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?

14 thoughts on “My First McManus Story”

  1. I couldn’t tell you my first story. At the hunting lodge we went to when I was a boy, they had a stack of Outdoor Life magazines and they had McManus stories in the back.

    I know I read the Belcher there, and there was also a Rancid Crabtree story where he came to school to talk to the class about his ‘job’. But there were others I can’t recall right now.

    Years later, I found the collections and started snapping those up. But my first exposure was, shall we say, in the wild. A few years ago, I e-mailed McManus and told him this. And the unvarnished truth: He helped me get a deer. I brought an outdoor life up into the stand, and was in the middle of reading it when it occurred to me I better check a couple of times. I did, and got myself a nice 120-pound doe.

    I don’t hunt these days. The hunting lodge’s leadership drove a few people away with some favoritism behavior, and reacted by upping the fees so their income (which mostly went to the upkeep of the place) stayed constant. But a few more couldn’t afford the fees, so they had to go elsewhere, and then we couldn’t afford the fees, so we had to go, too.

    I miss that old hunting lodge sometimes–the three bedrooms of bunkbeds, the awesome breakfasts my father made there, the company in the evenings–they were a sociable bunch of rascals, and kind to a boy from the age of six to the age of 18 or so, when I knew them.

    And I miss the stack of hunting magazines. Maybe one day I’ll find another place, and stock it with a pile of McManus books. And the membership can bag deer because deer come out to hear what that loud cackling sound is up in the tree stand, because OBVIOUSLY that can’t be a hunter….

  2. The first Patrick McManus story I hear was “My Stone Age” It was in Field and Stream. I’ve never seen it in any collection. I was suffering from after Baby Blues and would escape to reading anything I could get my hands on. (That’s why I picked up my husbands hunting magazine when I hate hunting) After that story I made sure my husband always had a subscription to Field and Stream and then Outdoor Life.

  3. The first McManus story that I can remember reading was the Chick-a -nout Narrows. And it was shortly after finishing a “Fine and pleasant misery”that I realized that many of the stories that McManus wrote about his youth were very similar to my own experiences as a boy. It formed an instant kinship to Patrick even though I have never met the man.
    I have read every story that has been published since, and particularly love listening to audio versions on my fishing and hunting trips.

  4. To my recollection, the first McManus story that I remember was read to me by my older brother was Tenner Shoes. Before that I thought that all literature was boring. That was back when he was still writing for Field and Stream. Then I lost track of him for a while until I discovered that my high school library had a collection of Field and Stream and Outdoor Life. I spent many a spare moment reading them there in that sanctuary of knowledge. Then one day I was called upon to account for my lack of book reports. I wasn’t going to be able to graduate sophomore English without enough pages. My teacher, who was known around school to be especially evil, asked me if I had read anything at all. I told her that I had read some articles in Field and Stream and Outdoor Life in the library. She asked me about how many and how many pages they would make in a regular novel. I surmised 5 of 6 and I’d read about 30 of them. That was good enough. I wrote a paragraph on each one and she called it good. The rumors about here were evidently exaggerated. Years later, as I was teaching English as a foreign language I would use his stories to help enrich my students’ vocabulary. Bless him.

  5. My first McManus story was discovered around the age of about six, maybe seven? I was an avid reader at an early age. My parents were working to complete their McManus collection at the time, and my father had left their most recent acquisition on his chair arm in the living room. Normally I wasn’t interested in what the adults might be reading, but then I also wasn’t accustomed to seeing my typically austere father smile so much at a book. So I investigated this magic book, “The Grasshopper Trap.” The first story in the book was “The Skunk Ladder.” Needless to say, when my parents found me two hours later, already halfway through the book, we had the “do not try this at home or when we visit the farm” talk. Dad wasn’t even mad I’d lost his place in the book, nothing short of a criminal offense in both mine and my parents’ households to this day. I was an instant McManus fan, and later in life it remained common ground between my parents and I.

  6. I think the first story for me was called Wild Things. I’m going back 35 or so years when I as 14 or 15 years old so forgive me if I’ve got the name wrong. My uncle used to photo copy them from the magazines while at the library of university he was attending, and bring them home. He would read them to me aloud. I can remember many a time both of us laughing until tears were rolling down our faces. I can’t remember the story name, but I vividly remember him describing the signs of a heart attack in one of his stories, and it turned out to be this horse he hated biting him in the shoulder. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much.

    1. Thanks for sharing Craig. I think the story you’re looking for that mentions symptoms of a heart attack is titled “Edgy Rider,” found in the book Never Sniff a Gift Fish.

  7. My first story was the Bear in the Attic. I actually heard it on audiobook. The narrator was Norman Dietz who is known for his great performances with Twain’s works. Between Dietz narrating style and Patrick’s writing I was in stitches. This resulted in me purchasing The Night the Bear ate goomba, Real Ponies don’t go oink, the grasshopper trap, how I got this way, rubber legs and white hair tails, never sniff a gift fish, and the good Samaritan strikes again. Each title has stories that are a “pick me up” that I can listen to countless amounts of times. McManus works help me to calm down and actually help me with anxiety control (especially during this pandemic). A really fun part of my life would be missing had I not discovered it.

  8. Hi All

    My first remembrance of Pat McManus was around I guess 1986 ish. I was at one of my best friends ( then and now). He was reading something and then just bursting out loud laughing, snorting, ( as McMAnus might add chortling or even a guffaw in there). It definitely got my attention. Mostly bc 16 yo boys don’t read and also that he was truly laughing his guts out. I asked who it was and the rest is history. 35 years later. I want to say it was the one where the deer was strapped to the bicycle.

  9. Hey,

    I in my mid teens and bored one afternoon, so I decided to rifle through my dad’s office. He had A Fine and Pleasant Misery by the printer so I picked it up and read some. It was hilarious! We grew up doing outdoors stuff a lot and I live on a ranch now and still enjoy the outdoors so always identified with Pat. I loved his vocabulary and sense of humor. I emailed him and even got a response (still have this email saved) so bought several autographed books after that and have read all of his works. His mysteries are pretty good as well.

    Thanks for working on an index for all these great stories! My dad was just asking me where the story about Pat falling onto Strange was at so I found this while searching for it.

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