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On Dec. 17, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. On such a cold day, the restaurant was inviting.

The OFs agreed that the ride to Rensselaerville was like driving through a Christmas card or a winter photo on a calendar; then they were all rewarded by a warm start-to-the-day breakfast.

The riders in one car reported that on the trip up to Rensselaerville — and Rensselaerville is up — the temperature changes in just the few miles to get there. The outside temperature gauge showed one degree when starting out, the OF said, and, as they approached the dip between Thompson’s Lake, and Cole Hill Road, the temperature dropped to 13 below zero.

As they made the turn on Cole Hill, the temperature was up to seven below, and, by the time they were on the top of the hill, the temperature had risen to 2 degrees above zero. That change is in the mere distance of approximately four or five miles and an elevation change of about 400-plus feet (that is only a guess).

Many years ago, there was a ski area on Cole Hill with a rope tow to the top. The OFs thought it was a Farmall H, jacked up a tad and it had a rope around the rear tire that was the drive for the rope tow.

Old wooden skis, rubber boots (i.e., barn boots for many of the OFs, with felt liners) and leather buckled bindings on the skis buckled around the boot.  Then the OFs tightened them up and down the hill the OFs went.

The OFs did not have ski outfits; the only cost was a pair of wooden skis, and the rest is what the OFs had in their closets. Today, to be fashionable on the slopes costs as much as a good used car, and, as one OF said, he bets we had more fun.

The OFs wondered if there were any vestiges of that little ski trail left. Those who travel the hill say they don't think so because they are pretty sure where the trail used to be is overgrown into trees now. Times change and sometimes, time change is not for the better.

“Unteaching” the old dog

The OFs are having as much trouble keeping up with the technology advances as everybody else.

One OF said he has the newest gadget going and says it is great.  It is some kind of tablet that takes pictures, answers the phone, makes apple pies, and scrubs your back all at the same time.

One OF said, “Yeah, that is for today; tomorrow, it will be something else.”

The OFs thought that the end of the telephone party line was the ultimate in technological advancement.

The familiar ding of the typewriter as it reached the end of a line alerting the typist he had to slide the lever over to go to the next line, then along came IBM’s Selectric typewriter and the lines changed by themselves.  The world was going crazy, the OFs thought.

The OFs thought for years there were just 72 elements in the periodic table and that was it; now look, they (whoever they are) say there are 118 elements. The OFs say, if you change the 72 to 118, why not change it to 218.

One OF said it is not the teaching the old dog, it is the “unteaching” that is so hard.

Getting there

The OFs were contemplating outer space and getting there and the OFs had a hard time comprehending that latitude and longitude, as the OFs once learned, is not right for space travel, and NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, uses something else.

One OF said he has enough trouble heading to Aunt Tillie’s house and arriving there and she is only one hundred miles away. It is amazing to him that the astronauts can go to the moon and land right back where they started from.

“Yeah,” one OF mentioned, “and, if they can't make the initial starting point, they just recalculate and proceed to site number two.”

Those OFs who did not study navigation are envious of those that know how to navigate by the stars, or how to navigate with maps using the latitude and longitude that the OFs know. The OFs who can't read music are in the same mode, envious of those that can.

Road trip

down Memory Lane

Most of the OFs have new or newer models cars, trucks, and vans. A conversation started on how the newer cars drive themselves, and this scribe noted we have been down this road before. (No pun intended.)

The OFs have driven cars and trucks in their early years where it was necessary to place your feet in the right place when the OF entered the vehicle because the road was visible through the rotted out floor board. Fumes from the engine wafted in underneath the vehicle, but not to worry — there were so many other holes in the older vehicles that the fumes did not cause any harm. The fumes just found another hole to go out of the car or truck.

In these vehicles, the engine sounds were right in the car with you. The OFs could tell how ole Betsy was running just by these sounds.

Today, the cars run as quiet as the morgue. The engine runs effortlessly and the next thing the OF knows he is going 70 miles an hour when, in his youth, 50 miles per hour was exciting.  Today, 70 is like having coffee in the living room.

One OF asked the question that is quite often asked when the OFs travel back in time:  “So, do you want to go back to these old vehicles, with heaters that didn't work well, no air-conditioning, mechanical brakes that could freeze, no power steering, having to carry a spare tire or two, and rides that were like wooden wagon wheels going over farm roads?”

“Not really,” one OF said, “but back then at least I was able to fix the car on the side of the road. Cars came with tool kits, remember.”

One OF remembered his brother and he going someplace, and they had the family vehicle, which happened to be a Ford sedan.  Back then, Fords had only one spring in back that went side to side.

“This is an important point,” the OF said.

The OFs picked up their girlfriends and started out. On Route 443, between Gallupville and Schoharie, the rear spring broke. Not far from where it broke was a small junkyard-type repair shop. The OFs pulled in there and explained their problem to the proprietor.

“Yep,” he said, “I have a spring.”

The OFs said, “Great, we can fix it right here.”

The proprietor said, if they could do that, he would give them the spring. The OF had a rather strong brother, who actually was able to lift the car. The OF said they had the old spring out and the new one in less than half an hour.

The proprietor was true to his word and gave them the spring, and he said, “If I didn't see that I wouldn't believe it!”

“Try doing that with one of these new cars,” the OF said.

The OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and who found that Amanda was the only one there (she waited tables, prepared the food, bussed the tables, and kept the coffee cups filled) were: Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ken Hughes, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Gilbert Zabel (Elwood's grandson), and me, happy.

Today’s report will be a bonus report — two weeks for one. The scribe was traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday and unfortunately missed Tuesday, Nov. 25; however, braving mighty obstacles, the scribe was able to make Tuesday, Dec. 2. (Boy oh boy, Christmas is right around the corner, so much to do, so little time.)

On Nov. 25, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner, in Duanesburg, and on Dec. 2, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon in Princetown.

A topic from the Nov. 18 gathering is now quite topical. What do the OFs want, or need for Christmas?  For many of the OFs and because the OFs are just that (Old F’s) the giving part was easy — money or gift cards. Most of the OFs’ kids are approaching the point of being OFs themselves and have their own ideas of what they need so give them a few bucks to either get it, or help them out.

Some of the kids say, "Gee Dad, we don't need anything"; that is no fun and many times rings quite hollow.

When the OF says he doesn't need anything, it is generally true. What in the world is the OF going to with more stuff? Ah! But with a few of the OFs “stuff” is their middle name.

However, a gift card to a grocery store is a good thing. The problem here is that the OF will give the kids gift cards to grocery stores, and kids will give the OF a gift card to grocery stores. That is like one log truck going east on the road passing another log truck going west. Duh.

Old stuff

Now, what do the OFs do for fun? The options are as varied as there are OFs.

Some are boat enthusiasts, while others belong to civic organizations; some work at very fine crafts, and others collect stuff.

The stuff collectors have a problem and this has been mentioned before: They are OFs, and the stuff they collect is not dolls, or marbles.  This stuff is big like cars, trucks, and tractors (especially tractors) and along with that — old farm equipment.

These antiques are intended by the OFs to be restored and run but now the OFs are running out of time to get them in shape. The OFs are now antiques themselves and they need some tender loving care, and new parts like the equipment they are trying to restore, to get the OF into some kind of workable, running shape.

The conversations of many of the OFs on old antiquities show a knowledge that many museums might wish they had, and, with the OFs at the breakfast tables, this knowledge is just normal talk.

This goes along with their "collections,” much of which are museum pieces. What the OFs need are some young volunteers to work on this "stuff" with the OFs as mentors.

Though, as one OF put it, this is a hands-on, get-dirty, lift-and-lug type of endeavor, not staring at some three-by-four screen while the only muscles used are the ones that control the thumbs, and no real mental skills are involved, just reaction time to something someone else has already done.

One OF just mentioned that he was looking for an old corn sheller, and another OF responded, “What kind?” because he had one.

The first OF said, “One with a cast iron frame,” and the other OF said his was a wood frame.

It wasn't long before a deal was made and the corn sheller might change hands. What kind of group would have that type of machine just lying around and another person looking for one? What type of group (other than the OFs) would even know the difference between a sheller and a husker?

There were no questions asked like, “Why do you want a corn sheller?” Inquiring about a corn sheller is just the OFs’ normal conversations.

Geographic bonding

There are some newer members of the OFs who have been rattling around the Hilltowns for quite some time.  Now they are seeing new faces for the first time and trying to connect these faces with where they might know them from, and then they try to relate them to certain pieces of property.

Here begins the lineage of, “Ya know the old Perkins place?”

“Ah yes, that used to be the Moore place.”

“Nah, the old Moore place used to be by the Jacobs place at the corner of Blah and Jump roads.”

“Are you sure?  I thought that was the Adams house.”

“No, the Adams house was around the corner where the two big oaks are.”

On and on until the real place of where they knew each other link up. Makes no difference who lives there now, the OFs go back to who built the place during or just after the Revolutionary War.

Then comes the connecting of the friends or relatives of forty, fifty, or sixty years ago. It is surprising to many of the OFs how a little bit of geography is a bonding agent.

Sympathy extended

The Old Men of the Mountain offer their deepest sympathies to the family of Carl Slater, a long-standing and loyal member of the OMOTM for many years, who passed away at the age of 84. He will be greatly missed.

The Old Men of the Mountain also offer their sympathies to Miner Stevens whose brother-in-law passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 2. The OMOTM condolences go to Miner and his family also.

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner and probably spoke freely because the scribe wasn't there to tattle on them, were: Duncan Bellinger, Harold Guest, Andy Tinning, Frank Pauli, Steve Kelly, Roger Schafer, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Garry Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and not me.

Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon in Princetown and solved most of the nation’s problems by going back in time when the nation was number one in many things and now seems to be leading in not much, were: Karl Remmers, Roger Schafer, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, Dick Ogsbury, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Ken Hughes, Jack Norray, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Henry Whipple, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Harold Guest, and me.

We’ve all seen them, two elderly people sitting silently across each other in the restaurant or diner, staring past each other in a dull deadening silence.

How long have they been married? A long time.

Was it always like this? No.

As we move into the heart of the holiday season, it’s important to keep your wits about you and your stress level at a sane level. This is especially true if you are a caregiver.

When you normally deal with the holidays, you think about family, friends, and so on as you make plans, attend events, or travel. If you have the added responsibility of being a caregiver, things can get out of hand very fast.

Your best bet is to use common sense as you plan your days. For instance, if you work with someone a day or two a week and will be gone for a week or more during the holidays, you’ll need to let them know that and see what you can do to find a temporary replacement for the days you’ll be gone.

For those who are homebound, the holidays can be very stressful from an emotional standpoint so, as a caregiver, it’s important to take that into consideration. If the person in question is a family member, is there a way to include him or her in family events, dinners, parties, and so on? Is there a special gift that would really be appreciated (besides your time and presence)?

If the person you help is not a family member, can you help to get her together with her family in any way? If he has no family, what else could you do to make his holidays brighter?

Beyond these considerations, never forget that, even if you don’t volunteer with Community Caregivers to help others, most of us are still caregivers within our own families and the holidays can make that harder. Try to never lose sight of the big picture at this time of year.

Take things a day at a time and don’t try to do too much. Remember that spending time with family and friends is what the season is all about and the most important gift you can give is your time and love.

The parties, the dinners, the tree, the gifts and cookies, the decorations and shopping are all part of the season. Just don’t forget that those are not necessarily the most important parts. And above all, don’t forget at this busy time of year to take extra good care of yourself because there are people who need you.

From everyone at Community Caregivers, may you have a wonderful holiday season and please let us know if we can help you or if you have some time to help us. That’s what it’s always been about: Neighbors helping neighbors.