The Passing of Patrick F. McManus / Outdoor Humorist

By Don Fine

In reading an Associated Press article recently, I saw an obituary that struck a sad note for me. It announced that Patrick F. McManus, famed outdoor humor columnist passed away on April 13th at the age of 84. For those of a younger generation, or who were not into reading Field and Stream or Outdoor Life, you may never had heard the name; Patrick McManus. But for folks somewhat older (speaking of myself now), his name is revered among those who treasured reading his experiences both on the water and in the field. As a younger man, I regularly subscribed to the above two periodicals, and with each issue looked forward to reading Pat McManus’ columns. Then later in life I read many of his books, “They Shoot Canoes Don’t They” and “Never Sniff a Gift Fish”, and “Rubber Legs and White Tail-Hairs” to name a few. I suppose that many, like myself appreciated Pat’s stories because we all (who hunt, fish or just enjoy being amongst nature), can relate to his wacky tongue-in-cheek tales of a sportsman’s life in the “Great Outdoors”.

On a bad day, Pat McManus could make us laugh at ourselves, and help us remember some of the strange encounters that have had over the years as sportsman or woman in the great outdoors.

Many of us have shared past experiences with our hunting or fishing buddies, some of which related to the odd characters we encountered in pursuit of our favorite pastime. Patrick McManus rekindles our memories by bringing to life a number of such characters; Rancid Crabtree* (a loner living in the woods who only cared about fishing and hunting and has no one telling him to go to school), Milt Thumbscrew, and Retch Sweeney, to name a few. In his article, “My First Deer, and Welcome to It” (They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They), Pat relates to being with Retch Sweeney when the latter shot his first deer. Pat recalls his first impression was that Retch had killed a large jackrabbit, closer examination revealing it to be a large spike buck. In the following paragraph, Pat notes that within a month following, Retch told some of his friends that his first deer was a nice-four point buck.

Perhaps those of you reading this article may recall someone who likewise stretched the truth; was that trout really 21”, did that buck really dress out at 160 pounds? Perhaps my favorite Pat McManus verbiage (and one which I often use when teaching fly tying) goes like this. McManus was once asked, what was the most successful fly that he could recommend to a neophyte fly fisher? McManus quickly replied “an Adams dry fly with a night crawler trailing from the hook”.
Patrick Francis McManus was born in Sandpoint, Idaho on August 25, 1933. His father died when he was six years old. McManus taught journalism at Eastern Washington University, then later gave up teaching when he found that he would make more money as a humorist. Many will miss reading his humor, but I am sure he will be long remembered for his contributions as an outdoor humor columnist.

*The obituary relates that McManus based his character, Rancid Crabtree, on a real person that he found in the hills around Sandpoint as a child.