr. Muldoon takes Crazy Eddie and Patrick into a clearing deep inside the Big Woods on an errand to pick dewberries. As the sun sets Eddie’s imagination gets carried away, and all three of them flee the clearing with ghosts hot on their tails.

2. Mean Tents

Found in the book The Grasshopper Trap.

Patrick tells of the many tents he’s had the misfortune of encountering in his life. However, none of them are as fearful, to all parties concerned, as the one he and Crazy Eddie made out of gunny sacks one late-summer evening.

3. The Swamp

Found in the book The Grasshopper Trap.

Looking for an area on the Pack River that hadn’t been fished, Pat, his friend Birdy and the old woodsman, Rancid Crabtree, find themselves deep in a swamp. When darkness comes they narrowly escape an attack of a killer bat.

4. Grogan’s War Surplus

Found in the book A Fine and Pleasant Misery.

Late one night, from ten feet in the air, encased in a chicken-down sleeping bag, Patrick accidentally falls from his jungle hammock onto the unsuspecting family dog.

Happy Halloween!

Finding the Hairy Bonnet

I’ve been doing some sleuthing tonight. Recently I received a request to find a story from my Quick-Find a Story page. After spending hours searching, I finally found it.

Normally it takes only a few minutes to find a story. What makes it more challenging is when people mis-remember story elements.

Ah, the human memory!

In case there was any doubt, our memories are not very reliable to begin with. We might remember a story of Retch Sweeney mentioning “a lot of people don’t know blackburries is good to eat,” when it was actually Rancid Crabtree teaching Pat how to live off the land, saying, “Lot’s of folks don’t know wild razzburries is good to eat.” Close, but it makes it a little more challenging to track down the right story.

Another example, the sleuthing I mentioned at the beginning? Here is a brief rundown of key elements in the actual story:

A friend named Lester spends the night with Patrick, sleeping out in the backyard on an old mattress.  Pat had an earache and his grandmother gave him a ratty old bearskin bonnet to wear to keep out the chill. During the night the bonnet gets twisted, and, suffocating and moaning, Pat lunges at Lester for help. Lester levitates.
Since the story is titled “Psychic Powers for Outdoorsmen,” (in the book They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?) and “levitation” seemed to be a likely keyword, that is one of the ways I had it indexed. I also had it indexed under “sleeping out.”

But that is not how the person remembered the story. The request was worded thus:

“Pat is camping with a childhood friend and his mask slips around to muffle his mouth/face and he claws/moans for help but his friend runs out screaming.”

I finally found the story by looking up “camping,” and the only reason I found it then was because “camping” was mentioned in another part of the story.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I spent the night in frustration. Far from it. Even when I can’t seem to find the story as quickly as I’d like, I always end the search with a smile on my face and sides aching from laughter.

How to Be a Family-Reunion Rockstar

Whenever our family gets together there is always a time set aside for some Patrick F. McManus stories. There’s nothing like laughter to bring everyone closer together.

If you enjoy reading out loud then set a time for mid-morning or mid afternoon before meal preparations begin.

If you don’t typically read out loud you might want to prepare everyone in advance. Plan to read just one story and test the waters. Ask parents to encourage the younger children to be respectful. A typical story could last fifteen minutes or so. Even if you haven’t read out loud very much, when you hear the laughter you’ll be swept up in everyone’s enjoyment.

Here is a short list of stories that have never failed to bring tears of laughter at our family reunions.

A Really Nice Blizzard

Found in the book Rubber Legs and White Tail Hairs.

When school gets canceled because of a blizzard, Rancid Crabtree shows Pat and Crazy Eddie Muldoon the proper way to ride an upside-down truck fender wearing a parachute.

The Grasshopper Trap

Found in the book The Grasshopper Trap.

Finally, one of Crazy Eddie’s ideas for a contraption actually works. With Rancid Crabtree’s help they build a grasshopper trap that works, in some ways, even better than they imagined. In other ways, not quite.

Pouring My Own

Found in the book Real Ponies Don’t Go Oink!

Pouring concrete isn’t nearly the fun experience you might imagine, and Pat explains why.

Pigs

Found in the book Rubber Legs and White Tail Hairs.

Returning from a fishing trip, Pat, Retch Sweeney, and Al Finley, find a farmer selling pigs for $7 apiece. Unable to pass up such a good deal they load up six of them in gunny sacks. Bedlam ensues. Of course.

Ralston Comes Through

Found in the book The Bear in the Attic.

Out of desperation, Patrick and his cousin, Buck, seek the advice of a fortune teller to find out where they might find some good fishing. Pat also uses this opportunity to test Buck’s fear of spiders.

Tenner-Shoe Blight

Found in the book How I Got This Way.

As Pat is explaining the necessities of all his different types of outdoor shoes and boots to his wife, Bun, he is reminded of the universal footwear of his childhood, tenner shoes. One time his cousin Buck won a contest to see who could keep their tenner shoes on the longest. He kept them on so long his toes grew together.

There you go, you rockstar you. And you don’t even need to wear leather and makeup!

Making McManus Index a Useful Website

Over the past few weeks a clear direction for the website is coming into focus. Here are some features and topics I think readers will find the most helpful:

  1. Help people find their favorite stories. Of course this is the main purpose of the McManus index. And until you get your own copy of the index I’d be happy to help you find that story that’s been driving you crazy.
  2. Discover new stories. I know some of you have read all of Pat’s stories. But I’m sure there are many others who would love to be directed to new stories about their favorite characters and topics.
  3. News. Keep people informed of when Pat’s new books are coming out, or anything else newsworthy in the McManus world.
    If there are things you would like to have me write about, feel free to leave a comment.

Above all, Why Am I Writing this Blog?

Because no one has made me laugh as much as Patrick. There were times I felt down while writing the summaries and compiling the index, and after reading a particular story I had tears of laughter streaming down my face. That lingering sense of laughter would stay with me for days.

I suppose you could call me a McManus Evangelist. There’s a quote from the New York Times on the covers of his books that says “Everybody should read Patrick McManus.” That sounds like a worthy endeavor to me.

Five Great Camping Stories by Patrick F. McManus

Here it is the dead-heat of the summer and all I want to do is head up to higher altitudes for a relaxing camping weekend. We know how those “relaxing camping weekends” can turn out to be not so relaxing, but that’s another post.

While you’re packing up everything don’t forget to take these Patrick McManus stories with you.

1. Get Ready

Found in the book How I Got This Way.
note: Read this one before you go.

Preparing for your trip can be so tedious, you might just want to do it the way Patrick does.

2. The Big Trip

Found in the book A Fine and Pleasant Misery.

Patrick finally gets to experience the big trip of his childhood imaginings, full of more misery and hardship than he could possibly hope for.

3. The Family Camper’s Dictionary

Found in the book Never Sniff a Gift Fish.

For those new to the sport of camping, Patrick has compiled a helpful dictionary of terms and phrases.

4. The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw

Found in the book The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw.

When the Muldoons invite Patrick to go camping, his Mom makes him take along an old fur coat to ward off the chill of the cold mountain night. This leads to a problem of mistaken identity.

5. But Where’s the Park Papa?

Found in the book A Fine and Pleasant Misery.

Taking the family with you? Patrick and his family spend their vacation at a national park, with the rest of humanity, it seems.

Now you’re all set, get out there and relax!