On Tuesday, Aug. 12, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the restaurant they were supposed to be at.

On Aug. 5, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. This scribe has to tell a tale of a whopping mistake he made.

Tuesdays in the summer of 2014 are rolling on by. This Tuesday, July 29, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and the group was one of the largest collections of OFs to date.

The OFs arrived in all their summer finery, this after managing to get dressed. The OFs quite often comment on how much effort it takes at times to perform this major task of the day. However, it beats running around naked all day and using all that sun block.

One OF mentioned that he was able to put on his socks this morning standing up and not having to sit down. Then a second OF added that he considers it a good start to the day if he can put on his shorts standing up and not falling over.

Sometimes, the OF said, he stands there looking at this part of his underwear and considers the challenge of standing and getting those things on. The number-one challenge is to be able to bend over far enough and lift his leg high enough to even get started. The number-two challenge is if the OF can get that far and not hook his toes in the yard of material which has now fallen halfway down and he has to perform the one-legged dance to keep from falling over. Not passing this challenge causes the OF to give in and sit down.

The conversation drifted into how many of the OFs say they have two different bodies. One OF demonstrated how he can reach his left arm quite far up his back, and the right arm not so much. The OF said it just won’t go.

Others joined in with different appendages being able to, or not able to, do the same thing the other one does. One OF mentioned, as far as sensations go, he is divided in half. The OF said that, if he puts his keys in his right back pocket and he sits down, it is like the princess and the pea. If he takes the keys out of right pocket and puts them in the left and sits down the OF said he doesn’t even know they are there. The OF continued that he can’t carry anything in his right back pocket.

Then the OFs started on eyes and ears; this narrative included many of the OFs.  Some can see well out of one eye and the other one not so much. Some

OFs have to turn their head to listen to conversations so their good ear can pick them up. One OF said he can open a bottle with his left hand but not his right. This OF said he just does not have the strength in his right hand to open the jars and bottles yet the OF said he is right handed. Hmm.

The OFs concluded we must be made in halves not wholes.

Keep your Nose clean

Most steady readers of the OMOTM column know that some of the OFs maintain and blaze hiking trails. Part of this group maintains the trail that goes to the top of Vroman’s Nose in the town of Fulton just outside of Middleburgh, on Route 30 (can be googled — just type in Vroman’s Nose.)

The OFs were talking about how much work they do to make the plateau at the top of the Nose a scenic and attractive area, and how much of this work winds up being ruined. They have built benches for seniors to rest on once they’ve made the climb to enjoy the view. These benches have all been thrown over the cliff at one time or another.

They have put up fireplaces so fires would not be started on the fragile shale on top; these, too, have found their way to the bottom of the cliff, and bonfires have started on the shale, which, in the end, shatters it.

One OF took the time and effort to build benches around a tree so people could sit in the shade after the climb. The tree was cut down, and the benches, you guessed it, found their way off the cliff.

The OFs clean the base of the cliff at least once a year from all this debris and even find empty beer half-kegs. Everything they have tried to do to make the top decent is ultimately destroyed.

The OFs ask, “What does this say about the people who come up and their respect for anything?”

The OFs tried to remember what they did when they were young bucks. Nothing of this magnitude came to mind.

Then, again, turning over outhouses and hornings might apply, but none could remember behaving with the vandalism they were talking about at the Nose.

Then one OF asked, “Do bar brawls count?”

Another OF answered, “Not unless (in the process of the brawl) we happened to throw the bar itself out into the parking lot.” 

Those Old Men of the Mountain making it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and not starting any brawls while there, were: Carl Walls, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, Karl Remmers, John Rossmann, Duncan Bellinger, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Frank Pauli, Dick Ogsbury, Dave Williams, Art Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Herb Swabota, Roger Fairchild, Bill Krause, Don Wood, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Rich Donnelly, Bob Lassome, Duane Wagenbaugh, Joe Loubier, Art Frament, Chuck Aleseio, Bob Donnelly (and his distaff side to check out that there really is a group called the OMOTM), Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Ted Willsey (who brought another young lady to keep tabs on him), Mike Willsey, and Gerry Chartier.

Gerry brought one student from Germany — Olga Zerr, a Berne-Knox-Westerlo exchange student and Mario Schneider; however, their timing was a little late and most of the OFs had gone.  This may have been a good thing for the young people from Germany — they only had to deal with a handful of OFs; who knows what they would have thought if they had encountered the whole group. And me.

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Again (and probably more “again”s) this scribe must admit to so much to do, and so little time, but finally he is able to get at the scribing duties. Tuesday, July 22, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.

Either it is the number of OFs at the breakfast, or maybe the fact that more of them are becoming hard of hearing, but the decibel rating of the restaurants when we gather is increasing. However, there are enough loud OFs that notes are able to be taken to compose some kind of report.

The old hotel, and later a store of sorts, at the corner of routes 156 and 443 in Berne is in the process of being torn down. (By the time this is written, it may be down). The OFs mentioned this building’s demise was brought about so trucks on Route 443 can make that difficult turn to get into Berne.

This is a case of history meeting the wrecking ball to make way for more modern equipment. One OF mused that Berne — and some of the other Hilltowns — are just like the towns that people travel from all over the country to visit.  Like Vermont, the character is here, or in some cases was here, but not the little gifty shops. One OF said those who try owning one of these gifty places in the Hilltowns are never quite able to cut the mustard.

“I can understand that,” another OF said, “because this is New York, and have you ever tried doing business in New York?  It is almost impossible to get started with all the red tape, and taxes. That corner will look really different without the hotel.”

A different OF opined, “Can you just imagine the state building a fake covered bridge there, and the hotel having a gift shop, and the little defunct store across the street something else, like an artist studio or gallery?  Envision the old stage that was in the hotel refurbished and having live music every now and then, and using the stage for exhibitions. A small café overlooking the falls in the old hotel would be slick, too. Too bad all these types of opportunities are now gone.  The Masons could really tout the local produce on a daily basis...Opportunity gone, for now.”

 “Hey,” one other OF said, “our trees turn just as colorful as Vermont’s.”

Phone pioneers

The OFs then mentioned the old Middleburgh Telephone Co. and how the wires used to be strung through the trees and on fence posts and whatever was handy to get to where they were needed.

The OFs also mentioned the actor John McGiver who lived in West Fulton, just outside of Middleburgh, and his connection with the early Middleburgh Telephone Co. One of the OFs mentioned that one of his grandchildren is married to one of McGiver’s grandkids.

The OMOTM wondered if these early pioneers of the phone networks could ever imagine that most phones being made and sold today would not even use wires.

Kudzu of the North

It was noted that most of the vegetation this year is doing quite nicely, and that includes vegetation that is not wanted. Wild grape is one of those that are not wanted, and the OFs on the Hill are beginning to notice that this nasty vine is like kudzu in the South.

One OF noted that crawling in the bushes to get at the root system and cutting it is just making it worse because it is akin to pruning grapes. The more it is cut, the more it grows. The stuff is a pain, but, in the fall, its bright yellow leaves do add to the color of the fall season.

One OF said “Ya know, that is not too far away!” 

This dialogue brought up flowers, which also seem to be doing well this season, and that brought up a discussion on “stressing flowers” to either strengthen them, or have them produce more blooms. Some of the OFs doubted this idea, but, depending on the flower (and there are many), planned stressing does produce more blooms and does strengthen the plant. 

One OF said grass is a case in point. The more often the grass is correctly mowed, the thicker and richer the grass is. The OF said, if grass is planted and left alone ,it soon thins out, becomes weak, withers, and weeds take over. This OF said it has to be “stressed” by mowing in order to do well.

The same with the miserable wild grape vine, only this OF admitted he didn’t know what to do with this stuff.

“Just cut it and make grapevine wreaths; it might be a nice side income,” the OF said.

In checking out this conversation, this scribe found, when Googling “Stressed Flowers,” tons of information came up.

Signs sprout like lilies

Whether a person is a gun enthusiast or not, the OFs say they do not know how we ever got a “gun law” just by the amount of signs in the valley and in the Hilltowns that espouse — in essence — to repeal the SAFE (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement) Act.

The OFs were not saying much about guns or no guns only that one thing the law did was help to generate a lot of money for people that make signs and to sell guns. These signs have sprouted like day lilies, in the geographical area of the circle of restaurants the OMOTM bother on a weekly basis.

Those OFs who rolled off the hill and bothered the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh — the rolling started with a good push from the wife — were: Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, George Aleseio, Bill Bartholomew, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Steve Kelly, Bob Benac, Miner Stevens, Frank Pauli, Glenn Patterson, Roger Fairchild, Art Frament, Don Wood, Dave Williams, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Roger Shafer, Bill Krause, Duane Wagenbaugh, Bob Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Gill Zabel, Mike Willsey, and me.

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Tuesday, another Tuesday, and the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. This Tuesday, the OFs headed to Rensselaerville encountered some elevation fog. It was one of the types of fog that hung around the mountain; was not too deep, and, as the OFs drove to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, they drove into, then out of, the fog. This narrow band of fog wrapped itself around the mountain like a laurel wreath, indicating that weather is king.

The OFs talked about a real current event — the new toy drones. The OFs were not talking about drones used by the military but the ones that can be purchased from the hobby store. One OF mentioned a friend with a drone so large the OF claimed it was necessary to have a license to fly it.

Another OF mentioned how drones are becoming quite popular and can fly all over with cameras of exceptional quality. One OF thought they would be a great asset to farmers and police departments. Spotting marijuana growing illegally in farmers’ fields would be one use.

Another OF mentioned, if he spotted one flying over his property, he would shoot it down, because it would be an attempt to invade his privacy, or survey his property for a potential robbery. In other words, using this technology to “case the joint.”

Another OF said he thinks this has been done on a few occasions, and he would shoot it down too.

“Yeah,” one OF said, then the OF would be arrested “for discharging a firearm within the legally prescribed distance from a domicile.”

“Well, I would find some way to catch the thing,” the OF said. “Anyway, I live far enough from any other house that I could use a canon and not bother anyone.”

Losing bearings

Then, the talk flipped backwards in time from drones, to wood bearings, and Babbitted bearings.  Babbited bearings are thought to be an “old style” of bearing and they were. Wood bearings are still made and used today, but Babbitt-type bearings not so much. (The reason for the capital letter on the Babbitted bearing is because this style of bearing was invented in Taunton, Masschusetts, by Leon Babbitt and just like copiers are Xerox, and tissues are Kleenex, Babbitt is still Babbitt and is capitalized.)

Old Navy guys (and maybe not-so-old Navy guys) are quite familiar with Babbitted bearings; however, wood bearings were used way back when, and even today. The making of a wood bearing and a compatible wood shaft is still a high school shop class project. (That is, if shop is still taught in a particular school.  Many schools have dropped this class, which is necessary for kids who do not want to go on to a higher education.)

This scribe sat between two OFs who were sitting at separate tables discussing the topic of bearings and one wore hearing aids, and the other, in this case, should. One was talking about wood bearings and their use and where some could be found today, and the other was talking about Babbitted bearings and where they were used and how he used to work with them aboard ship.

Each OF thought the other OF was talking about what he was talking about. This made for a lot of head scratching before the scribe figured out they were each talking about different things as if they were the same. This scribe’s wife wonders why this column doesn’t seem to make sense.  Well, at times it doesn’t even make sense to this scribe.

The OF talking about the wooden bearings says that the old steam engine from Harts Mill in Berne now resides in the mill in Rensselaerville.  At this point in time, this OF did not know if the engine runs or not.  He only knows where it is.

The OF with the Babbitt bearings was probably still remembering his days on the Merrimac and throwing wet towels on the bearings to keep them cool.

(For those who want to check if these OFs have their bearings right, go to Goggle and type in “Babbitt bearings” or “wood bearings.”  So much information — so little time.)

In passing, the OFs mentioned their gardens and how some OGs are picking peas. In this discussion, the OFs mentioned that this year, if anyone has brown spots on their lawn, he had better check for grubs or some other insect, or grass fungus or disease, because it sure isn’t due to lack of water.

“But,” as one OF said, “we still have the month of August to go.” Yet, to him, it doesn’t look like August is going to be much of a problem in this regard either.

Mowing woes

This prompted another OG, and then another OF to comment on how much money they have spent on mowing their lawns so far.  One OF said it cost him $25 in fuel to mow his lawn once, and another agreed but he didn’t spend quite that much.

This scribe referred these OGs to the column of last week (about the July 8 breakfast, published on July 17) and the OFs said all they are doing is mowing the lawn, nothing fancy.

Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and who are going to watch the skies for drones (with shotguns at the ready) were: Jay Taylor, Jack Moss, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, and Roger Fairchild. (This group of OFs were there waiting for the restaurant to open up.) Also: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Bill Krause, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, George Aleseio, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Joe Loubier,  Duane Wagenbaugh, Rich Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Bob Lassome, Bob Donnelly, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, and me.

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