On Tuesday, Oct. 22, the OMOTM met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, with another ride through the autumn colors of the Hilltowns. As many OFs put it, there is no need to ram all over the Northeast to see spectacular displays of fall colors splayed out against the hillsides. All it takes is a short ride into the hills that form the Hudson and Mohawk valleys, and all the color of nature is spread like a quilt before the eyes of the traveler.
Although one OF said that heading for Vermont or New Hampshire to capture the views is a good reason to travel someplace. It gives an excuse just to get away and visit some gift shop to pay 50 bucks for something that is available at Wal-Mart for a couple of bucks, but it is fun to escape.
That is one of the many reasons the OFs escape to the Hilltown Café, just to get away and have a great breakfast doing it.
To follow that same train of thought, the OFs talked about relaxing. That is a frequent occurrence with the OFs; relaxing is not a problem with them.
One thing they know is how to relax. Some are so relaxed that, when found in their chair doing just that, the finder is ready to call Digger Odell, but occasionally the chest of the OF heaves up and down and the finder realizes that the OF is just relaxed.
Then there are the few OFs who said they have trouble relaxing because they are so wound up with what to do next, and sometimes family problems are so pressing that relaxing seems to be out of the question.
Some OFs maintain that the rocking chair will do them in. They have to be doing something, and not just anything, but something with value. Some still work, many volunteer, and some have hobbies that require lots of concentration and are not completed in a day or so.
Others are stress free. These OFs seem to be in a constant state of relaxation. The outcome of both of these conditions — wound tight or stress free — is that both (as far as the OFs go) have contributed to pretty darn good long lives.
As one OF said, “Why am I supposed to believe some snot-nosed kid telling me how to live long? For crying out loud,” the OF continued, “I am 87 and still going strong, and this specialist who is still in diapers is so worried about me living long that he will be standing in line when he is only 50 years old with all the other ‘tell them how to live’ 50-year-old people, at the pearly gates waiting for them to open in the morning.”
The OF raved on about how this same 50-something at the pearly gates will be looking down at us OFs below. While his grave is being dug by some retired OF who has had fried eggs, bacon, hash browns with gravy, toast and black coffee for breakfast, the 50- year-old at the gates just had half a grapefruit, a glass of water, and dry toast for breakfast, and died on his morning run.
“Nature gone berserk”
The OFs were wondering how much more we can take from under the Earth before the Earth starts collapsing on itself.
As one OF mentioned, “The crust becomes so thin that the magma breaks through and creates volcanoes and mountains where cities once were.”
Nature abhors a vacuum, so, when all the oil is pumped out, what fills the space? When all the coal is mined, what fills the space? Does water rush in, and from where?
One OF mentioned all these sink holes that are cropping up. What made the hole that they are sinking into?
One other OF said he thought these sink holes have been evolving forever, only, with real-time communications and the ability to report happenings from just about anyplace on the globe, we are now hearing about them more.
“Yeah, but,” one more OG alleged, “that is not what the problem is because, years ago, no one was taking the stuff from under the ground; the wheel hadn't even been invented yet.”
To which the other OF responded, “Maybe not when you were around, but the wheel was around when I was.”
“That’s right,” a third OF joined in, “but the wheel when you were around didn't have a hole in it yet.”
One OF mentioned all these offshore oilrigs. He exclaimed, “I hope they are pumping water back in where the oil was because, if that hole caves in and the ocean rushes in and meets the molten magna, man! That will be some display of nature gone berserk.”
Still working at 80
Generally, the OFs meet on Tuesday morning at the next restaurant in line; however, this week, many of the OFs met twice. The OMOTM met again on Wednesday at Mrs. K's in Middleburgh to help celebrate Loretta's (the proprietor of Mrs. K’s restaurant) 80th birthday.
Not only were the OMOTM there but half the county as well. (This scribe has maybe let the cat out of the bag, maybe Loretta does not want everyone to know she is 80. Oh well, there were so many people there, it definitely is not a secret.)
Many OMOTM showed up to help Loretta celebrate. Loretta was a high school classmate of some of the guests and some of the OFs. When asked when she was going to retire, she replied she is not going to retire — she enjoys the work and the people. As long as she can do the work, she will be at the restaurant. Congratulations.
Those OFs who we able to make it to the breakfast at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and grateful that none of the restaurants have thrown us out, yet, were: Ken Hughes, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Bill Keal, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Bill Krause, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Andy Tinney, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zadle, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Gerry Chartier, and me.
Oh my! It is Tuesday again and there might be 52 of them a year, so it should not come as a surprise but for some reason it quite often does.
On Oct. 15, it was a Tuesday and the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont. The Old Ladies of the Mountain could get to together and start a weekly breakfast and give a report on what they talk about — the comparison would be interesting.
The OFs wonder if they would be part of any discussions. Maybe, as one OF put it, we are flattering ourselves. Since we don't talk about them, why should they talk about us?
It may be unusual but ladies don't come up very often with the OFs, nor does much foul language. Hmmm, could that be because there is a significant drop in testosterone in this group?
The eyes have it
Many of the OFs have had and do have eye problems, or situations. They are not going blind; it is just age.
Cataracts, dry eyes, glaucoma, detached retinas, and wandering eyes (different wandering eyes than when the OFs were between the ages of 13 and 14 to 40, although some still have that young-age affliction). Most of these aliments require putting eye drops in the eyes.
One OF said he has his wife do it, another said he does it himself, one said he sits down, another standing up, another lying down. One OF said the manufacturers of the eye-drop solutions make their money more on the amount that runs down the OF’s cheek than what goes in the eye.
The techniques are different also. One OF said he just tips his head back and squirts the drops right in, while another said he puts the drop on the side of his nose, then tips his head and the solution runs in.
The one who has his wife put it in for him said he holds his eye open while his wife squirts it in. This OF says that he has to hold his eye open or it blinks shut and all the eye-drop solution does is get on his eyelid.
On OG said that his opthamolic solution is wetter than water; his eye doctor told him that a duck can't swim in this stuff because the duck would sink.
One OF thought about the artist on TV who draws paint up his nose, and squirts it out his eye to make the painting. The question was, how did this screwball ever figure out he could do this?
One OF said, now that this is out, how many people are going to try and duplicate this because these paintings (which look like so much scribble) are selling for big bucks.
Another OG wondered not that he can do this, but who are the nutcases that buy this junk? To which one OG replied, each to his own thing; so what if they have the money, at least they will have a neat conversation piece.
The OFs discuss the following topic quite often, and it generally follows an event that happens to one or more of the OFs on their way to the restaurant — and that is driving.
Tuesday, not only one group of OFs, but two groups, were cut off by inattentive drivers. Both drivers were not stopping for stop signs, and, in one case, not even slowing down. In that case, not only did the OFs just avoid the errant vehicle, but so did a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. If that connection of three cars ever happened, the jerk shooting out of the side road would have been double T-boned.
One OF commented, “Where did they get their license? At Woolworths?”
Now, to the OFs, that meant something, but to many in today’s world that doesn't mean diddle-dib. Who was Woolworth? For that matter who was Montgomery Ward, or W.T. Grant, or J.J. Newbury? What is a Packard, or Studebaker, or even a Kaiser? The name Woolworth just came out from the mouth of the OF.
Today it would be Wal-Mart, and that would be about it. To shop like the OFs were once able to do is gone.
The OFs once could go to Montgomery Ward on Broadway in Menands, and purchase anything from a tractor, to socks and underwear, to toys and camping gear. Even more — from plumbing supplies, to top-quality tools, from barbed wire to fence posts, from fishing poles to shotguns, from medical supplies to furniture and appliances, all in the same store.
If it wasn't there in the store, there was always the catalogue department where the OF was able to pick out what he needed. After placing his order, the OF had to hang around and wait for his number to be called from the cavernous warehouse and then the OF would go pick it up.
While waiting, it was possible to run across to the White Tower and get a hamburger, or, if the OF wanted to go fancy, he could go to the restaurant in the store.
Shopping then was a trip and an experience that the whole family looked forward to.
“Now,” as one OF said, “Shopping is a chore.”
“And,” another OF added, “it was possible to get a hunting license at either Montgomery Ward, or Sears and Roebuck.”
Woolworth had its food counter and all those tropical fish and fish tanks. Again, one OF said, “Whatever really did happen to Randolph Scott?”
“Times change,” an OG said. “Now we are stuck with Wal-Mart; about the only fun store left is Tractor Supply.”
The OMOTM has one of it members in the hospital at the time this is being written. The OFs wish him a speedy recovery and that he comes back to the fold soon.
This OF being in the hospital brought up discussions on how hospitals are also changing to "keep up with the times.” The OFs can (kinda) understand this situation with how expensive it is becoming to stay in the hospital, and the expenses they incur.
Sometimes banding together is a good thing. Farmers try it all the time but farmers are independent people and it never really quite works.
“Doctors are banding together in groups,” one OG said.
He thinks that one of the major contributors to this banding in the medical profession is because insurance companies are forcing the issue since everything is getting so complicated that someone who has an individual practice has to hire a Philadelphia lawyer just to keep up with the paperwork, so much so that the poor individual doctor has no time left for doctoring.
“Then,” an OF added, “it could be the malpractice law suits, and insurance for that which pushes the medical bills way up too.”
“Boy,” one OG said, “chase anything down and, when you get to the bottom, it is always the money — too much or not enough.”
Those OFs who lumbered into the Home Front Café in Altamont for this week’s breakfast and were making plans to go shop at the fun place were: Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Henry Witt, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gary Porter, Bill Krause, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Paterson, Jim Heiser, Andy Tinning, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Henry Whipple, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Joe Loubier, Gerry Chartier, and me.
Tuesday, Oct. 8, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. Maybe the OFs have mentioned this before, but people going to work in the early spring and early fall and traveling east on Route 20, must have a difficult job with the sun in their eyes on an especially bright fall day. There are times in the morning when going that way, the sun catches your eye as you crest a rise in the road and the driver becomes blinded for a few seconds.
One OF said he had this experience and he could not even see the windshield of his own car, and that was with the visor down and sunglasses on. Heaven forbid there is anything or anybody in the road at that time.
One OF asked if anyone is ready for Halloween, and the OF received the standard OF reply, "Yep, I have my mask on already."
Another OF chimed in, "I'm going trick-or-treating naked so I can get my year’s supply of candy, and no one knows I am naked; they think it is a great costume and I get great stuff."
One OF asked, “Isn't Halloween a little cold to be running around naked?"
"That’s the point," the OF said, "The colder the better and, with all my wrinkles, scars, warts, and bumps, and a pair of clod-hoppers, tie, and a hat everyone thinks it is a cool get-up."
“You are going to get arrested, you old coot."
"Nah, won't happen; I just hit up relatives," the OF replied.
Besting the boss
Most of the OFs are retired from whatever. One of the topics that came up Tuesday morning was former bosses.
Some bosses were good; some a pain in the butt. The bosses we remembered the most were the ones who were not that popular. The OFs were relating stories on how they got, not actually even — but maybe in a way it was — with stunts the OFs pulled on the bosses that were pains.
Some of these stunts were quite clever, but some of the OFs just smiled and, come to find out, they were bosses at one time or another, or business owners — not the bosses in question because there was no correlation between the OFs even working together or for the same companies that these OFs did when they were bosses.
This led the conversation into talking about different kinds of people. With the conversation going down this path, the phenomenon of aura appears to have some credence of being real.
OF One can meet an OF Two for the first time and instantly not like OF Two, but OF Three can meet OF Two for the first time and instantly take a liking to OF Two. Bring in OF Four, and he can tolerate OFs One, Two, and Three, but really likes the new guy, OF Five. OFs One, Two, Three, and Four, all like the new OF Five. This is aura.
This is what happens with bosses. When the auras don't mesh, these bosses become real pains in the neck to the one that doesn’t click.
Then again, some bosses are just bums regardless of the aura. The OFs were talking about one boss that some knew because they had worked for him and others knew him more or less (the emphasis is on less) socially and the consensus of opinion of the OFs was that the guy was a jerk.
The question became how someone like that gets to be a boss; now that the OFs are retired they can look back more objectively. The OFs agreed that most of the decisions this boss made were right, whether they liked it or not.
Then there are those bosses who are in charge that don't know a darn thing. The workers are continually covering up for their boss’s mistakes; one OF said he had to cover up the mistakes or lose his job. The OFs agreed this makes for a tough work environment.
The OFs had trouble knowing how this character (to them) got his job because nothing he did was right. The OFs attributed this to cronyism. This particular boss was in cahoots with his boss, and the workers are caught between a rock and a hard place.
“Boy,” one OF said, “I am glad I am retired now and all I have to contend with is the wife, and with that boss I am always wrong — even when I am right, I am wrong.”
The OFs took up the subject of making plans with the family and how nerve-wracking this can be especially when the plans involve weddings. The logistics of getting everyone to a family event and not hurting anyone's feelings is hard. It is harder than working for a miserable boss.
One OF said, “Don't get involved; that is women's work.”
Another OG said, “That is my motto, too. I go where I am told, when I am told, and get what is on the list.”
One OF said he chauffeured his wife to one of these planning events with the other ladies and, instead of just dropping her off and going to the nearest bar, he went in with the planning group.
The OF said that they seemed to be in a real quandary and he offered what he thought was a simple solution and the OF said, “I might just as well have thrown a hornet’s nest in the middle of that group. Retreat was the better part of valor so I got out of there.”
Those OFs who retreated to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, just to escape whatever and be among those of like aura, were: John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Karl Remmers, Frank Pauli, Steve Kelley, Roger Shafer, Henry Witt, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Bill Keal, Ken Hughes, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Harold Guest, Ted Willsey, Rich Donnelly, Jim Rissacher, Bob Lassome, Joe Loubier, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey (with daughter Amy), Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.
The match between the Albany and Schenectady chess club is one of the highlights of the Capital District chess calendar, and a good cross section of the Capital District chess community participates. Since several strong players are members of both clubs, and it is common for “ringers” from Rensselaer County or Saratoga to play for one club or the other, winning the match does not confer significant bragging rights, and the match is usually a very friendly affair.
This year, the match was contested on Oct. 3 on 11 boards at a time limit of 90 minutes per player for the game. Albany ended a two-year drought by winning the match, 6-5.
Last year, Schenectady was propelled to victory by sweeping the top four boards, 4-0. This year, Albany, scored 4-1 on the top five boards to secure the match win. Five of the six players who competed in the finals of the Schenectady championship participated in the match: two played for Albany (Mike Mockler and myself) while three played for Schenectady (Dave Finnerman, Carl Adamec, and Carlos Varela). Mockler, Finnerman and myself, as well as Cory Northrup, Bill Little, and Jon Leisner are members of both clubs.
The Board One match-up between Albany’s Dean Howard and Schenectady’s Peter Michelman was very even for 15 moves when Michelman made a very weak move, which permitted a winning attack.
The games on Board Two (Jeremy Berman – Carl Adamec) and Board Three (Gordon Magat – Jon Leisner) were described by Eastern New York Chess Association blogger Bill Little: “Careful play by both sides [led] to logical draws.”
On Board Four, Mockler and Schenectady Champion played a complicated game, typical of their usual match-ups; this time won by Mockler.
I won an interesting game against John Phillips on Board Five (see below). On Board Six, Bill Little, playing Black, established equality fairly quickly, and the game was drawn.
On Board Seven, Bill Townsend (who also directed the match) won a Rook for a Bishop, and held on to win against Glen Perry. On Board Eight, Zachary Calderon defeated Cory Northrup.
On Board Nine, Mike Laccetti, rated 1625, almost upset Carlos Varela, rated 1839; Laccetti was up a piece when his clock ran out and he forfeited. On Board Ten, a rapidly improving Tom Clark drew Schenectady President Richard Chu.
Finally, on Board 11, Albany President Arthur Alowitz defeated Joel Miranti, rated 500 points lower. Last year, Schenectady’s large rating advantage on the lowest board gave the club a relatively easy point: This year, Albany had the edge.
Phillips – Henner
1. d4 f5, 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. c4 d5 5. Nf3 Nbd7 (c6 is more common) 6. cd (0-0 is probably better) ed 7. 0-0 Bd6 8.Nc3 c6 9. Qc2 Ne4 10. Nd2 Ndf6 11. f4? (The position had been pretty even — now Houdini says Black is up 0.3 because the Knight on e4 can not be dislodged) 0-0 12. Nf3 N:c3 13. bc Ne4 14. Ne5 Qc7 15. c4 Be6 16. c5 Be7.
According to Houdini, White is now slightly better. 17. a4 I had been expecting Bd2, and considered offering a draw soon thereafter. The advanced knights cancel each other, and I thought it would be difficult for either side to make any progress. a4 may be OK, but I thought I had some play now.
Qa5 18. Rb1 Rab8 19. Rd1 Houdini says White still is up .2, but the fireworks are about to begin. I had been threatening to play Qd2 or Qc3, and try to infiltrate White’s position. Both John and I thought Black had an initiative, and John thought a long time before playing Rd1.
After the game, he wondered if there were any good moves for White here. While he was thinking, I analyzed my reply, and concluded that Rd1 loses for White – as it turns out I was wrong. I thought for about ten minutes and played Nc3, and after 20. Bd2, I immediately responded with N:e2+.
Now Houdini says that White is up 1.7! After 21. Kf2 N:d4 White is down two pawns, but both John and I had missed 22. Qa2 Q:c5 23 Bb4,where White regains material and keeps the advantage. But after 22. B:a5 N:c2 23. Nd3 (I had expected Bc7, which may be a little stronger) Bd8 (23..Na3 was significantly better, because 23 ..Bd8 permits White to minimize the damage with 24. B:d8). 24. Bc3 d4 Black is up two pawns and has a positional advantage – Houdini says Black is up 2.1).
25. Bd2 Bf6 26 Ba5? Ne3 27. Re1 Bd5 (Bc4 was stronger) 28. B:d5 N:d5 29. Re6 Kf7 30. Rd6 Rfe8 31. Nb4? (this is a very bad move – but it creates a lot of complications and we both had less than ten minutes to play. The correct response, which puts the game away is Nc3. I suspected as much during the game, but didn’t have the time to calculate everything, so I played the safe Be7 32. Rd7 Ke6, and after one last desperate try: 33. N:c6 K:d7 34. N:b8 R:b8 35. Rb5 Kc6, White resigned.
On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the first day of the new month, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. It takes about an hour for the OFs to dribble in.
This is a good thing because, by the time the latecomers arrive, some of the early birds have flown the nest. This makes room in the restaurants, and the waitresses and the cooks do not have to get 25 to 30 breakfasts ready all at once.
This scribe was perusing his notes for the OMOTM report and thought it might be interesting to list what he has on his little 3- by 5-inch notebook. The notes start out like this: dreams, dying, sunrise, farming, roadside farm stands, construction, getting dressed, slept in house, weather, Wal-Mart, prices of groceries and gas (again, where the best place is to buy it) — and those are just some of the topics.
At least the ones this scribe put notes to — on paper — because this scribe was running out of room on his little pad. Now to try and relate what these notes pertain to.
The note on getting dressed referred back to a discussion the OFs had about when they were younger how they threw on what they were going to wear in about 90 seconds. Now, it is completely different.
The shower takes some of the time but for some reason this process seems shorter than when the OFs were younger, but this is the only process that does seem to be shorter. The OFs stand at the end of the dresser with their shorts in their hands and wiggle around a bit — doing a little dance to get the first leg through without falling over.
OK — the OF is that far, then he leans against the wall or dresser and thinks a little bit, then flings his other leg up, gets this leg through the leg hole in the shorts, and now the OF is ready to hike the shorts up, and he finds they are on backwards!
The fly is to the rear. It is going to be one of those days.
Then the undershirt is pulled over his head and back, and it gets all balled up and won’t pull down, so, after the exercise of the shower, the OF now has the exercise of tugging at the shirt with considerable force to get it down. OK!
Now all the OF has is shirts, pants, socks, and shoes to complete the ensemble and the OF looks at this pile of fabric and leather like they are an enemy. However, the OF is ready to attack each one with abandon and win these battles even if it takes half the morning.
It seems that, not long ago, this scribe reported on one OF building a new home and the wet weather causing problems getting things done. That was early summer.
At Tuesday morning’s breakfast, this OF reported that Monday night he and his wife slept in their new house. It is finished and most all the furniture is moved in and they are ready to go.
They will now celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in their new home. That must be a great feeling. Everything is new — no more leaky faucets, or having an old furnace conk out, or old storm doors that don't shut.
But just wait; there are bugs in that new home waiting to pop up that will need to be attended to. No matter how new a place the OFs move into, the first things to be moved are the OF’s tools.
The OFs talked about their dreams, and along with that — sleeping. A couple of the OFs have gone through the sleep studies for sleep apnea.
One OF stuck it out for two days, and one gave up in just a couple of hours. The one that stuck it out said these studies worked great and he now sleeps well at night. The other OF says he still wakes up early, but to this OF that is a good thing because he gets a lot done in the wee hours of the morning.
Both these OFs said being involved in these studies is quite a process, i.e., trying to sleep with wires stuck all over your head. Some OFs say they take a sleeping aid to go to sleep, while others claim they are asleep before their heads hit the pillow.
Some of the OFs said they dream some real nasty stuff and don't like their dreams; others said they are just dreams, and some say they don't dream at all. Well, they probably do dream but just can't recall the dreams.
One OF mentioned that, suddenly, he started having dreams that were so bad he was afraid to go to sleep at night. This OF said that, at one of his bi-annual check-ups at the cardiologist, he happened to mention this just in passing.
The cardiologist said, oops, don't take another pill (now the OF couldn't remember which pill it was) and the cardiologist replaced the pill with something else and the dreams stopped immediately. This OF suggested to the OF that was having those constant bad dreams to check his meds.
The OFs do not know where the government gets the idea that there is very little cost-of-living increase, so the cost-of-living index is small. The OFs would like to know what planet they are living on.
One OF thought that it might be because we are living in New York, and other states do not see the increases in taxes, gas, food, and heating fuel, that we see here and they base their information on the country as a whole for this index.
With a quick glance at the Internet, this scribe found the following information. For instance, gas in South Carolina is $3.06 per gallon, Michigan $3.36, New York $3.67, and California is $3.87. The average of these four states is $3.49.
Just by using gas prices as an example, we found that bread, and a pair of (same brand) jeans averaged out about the same. However, with the average income in the same four states, New York ranked fourth with $52,000 per year, California ranked next at 15th with $45,000 per year, Michigan comes in at 35th with $37,000 per year, and South Carolina comes in at 48th with an average income of $34,000 per year.
South Carolina has the least disparity from rich to poor while New York and California have the highest disparity from rich to poor. In New York and California, people, like many of the OFs, are on fixed incomes because fewer people are holding the big bucks and that skews the facts and the little guy is left holding the bag.. — more information than you want.
Therefore, someone making $52,000 a year does not have the same problem paying $3.67 for a gallon of gas as the people making $24,000 to $25,000 a year — big difference, and there are a lot more of the $24,00-a-year guys than there are the fat cats.
The OFs have spoken, and this is a close to politics as the OFs get. The OFs do get into some weighty stuff that has to be checked out, and this is so convoluted the readers are invited to go to the net and get their own information.
The bylaws of the OMOTM are designed to keep harmony so the group limits discussions on politics, religion, and wayward women, and on making overt passes at the waitresses.
Prefer a quick death
Now for dying. This is short.
The OFs would rather have a weak internal system than a strong internal system. It seems some OFs drag out the dying process by having strong constitutions and they are in wheelchairs, in pain, on oxygen, or in nursing homes for years.
Many of the OFs, say, have a bad ticker and, when it ticks its last tick, you are done. The OFs don’t want any of this prolonged, agonizing hanging around where the OF just becomes a burden to his kids, or a human guinea pig for the doctors.
Those OFs who made it to the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, and none planning on dying any time soon, were: Miner Stevens, Henry Witt, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Frank Pauli, Harold GUEST, John Rossmann, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Lou Schenck, Duncan Bellinger, Bill Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Bob Benac, Jim Rissacher, Joe Loebier, Duane Wagenbaugh, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, and me.
Though it lies a scant two-and-half hours east of Albany via Route 7 in New York State and routes 9 and 101 in Vermont and New Hampshire, Mount Monadnock is probably not well known to anyone locally who is not a hiker. Though its presence looms in the dialogue of Thornton Wilder’s classic play Our Town — set in the fictional village of Grover’s Corners, modeled on the New Hampshire town of Jaffrey — it is hardly a household name such as iconic Northeastern peaks like mounts Marcy or Washington.
But, over the last century or so, Mount Monadnock has lured millions of hikers to its summit; according to various websites, it may be the second-most-frequently climbed mountain in the world. The first is Mount Fuji in Japan with sacred slopes that draw pilgrims and outdoor enthusiasts from all parts of the globe. But, since cities such as Albany, Boston, Worcester, Hartford, and Providence as well as a great many colleges with outing clubs, are located within a couple of hours’ drive from the mountain, on a nice day almost any time of the year there may be upwards of a hundred people on the peak at mid-day.
It may be crowded, but at least climbers will not be approached by visitors who have driven up and will look at them with a mixture of awe and condescension and ask, “Did you walk up here? Didn’t you know there was a road?” Because there isn’t one!
The name “Monadnock” — “Mon-ADD-nock” seems to be the preferred pronunciation — is derived from the Native American Indian Abenaki language: menonadenak, meaning "smooth mountain," or menadena, meaning “isolated mountain.”
This latter translation is the one that has been adopted by geologists to refer to any prominent mountain or erosional remnant that rises in lonely isolation from a much flatter landscape. In Schoharie County, the volcanic-looking hill known as “Barrock Zourie” — easily visible from Route I-88 — is another example of a monadnock — with a lower-case “m.”
Despite its appearance, Barrock Zourie is not a volcano; it is a lone remnant of what was once a much higher, more extensive part of the Cobleskill Plateau, composed of alternating layers of shale and sandstone laid down during the Devonian time, some 400 million years ago.
New Hampshire’s eponymous Monadnock, however, does contain intrusions of granite — an igneous rock — but it is not volcanic either. The bedrock of Mount Monadnock began to form 400 million years ago when that part of the United States and the Helderberg area were under a warm shallow sea, undoubtedly resembling today’s Bahamas as can be determined by its fossils: corals, sea stars, sea “lilies” (actually animals), and various shellfish.
But great changes were on the way. To the east was an ancient continent known as “Avalonia,” which comprises today’s western Europe and parts of the Atlantic coast of North America. Through the relentless forces of plate tectonics, Avalonia and the landmass that would some day be North America were being driven together, headed eventually for a massive, bedrock-scrunching collision known as the Acadian Orogeny, or “mountain building episode.”
To understand what resulted, think what would happen if the fronts of two cars were to collide at something of an angle in a parking lot. Their hoods would be crushed and distorted and probably forced upwards at jagged angles. This is a very simplified analogy to events during the Acadian Orogeny.
As Avalonia and proto-North America collided, the bedrock along their margins was subjected to massive earthquakes and distortions such as folding. The sediments that had once lain under the sea were subjected to heat and pressure, forcing massive amounts of materials to undergo metamorphism; hence the layers of shale and sandstone were compressed and cooked over millions of years into the metamorphic rock known as schist, sometimes laced with veins of quartz and graphite and more exotic minerals such as garnet.
The great subterranean heat also brought upwards injections of magma that cooled over long periods of time into the common igneous rock granite, which in places metamorphosed into gneiss. And so the materials of Mount Monadnock were formed and pushed skyward — perhaps to lofty Himalayan heights.
But the in the millions of years since their birth, the once towering Acadian Mountains have been reduced in elevation and mass by the agents of weathering and erosion; however, rugged summits such as Mount Washington and some other of the White Mountains farther north in New Hampshire and craggy Mount Katahdin in Maine — all of them approaching or exceeding a mile in height — offer daunting challenges to climbers.
Still, these peaks are part of massifs — a French term referring to extensive regions of high mountains. Mount Monadnock, on the other hand, is but a remnant of what was also once an extensive massif, much of which still exists in the form of the White Mountains
Monadnock towers above a domestic landscape of low, rolling hills, placid ponds and lakes, meandering streams and the long, narrow glacially deposited hills called “drumlins.” As such, it seems exceptionally prominent, especially given its bare, windy summit with its massively fractured cliffs, towering above its tree-clad lower slopes.
There are a number of routes to that summit, all of which wander in and out of lush forests of hardwoods and fragrant firs, from time to time breaking out onto rocky, glacially polished ledges offering stunning views of the summit and of the surrounding countryside, which inspired Thornton Wilder to write Our Town.
It is an area of relatively flat topography and productive farmland dominated by Mount Monadnock, which is placed prominently within the consciousness of the play’s characters. The trails range in difficulty from the relatively gentle ascent from the north to the classic Cliff Trail that requires scrambles up a number of exposed escarpments and traverses one bare sub-peak before joining the White Arrow trail that heads steeply up the south face of Monadnock.
The mountain also exhibits the characteristics of the glacially sculpted hills and mountains known as “roches moutonees.” This somewhat obscure geologic term (which translates as “sheepback rock”) refers to a massive rock outcrop with a gentle slope on the side from which the glaciers approached and a steep side in the direction in which the glaciers were advancing.
This “peak that became a paradigm” is a captivating sight at any time of year, whether cloaked in its summer greenery, capped with gleaming ice and snow, or decked out in glowing autumn colors. But whether one appreciates its grandeur from a car window or having ascended one of the challenging pathways to its summit, its splendid isolation makes it dominate the view for many miles around it in this quintessential New England landscape.