Those intrepid yeomen, Rancid Crabtree, Retch Sweeney, and author McManus, the Mencken of Mud (The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw, 1989, etc.), return in another collection of humorous pieces on hunting, fishing, and wasting time. McManus's patented recreational comedy deals with such mundane matters as fish scalers, used plywood, and scary critters. What follows inevitably is bucolic mayhem, do-it-yourself failure, and rafting on the Tushwallop River. Guest appearances are made by former girlfriend Olga Bonemarrow, Crazy Eddie Muldoon, and Henry P. Grogan and his son, Junior P. Grogan. Of course, there's wife Bun, who likes camping in. ``She likes a little something extra between her and the hard, cold ground, preferably several floors of a luxury hotel.'' McManus carefully builds a house of cards (Jokers), then takes a pratfall or two and knocks the whole construction down in risible catastrophe. Sometimes it's downright frightening. After one episode, Cousin Buck ``had a terrible expression on his face,'' the author tells us. ``I know the expression on my face was almost as bad, because I checked the next morning in the mirror.'' Brave woodsman he may be, but McManus sticks, along with Rancid and Retch, to the old familiar path. Never mind; it's all artfully devised, in an excursion that is as plain as beans and slick as soap, but funnier than either. There's nothing really new or earthshaking in these fey tales of hapless fishermen and numbskull Nimrods. But McManus watchers will want to know that the old rara avis is back in full plumage and chirping away, regular as the seasons.
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