KEVIN TATE: Jet contrails leave tempting paths to anywhere



The sky was the kind of bright, mid-winter blue that hurts your eyes, sometimes because it shows you more than you can stand to see.

The sun lay along the horizon before us, screened by stands of tall pine as we wound our way home along the Natchez Trace that afternoon. The Boy sat in the passenger seat, quietly watching the world go by.

“What makes the smoke trail behind some airplanes?” he asked, and I gave him the full condensation rundown. I told him how conditions like weather and altitude make the trails appear or not, or make some last longer than others. I talked about how eventually they all fade away. He took that under advisement and thought a bit longer.

“Why are some of them different colors?” he asked, and I talked about the way the light from the setting sun casts them in red and orange and gold.

“Where are they going?” he asked, and I told him they’re going everywhere. Anywhere. Nearly any place he could think of big enough to have an airport. Places deep in the mountains or far across deserts, across oceans to different continents, to islands with sandy beaches or frozen places deep with snow. Places where the people speak different languages, spend different sorts of currency, pursue dreams we can never know in countless places we’ll never be.

He said he wanted to go to those places and see those things and I encouraged him to do so, but told him no one can go everywhere.

“I can,” he said, and left it at that. Undoubtedly he’ll someday try, someday when overseeing his homework and stopping arguments with his sister are just memories for me.

Like high contrails, I constantly remind myself these days are like a thin vapor, barely here now, and all too quickly gone.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.