THIS COUNTRY, THIS world in the last two weeks lost two of the finest people to ever walk the face of the earth.

One, of course, was perhaps the finest first lady this country has ever known in Barbara Bush. No one, not even political enemies of her family, could find harsh words for such a first-class lady and I think it’s fair to say we’re likely not to have another like her in a long, long time.

The other loss was that of a man who was a world-class humorist of the outdoors variety. Pat McManus, who died April 11, at the age of 84, published several books of outdoor humor, many of them featuring real, although often exaggerated, characters who were part of his growing up years in Idaho.

His wonderful stories were featured monthly in several of the leading outdoor magazines over a span of 50 years or so. He wrote novels as well and in total, more than 6 million of his books have been sold. 

McManus was born and raised in Sandpoint, Idaho, on a small farm along the banks of Sand Creek. His father, a World War II veteran, died when McManus was 6 and he was primarily raised by his mother, grandmother and older sister, Patricia McManus Gass, who was affectionately dubbed “The Troll,” by McManus in his many stories.

His characters, whether fictitious or actual persons, were and are hilarious. Of course, he used a sometimes stretched character of himself as the focal point of some stories.

Among my favorite McManus books are “The Good Samaritan Strikes Again,” “Never Sniff a Gift Fish,” “The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw,” “A Fine and Pleasant Misery,” “They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?” and “Real Ponies Don’t Go Oink!”

Characters? You’ve never seen such a wild and wacky cast of characters come to life as Retch Sweeney, Crazy Eddie Muldoon, Al Finley, Rancid Crabtree — oh my, yes, Crabtree — Cousin Buck, Clifford Slick, the much-feared game warden Sneed, McManus’ first childhood girlfriend Olga Bonemarrow, Eddie’s father Mr. Muldoon, his real-life wife “Bun,” his grandmother Gram, his mother and the troll, his aforementioned real-life sister.

Now, even if you have never wet a line on a trout stream, hunted anything, camped or indeed done nothing whatsoever in the outdoors, you will rip your sides out laughing if you ever turn so much as the first page of a McManus book. He was just flat-out funny.

Consider, if you will, the story of his first dog, a dog he said nobody owned; it simply chose to own the McManus family. A lengthy description of Strange, the dog, is found in the story “Strange Meets Matilda Jean,” contained in the book “Real Ponies Don’t Go Oink!”

After noting many dogs lead a life of saving people, foiling criminals and otherwise performing feats of heroic proportions, McManus described Strange thusly “Strange would have welcomed burglars with open arms and stood watch while they looted the house. He enjoyed chasing cows, but only for sport. He never saved anybody from anything.”

McManus went on “He was a connoisseur of the disgusting. He dined happily on cow chips, year-old road kill and the awful offal of neighborhood butcherings. Occasionally, he scrawled his territorial signature on the leg of a complete stranger.”

In the story “A Good Deed Goes Wrong,” he details an adventure in which he and Crazy Eddie Muldoon created a toboggan run down a mountainside past a ramshackle shack in which Crabtree lived. Describing the run, McManus wrote “The trail went over and under logs, and had brush on both sides of it. At least one of the turns was much sharper and if you didn’t make that turn, you would be shot off into space and sail for some time over the valley looking down at tiny cows and cars beneath you.”

Well, Crabtree caught them heading up to the top of their run and deciding they had done something foolhardy and dangerous, he decided to check it out saying “You fool half pints probably invented some new way to kill ‘yersevs.’ ” Long story short, Crabtree decided to make the first run to test out the chute. He crashed, broke a leg and was confined to his shack for several weeks. McManus and Eddie Muldoon, wanting to make an apology, one day hiked up to his shack, found a fresh road kill bobcat along the way and decided to take it to Crabtree to make up for causing his broken leg. They left it in the shack where Crabtree was fast asleep then, waited outside for him to wake up and thank them for their good deed.

Instead, the “dead” bobcat came to life, got in an awful scrap with Crabtree and after chasing Crabtree into his outhouse “walked out the door, gave us a contemptuous glance and went off up the mountain.” There was a little more to the story, but you’ll have to read a copy of “Real Ponies Don’t Go Oink!” to know what it is.

One of my very favorite stories “The Crouch Hop and Other Useful Outdoor Steps,” found in the book “They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?” details how the step is usually performed mid-way through the process of driving in a tent peg with a large flat rock. The individual will suddenly leap up, clamp one of his hands between his thighs and making strange grunting sounds begin to hop madly about the camp. McManus added “I have performed this exercise many times and it does wonders for relieving the pain resulting from a finger caught between a flat rock and a tent peg.”

I’m glad I own many of McManus’ books, though at this time I’m quite glad I am constrained to giving you a small sample of his stories, as I don’t think my still-mending broken ribs would tolerate the laughter that is impossible to contain when reading anything written by McManus.

My advice is go get your own copy of “Real Ponies Don’t Say Oink!” or any other McManus book. Be forewarned, your own ribs will be hurting before you finish the first story.