Archive » June 2017 » Columns

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy will host a stakeholders’ meeting for over 200 representatives of area agencies on Wednesday, July 12, for the Age Friendly Albany County initiative he announced in October.

A World Health Organization representative from the United Nations is scheduled to attend to make a presentation along with a state representative of AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, which leads the initiative in the United States for the World Health Organization.

State officials will also provide a welcome and speak about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal to make New York State the first age-friendly state in the country. County leaders will discuss plans for the initiative.

The stakeholders’ meeting is the first large public meeting for the Age Friendly Albany County initiative. The meeting is to discuss the initiative’s goals and the process that will be used as the initiative unfolds over a multi-year period.

A Community Council will be formed with representatives of the towns and municipalities in the county. Committees will be formed from those interested persons regarding the eight “domains” of livability that the World Health Organization has identified for an age-friendly community.

The eight domains are:

— 1. Outdoor Spaces and Public Buildings;

— 2. Transportation;

— 3. Housing;

— 4. Social Participation;

— 5. Respect and Social Inclusion;

— 6. Civic Participation and Employment;

— 7. Communication and Information; and

— 8. Community and Health Services.

Community Caregivers will be supporting the county’s initiative by attending the July 12 event, providing our input and expertise through our staff and volunteers, and participating in the committees. We will be reaching out to members of the community where we serve through local events and community meetings to gain as wide a view as possible into what makes a place age friendly.

We hope readers might be interested in joining these discussions; please look for notice of these events beginning in the fall.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Michael Burgess is the Health Policy Consultant for Community Caregivers Inc.


You see them in the waiting areas of banks and car dealerships. There may even be donuts next to them. They’re part of a little oasis of hospitality in an otherwise sterile environment. While this is a noble purpose for sure, pod-based coffee machines are devastating to our environment. Convenient, yes, but at what price?

I read somewhere recently that, by 2050, the weight of plastic in the world's oceans will be greater that the weight of fish. Think about that for a minute. Think about it as well the next time you toss that used coffee pod in the trash. I have and I’m not at all happy about it. There has to be a better way.

You should know that I'm in no way a so-called “tree hugger” environmental activist. I’d never spike a tree or go out on a boat to foil fishermen. Yet I care very much about the environment, as we all should.

We have only one planet for our use and the use of our kids and grandkids and their kids. We should learn how to take care of it. Dumping millions of used coffee pods in the oceans every year just because they are convenient is not showing respect for dear old Mother Earth at all.

You can see why pod-based coffee machines are popular in waiting areas. So easy to manage. Pop in a pod, press a button, and you’re done.

Yet I heard a woman justify their use in her home because she didn’t have time to clean out a regular coffee machine. I'm sure she works hard and has a full plate to deal with but, if your life is so busy you don’t have time to clean out a coffee machine, then you are doing something wrong. Really.

I discussed the used-coffee-pod problem with my engineer son-in-law, and he explained to me that they are probably made of special plastic because the water gets so hot. That was interesting, so I called one of the companies that makes these coffee pods.

The company wouldn’t confirm the reason for the plastic used in the pods but did say the company was aware of concerns with pod disposal and promised me that by 2018 it would be changing them to a recyclable material. I suppose that’s good news but that means millions if not billions more will wind up in the ocean until then. Bummer.

There was a post in the zoo that is Facebook the other day that offered tips on what to do with used coffee pods. Like many Facebook posts, it was a “clickbait” thing where, instead of just pointing you to an article or list, you had to click and click and suffer through all kinds of junk advertising to get to the information.

I didn’t have the stomach for that – I never do – but it at least got me thinking about what can be done with used coffee pods. Gardeners can use them for seed starters; they already have a water drain hole. Magicians can use them for sleight-of-hand tricks. Handymen can organize small amounts of hardware. I'm saving mine to make a big stacked, artistic display (think modern art).

Of course, to reuse the pods, you have to get the coffee grounds out of them. This is a messy procedure you do over an open garbage can. It’s not pleasant but if it keeps even a few of these little buggers out of the oceans I can deal with it. If you’re a gardener, save the grounds for your compost.

To be fair, many of these pod-based coffee machines allow you to substitute a special, reusable pod where you can add your own ground coffee. That’s great but, if you are going to use ground coffee anyway, why not just get a regular coffee machine or percolator?

In my case, I’m using a machine my son no longer had a need for, and we have a lot of pods we’ve gotten on sale. I’m not happy with it, but at least I’m keeping the machine itself out of the landfill. Better than nothing.

When you start thinking this way, you can drive yourself crazy. If you go to the landfill, look at the big pile and see what people throw out.

In the old days, so much of this stuff would have been repaired. Today, that’s often not possible because of cost (a replacement product is so cheap) or design (many products are assembled in a way that precludes repair). It’s very frustrating to live in such a throwaway society. It's not right, but what can you do? (Save your used coffee pods for one thing.).

It’s the same thing when I make a very rare visit to a fast-food restaurant. Look at the amount of paper and plastic left over after a typical meal of burger, fries, and a shake. It’s unbelievable. Multiply that by millions and then think of the tremendous load this puts on the waste-management stream. I'm not asking McDonald’s and Burger King to stock fine china, but there has to be a better way.

It’s great that banks and car dealerships think so highly of their customers that they want to provide free coffee for them. I just wish there was a way to do it that was easier on the environment.


I’m not totally sure when it all started. What? The camera/phone fetish. The constant documenting of every single, bloody, sweaty, boring, intimate, private, public, silly, and otherwise superfluous aspect of our lives.

Once upon a time, you took a picture of your new baby peacefully sleeping when you first got home from the hospital. Nowadays people shoot 4K video of the actual birth and then immediately upload it to the web so everyone can share the joy (or nausea).

Now don’t get me wrong here. I appreciate a good photo as much as the next guy. So, I truly understand the urge to document or capture important moments in our lives. But therein lies the key to the insanity: Important moments.

People now have the ability to record still images or video 24/7 and so they do. And that’s become a problem. I mean, handing someone a scalpel doesn’t make them a surgeon, so having a camera does not make you Ansel Adams or Steven Spielberg.

A great photo or video is great because it represents a singular moment or event. If you are always shooting everything you encounter, chances are many of those photos or videos will not qualify as great. Probably, many will qualify as trash. So, in essence, you’re cluttering up the world with trash. Think of it as digital littering.

The main reason for this, of course, is the ubiquity of the smart phone. In the old days, you had to carry a real camera, and then pay for film, developing, and printing. Unless you were very well off, or a professional photographer, most folks took photos only on special occasions. That’s one of the main reasons why looking at old printed photos is fun; they mostly represent truly special moments.

Another problem with the constant recording is that it’s an invasion of privacy for anyone who happens to be nearby or in the frame. If you’re having a quiet meal with your wife or friends and someone is six feet away taping a drunk friend who is stumbling towards your table, you likely want nothing to do with it.

If said video goes viral, do you want your face or those of your companions as the backdrop to some drunk person’s 15 microseconds of drooling fame? Probably not; especially if the video ends with the drunk falling on your table or vomiting in your lap.

A very creepy issue with the constant recording is that we’re creating generations of children who are way too comfortable in front of a camera. They calculate every move and word because they know there’s a good chance they’re being recorded by their crazed hover parents.

All kids start to look like those obnoxiously precocious kids you see on Disney TV shows. Why? Because once-normal kids see those TV kids and emulate them.

And what is done with these gigabytes of video and still images captured by said parental voyeurs? Not much. Most of this stuff gets uploaded to the cloud or downloaded to personal computers. That means your darling little ones are now out there on the wild and woolly interwebs along with lots of digital flotsam.

There’s also an actual cost, too. I have spent many hours cleaning up people’s overstuffed hard drives or installing extra hard drives. I’ve listened to sobs as I tell people their drives have died and they have no backup of the thousands of photos they’ve shot, including the touching birth video when mom was screaming bloody murder.

Then they really lose it when I tell them it’ll run $2,000-plus, to have a professional data recovery company attempt to salvage their precious photos — those same photos they’ve never really looked at. Guess how many people opt for that?

The final straw is that, for all this recording, people are less present than ever. Have you been to a concert; sporting event; or, goddess forbid, a school function, recently? Watch the people around you and see where their attention is riveted.

I once observed a teenage girl walk through a once-in-a-lifetime museum exhibit of Van Gogh and never look up once from her phone. People show up and spend the entire event glued to their phones, moving for a better shot, tweeting about the event, uploading to Facebook, Instagramming, or texting about the event. Do they ever actually just sit and watch or consciously attend?

If it’s your kid’s school play, do you recall their lines? Their big scene? Their actual part? Probably not. Although my guess is you have footage or stills buried somewhere that you’ll likely never look at again.

One other thing you might want to consider is how silly this is getting out here in the real world. On occasion, I’ve watched professional photographers try to shoot an event and one of the biggest challenges is to try and get the requested pictures while every shot is continuously blocked by people with cell phones. Seriously.

They’re standing there, holding several thousand dollars worth of cameras and lenses, trying to get a shot that will end up in the paper or online but they have to dodge a dozen crazed fans or hover parents deadset on getting the lead singer at the concert or little Ashley as she belts out some pop hit during the school talent show, or crosses the line at the track meet. And we won’t even mention the silliness that takes place at most weddings.

So, folks, feel free to grab a shot now and then, when it really matters. More power to you. But instead of trying to be the next Spielberg, try just being present. If you paid to go to the concert, dance, sing along, listen, applaud, cheer, and maybe take a quick picture but, most of all, just be there. If you’re at a school event, put the stupid phone away and just bask in your little one’s performance, no matter what. Take a picture before or after if you must, but mostly just watch.

Social media and over-sharing have turned many people into the most connected but isolated people in the history of mankind. Try being present more and I’ll bet the mental pictures you get will far exceed any digital picture you could possibly snap.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he has appreciated pictures all his life. But he really doesn’t like being in them.


Tuesday, June 20, The Old Men of the Mountain were at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.

Now that school is only giving exams (a prelude to graduation), there was no entertainment on Main Street in Middleburgh. Traffic flowed normally back and forth and the day was uneventful, at least in the beginning; who knows what happens after the OFs leave the restaurant and go home.

The OFs were chatting about how they felt when they woke up and got up. Apparently this is not a pretty sight. The OFs complained about the typical morning aches and pains, but this time added concerns about all the different noises they make now.

The OFs said they never made these sounds before. As one OF put it, these noises are completely unintended and some are so loud it makes the dog jump.

Then there is that one OF (there is always that one) who said he can’t wait to get up in the morning and get to the mirror on the bathroom door. The OF says he just stands there and looks because he gets better looking every day.

The OFs just looked at him because he is as grizzled as the rest of us. He has shaggy eyebrows, deep furrows in the face that could be planted with quite of bit of seed corn, and lumps and bumps are there along with a good crop of age spots. He is no different than the rest of us.

It has to be his eyesight fails a little each day and gives the OF the reflection of someone younger in the morning; however, his good eye is bright, and deep blue and has a crisp sparkle to it. Do you think this OF might just be putting us on?

Ships collide

The Navy veterans discussed the two large ships that recently collided on the high seas. These ex-Navy OFs all agreed right off the bat that the destroyer should have avoided the collision because the bigger ship has the right of way.

One OF thought both ships were culpable. The OF Navy men did not know if this assumption was correct but, right of way or not, both ships should have tried to avoid the accident.

One OF noted how the Times Union used the inflammatory word “slain” as the lead for the story. Seven sailors slain, say what! The sailors died because of an accident — they were asleep; they were not slain. The OFs couldn’t get over this.

The sailor group talked about how long it takes to stop a ship the size of that tanker under full steam. One OF said he thought it was miles. Even under docking speed, something weighing that much bumping into something else is going to do damage.

Work as art

The OFs talk about the quality of work quite often. The OFs admit that they, themselves, are not always the best ones to have do some work. Maybe when the OFs were younger but today they tire easily, and to get the job done, “closies” count as well as the statement “good enough for government work.”

“Let’s button this thing up and go get a drink” is also a phrase to end a day.

The reverse of this is also true. When the OMOTM are not pushed, the work from this group could be exceptional.

Many OFs’ barns and garages have as many tools as a hardware store, and the OFs have the knowledge to use them. The type and quality of work of the OFs can be viewed by hikers that hike in the Hilltowns or on the Long Path. Many of the bridges that are used by the hikers were constructed by the OFs, and these bridges are also works of art.

Some OFs restore old equipment and one OG made clocks — these, too, are works of art, and a plug for the OF who paints portraits and they are art.

One OF said, “There are four ways to work: the right way, the sloppy way, your way, and my way. Then there is the ‘oh so important way,’ and at times this is the only way and that is the boss’s way.” (The term wife can be substituted for boss at anytime.)

The Gas-up

Speaking of work as art, many of the OFs attended the Gas-up held around Father’s Day in Shutter’s Corners just outside of Gallupville.  Some go there just to get a hot dog, and a piece of pie, but others do go to reminisce and still others go to either check on their own antique equipment to see if they can improve it, or get a few new ideas.

Some of the OFs have participated in the Gas-up but now it is a ton of work just to get ready so the OFs have backed off. The quality of the show is continually improving  and this year it was well attended, and had many participants.

It was encouraging to see younger people involved with keeping these antique engines and old equipment running. The disparity between the youngsters building robots and drones and remote-controlled boats and cars, and those who are dealing with engines from 100 years ago is interesting.

One OF commented that the old-engine kid would probably be able to figure out how to handle the drone easier than the kid with the drone could figure out the hit-and-miss engine and get it running. Then again, maybe not.

Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and all in modern vehicles (not one came on two piston hit-and-miss engines steered by a tiller) were: Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Jim Heiser, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Pete Whitbeck, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Duncan Bellinger, Art Frament. Herb Sawotka, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Roger Shafer, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Ted Feurer, Bob Lassome, Wayne Gaul, Bob Giebitz,  Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


— Photo by Mike Nardacci
The impressive Rensselaerville Falls formed when Ten-Mile Creek cut a canyon into shale and sandstone layers, following an ancient fault line.

There are places in the world and within the United States in which layers of rock — called strata — record hundreds of millions of years of Earth’s history and are stacked atop one another like textbooks in geology, waiting to be read by the geologically literate.  Undoubtedly the most famous is the Grand Canyon into which trails descend, traversing around 2 billion years of our planet’s past along paths less than 10 miles in length.

In Albany County, Route 85 departs Interstate 90 and heads southwest, terminating in the historic village of Rensselaerville and as it skirts Albany and rises into the fastness of the Helderbergs it yields evidence of the last great Ice Age, the collision of continents that formed the Appalachian Mountains, and of the proliferation of ancient life-forms during the Devonian Period, straddling 450 million years of geologic time in 30 scenic miles.

This essay presents a guide to some of the most notable features in a drive that, even allowing for stops, can easily be undertaken in an afternoon — preferably on a clear one so that the occasional stunning long-distance views will not be obscured by our area’s notoriously unpredictable weather, which seems to have been especially fickle in recent weeks.

Setting the odometer at “0” as one’s vehicle leaves Interstate 90 onto Route 85 — for the next few miles a divided highway — one will almost immediately be passing by the extensive complex of New York State office buildings that rise between Washington and Western avenues and farther to the west the towers of the University at Albany will be visible.

The buildings are constructed on a thick layer of sand that is conducive to the growth of pitch pines and earned the area the name “Pine Hills.”  What most of the area’s residents are undoubtedly not aware of is the fact that some 10,000 years ago this stretch was lake-front property.

The last great advance of the Pleistocene glaciers ended about 20,000 years ago and after a brief stasis the great melting began as Earth underwent an extended period of warming.  Just as no one is sure why the Ice Ages occurred (aside from the general fact that Earth got colder), scientists are unsure what caused the steep and steady rise in temperatures. But rise they did and, due to the warming, the Mohawk and Hudson rivers carried vastly greater amounts of water than they do now.

For reasons also unknown, a blockage occurred in the Hudson Valley somewhere south of Kingston forming a great body of water known as Glacial Lake Albany that filled the valley from the natural dam clear up to Lake George.

Many of the hundreds of streams that fed into the lake formed sandy deltas that combined to form one great shoreline upon which the Adirondack Northway and Route 9 roll north — and upon which this stretch of Route 85 heads southwest. Subsequently, the wind blew the sand into vast dunes and the crescent-moon shape of some of them can still be seen in the parts of the Pine Bush Preserve.


— Photo by Mike Nardacci
A "restored" section of the Pine Bush Preserve gives an approximation of the appearance of the area following the melting of the glaciers some 12,000 years ago when the stretch was part of the shoreline of Glacial Lake Albany.


Over time, great forests of pitch pine and patches of scrub oak and blueberry grew among them. Parts of the preserve that are undergoing restoration give an idea of the appearance of the sandy stretches thousands of years ago. But given Mother Nature’s prolific ability to reclaim empty growing spaces it will be interesting to see how long the areas currently being “restored” through the cutting of thousands of invasive species such as black locust trees will retain their resemblance to the ancient wind-swept dunes.

Areas “restored” only a few years ago already are green with great quantities of invasive plants, hiding the dune fields under newly-grown foliage.  Ecologists call areas such as these “pine barrens,” and the sandy expanses stretching north from Albany County in many ways resemble the great barrens of New Jersey.

Farther to the east was the lake bottom upon which the smaller sediments carried by the streams were deposited, and this is why much of the city and in particular downtown Albany are built on massive layers of clay. In the 1800s and early 1900s, foundries used the clay to make bricks — hence the explanation for why so many older buildings in downtown Albany and Troy are constructed from them.

The extensive areas of both clay and sand in most places obscure the bedrock that lies buried deeply beneath them. It is a dark, thin-bedded shale that dates from the Ordovician Period, making it about 450 million years old. It is visible in a few outcrops bordering the Hudson River. One such outcrop is exposed on both sides of Interstate 90 as it descends toward the Hudson and passes under Henry Johnson Boulevard.


— Photo by Mike Nardacci
The Upper Gorge of the Onesquethaw Creek shows where the creek has cut deeply into layers of Devonian-age shales and sandstones.


At mile 4.0, Route 85 crosses the Normanskill where the stream slices through the dunes as it flows toward the Hudson. Some years ago, it undercut its sandy banks setting off a massive landslide in this area, causing the stream to permanently re-route itself.

After another couple of miles and several roundabouts, Route 85 joins New Scotland Road and between miles 5 and 6 passes through the historic stretch of Slingerlands reminiscent of New England. The terrain beyond here is mostly flat, rising gently to the west and represents what must have been relatively shallow waters of Glacial Lake Albany.

Geologists estimate that the shoreline extended roughly to what is now the intersection of routes 85 and 85A at the Stonewell Shopping plaza in the town of New Scotland.




Helderberg Country

It is at this point that Route 85 enters what I have always thought of as “Helderberg Country”:  a landscape of agricultural fields, deciduous forests, scattered tiny villages, craggy outcrops of bedrock, and sweeping views of the massive escarpments.

Beyond the intersection of routes 85 and 85A, the surface material is a mixture of soils such as clay and sand and larger particles: semi-rounded pebbles, cobbles, and boulders, many of them eroded from bedrock tens or hundreds of miles to the north. Geologists call sediments such as these “glacial drift.” They were deposited directly by the great mass of glacial ice that buried this area thousands of feet deep at the height of the last advance, some 20,000 years ago.

At 8.2 miles, Route 85 passes the historic New Scotland Presbyterian Church, the cemetery of which entombs Winifred Goldring who in the first half of the 20th Century was the New York State Paleontologist; her meticulously-researched publication, “The Geology of the Berne Quadrangle,” with its accompanying beautifully-drawn stratigraphic map has long been a valuable resource for students of Helderberg geology.

At mile 10.7, Route 85 passes the site of the old Indian Ladder Drive-In Theater with its miniature golf course — gone these many years — and offers, in clear weather, an enticing view of the Helderberg escarpment stretching to the north. Shortly beyond the site, there is an exposure of bedrock in a road-cut on the left side of the road; in much of this area north and south of Route 85, these alternating layers of Ordovician-age shale and sandstone known as the “Indian Ladder Beds” are obscured beneath glacial drift or heaps of stone called “talus” eroded from the cliffs of the escarpment.

At mile 11.5, after passing through the hamlet of New Salem, the highway begins the steep ascent that takes it from one Landscape Region — the Hudson-Mohawk Lowlands — to another, the Allegheny Plateau.

Considering the shortness and steepness of the ascent, this is one of the most dramatic changes in landscape regions in the continental United States.

Though the region is locally called the Helderberg Mountains, geologists see it as well as the Catskills to the south as a vast eroded plateau, given that the rock layers that compose it are relatively horizontal and undeformed (except for some minor faulting visible in many areas in Albany County).

The great Allegheny Plateau — also known as the Appalachian — stretches from just west of Altamont south to Alabama and it was formed during the Alleghanian Orogeny; this was an episode of mountain-building that occurred around 290 million years ago, when the ancient landmass that would someday be known as Africa collided with ancient North America.

For a simplified visualization of this event, think of what happens when two cars in a parking lot crash into each other nose-to-nose: The hoods and engine blocks of the cars may be crushed and compacted and pushed upwards, but the rear parts of the cars may be only slightly warped and lifted up above the chassis.

During the Alleghanian Orogeny, the area to the east of us was crushed and elevated into the great chain of mountains that stretches south from New England. The rock within was folded, faulted, raised to great heights, and in many places turned into metamorphic rock; the land farther west was elevated but remained largely undeformed and became the Allegheny (or Appalachian) Plateau.



At the top of the hill, Route 157 cuts right and heads toward Thacher Park. Route 85 continues along a flat lower section of the plateau, offering on clear days broad views across and up the Hudson Valley to three mountain ranges: in the far north, the Adirondacks near Lake George; to the northeast, the Green Mountains in Vermont; and to the east, the Berkshires in Massachusetts — these latter two are actually the same range with different names. Farther to the south in New York State, they are known as the Taconics.

Following the westward curve of the landscape contours, the road passes outcrops of dark shale before descending slightly to the wide valley of the Onesquethaw Creek at 13.7 miles.  In the creek bed is exposed the Onondaga limestone, the uppermost layer of limestone in the Helderberg area.

The Onesquethaw drains nearby Helderberg Lake, but in dry times of the year it may flow invisibly under the heavily-fissured rocky creek bed as the Onondaga limestone is a major former of caves. The nearby Clarksville Cave and Onesquethaw Cave among many others are dissolved from the Onondaga.

Devonian-period fossils

In times of rapid snowmelt or unusually heavy precipitation, the creek flows above ground, forming swirling rapids in this stretch. A clean light-gray limestone formed in a long-vanished warm, tropical sea, the Onondaga is studded with beautifully-preserved Devonian-period fossils including numerous corals and shellfish.

Beyond the creek bed, Route 85 briefly joins Route 443 and heads on a shoulder of the valley steeply uphill. Here the bedrock consists of alternating beds of thinly-bedded shale and thick layers of dark sandstone, and these strata extend south through the Catskills.

While the lower-elevation layers exhibit marine fossils — trilobites and clam-like brachiopods, among others — the higher-elevation layers near Gilboa and elsewhere south of the Helderbergs show fossils of primitive land plants and giant fern trees that obviously grew above water.

These layers are the eroded remains of what geologists term the “Catskill Delta.”  The name is somewhat misleading for there were numerous deltas that formed and co-joined during the Acadian Orogeny, a period of mountain formation that occurred during the late Devonian Period as North America collided with that section of the primitive European continent known to geologists as Avalon.

Towering, snow-capped mountains rose that were as grand in their day as the Rockies. Rushing streams poured from their flanks, carrying heavy loads of dark sand, clay, and mud, filling in the shallow sea in which the Onondaga limestone formed and producing deposits thousands of feet thick that would eventually be elevated by tectonic action into the Allegheny Plateau.

There are numerous outcrops visible in the Helderbergs in which the dark shale layers sit directly atop the light-gray limestone — compelling evidence of the rise of the great mountains to the northeast.

At 15.8 miles, there is a pull-off on the right side of the highway allowing a glimpse into the deep gorge that the Onesquethaw Creek has formed at the south end of Helderberg Lake. A mini-version of Ausable Chasm, the gorge features rapids, waterfalls, plunge pools, and numerous traces of the movement of small faults and the folding of the rock layers that probably occurred during the Alleghanian Orogeny.

In the gorge, the Onesquethaw Creek provides an example of what geologists call an “under-fit” stream.  The deep gorge shows signs of having been eroded by a stream with far more power than the Onesquethaw shows today, but at the time of the melting of the glaciers the ancient Onesquethaw must have been a veritable torrent and its surging, sediment-laden waters would have had sufficient energy to cut deeply into the bedrock, forming the steep-walled canyon visible today. It should be noted however that the gorge is on private property and permission from its landowners must be secured for entry.

At 16.4 miles, there is a view of privately-owned Helderberg Lake to the right of the highway; to the left are road-cuts through the shale/sandstone strata showing their thin layering and fragmentation.

Shortly beyond this point, Route 443 veers west toward Schoharie and Route 85 continues in a southwest direction, moving into a region of fields and forests. Meandering across the landscape are numerous stone walls made both of flat, angular chunks of the local stone and occasional smoothed or rounded boulders; these are “glacial erratics” — transported sometimes hundreds of miles from the Adirondacks or even Canada by the ancient glaciers and shaped by grinding against other rocks in the ice or in the streams that poured from the glaciers in summer.

Robert Frost found these rocks annoying in his famous poem “Mending Wall” as their rounded shapes make them resistant to stacking and easily susceptible to the pull of gravity.  The fields here as in the town of New Scotland are buried deeply in glacial drift; clearing these fields first of trees and then of the larger rocks in the soil for farming in the days of the pioneers must have been an appalling challenge.

At mile 24.4, a high glacially-sculpted hill appears prominently on the left side of the road. Like Bennett and Countryman hills near Clarksville, it exhibits a fairly steep north face, a flattened top, and a long, gentle slope to its south face — features of what geologists call a “rock drumlin.”

Fantastical village

At mile 26.9, Route 85 terminates at a T-intersection in the hamlet of Rensselaerville, a diminutive hamlet that very few residents of the city of Albany seem to be aware of — and those who have heard the name almost inevitably confuse it with the city of Rensselaer.

With its steeply sloping streets, its historic buildings, churches, and cemetery, its tiny art gallery and elegant eatery, and the town-wide echo of flowing water from Ten-Mile Creek, the hamlet’s ambience evokes that of Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia — or to the more romantic-minded, the fantastical village of Brigadoon.

Taking a right at the T-intersection and ascending steeply to the west end of the village past the restored mill, one soon enters the Huyck Preserve.

The Preserve consists of over 2,000 acres of forest and includes Lake Myosotis, a wilderness lake that can be accessed both by foot or by car. A trail begins at the west end of the small parking lot and heads upstream along Tenmile Creek.

Almost at once, hikers will hear the sound of falling water. The trail crosses a bridge near the mossy ruins of a 19th-Century mill and offers the first tantalizing view of the Rensselaerville Falls. Just beyond the bridge, a trail cuts sharply to the right and upward and follows a somewhat exposed ledge.

The trail is comfortably wide here though to the right there is a drop ranging between 20 and 30 feet down to the water and hikers should proceed with care. After a couple of hundred feet, one arrives at a ledge approximately one-third of the way above the base of the falls, offering a stunning view of the waterfall.

Here the thin-bedded shale and massive sandstone layers have been incised by Tenmile Creek following a fault that has sliced through the rock layers creating a box canyon into which the overflow from Myosotis Lake plunges 125 feet down a series of step-like projections. The erosive effects of water and ice have caused large, angular boulders to break from the bedrock, creating lacy meanderings and cascades for the rushing waters.

At the bottom of the falls is a plunge pool bordered by flat shelves of the dark shale, and a sharp-eyed observer may see in some of the exposures wide ripple marks: evidence of the shallowing of the ancient waters in which the sediments were deposited by streams rushing from the high mountains rising to the northeast during the Acadian Orogeny.

Soon those deposits would form the so-called Catskill Delta on which primitive ancient plants including fern trees would grow. Millions of years later, the violent events associated with the Alleghanian Orogeny would elevate the layers far above sea level and perhaps cause the fault through which Tenmile Creek would begin its spectacular plunge toward the sea.

I have always taught my students that, to appreciate geologic history, one must have a good imagination.  Driving on Route 85, one begins on the sands of the immense delta that bordered Glacial Lake Albany some 10,000 years ago — a time which, to a geologist, is not much further back than yesterday morning.

But along the highway lies evidence of ancient seas, the rise and fall of great mountain chains, the effects of millions of years of weathering and erosion, and the more recent, Earth-altering events of the last great Ice Age.  There are few places in the continental United States where so much geologic history is revealed — and so easily accessible. For those with the inclination and imagination, the chronicles of worlds forever lost and gone lie almost literally in our backyard.



For once, the Old Men of the Mountain found that Tuesday, June 13, was a sunny, rain-free, and warm morning to travel to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. Even coming over the mountain was pleasant.

In the Times Union, and the Times Journal, a paper from Cobleskill for the valley, the papers reported on the movies held many years ago in the street in the town of Schoharie. Schoharie has the honor of having the first “drive-in movie” in the country 100 years ago in the month of June. The OMOTM in their 80s and 90s remember these movies.

On June 8, there was a free showing of the movie “The Awakening of Helena Richie” in front of the courthouse in Schoharie and it was shown again on June 10 to celebrate the event of 100 years ago. Some of the OFs attended and for them it was fun

One OF mentioned that going to the picture show (yes, picture show) is no fun for him and his wife anymore. It could be an age thing because of his hearing, or just that he is old, but the movies today are so loud and are just noise, he has trouble picking up on the dialogue with all the banging and clanging going on in the background, or else it is some dumb music

“That’s OK,” one OF said. “There are no stories anymore so if you miss the dialogue you haven’t missed much.”

Dressing etiquette

The OFs had an unusual conversation Tuesday morning on what they considered “dressing up” to go out. Some of the OFs considered getting dressed meant putting on clean jeans, shirt and tie, with leather shoes to be high fashion. This is as dressed up as they get.

One OF wondered what people get dressed up for now anyway. The only men “dressing up” are politicians.

Another OF added that “to never trust a guy in a suit” was good advice.

Still another OF noticed that many big shots now show up in jeans and a T-shirt, or just a shirt and casual pants, and some do not even wear socks.

Another OF added that he thinks people are getting too sloppy and should show respect and dress up more.

Yet another OF joined in with: “Have you noticed how much it costs now to get dressed up?” The average Joe is being priced out unless he shops at the Salvation Army thrift store.

“It used to be,” one OG said, “that when we attended a funeral everyone showed up in black.”

The OF said he even had a suit just for that. Now anything goes, from shorts to tank tops.

“Who cares?” an OF added. “The center of attraction is dead; the dressing up is just a show for the family.  The one in the casket could care less.”

Travel routes and timetables

To arrive at the restaurants the OMOTM frequent (at one time or another), all the OFs travel some distance to gather together, eat, and do nothing. Over the years, the OFs have determined the shortest, or the best way to reach their destination at each eating establishment.

The OFs have also determined there is a spring, summer, fall, and winter way to get there. The winter way may not be the same as the other three. Every now and then, the Department of Transportation tosses a little monkey wrench into the OFs travel plans.

For the OFs on the southeast side of the mountain to travel to the restaurants on the west side, the typical ride for these OFs is over Bradt Hollow Road. Starting this month until fall, these OFs will have to find an alternate route because a bridge on the road will be closed for repair.

As one OF stated, “I guess we have to put up with these kinds of delays because nothing really lasts forever.  No matter where we travel, there is something under repair, or just having routine maintenance done.”

One OF said his wife always comments, “Why are you leaving so early — it only takes 30 minutes to get there!”  The OF said she never counts on accidents, road work, red lights, school buses, garbage trucks, OFs going 25 miles per hour, finding a place to park, or anything like that. The OF said she does not realize hauling all the junk she brings that sometimes it takes 10 minutes just to get in and out of the car.

“Mine is just the opposite,” one OF added. “She pushes to go, go, and go. We are always the first ones there, or 30 minutes early for an appointment; she does not want to be late and have everyone look at her when we do get there.”

Another OF jumped into the conversation with his Army training, which taught him not to be late. This OF said that most of the time the one at the end of the line was handed all the crappy details.

Old-school doctoring

Medicine (what else) was part of the conversation, too.

The OFs thought that doctors now not only have to receive a degree in the doctor business, but also need a degree in medical engineering, or at least computer science to go along with it. The OFs remembered our doctors that had all they needed in a black bag; along with a stethoscope, the doctor was all set.

Some doctors even had a mortar and pestle and strange powders in the back room of their offices where they made their own concoctions. The doctor wrote down a few instructions and the OFs dutifully took the mixture, which was included in the price of the office call, and what do you know — the OFs got better.

Tain’t like that anymore, Magee!

Those OFs who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and were able to get there (maybe just because of the doctors with the mortar and pestle) were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Pete Whitbeck, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Marty Herzog, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Ted Leherman, Don Wood, Art Frament, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Duncan Bellinger, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


Caregivers’ corner

Summertime in upstate New York is a great time to walk for good health.

We are fortunate in our area to have many options to choose from when we lace up our walking shoes.  One of my favorites is the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail that stretches from the city of Albany to Voorheesville. The wide trail, which is paved from Albany to Slingerlands, makes for excellent walking for all ages and abilities.

Outside our front doors, many of us have sidewalks, which make for pedestrian-friendly places to exercise. The campus of the University at Albany is a great place to walk if you live nearby. If you have a bit more travel time, our region is fortunate to have numerous wooded trails and nature centers, like Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar.

Why walk?

The National Institute on Aging notes that brisk walking is great exercise, and like other endurance exercises, can improve heart and lung functioning. Endurance exercises help keep you healthy, improve your fitness, and make it easier to do everyday life’s routine tasks. And, don’t overlook that good health enables you to enjoy a fun and active lifestyle as well.

Are you new to walking for fitness? Of course, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

The NIA recommends walking for the 30 minutes a day. If that’s too much, you could try walking for 10 minutes at a time and build up to three times a day. In time, you may advance to a single 30-minute walk. As your walk becomes easier, add new challenges, such as climbing a hill, extending the time you walk, increasing your walking pace, or adding an additional day a week of walking.

Step counters can help you keep track of your walking, set goals, and measure your progress. Once you know how many steps you average, you can set a goal to walk more.

To get a sense, the NIA reports that inactive people generally get fewer than 5,000 steps a day, while those who are very inactive get only 2,000 daily steps. A goal of 8,000 steps daily meets a recommended activity target, while a daily total of 10,000 is even better.

If you hit 15,000 steps a day, you’re in a high activity group! The NIA has more Go4Life fitness tips for older adults at www.nia.nih.cov/Go4Life.

Where are your favorite local places to walk for good health? I would love to know and will share your responses here and on the Community Caregivers’ Facebook page.  

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers Inc.


Where I work they sponsored a Green Commuting Day recently. The idea was to take an environmentally friendly way to work.

I ride a motorcycle that gets close to 50 miles per gallon to work whenever I can, but in the spirit of the event, I chose to ride my bicycle for the 10-mile commute each way that day. The only thing greener than a bicycle is walking. Maybe someday I’ll allow myself three hours to try it but not this year, haha.

At 6 a.m. I made sure the bicycle’s tires had enough air, strapped on my bag, put on my helmet and shades and, just like that, I was off.

It was cool that morning, but I knew from past experience all I’d need to wear on top was a t-shirt. A ten-mile ride is nothing for an experienced bicyclist, but for me, I knew I’d work up a good sweat by the time I got to the office. That’s why I brought a bag containing a change of clothes along. There’s a shower where I work but I hoped that wouldn't be necessary — hopefully, I wouldn’t be pedaling that hard.

The first part of my route took me through the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Every morning during the work week I either drive my truck or ride my motorcycle through there. The contrast in doing it on a bicycle was surreal.

First of all, going slowly you can much better appreciate the beauty of nature. The lush greens and earthy browns of the sleepy forest combined with the early rising sun have timeless beauty. The amazing thing was hearing the singing of the many different species of birds that live there.

As I slowly pedaled through the winding curves I imagined that this symphony of nature was being performed just for me. The thought came that once we humans finally finish ourselves off if we manage to leave any kind of habitable planet at all, the insects, birds, and other wildlife will do just fine without us. Kind of morbidly pragmatic, I know, but this is the tenor of the time we live in.

When you are walking or riding a bicycle on a quiet road and a car passes at 10 miles an hour (or more) over the limit you realize what a violent and shocking event that really is. The shoulders on the roads around here, if they even exist, are not all that wide. Being that close to 5,000 pounds of speeding metal, glass, and rubber is quite disconcerting, to say the least.

The commemorative T-shirt I was given for Green Commuting Day shows two arrows with the words “3 foot, please,” asking for at least that much space from passing cars. Wouldn’t it be nice, as the Beach Boys famously sang.

From the Pine Bush, I soon found myself heading east on Washington Avenue Extension. This busy four-lane road has really wide shoulders, which is great. The bad thing is there is a lot of detritus and debris there. You never notice it when you’re flying by on a motorcycle or in a car, but on a bicycle it’s all there for your endless fascination and enjoyment. Here are the items I saw:

— car parts of all kinds (belts, hoses, reflectors, mufflers);

— all kinds of cans, bottles, and fast-food bags and wrappers;

— clothes, including T-shirts, sweats, and a bra;

— pennies;

— sunglasses;

— dead animals, including a large, smashed turtle;

— lumber; and

— broken glass.

Most of this stuff I've seen before, but how do you wind up with your bra on the side of the road? I must not be going to the right parties anymore.

When riding a bicycle on a busy road like this, the name of the game is constantly trying to anticipate what the car and truck drivers are going to do. I installed a little mirror on my left handlebar and it’s so handy I’ll never ride a bicycle without one again. Seeing what’s coming up behind you is so valuable. It’s still kind of nerve-wracking when a lot of cars are flying by, but it’s manageable if you always pay attention and stay as far to the right as you can.

The thing that never fails to amaze me when walking or bicycling on roads that we normally drive on is how much work the vehicle is really doing for you. There are inclines that you have no idea are even there until you walk or bicycle them. The engines in our vehicles take all the physicality out of getting around.

Now you might ask yourself, is that worth all the pollution, the depletion of our finite resources, the traffic, and the accidents? We have structured our society so that a vehicle is, in most cases, just about mandatory.

However, I heard that in Sweden you can bicycle everywhere on dedicated paths, and then in the winter, you can even ski to work! I like that a lot, I really do. Can you imagine how much fitter we’d all be if it really was convenient and safe to ride bicycles or ski all over the place?

When I got to work, I locked the bike up at one of the many racks provided. Then at my desk, I made the decision not to change into my clean clothes. I was a little bit sweaty and I had to ride back home anyway so why bother? The bright, day-glo commemorative T-shirt I was wearing would be a good advertisement for Green Commuting Day. Maybe next year more of my co-workers will participate. Another benefit of not changing out of sweaty riding clothes is it’s a great way to keep meetings short, haha.

When the work day ended, I began the ride home, and that’s when the trouble started. The ride into work had been very pleasant and enjoyable. The ride home was without a doubt the worst bicycle ride of my entire life.

First, it was late in the day, so there was much more traffic. Then there was the heat, which was very, very hot for May (a day after setting a record of 95 degrees). Lastly, I had a 20 to 25 mile an hour headwind in my face for virtually the entire ride home (due west and I’m told this is the way it is all the time). Not only was this headwind terrible to pedal into, for much of the ride it smelled like skunk. If this ride sounds terrible, believe me, it was. When I got home I was just about wiped out.

Green Commuting Day is a great way to encourage finding energy efficient ways to get to work. I’m glad I participated and I hope it happens every year. Any time a vote comes up for more funding for public transportation or bike lanes, I’m there. I hope you are too.


It is June and on the 6th of the month in 2017, one wouldn’t know it, because it has been cold. So cold that the Old Men of the Mountain appreciated the comfort of Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow.

With all the rain and miserable weather so far, the OMOTM expected to see the creek directly in back of the diner really high, but it wasn’t. It was not as high as the last time the OFs (Old Friends) were at Kim’s when a couple of ducks were riding the current down the creek at a pretty good clip.

The OFs (Old Fuddy-duddies) had a conversation that was part history lesson and part directions on local geography. Some of the OFs (Old Fogies) have lived in the Hilltowns for many, many years and, as farmers, seemed to not stray very far from their Hilltowns.

As the conversation proceeded with the history of Preston Hollow, especially the stone store which is no longer there, the OFs (Old Farmers) began to mention landmarks which are still here. Some of the OFs (Old Folks) had no idea where these landmarks were, however, as mentioned above, these OFs have been in the area most of their lives and lived no more than 20 to 25 miles away. This is a recurring theme of the OMOTM and at the ages of most of the OFs is understandable. The OFs did not stray far from the farm.

New fun and old fun

The OFs talked about visiting shut-ins and other OFs who are in nursing homes. This is one advantage of participating in a social group of some sort. The OFs thought it does not have to be a big group — a small group from a church would suffice.

First though, the OFs said, you have to be associated with a group, like the OFs, a church, or the American Legion, Kiwanis, Elks, or their auxiliaries. The OFs mentioned weekly visits and playing cards or some type of board game with these shut-ins. This seems to be a recurring theme with the OMOTM; with the ages of most, it is understandable. Redundant, as the OFs are.

The OFs talked about the old time swimming holes in Fox, Schoharie, and Catskill creeks. The OFs could not remember if all of them were still there. Some of the OFs knew for sure some of these old swimming holes were gone. Three of the swimming holes on Fox creek have all been graded; now they are so shallow they are nothing but wading pools.

The OFs remembered jumping off the bridge that crosses Fox Creek at Drebitko Road, which goes to the Gas-Up. The OFs who took advantage of these swimming holes were mostly farmers and would find their way to the hole on a hot summer’s day covered with hay chaff and sweat. Those were good times, when farm kids worked hard and had simple fun. Most were poor and didn’t know it because everyone was in the same boat.

Wheeling and dealing

At the table this morning was the age-old system of bartering in full swing. Some was not bartering, but out-and-out selling this and that, to other OFs (and, of course, Old Farts) who wanted this and that.

This is downright dickering and it appears that friendships have nothing to do with these deals. This was strictly: “you have what I want and I will pay so much.”

On the other end was: “I have what you want and I will get all I can.”

Then there was the bartering going on and that was fun to watch also. This is the typical: “I have something you want and you have something I want.”

Then the, “let’s see if we can work the swap out fairly” begins. Sometimes the swap may be two for one, or at times this swapping will get down to haircuts. When this takes place these haircuts do not look bad.

B29 surprise

In the report of last week, this scribe reported on OFs in the military and some of their remembrances. This conversation, though not on-going, does come up quite frequently. We have also covered the OFs who have gone to Washington on the honor flights with a sponsor, and how impressed the OFs are with this trip.

This week we again report on one OF (Old Fellow) who was in the military and in the Air Force, and this is so current it happened a few days before this morning’s breakfast. This OF’s daughter and granddaughter spirited the OF away to Reading, Pennsylvania without telling anyone else in the family. This scribe conjectures it was because, if others knew, it would somehow be leaked and the surprise would not be a surprise.

The daughter and granddaughter had procured tickets for the OF to ride on FiFi, a famous restored B29 bomber. In the Air Force, this OF maintained the B29 bombers. The surprise worked and the OF had the opportunity to occupy the navigator’s seat and fly in this famous airplane. The OF who was the beneficiary of all this attention happens to be 90 and he is the oldest member of the Old Men of the Mountain. It is hard to surprise someone who has been around 90 years, but this OF was really surprised and excited.

The Old Men of the Mountain who arrived at Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow and were happy to find it still there after driving through the fog and the rain, were; Bob Snyder, Karl Remmers, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, Pete Whitbeck, Wayne Gaul, Ron Brown, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Ray Kennedy, Lou Schenck, Art Frament, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Ted Willsey and Bob Lassome with their good and dutiful chauffeur Denise Eardley, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Jess Vadney, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


It is Tuesday the 30th of May and the Old Men of the Mountain think it is March 31. What a dreary Memorial Day. What a dreary spring — at least so far.

Tuesday, the OMOTM were at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and at the elevation of this place, the OFs were lucky it wasn’t snow. A few OFs say they keep checking their feet at night to be sure they aren’t becoming webbed. So far, some of the OFs say they have not had many pesky bugs to deal with.  That is a plus, but just wait until it starts to warm up. The column has two old saws to include in this column (one now and one a few paragraphs later on). The first one is the old farmers’ saying: “Wet May…barn full of hay.”

Time jumping

At the table this morning we had a group of OFs who were in the military and all were involved with planes — one OF served on an aircraft carrier and two OFs were in the Air Force. In the Air Force, there was one OG who served where there were planes, and the other OG served where there were missiles. These OFs had a grand time talking about their experiences and, as usual with the OFs involved, they combined the past and the present in one conversation. Most seniors have this ability. It’s fun listening to conversations as they drift from one topic to another and these OFs do not realize they are time jumping 60 or 70 years in one sentence.

The “then and now” came up more than once. The OF who was on the carrier USS Wasp told how he had the opportunity to go aboard the new carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, and how much larger this carrier was than one he was previously on, and the OF thought that was big.

In the course of the special tour (because he was a carrier guy and was wearing his hat that indicated he was on the Wasp) he met a couple of the Marine pilots. As they discussed the “then and now” aspect of the two ships, one of the Marines asked how many planes the OF had on board the Wasp and what were they. The OF told the Marines that the Wasp carried F4U Corsairs and F4F Wildcats.

The Marines kind of chuckled, the OF said, and one Marine said to the other, “Aren’t those some of the ones they showed us pictures of in the old planes book?” The ones these jockeys now fly are the X-47B, and F/A 18F, 18E. Just like cars, the older planes had character and the pilots actually flew them. Apparently (the way this OF understood it) the new planes are now flown basically by machines.

There is one big “however” here. What will these young Marines be looking at when they are in their eighties? The F/A 18 will probably look like a Curtiss Model D, (circa 1911).

This OF also said he was impressed by the size of the George H. W. Bush which is 1092 feet long, while the Wasp was 741 feet long and the OF said on the George H. W. Bush, he could not make out a forklift at the other end.

The two Air Force OFs commented on how each had completely different experiences in the same branch of the service. One got to travel all over the world while the other one was stuck on Long Island for three-and-a-half years. The Navy OF spent a lot of his time on only two acres of steel with not many changes of scenery.

One of the Air Force OFs told what the weather was like in Alaska while he was there for about 30 days on one of their stops. It was continually dark, the OF said, and at one point was 65 degrees below zero and never got much warmer. He said the trucks were kept running and the exhaust from these trucks would freeze, eventually encasing the truck in a cloud of frozen exhaust fumes. The OF said it was necessary to locate the truck by sound after fighting your way through the cloud of frozen fumes and the dark. This OF did not envy the fellows who were stationed there.

Driving the kids nuts

The OFs touched briefly on self-driving cars and trucks. This used to be fairytale stuff and now it is quickly becoming a reality. The OFs are a little leery of this new technology, as some of the OFs haven’t yet acclimated to computers.

As more and more research is done on this technology, this scribe suggested it may be a blessing to the OFs who have had to give up their license. Now they could jump in the vehicle and program where they want to go and — bingo — the car would take you there safely. Would this cause the OFs’ kids to really be ticked because the OFs could pop in any time? The kids used to drive us nuts, now the OFs could do the same to them.

Our second old saw says be nice to your kids because “they are the ones who will be picking your nursing home.”

What if there is a glitch and the OFs had to actually drive the car. The OF would probably not have a license, have only one eye that worked and maybe that one was a tad blurry, coupled with legs that took at least 30 seconds to get in motion, and a reaction time of the snail that won the snail race. Would any of us want to see the scenario played out on our highways? One OF asked, “Who is responsible when a self-driving car is involved in an accident? The OF behind the wheel wasn’t driving,” and, furthermore, the OF continued, “The car may be borrowed. Is the owner responsible even if he was nowhere around?”

One OF said, “This is just like it happens now, so let the insurance companies fight it out. I can’t quite figure it out now just the way it is with regular cars that require a driver.”

Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville by driving themselves through the rain and the fog were: George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Roger Chapman, Pete Whitbeck, Dave Williams, Art Frament, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Ted Willsey, Mace Porter, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Bob Lassome, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Jess Vadney, Elwood Vanderbilt, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Harold Grippen, and me.



Cats, by their very design, have many fascinating qualities and talents. We all know about their keen sense of smell, fast (catlike) reflexes, and that uncanny ability to land on their feet if dropped. But did you also know they tell time better than a Swiss watch? It’s true. I see it every day. Every $%#@! day.

Just so you know, Meg and I get up most weekday mornings before 5. Yeah, I know. But we do that so we can get in our morning workout, which is usually a three-mile walk or trip to the gym in inclement weather. I have a very trusty clock radio next to our bed set to wake us up precisely on time to the dulcet tones of whatever classic rock is playing at that ungodly hour. This morning I believe it was the soft warbling of Axl Rose with that lovely classic, “Welcome to the Jungle.”

But before I could even get to Axl’s stirring melodic range, I had been roused by the not so soft meow of Lemon, our 17-pound alarm cat. Lemon was letting us know, in no uncertain terms, that it was time for the humans to get up, get dressed and feed him! If, for some unfathomable reason we’d chosen not to stir, he’d have moved on to phase two, or Defcon Two, as he likes to call it. This consists of hauling his bulk (albeit rather gracefully) up onto the bed, strolling up along my left side, walking across my pillow, stepping on my hair, doing the same to Meg and then sitting down between us and meowing.

Still no response? He hops off the bed and begins to sharpen his claws on the side of the bed or on the floor. This creates sounds reminiscent of some horror film where a madman is tearing up some poor innocent item of clothing or furniture with a badly tuned chainsaw or dull butter knife. Somewhere in here, the alarm (the real one) goes off and we get up, so he just sits and watches till we get downstairs and feed him.

Weekends are the biggest challenge as we don’t set the alarm. Starting at about 4:30 a.m. he’ll wake up and come in to check on us. By 5 he’s getting pushy, so one of us will get up and make like we’re going downstairs towards the fridge. He’ll come dashing out, blow by us on the stairs fast enough to cause rug burn, and we’ll double back and close the bedroom door. After a couple minutes he’ll realize he was faked out, so he comes silently up the stairs, begins to sharpen his claws just outside the door and then reach up and start to try and turn the doorknob. Seriously. We have those antique glass doorknobs that go nicely with our 130-year-old house and he turns, struggles and rattles, but hasn’t managed yet. Darn his lack of opposable thumbs!

Finally, after this has gone on for awhile and the floor outside the door has a three-foot hole from his claws, one of us will get up and feed the beasts. Of course, it’s highly unlikely we can get back to sleep after this, but just in case one would want to try, you get about an hour before he’s back asking for the dry food. We give them wet first then an hour later, dry. So giving them wet is like hitting the snooze button. And if you think mornings can be an issue, just try taking a nap in the afternoon. As we feed them around 4 p.m., if you’re zonked out any time after 3 p.m., Lemon will let you know that the day is waning and you might want to think about getting up and moving. Goddess forbid that he goes hungry for an extra five seconds.

Whether morning or afternoon, his timing is just spot on. And he’s good year-round. Oh, setting the clocks ahead or back does throw him for a bit, but he’s soon back on schedule, just like clockwork (pun intended). But none of this behavior answers the basic question: How in the heck does a large orange and white cat tell time with such pinpoint accuracy? Is there a Rolex hidden under all that fur? Does his brain contain some sort of chronometer the way homing pigeon brains are said to have magnetic particles like little compasses? Is he in contact with some vast, unseen cat atomic clock service? I haven’t seen a bill as yet.

Perhaps we should try to get a grant to study this phenomenon. Imagine if we could harness the time keeping ability of cats. At the Olympics, you’d no longer need precision stopwatches. You’d just bring in a flock of cats. The starting gun goes off, the cats scatter and hide under the bleachers. By the time the race ends, they’ve crawled back out and congregated unerringly around the winner. Maybe in the future if you needed a new clock, you’d just go to the animal shelter and adopt a cat instead of going to the store and buying some mass-produced piece of plastic. The dashboard clock in the car? Nowhere near as interesting as having a small cat riding along with you. And wristwatches? Nope, a cat follows you around all day, letting you know when to do things like feed it, change the litter, get it fresh water, or brush it.

There you have our future. A world where cats let us know what to do and when to do it. Oh, wait. That’s my life every day.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he would have finished this column sooner, but one of the alarm cats kept going off.


The Old Men of the Mountain traveled to the Home Front Café in Altamont on Tuesday the 23rd of May. At the Home Front the husband of the proprietress qualifies for a bon-a-fide member of the OMOTM, only he won’t admit it — he claims he is too young.

Tangling with technology

Technology again raised its ugly head, at least for the OMOTM. The electronic advancement was supposed to cut down on the use of trees to make paper, but so far technology has done just the opposite.  Now, everyone makes copies of everything.

One of the many problems the OFs find is that the techies assume everyone is capable of using a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Nonetheless, many of us are not computer or smartphone savvy. Even in the techie generation there are many who cannot comprehend how these devices work.

A few of the OFs have run into the problem of a battery having to be changed in a new car. This is a simple process and does not take many skills to put a new battery in a newer car. However, after changing the battery they find the radio does not work. The OF thinks he has done something wrong. The OFs asked this question at the breakfast: how many of the OFs have read the books that come with a new car?  The answer was 0-zilch-none-nada one. One OF said the salesperson gave him a quick review of just a few of the buttons and gauges and where the spare tire was, and that was it.

Many have gone back to the dealer with the problem and have found out that when you change the battery the radio has to be reprogrammed. “What a bunch of bologna” (or is it baloney) the OF said.  The whole world is getting much too wound up in this computer production. One OFs wife has complained for some time now, “Why can’t we have just a regular on and off switch and let it go at that?”

The OFs who live on the hill talked about being on top of the mountain where things stay pretty much the same.  Then from their perch in the hills the OFs watch all the changes that go on by looking one way to the Hudson and Mohawk valleys and the other way towards Schoharie valley. They notice how many things now look different to them. Not as much to the south and southwest, but more to the north and northeast. Conditions look nothing like they used to look in the forties and fifties. What brought this up was how SUNY Cobleskill has grown.

Growing pains

Most of the OFs knew Cobleskill back when it was only 4 buildings and a 2-year school called the Schoharie State School of Agriculture. Today it is a 4-year school (State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill) and looks like a regular campus. The OFs don’t know if the students come out of here any smarter than they did in the fifties.

Sometimes changes are interesting to see, but sometimes changes are so radical that the OFs are out of the loop, along with other people of the senior population who are left wondering what the heck is going on. Like one OFs mother told him years ago, it is all a bubble and sooner or later it is going to burst. This OF said his mom was right most of the time — if not all of the time. When the bubble does burst it is up to the OFs of all generations to pick up the pieces and start over.


Here we go again talking about engines! The OFs maintain that engines have a mind of their own and the movies about transformers are not that far off. Most engines are factory tuned but the OFs say after they own them for awhile each one takes on its own personality.

One OF said that he had a chainsaw that would not start unless he cussed at it. What? He said that it had to be the right cuss words, too, or the engine wouldn’t listen to him. Say it right, and this engine started on the second pull. If he said it wrong (meaning he was just saying it and not putting any emphasis on the right words) the OF could pull that rope until his arm fell off. He claimed that when he cussed like he meant it, the little beast would start right up. The OFs at the table all related to that and had their own stories.

One OF had a lawn mower he had to kick before it started, and one had a mower that would only make one pass and then quit. The OF said he would then have to give the rope one pull and it would start, make another pass and then quit. This scenario went on all the while he was mowing the lawn until it was done.

Family affairs

The OFs discussed a little bit about families and housing. Some OFs have families that have their kids and grandkids live close to home, some so close they are in the same house, and some only 20 miles away. Others have their kids and grandkids spread all over the country and a few even have kids living in other countries.

When the OFs really become close to the short end of the ruler, if their kids are still underfoot, the downsizing is not a problem — the kids will just take over. When the OFs have kids spread all over (like the winds blowing dandelion blossoms) downsizing becomes quite a problem. While much of what the OFs have garnered through 80 years of living, including items they have accrued from their parents and grandparents, it should be noted that these collections sometimes belong in museums, or at least put into a high class auction, with the lesser quality items in a flea market. This is when downsizing becomes a problem.

The OMOTM would like to take this time to wish the best of luck to Melissa (our hard-working, attentive editor). She was going into surgery about the same time the OMOTM were having breakfast. This is something the OMOTM know about (the surgery part, not what type of surgery it is) so again, good luck and best wishes to Melissa.  

Those OFs who arrived at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and ready to eat, were: George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Roger Shafer, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Pete Whitbeck, Jim Rissacher, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Rev. Jay Francis, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Elwood Vanderbilt, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Karl Remmers, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Gerry Chartier, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Bob Lassome, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Jess Vadney, Harold Grippen, and me.