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Surviving Cancer with McManus Stories and Laughter

Last weekend I gave the survivor talk for our ACS Race for the Cure-and I told them about the wonderful effect humor in the form of Patrick McManus had on my recovery!! 

Seven years ago I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer stage IIIB, and was terrified out of my mind. This is a section of my talk.

When the diagnosed of cancer was official, I was terrified.

  • My brain and my ears could not understand the words they said,
  • Neither could I read any of the words in the stacks of literature they handed me.
  • What I could finally deduce was that the cancerous mass was too big to remove surgically, so they would begin high dose/rapid infusion chemo, and three weeks after treatment began, my hair would be gone.

One day my husband, Roger, and I were invited to dinner with extended family. During dinner different family members asked me the gentlest possible questions about my cancer and treatment.

I could not answer even one of their questions.

After dinner when we got in our car I said to Roger–“This cancer business is not just about me, is it? It involves our whole family, doesn’t it?”

Roger said “Yes. ”

I realized I needed to make significant changes in my thinking.

One of the first thoughts that came to mind was: “A merry heart does good, like medicine” from Proverbs 17.

My heart had not been “merry” for a long time.

Immediately I told Roger about a book I remembered by Dr. Bernie Siegel who conducted research on the effect of laughter for terminally ill Cancer patients.

We made a decision right then to devote time every evening to laughter and we knew just where to turn. One of our favorite authors when our kids were little had been Patrick McManus, a humor writer for [Outdoor Life and Field & Stream] whose books were a collections of his stories. His best stories were memories of his antics with his childhood friend Crazy Eddie Muldoon and an old woodsman named Rancid Crabtree! When we read his stories we used to laugh until we cried!

Then our kids grew up and moved away taking our McManus book collection with them! So that evening Rog drove to Barnes and Nobel and bought ten new McManus books for our library.

Lou and her husband, Roger, reading Patrick McManus stories together.

At home that night we read one of our favorite stories, “The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw.” We laughed until tears ran down our faces and joy began to replace fear in our house!

The next day, in response to five requests from friends, we opened a CaringBridge account (which is a free non-profit website that helps connect patients with family and friends).

In CaringBridge we wrote our story. Our family & friends responded.

As the first words of encouragement, prayers, and Bible promises arrived in my computer, I found my mind lifted above my fear, and for the first time after diagnosis I felt peace. The light and joy from good books had started us on this journey toward peace, and I found that the words of friends and family gave me a confidence that I was not alone and that God was with me.

Thank you Patrick McManus and publishers!

Editor’s note: this post has been edited from a longer post, focusing primarily on Pat’s stories. For the original post, click here.

Patrick F. McManus Dies at 84

I’m sad to announce that Pat McManus died on Wednesday evening, April 11, 2018. He retired from writing several years ago, and his health was declining. He passed away in a nursing facility in Spokane, WA.

His humor and stories have brightened the lives of millions of readers over the course of his writing career. I have received many emails from fans expressing their gratitude and telling how his stories have helped them in dealing with PTSD. Many fans tell of the bonding experiences of their families over generations as they read his stories together. Sharing his stories has been a favorite part of my own family’s gatherings for many years.

Audiobooks: George S. Irving Reads Pat McManus Stories

On the Quick-Find a Story page, Andrew asked:

“I have a question:  what happened to George S. Irving?  He was the best voice ever and I can’t even hardly listen to the audio any more with the new guys being used. Is there any way to get a hold of the originals of audio?”

If you search on Audible.com for Pat McManus stories you will see they are narrated by quite a few different people—none of whom are George S. Irving.

I have frequent inquiries about George S. Irving. Sadly, he passed away last December (2016). Here is the obituary.

For those interested in tracking down the audio cassettes of Patrick’s stories read by George S. Irving, here is the most helpful info I can provide:

  1. Here is a link to all Patrick’s books that can be found on Amazon.com.
  2. When you click on a book title and go to the Amazon page, under the title info you’ll see a link that says “All formats and editions.”
  3. Click “All formats and editions” and you’ll see if there are audio tape versions available. They are from third-party sellers since they have been long out of production.

Downloadable versions of George S. Irving’s recordings are not available. I’ve been trying to research how I might find them but the company that produced the audio cassettes has gone out of business and I’d have to hire a lawyer to track down the rights and permissions. Someday when I’m richer I plan on tackling that!

Gratitude

Over the years I’ve had McManus fans ask me to pass on to Pat their gratitude for his stories and how they have impacted their lives.

In difficult times in my own life I’ve turned to his stories to lift my spirits, and I knew I couldn’t be the only one. So I was glad to hear from a Vietnam war veteran who told me Pat’s stories helped him through periods of PTSD.  I had already created this design and it’s good to know it resonates with his fans:

I wanted to share with you a recent email from one of our McManus fans:

Dear Mr. McManus,

You don’t know me. But I grew up hearing your stories. My name is Chris Blotevogel, my father Eric was a Royal Ranger Commander (a Christian Boy Scout group). He read your stories not only to me and my brother, but to countless young boys across the state of Oklahoma.

I’m not sure if you read your fan mail, but wanted to let you know that my father was one of your biggest fans. If I had a dollar for every tear he shed reading “the night the bear ate goombaw” or “cigars, logging trucks and know-it-alls”, I’d be a rather wealthy man.

Words can’t express how much joy and happiness I saw in my father’s eyes when he read your stories from his death bed, it was a Fine and Pleasant Misery.

I’m not sure how much it’s worth, but I’d like to thank you. Your creative stories have brought laughter into many homes, including my childhood home and now the home I raise my own children in.  I’m sure I bore my children even now when we’re on road trips and they see me break out a paperback book. Keep up the amazing work, I look forward to your emails.

Sincerely, Chris. B

It’s a Sunday morning as I write this, nice and quiet, and now it’s time to go and read a few McManus stories…

What Has Pat Been Up To?

From time to time I have fans express their gratitude and love for Pat’s stories and ask about him, wishing him well, and wonder if there are going to be any more books coming out. I forward your letters and emails on to him. Here is the latest information I have.

In 2014 Pat announced that he would be retiring from writing and public life and his official website would no longer be maintained. Up to that time it was managed and maintained by one of his daughters, with both Pat and his wife, Darlene (or Bun as she is known in his stories) writing monthly blogs. They also offered items for sale and links to sites of interest to his fans—including The McManus Index and the one-man plays based on his stories by actor Tom Behrens, as well as lots of information for writers. Before the website closed they mentioned a desire to compile and publish the blog posts, but I haven’t heard anything more about that.

Pat stopped writing the “Exit Laughing” column for Outdoor Life in 2011 and devoted his writing efforts to the Sheriff Bo Tully mystery novels, the last of which appeared in 2014.

Also in 2014 there were a couple new stories printed in Outdoor Life, but beyond that it’s been quiet as the McManus’s are hopefully enjoying their retirement and return to private life.

Snow Days

Illustration of roof of cabin poking out of deep snow.

I know a lot of you are experiencing early stages of cabin fever with the heavy winter storms, because I’ve been getting several requests to help people find that story “about cabin fever and playing Monopoly.”

Here is a list of other winter stories to hopefully lighten up these cold, bleak days.

Two-Man Tent Fever

Found in the book Never Sniff a Gift Fish
The fever associated with cabin fever comes in many forms, but by far the worst is two-man-tent fever.

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.

Cold Fish

Found in the book They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?
Winter fishing is just as crazy as it sounds. In contemplating this malady Patrick also remembers the person responsible for exposing it to him: Rancid Crabtree.

Cry Wolf

Found in the book Rubber Legs and White Tail-Hairs
For six-year old Patrick entertainment was hard to come by in the dead of winter. Except for Tuesday evenings when they braved snow, ice, and wolves, to listen to the radio at the nearest neighbors.

The Snow Cave

Found in the book The Bear in the Attic
While Pat and Bun were taking a shortcut through the mountains in a blizzard, Pat was reminded of the time he and Crazy Eddie Muldoon built a snow cave during a blizzard in their youth.

A Big Chill

Found in the book The Bear in the Attic
While Pat was playing hookey from school, Rancid Crabtree stops by and takes him ice fishing. Rancid falls through the hole in the ice and they build a fire to dry his clothes. Things were going as well as could be expected until some helpful neighbors come along and help Pat burn the old rags he had found.

Journal of an Expedition

Found in the book They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?
Patrick presents his journal of a winter expedition with Al Finley and Retch Sweeney to Tuttle Lake.

The Human Fuel Pump

Found in the book The Grasshopper Trap
When the fuel pump goes out in Retch’s new pickup, in the mountains, in a blizzard, Al Finley heroically fills in.

Romance The Patrick McManus Way

Chalk-Heart drawing on wood of initials PM + OB (with the OB crossed out) and MP. The initials stand for Patrick McManus, Olga Bonemarrow, and Melba Peachbottom.

With Valentine’s Day coming up we could always use a little inspiration to show that special someone how much they mean to us. Along with those flowers and chocolates, read them a Patrick McManus story and give them the gift of laughter as well.

There were several girls in Patrick’s young life, some he had romantical feelings for. Unfortunately we can’t count the girl from a neighboring farm, Valvoleen Grooper, as she was his nemesis (remember “The Tin Horn” in The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw?).

Most of his learning-of-love lessons were at various times between Melba Peachbottom and Olga Bonemarrow. But Patrick also learned the art of wooing from watching others—his friend Crazy Eddie Muldoon and mentor Rancid Crabtree.

Here are some stories guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart:

Backseats I Have Known

Found in the book Never Sniff a Gift Fish

Backseats have long been known as the trysting place for young love, but for the outdoorsman it was his emergency shelter, gun rack, larder, and so much more.

Cupidity, Draw Thy Bow

Found in the book The Night The Bear Ate Goombaw

Patrick remembers his first honest-to goodness date with the radiant, shiny new Melba Peachbottom.

Silent But Deadly

Found in the book Kerplunk!

Just prior to Patrick’s date with Olga Bonemarrow, Gram feeds the leftover turkey gravy from Thanksgiving dinner to the family dog, Strange, with disastrous consequences (of course).

Muldoon in Love

Found in the books Rubber Legs and White Tail-Hairs, Never Cry “Arp!” and The Deer on a Bicycle

The lovely Miss Deets’s tenure as third grade teacher was a short one. Her ill-fated idea of Show and Tell began well enough, but when the poor kids brought in their “most interesting possessions,” the end was not far away.

The B’ar

Found in the book A Fine And Pleasant Misery

Rancid Crabtree has a bear in his brush pile and asks Patrick to help get it out. With further assistance from feisty Ginger Ann, they all get more than they expected.

Not Long for This Whirl

Found in the books Rubber Legs and White Tail-Hairs and Never Cry “Arp!”

In the muddy spring of Pat’s sophomore year of high school, Retch Sweeney stops by with Mrs. Peabody. Retch is taking her to her friend’s house and Pat asks to go along and be dropped off at Rancid Crabtree’s shack. They get stuck in the mud and Mrs. Peabody suffers the indignity of Rancid’s rescue.

Faint Heart

Found in the book Into the Twilight, Endlessly Grousing

In third grade, Pat’s teacher, Miss Deets, told the students they had to bring their fathers in to tell the class about their occupations. Since Patrick’s father had died, he convinces Rancid Crabtree to come instead.

My First McManus Story

Cover of book "The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw"

You Never Forget Your First Love

I remember the first McManus story I read. I was 30 years old (I don’t remember those first 30 years as being particularly boring, but without Patrick McManus what a dismal time it must have been). I was at a family reunion and my older brother handed me a book and said, “Here, you need to read this.”

The story was “The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw.” I was immediately struck with Pat’s dry, understated style. He made it seem so easy. I had never read a story that made me laugh so much.

As hysterical as his stories are when you’re reading them to yourself, to get the full effect you need to read them aloud, or listen to them being read. Those who know me know how much I love to read aloud. In my high-school years our family didn’t have a television so I would read out loud every night for our entertainment. I wish I had known about McManus back then.

Later that afternoon when the family was all together I read “The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw” to everyone, as well as “A Really Fine Blizzard” and “Getting it in the Ear.” It seems like I can only read a few out loud at a time ’cause I’m exhausted from laughing.

In the comments below tell us about your first McManus story. How old were you? How did you discover him?

Move to California

Photo of a meadow and tree-covered hills in Coarsegold, California.

A couple months ago my wife and I moved to Coarsegold, California, about a half hour south of Yosemite National Forest. We’re finally settled in and enjoying the change in scenery and exploring the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.

There’s more wildlife here than we saw in suburban Utah. Squirrels and rabbits, of course, blue jays, finches, quail, hawks, deer, and we saw our first tarantula the other day!

I’ll post some of the pictures soon.