Fishing and hunting funnyman Patrick McManus passed away last night. He was 84.
A true Northwest gem, McManus wrote for national magazines, and his works were compiled into beloved books.
“This is the departure of a legend. Pat will be as synonymous with Outdoor Life’s later years as Jack O’Connor was with its middle years,” wrote Andrew McKean, former editor of OL, on Facebook this morning. “As a writer, he was funny, irreverent, wickedly naughty, and his collection of characters will endure in our hunting camps and imaginations for generations. As a man he was kind, thoughtful, and unfailingly polite. One of my most memorable jobs upon joining OL was editing Pat’s words, and later working with him to deliver his annual holiday-season column after he ‘officially’ retired. RIP, PM”
I owe a debt of gratitude to McManus too. As a lad, I poured over A Fine and Pleasant Misery, They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They, Never Sniff a Gift Fish, and The Grasshopper Trap and used them as inspiration in trying my own hand at telling tales of my times afield.
Encouragement from family led me to write more and more, and pretty soon it got out of control, and well, here we are today.
McManus grew up in North Idaho surrounded by females, not unlike I did after my parents divorced and my sisters, mom, dog and I moved in with my grandmother.
His youth provided the cast of characters that salted and spiced up his outdoor stories, people like mentor Rancid Crabtree and friend Retch Sweeney. My favorite story of all was the one about his first deer, which he lashed to his bicycle — only the buck wasn’t actually dead yet.
Despite reportedly failing the first English class he enrolled in at Washington State University, McManus eventually graduated from my alma mater and went on to teach at Eastern Washington University as well as began writing for various magazines.
He may not have been the best hunter or angler out there, but according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, over his lifetime his books — which included a fictional series — sold more than 5 million copies.
Along with a Distinguished Faculty Award from EWU, in 1986, McManus won Outdoor Writers of America’s highest honor, the Excellence in Craft award.
“Pat McManus is not a ‘funny writer.’ He is a highly intelligent craftsman who milks and molds a situation for the desired effect,” wrote Spokane outdoor writer Alan Liere in a perspective for OWAA. “Each sentence is carefully crafted to this end. Each word is judged for potential effect. McManus can make anything humorous.”
As I grew older and my reading tastes changed from McManus and Jim Kjelgaard to Hunter S. Thompson, so too did my writing, but I’ve always tried to incorporate humor where appropriate.
Liere’s piece on McManus for OWAA is wrapped around a lunch the two enjoyed, and Liere closes with this thought as they exit the restaurant:
“Did I buy?” [McManus] grinned as he climbed in his car. “In that case, you owe me.”
I closed the door and rapped a goodbye on the front fender. “Do I ever,” I thought.