I don’t know it it’s true – the idea that most children want to leave home and family to escape constant supervision and caring. I lean toward the “true” side of the question. Why not? Who does not wish to be free and boundless in the world? But then comes dinner time and who takes care of that now? There are other things, but you get my point.

I used to sit in the crown of that wonderful live oak tree on the corner by the house in which I grew up. I spent un-numbered hours in that lofty place on the platform I built there to be away from the world and to be in a world of my own making at the same time. I listened to the sounds of the Kellogg Cracking units about a mile from my perch, in the Standard Oil Refinery. They were the machinery that cooked crude oil until it yielded gasoline, kerosene, motor oil and the many other esters that flashed off at the top of the still.

Sometimes in the evening, after my mother had called for me, I would wait for the sounds of the freight train that chugged out of the refinery at that time to make its way to the world beyond. How I wished to be on that train to anywhere. Those were the war years. I imagined that the gasoline in those tank cars was powering those P–47s and P–38s that flew past my house from Harding Field only a few miles north of my observation post.

There was a time then when I realized that if that war lasted much longer, I would be in it. As it was, my pals and I collected kitchen grease, news paper, scrap metal and other materials that were said to be of value to the war effort. It was a different time. We felt like we were actually a part of the effort. These days, in times of conflict, we rely on General Dynamics, Halliburton, McDonald Douglass and a number of other defense contractors to keep us safe.

I don’t know anybody who is collecting kitchen grease for the Afghanistan war effort. I wonder if it would help. We were told that grease was used to make explosives. I never knew if that was true. We were told that it was important. We were motivated. We were kids. I know i have said it but, we felt, at the time, that we were part of the action.

I am much older now. I have seen wars come and go. Not once since those early 1940s has anyone ever suggested that kitchen grease would help anything at all. I’m not sure it ever did. But it was good for me and my pals. It made us feel like we were making a difference. I’s worth noting that not once did anyone confirm that our effort helped anything. It was, as much as anything, an act of faith. We collected hundreds of gallons of the stuff, by the way. We believed.

We won the war. We found ourselves on the threshold of an age of progress and prosperity. Johnny came marching home again. The world breathed a sigh of relief. Then there was Korea. Then there was Eisenhower. Everybody seemed to like Ike! No one even knew where Viet Nam was.

So, have we learned anything? I mean besides the obvious value of kitchen grease in the larger scheme of things?

You tell me.