He that lives upon Hope, dies
Farting.-- Benjamin Franklin
Poor Richard's Almanac, 1736
When Uncan farted on the foot of the business manager of the National Folk
Ballet of Yugoslavia, I realized for the first time in my life how
maligned and ill-defined an object of the human experience the fart really
is. Until then, I had lived my life believing the fart to be the one thing
in life entirely void of redeeming qualities. But I was wrong, and
discovering that I was wrong was a sobering disclosure of no small import.
Of course, when the curtain of ignorance rises on an enlightenment of this
magnitude, it is the discover's responsibility to share it. First, I make
no claim to an extraordinary intellect for making this discovery. I feel
sure every reasoning being has from time to time contemplated the fart and
arrived at conclusions not dissimilar to my own. Yet, we cannot ignore the
unfortunate fact that few have felt compelled to write about their
excogitations. If memory serves, Benjamin Franklin's views on the fart are
the only ones of real note ever recorded for posterity, not counting, of
course, the uninteresting scientific scribbling of physiologists who
insist upon calling intestinal gas "flatus." To the best of my knowledge,
we have no physiological verb to describe the expulsion of flatus. We seem
to be stuck with "fart!"
Now treatment of the fart as a social force is little in evidence
throughout the annals of literature. And I must confess: subjects so
deserving but so little attended have always offended my sense of justice.
Therefore, I was not in the least surprised that after the Uncan affair I
found myself sharing Dr. Franklin's compulsion, if not his erudition, to
take up pen and witness for the honor of the fart.
Although it is my fondest hope that my narrative will inspire a new
respect for the fart, I am painfully aware that it may turn out to be just
a meaningless polemic on a rank subject, relegated to that shameful heap
of literature that not only is no good, but, in the minds of readers
everywhere, never should have been written in the first place. I cannot,
however, allow myself to be deterred by these cowardly considerations.
This treatise begs to be written, notwithstanding any prospects for
personal achievement and notoriety for having done so.
Moreover, I am satisfied that the fart is the most consistently
unexamined, universal phenomena in history. And even if this humble
treatment of so worthy a subject attains no measure of achievement, it
may, at the least, inspire others to produce something on the subject that
With all that said then, let us proceed by returning to our beginning when
Uncan unashamedly gassed the Yugoslavian foot: ballet had been brought to
our hometown of Waycross, Georgia, by the local Community Concert
Association. Our community theater group, to which I belonged at the time,
had been asked to provide some technical assistance to the touring folk
dancers during their performance, an assignment that had been heartily
embraced and, I must admit, hastily exploited as was our group's wont.
Never guilty of blinking opportunity for profitable social intercourse,
much less the "absolutely marvelous" chance to rub elbows with fellow
artists of such renown, the self-appointed (and now sadly deceased)
matriarch of our group prevailed upon the nearly sixty Yugoslavians to
report to her house following their performance for a cast party. And once
arrived, everyone tried mightily to enjoy themselves despite the
considerable awkwardness at bridging gaps between language, culture, and
Now it so happened that our host and hostess was the proud owner of a
number of dogs of questionable births, one among them whose name was
Uncan, pronounced Unk'an. How this delightful rogue came to be named may
be of some interest in the present context, for, as we shall see
presently, his designation is most appropriate.
I am told the dog had arrived on the premises some years before, ravished,
brutally bloodied, and barely alive, to make his last stand among humans.
Clearly, his choice of humans had been a good one. He was taken in, fed,
cared for, and ultimately given a home and his name, Uncan.
The name was furnished by our hostess's husband, a Scot more than a little
familiar with his native tongue. According to this distinguished gentleman
(who is now deceased also, God rest his soul), the word uncan is a
derivation of the Scottish word unco, which means remarkable,
extraordinary, strange, weird, uncanny and so forth, depending on the
word's usage. Applied to this dog, the word clearly meant all those things
But we are slipping into a digression of little to no relevance to this
narrative. It is mentioned only to help dispel any doubt the reader may be
harboring that this report is founded in truth. Let us then now move ahead
with the story.
As already established, the cast party was being held together by the
thinnest of threads, traveling solely upon the strength of what common
denominators could be discovered among the people of these two nations.
The bonding was precarious and growing worse by the minute. Wherever one
looked there was a marked effort to say and do the right things lest one
be guilty of compromising the honor and integrity of one another's
country. Nevertheless, it soon became quite apparent that everyone had
expended their cache of conversational confidence and a dreaded smog of
agitated disappointment was settling in among the Americans and
But precisely at this moment--during this international affair in
Waycross, Georgia-- that Uncan arrived at the feet of one Alexandar
Fotiric, business manager of the National Folk Ballet of Yugoslavia, and
farted! . . .
It was a superb fart. Magnificent! Crisp, clean and to the point, it was a
thoroughbred fart by any standard. It was a fart so arresting that the
common practice among people everywhere of ignoring it was impossible. In
point of fact, to have even tried ignoring it would have been, for
artists, intolerably dishonest. First, it was audible enough for all in
reasonably close proximity to hear. But its real signature followed its
melodious thunder: a stench so commanding of even the dullest olfactory
sense that no one in the entire house escaped.
Now it was not so much the preeminence of Uncan's fart as it was its
amalgamating affect upon those assembled that has so totally captured my
fancy and inspired this record. For in the span of a moment, thanks to a
wanton dog, all differences melded into similarities, and members of two
very divergent nations realized that the one thing that links them in
humanity, even more so than art, is the fart.
Following Uncan's serendipitous offering, for example, Yugoslavians and
Americans alike suddenly found themselves no longer confronting barriers
to their relationships. Quick and sudden as the fart itself, they found
themselves on common ground, at one with each other in the human race,
each tolerant, respectful, appreciative of the other. They were instantly
at peace, and unmistakably identified with each other. The reason for this
international transmutation was not multifaceted or complex; it was so
because each recognized Uncan's rendition for what it was: a fart! Nothing
more. Nothing less. Consequently, each individual there, regardless of
nationality, race, creed, or politics, came to terms with his or her own
tacit confession--a lifetime of personal farting!
Hearing and smelling and seeing a simple dog's fart bring about this
remarkable linkage between people with so little in common, apart from
their art, brought upon me a revelation of no small import. Now
revelations, as the reader may suspect, rarely come cheaply. The price I
pay for this one is the incumbency of trying to influence the civilized
people of this planet to recognize the potential of the fart for easing
world tensions. I will not go so far as to suggest that the fart is a
panacea for world peace, but as a common ground upon which all men stand
it is virtually without equation. All that is missing is a common
willingness to utilize it as a beginning basis for relationships. For who
can deny, truthfully, that he or she does not experience an immediate
alliance with a fellow being who has just introduced a fart into their
And finally, I am persuaded that my observations and conclusions were
vouchsafed this past week when Michelle Obama met the Queen and left the
world awe struck as it were when the two women went to fondling one
another. As the reader may know it is highly uncustomary to touch the
Queen of England when in her presence. Yet, the Obama First Lady laid her
hand upon the Queen's back and before the affair was ended the Queen and
Michelle were hugging up on one another. As this has never happened
before, I am completely satisfied that either the Queen or Michelle farted
early on in their acquaintance, amply demonstrating in my view the
alliance-making power of the ordinary fart.