Historians are unsure when man first recognized the concept of “time.”

Perhaps it originated from an oversized Neanderthal with an undersized cranium named Ke (a prehistoric, cave-dwelling Kelley ancestor).

“When are you going to put that club down and build us an outhouse, you lazy no-count excuse for a caveman?” Ke’s wife Oel screamed one day between dinosaur hunts.

“When the moon comes six times,” Ke answered. “And if you ask that question one more time, I’m going to drag you by the hair on your head to the next cave and trade you for that sexy blonde!”

“Oh, yeah! Go ahead! Do you really think that prissy little thing will wash your loincloth twice a year like I do?”

Regardless who was first, it’s clear that “time” has been important from the very beginning.

Cave art left behind by Ke, Oel and other early beings demonstrate their fascination with “time.”

Over the ages some of Planet Earth’s great minds — from Soloman to Plato to Einstein to George W. Bush — have agonized over it.

Diogenes, Galileo, Machiavelli, Dante, Yogi Berra, Lao-tsu, Thomas Edison, Hemingway, members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and countless other intellectuals have sought its meaning, but they all just ended up with a headache and a strange urge to down a 12-pack and a large bag of chips.

It was way back during the revolutionary 1960s that the lead singer of the modern-day Geritol rockers — the Rolling Stones — screamed out the lyrics, “Time! Time! Time! It’s on my side!”

Time. We spend it. Save it. Lose it. Find it. Make it. Serve it. Squander it. Give it. Maximize and minimize it. Yet we — like Yogi and others — have a difficult time defining it.

Some of us have “time” on our hands just to contemplate if “time” has passed us by. Others adhere to a strict “timetable.”

They say “time” flies.

It seems like only last week that the world was anxiously awaiting the dawn of a new millennium. Y2K — the catchy slogan to denote the year 2000 — was dominating the headlines. Y2K nuts were stockpiling enough toilet paper to wipe Illinois, enough bottled water to float a battleship, cases and cases of Pork ‘n Beans and potted meat and enough ammo to overrun a Third World nation. Nothing happened at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2000, but Coors and Budweiser’s distilleries have yet to replenish their inventory.

As the first half of the 21st-century’s decade fades into our rear-view mirror, most old codgers like me wonder where the “time” has gone.

Actually, “time” is one of our deepest mysteries. No one can say exactly what it is. Yet, the ability to measure “time” makes our way of life possible. Because of famed physicist Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, “time” became popularly known as the Fourth Dimension (not to be confused with the musical group, The Fifth Dimension).

Einstein believed under certain circumstances “time” might flow backward. Movies, TV episodes, books and poetry have delved into the science fiction world of “time” travel. The dream of entering a “time machine” and traveling “back to the future” emphasizes our subconscious focus on “time.”

Why is time so important to us? I counted 15 clocks, timers, watches and other assorted timepieces in my home (No two of them offered the exact same time!).

Robert Zimmerman, another handsome musician/songwriter who is popularly known as Bob Dylan, wrote in 1963 that the “times they are a-changing.” Charles Dickens, in his classic novel, lamented that, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Even FDR, in one of his cozy fireside chats on Feb. 23, 1942, warned the nation that “never before have we had so little ‘time’ in which to do so much.”

You might not be able to define it, but during the “time” it has taken to read this, you’ve used it.

No two nanoseconds — like snowflakes — are alike. “Time” comes and goes. A particular segment of “time” will never come again unless time-travel technology is developed one day.

We’re late, early or on time. We work 9 to 5. Some businesses are open 24-7. If we’re lucky we get a 15-minute coffee break and a three-week vacation. There’s 3-minute rice and one-hour photo.

We pay our bills one “time” a month, watch world events in real “time” and bury artifacts for future generations in “time” capsules. Sometimes, we want the day to pass in the blink of an eye. Other “times,” we want “time” to stand still.

Exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve is a “time-honored” tradition in some households. Some of us are a “timebomb” waiting to happen when we are stressed. Others simply fret over changes caused by “Father Time.”

We try to make “time” with our honey, even if she won’t give us the “time of day.” We fill out our “timesheet” if we want to earn “time and a half.” And we don’t escape “time” at a basketball game either because there’s a “timekeeper” running the “timeclock.” “Time” doesn’t even stop when there’s a “timeout.”

When a baby decides to arrive, we yell, “It’s time!”

My uncle is doing “time” because of bad “timing.” He’s not having the “time” of his life because he has too much free “time” on his hands. “You’ll be out in no ‘time!’” I try to cheer him up. “You should have remembered the old slogan, ‘If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.’”

Unlike the Rolling Stones’ haunting lyrics four decades ago, “time” may not be on the side of old geezers like me. But that’s OK. There’s coming a “time” — thanks to a sacrifice made in “time” past — when I will not be controlled by “time.” Eternity is even more difficult to define than “time.”

If “time travel” was available today, I’d jump on the first flight. I’d go back to the 1960s and move to California (By the time the “free love” movement made it to Oklahoma back in the day, it was over!). I’d apply for a patent on bottled water. Everyone would think I was a moron, but I’d be a rich Republican today.

If I could go back in time, I would accomplish two other things: One, I’d have a higher GPA and two, I’d have my face slapped even more times than I did the first time around.

No matter what your religious beliefs, I hope you have a safe and happy season. If you have “time” on your hands, use it wisely. You can never get it back. There’s no “time” like today to help others. It could turn out to be the most profitable “time” you’ve ever experienced.

Another old song by the famed group Chicago asks, “Does anybody really know what time it is?” At my hacienda, it’s anywhere from 5:30 a.m. to 11:27 p.m.