Remember when you were very young and you looked up at a passing jetliner and asked your parents why the engines had long streaks of white “smoke” coming out of them?

Well, I don't either. But it probably happened.

I do recall that somewhere along the line I learned that those long streaks of white are called “vapor trails.”

And I learned that vapor trails — also called “contrails” — are created when the hot, humid air coming from a jet engine rips through the low humidity of frigid temperatures. Sort of a big-boy version of seeing your breath on a cold winter morning.

It is indeed cold up there. When I took a long-distance flight last month, at one point the flight information display on the monitor in front of me said the outdoor temp was minus-63 degrees.

Contrails remain visible longer on some days than others because the humidity of the atmosphere varies. (More humidity makes them last longer.)

You don't exactly need an advanced degree in aeronautics to figure out what contrails are. So it is astounding to me that so many people — even some with college diplomas — don't believe those white streaks are contrails.

They call them “chemtrails.”

Those people honestly believe that commercial airliners and/or military jets are secretly spreading chemicals in the sky, and have been for decades.

What is being spread and why?

Well, depending upon who is pounding on the keyboard in his underwear in his mother's basement, the conspiracy is designed to change the weather, control our minds, manage solar radiation, limit population growth, fabricate global warming stats or kill us off — and sometimes various combinations thereof.

These people are relentless. Four years ago, I wrote a couple of columns making fun of the chemtrail craze. Just last week, a guy from Texas discovered one of those columns online and sent me an email declaring that I was an “idiot” for not understanding the danger all of us are facing.

Well, most of us. Apparently, the people doing the spreading are immune when they return to the ground.

Anyway, my reader said he can speak with authority because his home is solar-powered “so I watch the skies very carefully.” Besides, he said, he grew up around a private airport and his father works as an aircraft mechanic.

“Now, I have no idea why they are doing it,” he wrote, “but they are most certainly doing it. It is very naive of you suggesting otherwise. ... So try doing your homework and find out why!”

We went back and forth a few times because I was having fun. But he stopped responding after I wrote this:

“If this has been going on for decades and has involved thousands of pilots and at least as many people loading up the planes with whatever you think they're loading them up with, why hasn't a single person leaked a word about it? You can't even get everyone in the CIA to keep secrets for that long.”

Not sure whether my words gave him pause or he just figured I was a hopeless case.

Once again we can credit the internet for spreading a fallacy far and wide.

If you Google the term “chemtrails,” you get 4.9 million hits.

If you Google “contrails,” you get a mere 1.9 million hits.

Even if you Google “vapor trails” and add that total to “contrails,” you only get 2.2 million hits, less than half the hits for a bogus phenomenon.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have yet to hear even one of the nation's 140,000 civilian airline pilots identify vapor trails as “chemtrails” without laughing.

But wait! What if I'm wrong?

Maybe, just maybe, all 140,000 pilots are in on this!

I've finally seen the light! Take cover!

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31