As a kid, the first time I ever had to deal with gasoline prices was in the summer of my 14th year. Never mind what summer that was.

OK, 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 mowing-money.

I can’t remember how long that first tank lasted, but I can remember that it didn’t last as long as I had hoped.

I recall being tied up to Tink Billing’s wharf waiting for my turn to gas up, wondering where that first tank of fuel had disappeared to. I hadn’t really been anywhere – a few trips to the harbor, down to port, a few trips to some islands, that was about it. I promised myself then that I’d be more careful with how I burned my 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 more than $3.70 a gallon for the stuff, the question seems as pertinent as it was all those years ago at Tink’s wharf. Maybe even a tad more.

Fact is, I do everything I’m supposed to do, fuel-wise, to get the best mileage. I keep my late-model car tuned. I check its belts, hoses and fluids regularly. I keep my tires inflated to the proper pressure.

OK, I’m lying. I seldom do any of those things.

I think of doing all those things and occasionally do some of them when I think of it. But my fuel should still take me further 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. They’re always to blame for something.” Or, “The gas station owners are the ones doing it. They’re making all the money,” or, “It’s the Saudis and OPEC and the frackers. They’re all in on it somehow. They slow down production and – poof – fuel prices go through the roof.”

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 roads of velvet you like 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 is doing very well with the family business. He built a huge marina and chandlery, and so I drove to the water to see it.

As I sat there in my car looking at all the boats lined up for fuel, I glanced at my fuel gauge and wondered where my last tank of fuel went. I couldn’t have been happier for Tink’s son.

John McDonald is the author of five books on Maine, including “John McDonald’s Maine Trivia: A User’s Guide to Useless Information.” Contact him at [email protected]

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