FARTING AROUND with agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully is something that millions of us would enjoy. That said, I want to call attention to words exchanged in a conversation between with those and former agent Dales in The X-Files episode titled “Agua Mala.” Arthur Dales was the original person in charge of the FBI’s X-Files and is now retired and living in Florida.
His call brought the other two down to Florida during a hurricane. He is explaining the mysterious disappearance of a neighboring family during the storm:
Scully: “Look, Mr Dales, I’m sure that there is good reason for your alarm. I listened to the message that you left for Agent Mulder about your friends.”
Dales: “The Shipleys—a young couple, with a son. Yeah, he lives out on the end of the sand-spit. Sara called me in a panic. She said that something in the house had grabbed Jack, her husband.”
Scully: “In the bathroom, you said?”
Dales: “Yeah, of all places.”
Mulder: “It was your description that caused Agent Scully’s dubiousness.”
Dales: “No—not my description. No—that was Sara’s. She said that it had tentacles, wrapped around her husband’s neck and choking him.”
Scully: “And you have no reason to doubt Ms Shipley’s report?”
Dales: “No. Both she and Jack are marine biologists. Or at least they were. I fear the worst.”
Mulder: “She’s missing, too?”
Dales: “Uh-huh. Yeah. I got on the horn to the local constabulary but they’re about as helpful as a fart in a windstorm. I would have gone out there myself but for my bad hip.”
Mulder: “It’s not a night that anybody should be out in.”
Dales: “Well, I don’t see that there’s a choice. If anyone wants to get to the bottom of all this …”
Scully: “What is it that brought you out here in the first place, Mr Dales?”
Dales: “I came down for the weather. Don’t sneer at the mysteries of the deep, young lady. The bottom of the ocean is as deep and dark as the imagination.”
What surprised me was the use of the word fart. I had never heard it on a television show before!
Granted, I haven’t actively watched television shows in more than forty years, and this episode was first broadcast in early 1999, so I may have missed something along the way.
But for me this was a first: fart was now a part of American television’s words-that-can-be-used-with-impunity!
Of course, it wasn’t the oh-so-reticent Fox Mulder or the protocol-conscious Dana Scully that added fart to the series’ nomenclature!
It was the over-the-hill Arthur Dales, whose age and way with a bottle had made him take a devil-may-care attitude toward authority and propriety (you rascal, you).
My immediate response was that they should have signed actor Darren McGavin to do a pilot for a spin-off show tentatively titled “The F-Files,” just about Fox and Mulder farting around on their days off.
But then, an adolescent response to the breaking of wind is a hallmark of the Umphred siblings—of which I remain the eldest. Even time hasn’t changed that.
I am blessed with a brother (Charles to me and Charlie to everybody else, including you) and a sister (Mary Alice) Way way back when the three of us were knee-high to a grasshopper, our maternal grandmother lived with us. 1
As she was the first really “old person” that we came to know intimately, we did, in fact, come to know her intimately. Including her door-rattling farts in the bathroom.
We had never heard anything like it! We thought them uniquely hers! Ho ho ho, little did we know what time and aging would do to our own bowels.
When confronted about the explosions when she was in the bathroom, she would just wave a hand and lay on the wisdom of the aged and recite in an almost sing-song manner this dictum: “Where’re ye be, let your wind fly free.”
Sounds vaguely Irish …
PS: My original title for this piece was “the first fart is the funniest” in tribute to the Cat Stevens song, The First Cut Is The Deepest. But I didn’t think that even the most diehard oldies fan would get the reference, so I changed it to the title you see above.
1 I am uncertain of the dates but it was definitely after Mr. Peabody had invented the Wayback Machine.