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As a kid, the first time I ever had to deal with gasoline prices was in the summer of my fourteenth year.
Never mind what summer that was. It was 1959.
That was the summer my father gave me exclusive use of the family's 16-foot Novi-built, cedar-on-oak skiff with a 10-hp Evinrude outboard.
My father didn't actually use the words “exclusive use” when he gave it to me, but I knew what he meant. He wanted me to have the joys and responsibilities of a boat one whole year before I would get my Maine driver's license and take off in a car for who knows where?
Dad bought me the first tank of gasoline, but all the refills that summer would be my responsibility. I had started cutting lawns and was beginning to learn the power of money.
I can't remember how long that first tank lasted, but I recall that it didn't last as long as I had hoped.
I remember being tied up to Tink Stanley's wharf, waiting for my turn to gas up. I was wondering where that first tank of fuel had disappeared to. I hadn't really been anywhere - a few trips to the harbor and a few trips to some islands. That was it. I promised myself then that I'd be more careful with this next tank of fuel.
Here it is a few summers later, and I'm still wondering where my last tank of fuel went. And now that the purveyors of fuel are getting over $2.74 a gallon for the stuff, the question seems as pertinent now as it was all those years ago at Tink's wharf.
Fact is I do everything that I'm supposed to do to get the best mileage. I keep my car tuned; I check all fluids regularly. I keep my tires inflated to the proper pressure.
OK, I'm lying.
I think of doing all those things and occasionally do some of them when I think of it, but my fuel should still last longer than it does. Shouldn't it?
And while we're on the subject, why does gasoline cost so much?
Ask the average car-driving citizen why gasoline prices are so high and you'll most likely get one of several answers.
“The oil companies are gouging us.” Or they’ll say, “The gas station owners are making all the money,” or “It's the Saudis and OPEC - they're the guilty ones.” They slow down production and - “poof” - up goes the price.” Some will say gasoline is taxed too much and that's why it's so expensive. “Just lower the tax on the stuff and it'll be a lot cheaper.”
Simple enough.
Politicians say they'd like nothing more than to lower the tax on gasoline but they can't.
Why? Well, for one thing the gasoline tax is what they use to build and repair all those smooth-as-velvet roads we drive on, roads that more and more people are using and wearing out.
I went home over the Fourth and heard that Tink's son, Darrel, running the the family business and doing very well. While I was home I drove down to see the new marina and chandlery Darrel built.
As I at there in my car looking at my fuel gauge and wondering where the last tank of fuel went, I couldn't have been happier for Darrel.

John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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