There are, we know, regular woodland verities: the cry of a loon across a lake, the bellow of an elk on a starlit mountain, and various other calls of nature. Add to the list of recurrent natural events the humorous essays of McManus (How I Got This Way, 1994, etc.), the resident clown/scholar of Outdoor Life. McManus is ably supported in his less-than-credible buffoonery and outdoor adventures by a long-running stock company of rubes, including Rancid Crabtree, Eddie Muldoon, and Retch Sweeney. His droll essays remain generally entertaining and slick, though there are some signs of immoderate literary heavy-lifting in his 13th collection. Mountain man Crabtree's hillbilly dialect seems to be thickening sufficiently to double for the vaudeville patois of Dogpatch. There are times when McManus's comic descriptions of hunting and fishing pratfalls seem forced. Readers may be surprised by the more wistful tone of some of the recent tales by our hayseed Hemingway. There is, for example, a sweet elegy on angling for the dream fish. The elegiac tone is most evident in McManus's reveries of his idyllic (if disaster-prone) childhood during the Depression. Judging by the recollections included here, one may reasonably surmise that his childhood resembled that of the ""Little Rascals,"" including a scrappy gang of friends and a nubile teacher with dimpled knees. Only rarely does Pat let a fact get in the way of his musings. One occasion: He was once hired as a university English instructor. That, he hastens to reassure us before we begin to take him too seriously, was ""solely on the basis that I smoked a pipe."" It may be that after another dozen or so books like this, old Pat's cow won't milk any more. Meanwhile, more huntin' and fishin' country humor for old fans and new urban owners of utility vehicles.