The Science Experiment

The Science Experiment

In 1973, my Dad lived in a more rural area outside of El Paso, Texas. This meant some people had outhouses rather than indoor plumbing. My Dad and his friend Roberto were always told that people shouldn’t smoke when they’re near the outhouse. This was because if you smoke, it’ll make all the farts in the outhouse explode. To these early teen boys, this was enough to pique their interest. 

How could farts make an outhouse explode? Was it just an old folklore like La Llorona made to scare them or would something actually happen if there was a fire near an outhouse? The best way to determine if this was fact or fiction was to try it for themselves. So, they conducted a science experiment. 

Roberto made sure to eat a lot of beans the day before and that day. Around noon they were ready to test out this folklore. Roberto felt that particular rumble in his stomach, so he bent over, looking back between his legs while my Dad lit the match and held it close to Roberto’s butt. Roberto let out a big fart and sure enough, a huge flame came out. My Dad jumped back and probably would have had his eyebrows burned off if he hadn’t. Roberto and my Dad laughed harder and longer than they could have imagined. 

Manuel Patiño, my dad, 1976. Two years after this science experiment

Their science experiment was complete. Farts will, in fact, catch on fire.

Surprisingly, Roberto did not end up becoming a scientist. Instead, he became a priest.

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