Archive » March 2019 » Columns

March 19 was a Tuesday and the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner on Route 20 in Princetown.

The OMOTM meet on every Tuesday with an attendance better than most religions have when they meet on Sunday. There is a good reason for this.

The OMOTM have no rules, no goals, no required attendance, no dues, no discussion on politics or religion, no dress code, and no civic duties. In essence, all the OMOTM do is have a pleasant breakfast between friends where everyone knows your name.

On this particular Tuesday, some of the OFs talked about pruning their trees. The discussion was on apple and pear trees, but this time of year the OFs thought it was a good time to prune any tree.

One OF said that even though he was doing the pruning now he thought he was a little late — not much but a little. Other OFs that have never bothered to prune their trees asked the OFs that did prune what was the proper way to do it. These OFs were given lessons on how to prune trees and found that those who did prune their trees all did it basically the same way.

One OF said last year he had tons of pears, and few apples, but the year before that he had tons of apples but very few pears. Another OF said it was all timing between the blossoms and the bees. This OF said, if the blossoms are out full and the bees are around, the OF will have fruit. It seems that both blossoms and bees have to be together for a good harvest.

Snowbirds like golf carts

The OFs who hunker down for the winter here in the great Northeast began discussing those who fly away for the winter months. The discussion focused on looking forward to the snowbirds’ return. This prompted further discussion from OFs who went down to visit those in the southern climes.

The dialogue was on the mode of travel by golf carts. Some of the OFs who go south have cars down there and so they fly down while some drive down and back each year. A few have relatives that drive them back and forth. Once down there, one OF said, they hardly use their vehicle — the vehicle of choice is the golf cart.

The OFs who have had the opportunity to go south and join the snowbirds said some of these golf carts are all dolled up with fancy paint jobs, curtains, flags, and tinted windows, and some have matching small trailers they haul behind.

This seems to be sort of a competition to see who has the fanciest golf cart. One OF mentioned that it does cut down on the carbon footprint.

Armchair quarterbacks

The OFs at one table began talking about the Boeing situation concerning their new airplane (the “737 Max 8”) and the recent fatal crash investigations they are having with this plane.

One OF thought that they are going to find there is nothing really the matter with the plane. He feels it is going to be some sophisticated computer hardware glitch (that can happen) that the pilots were never alerted to or shown how to correct for it.

Another OF said he thought the engines were too powerful for the airframe and should be scaled back. Just like many major calamities, countless armchair quarterbacks enter the fray. Sometimes none of them are right and sometimes one or two hit the nail on the head.

The OFs thought that, no matter what happens, this is going to be a sticky wicket for Boeing, and Boeing is such a major player in the economy of the Northwest.

DNA drama

The next chatter goes back about five or six weeks ago when the OFs were talking about their DNA and genealogy. Today a different group of OFs approached the same subject and were wondering about their ancestors.

This was prompted by some TV show that was tracing the expansion of people through the planet from basically a single source. One OF said he would bet there are some young scientists in this field checking human or maybe animal DNA with fish DNA to see if they can connect the two.

One OF said he hopes it is never proven that human or animal DNA can be connected to a trout, or a guppy. To this OF, it would be a bummer to know he was related to the fish swimming around in his granddaughter’s little fish tank.

So far, one OF said, we have not even been completely connected to monkeys and apes — let alone fish.

An OF suggested, with Easter coming up, it is a good thing that Jesus had a crown of thorns, and was crucified on a wooden tree; that way everything would rot and his DNA would be gone.

“Yeah,” one OF suggested, “How about the nails?”

The original OF said, “They [the nails] would be gone also; the lime would have taken care of that.”

The other OF said, “Are we sure of that? The nails could have been pulled out and might not have gone into the pit with the cross.”

Wow! Here is another discussion that can become really deep.

Those OFs who stumbled out of bed in the morning and (like the song says, stretched and came to life, dressed and either waited for their ride, or started ole Betsy) made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Marty Herzog, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Jack Norray, Otis Lawyer, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey and Warren Willsey, along with Amy Willsey (great support person), Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Harold Grippen, and me.


On Tuesday, March 12, the Old Men of The Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. This scribe must report nothing went on; the OFs did not have to rely on any fire trucks, police cars, ambulances or anything like that

No emergencies occurred, the OFs did not have to be rescued; as a matter of fact, it was very routine, and the discussions were on old cars and trucks, old farm equipment, machinery maintenance — just regular  OF talk.

The OFs talked about a new craze of using obsolete trailers for storage. It may be a form of copying from the Home and Garden TV show where they show people purchasing one of these obsolete trailers in good shape and making a home out of it.

This has not escaped the imagination of the OFs and some have purchased one of the trailers and already have plans of what do with it. One OF said, if he didn’t straighten up with the old lady, he better plan on making it a functional man cave.

It was interesting to hear the advantages for using one of these things for storage especially if the OFs are collectors and restorers of large items, like furniture, or tractors, cars, and trucks. As regular readers of the OMOTM know, we have quite a contingent of those rascals in the group.

So many so that, as a group, if these OFs all got together, with whiteboards, and slide projectors for old pictures, and computers for the newer stuff, they could put on quite a seminar for those just getting into the hobby.

The only problem with using these old trailers or containers used for ship and rail travel is they are ugly as sin and, depending on where they are, some sort of pleasing decorations, or fencing around the offending trailer is in order.

Naming the seven dwarfs

One OF apparently at one table came to the breakfast out of sorts. This scribe is unable to attest to that but the scribe and others at the scribe’s table heard the word “grumpy” and the other OFs were calling him grumpy. (Aside: It is hard to stay grumpy with this group.)

This had the OFs at the long table try to come up with the seven dwarfs from the movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The OFs didn’t make it. The OFs came up with Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, and that was it.

One OF said Dumbo; that was not one of dwarfs and it is a completely different movie. What was also a little odd was about 12 OFs with very serious looks on their faces trying to come up with the doofus names of the seven dwarfs, this scribe included.

For those whose interest is piqued, the seven dwarfs are: Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy, Doc, Grumpy, Dopey, and Bashful. “Snow White” is a beautiful little movie; the animation is great,

“Heigh-ho, heigh-ho,

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh-ho

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s home from work we go,

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho.”

Or something like that.

Cell phones let you hide

Many of the OMOTM have abandoned their landlines and gone to using only cell phones. Now to contact these OFs, it is more difficult.

This may be the purpose. The OFs all say it saves them money but we know now they can hide.

It used to be all the OF had to remember was basically the last four numbers for the OF they were trying to contact because the first three were the same depending on where they lived. So it was easy; it wasn’t necessary to carry a directory with a whole bunch of different numbers.

Also now the OF doesn’t even have to turn the phone on. But, on the other hand, it is possible to get hold of the OF no matter where the OF is. Unfortunately, the OF could be in the john and, in the middle of the conversation, the OF making the call can hear the toilet flush. Ah, technology.

Army strong

Some of the OFs who have and restore old equipment restore old military equipment. Tuesday morning, this group was wondering why the government does everything to overkill.

They were talking about restoring World War II army trucks and jeeps and what they are held together with and trying to remove just one rusted-on bolt. How can four or five guys make a whole conversation on removing one simple bolt? But they did.

The OFs in complete detail described each tool they used, what worked and what didn’t. Apparently, nothing worked because the bolt is still holding firm.

The Army must not want its stuff falling apart, because in battle there is not a garage just a few miles down the road. But half-an-hour conversation on a bolt, wow. This scribe supposes a clique of knitters could to the same thing talking about a stitch.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to eat we go, and it was to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg the OFs went, and the ones who were there were: Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Marty Herzog, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Rev. Jay Francis, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Harold Grippen, Jake Lederman, and me.


Key to the Knowersville section of the 1866 Beers Map of Guilderland: l. Bozen Kill; 2. House of Dr. Frederick Crounse; 3. Knower Homestead; 4. Hotel of James Keenholts (Inn of Jacob Crounse on the State Historic Marker); 5. Hotel (Was this one later run by Jacob Crounse as competition for James Keenholts who was now in the original Crounse Inn?); 6. Store (probably the one run by Jacob Crounse containing the post office); 7. Blacksmith shop; 8. Probably a wheelwright shop; 9. Albany-Schoharie Plank Road, originally the old Schoharie Road, now Route 146 until it branches off to the right as Schoharie Plank Road; and 10. Modern day Gun Club Road. Note that by 1866 the railroad had been in operation three years and buildings had begun to appear west of the original Knowersville.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

This was the Doctor Crounse House as it was in the 1990s. Efforts to preserve it as a historic site have so far been unsuccessful.

Almost anyone with an interest in our local history is aware Altamont was once known as Knowersville, but few realize that the original hamlet of Knowersville was located to the east of the present village until  the beginning of a new chapter in the village’s history in 1863 with the arrival of the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad.

Beginning in the 18th Century, the old Schoharie Road passed where Severson’s Tavern (site of Altamont’s Stewart’s) was the last stopping place before the arduous ascent up the escarpment on the route to Schoharie. West Guilderland was the name given to the location when a United States Post Office was established at the tavern in 1829.

East of the tavern, the land was very sparsely settled until, in 1795, Myndert A. Wimple leased a large piece of property from Stephen Van Rensselaer along the old road. A few years later, he transferred this land to the successful Albanian Benjamin Knower, who built a grand stylish house fronting the road. With its large size, fireplaces, and interior woodwork, it could be classified as a mansion compared to other Guilderland homes of the era.

On land behind his house along the Bozenkill, Knower built a hat factory. He retailed the hats at his store at 421 South Market Street in Albany where he did a steady business selling hats that had been subjected to a secret waterproofing process, allowing them to keep their shape when wet from rain or snow.

His secret process consisted of immersing the hats in the Bozenkill’s cold water for a certain period of time in a deep spot in the creek called “Hatter’s Hole” by local residents. As Knower became a wealthy man, he became involved with the management of the Mechanics and Farmers Bank in Albany, establishing himself as a man of prominence in the early years of the 19th Century.

In 1824, his daughter Cornelia married William L. Marcy, later governor of New York. Our late town historian Arthur Gregg, relying on Knower family oral tradition passed along by the last family member to live in the house, felt the wedding took place at the West Guilderland house. However, he admitted he had not been able to find any documentary proof except a newspaper announcement stating they had been married.

Writing in 1934, Gregg mentioned James Matthews, still alive at the time of his article, had worked at the hat factory when it closed down at the end of the Civil War. Another man David Andrews reminisced to Gregg that he bought a hat there when a boy. Eventually the village of Altamont bought the property used in hat manufacture in 1918 for a water treatment plant.

Even though Knower was actively involved in Albany affairs, he also put down roots in West Guilderland. A short distance east along the Schoharie Road was St. James Lutheran Church (site of the modern entrance to Fairview Cemetery) which received from Knower an annual donation of $10, this being the largest single donation received during these early years.

Knower died in 1839, and being held in high esteem by the tiny community that had grown up around his house and hat factory, residents renamed their little hamlet Knowersville. The post office was moved from West Guilderland at the Severson Tavern to Jacob Crounse’s store in 1840 in what was now Knowersville.

The Crounse family

In 1833, two members of the Crounse family, father and son, settled in the vicinity of the Knower mansion and hat factory. The father, Jacob Crounse, acquired nearby property from Benjamin Knower to build a tavern, which would be about halfway between Albany and Schoharie.

Arthur Gregg, writing in 1933, quotes Webb Whipple who had grown up in the neighborhood, repeating information that had been passed down to him that the foundation stones of the old inn had been hauled from Howes Cave with the timber cut in the Helderbergs for its construction.

Across the road, Jacob Crounse ran a store and from 1840 until the Civil War served as the postmaster of the newly named Knowersville Post Office there.

At some point, Jacob Crounse either sold his hotel or lost it because of financial difficulties; its new owner was James Keenholts. The 1855 New York State Census lists J. Keenholts as “hotel keeper” and Jacob Crounse as “merchant.”

However, in a 1959 article about the Albany-Schoharie Plank Road, Arthur Gregg mentions, “Running in opposition [to the Keenholts Hotel] was the Crounse hotel across the way, later remodeled into the three houses that stand there now.” It seems probable that he acquired the hotel across the road and continued in the business at least for a time.

Later in life, Jacob Crounse is supposed to have moved in with his son, Dr. Frederick Crounse, busying himself making coffins in the barn.

That same year that Jacob had built his inn on the Schoharie Road, his son, Dr. Frederick Crounse, also obtained land from Benjamin Knower to the west of Knower’s house. There he built a house and a smaller, separate two-room office with an attic where at least for a time, he had an African-American servant living.

This parcel was on the corner of what is now Route 146 and Gun Club Road. For over 60 years, Dr. Crounse  practiced medicine, traveling to his patients on horseback or driving his gig.

Both Crounses were firm supporters of the Anti-Rent Movement against the Van Rensselaer interests. Dr. Crounse also made a speech in 1860 at one of Guilderland’s Wide Awake rallies supporting Lincoln.

In 1849, the improved Albany-Schoharie Plank Road was constructed through the midst of Knowersville, but it no longer totally followed the route of the old Schoharie Road. Not far beyond Dr. Crounse’s house, the plank road veered to the right to take a different path up the escarpment, putting Severson’s, the original tavern in the area, out of business.

The plank road, a turnpike built for investors’ profits from tolls, was constructed of a lane of thick planks laid over parallel sills. A dirt lane ran along the side to allow one driver to pass another.

The two Knowersville hotels thrived from the increased traffic carried by the improved road. The Albany-Schoharie stagecoach made a daily trip between the two places during the years the Schoharie Plank Road was in operation.

The stagecoach stopped at the Keenholts Hotel where the horse teams were changed and passengers were refreshed. (The modern day New York State Historic Marker in front calls it Inn of Jacob Crounse.)

The election of 1860 saw political demonstrations at both the Crounse and Keenholts hotels supporting either Lincoln or Douglas with poles, banners, bands, speeches, and crowds. Shortly after Lincoln’s victory and inauguration, the Civil War began and was soon brought home to the people living in Knowersville.

Volunteer regiments were forming in the northern states. In Schoharie, the 134th New York State Volunteer Infantry trained, then marched to Albany over the Albany-Schoharie Road, stopping halfway for the night in Knowersville.

Webb Whipple remembered the soldiers sleeping in the fields around the neighborhood. A 134th veteran reminiscenced in the 20th Century, mentioning sleeping under the hotel sheds at Knowersville. Probably men were anywhere they could bed down, while that night Dr. Crounse tended the weary; footsore; and, in some cases, sick men. Later, he would tend any wounded men returning home on the stagecoach.

Both of Dr. Crounse’s sons enlisted. Tragically, Eddie Crounse suffered a head injury while helping to build a fortification. A Schoharie woman who was nursing in one of the military hospitals found him there, and notified his father.

Dr. Crounse traveled south to bring his son home, but Eddie Crounse never fully recovered. One day, the suffering young man was discovered face down in the Bozenkill behind his parents’ home.

The railroad changes everything

Sept. 16, 1863 marked the beginning of the end of the importance of the little community on the Plank Road. The first train to run on the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad passed over a right-of-way granted by the Seversons — revenge is sweet!

Within two years, a railroad station stood along the tracks, the Seversons had built a new hotel across the tracks, and a new commercial building stood nearby beside the tracks (where the Home Front Café is today).

The Knowersville post office was moved to the new railroad depot and, where there had only been two farmhouses, a building boom commenced and a new village arose. In the meantime, in 1867, rail competition forced the board of directors to disband the Plank Road Company.

What of the original Knowersville, that stretch of the Schoharie Plank Road where Keenholts’s hotel, Crounse’s store and Dr. Frederick Crounse’s home and office stood?

Now that the center of the village had shifted to the area of new hotels, businesses, and residences near what had become the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, the original Knowersville had become a backwater.

An 1884 Enterprise ad stated W.S. Waterman would repair watches, clocks, and jewelry “promptly and neatly at his residence, Old Knowersville, NY.” In 1890, when the village of Altamont incorporated, the old village was not included in the village boundaries.

And, in 1902, The Enterprise reported, “There was a large attendance at the auction sale at the Knower Homestead at the old village Monday afternoon.” Held after the death of George Knower, the last heir, it was as if a chapter had ended.

Today the three historic markers along Route 146 noting the Inn of Jacob Crounse, the Knower Homestead, and sadly, what remains of Dr. Crounse’s house are the only clues that this was once the 19th-Century community of Knowersville.


This Tuesday, March 5, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie where so much went on this scribe does not know where to start. The scribe guesses he will start at the beginning.

As a rule, the names at the end of this column are listed basically in the order of appearance at the restaurant. First on this list are two names of OMOTM who are generally in the lead.

Tuesday morning, the men with those two names were not there. As more of the OFs arrived, these OFs began to think something might have happened to the lead OFs and wondered if one of  them should go out and check if the lead OFs had broken down somewhere along the way.

While this was being discussed, one OF told this scribe that maybe it was the OF’s turn to drive who had a car that did not like cold weather. In cold weather, this particular car would just quit as it was going along.

This OF said he was told that it was necessary to sit and wait awhile in the car and then it could be restarted then it would go on. The car always seemed to restart; the OF continued, it always restarted.  

No sooner did the OF enlighten us about this cranky cold-weather vehicle than through the large front windows of the Your Way Café we saw them coming down the road. Just as the OFs were going to turn into the parking lot, the car quit running!

Right there in the middle of the road in front of the restaurant, the finicky car quit! Right behind these OFs was an empty Carvel stone truck on its way back to the quarry to get another load. Fortunately, the driver stopped the vehicle about eight feet in back of the OFs.

Some of the younger OFs were getting up to help push the persnickety car out of the road, but suddenly it restarted so the OFs in the car were able to drive into the parking lot. When the OFs came through the door into the restaurant, they were given a big hand for supplying the early morning’s entertainment.

The OF sitting on the right (next to this scribe) said that the car this certain OF has never did like cold weather and has acted up like that since it was new and they can’t find out what the problem is. This scribe thinks maybe it is a Florida car that was shipped to Northeast by mistake, and like people it is one of those that can’t take cold weather.

Chest pains

The next happening is considerably more crucial.

Toward the middle of the breakfast, while some of the OFs were still arriving and others had their meals, the OF sitting to the left of this scribe in a loud voice announced, “Can I have your attention please!”

At first, not much attention was given and this scribe asked, “What’s the problem?”

The OF answered, “I am having severe chest pains.”

Fortunately, in this group there are a couple of semi-retired emergency medical technicians. This scribe right away called these EMTs up to the table, and asked for the OFs to call 9-1-1.

This was done immediately by a regular patron in the restaurant who was familiar with the procedure and what to say to the dispatcher. By the time the ambulance arrived, the OF was feeling better but he had broken out in a sweat, and was quite dizzy, and he mentioned everything was blurry.

The EMTs put him in the ambulance, which took him to Cobleskill Hospital. This scribe called that evening to check on him and find out how he was doing.

To this scribe’s surprise, the OF answered the phone. He was home, and told to rest and not do anything. The pain was gone and he was resting comfortably.

This was rather an interesting and eventful morning.

X-rays displayed like family photos

Now to some to the regular chatter, which was interspersed between the two major events and it just happened to be in a medical vein. Many of the OFs (as has been reported) are familiar with doctors, doctor appointments, and procedures.

One of these is X-rays. Some of the OFs and their friends have taken to requesting the X-rays and displaying them as you would photographs of families and friends. The OFs circle the broken, or worn-out, part as indicated by the doctors as a point of interest.

Some doctors even supply photos of their work. One OF has X-rays and pictures of his shoulder repair and a picture of a common drill drilling a hole for the screw to hold the shoulder together, and then a picture of how it looks afterward with the screw doing its job.

The OFs say that it is now common to see the insides as well as the outside of a family member in the family album. This goes for many parts — knees, shoulders, hips, backs, and whatever part is being repaired.

In some cases, it even applies to internal organs. This goes beyond nude paintings.

However, you never hear anyone say, “Hey, Joe, want to see what my shoulder looks like on the inside?  I have a picture of it hanging in our den.”

It is lucky that the OFs make it to the restaurants on Tuesday mornings, like this Tuesday morning making it to the Your Way Café in Schoharie, and those that did were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Bob Giebitz, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Ken Parks, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen Defazzo, Harold Grippen, and me.


— dhanley87

Limerick poet, Michael Hartnett (1942-1999), Munster’s poet laureate, declared in his 1975 “A Farewell to English” that henceforth he would write only in Irish intent on preserving as best he could the heart of the Irish soul.

One of the great benefits of growing old(er) is that I have been able to free myself of all the prejudices I harbored as a youth.

But despite such progress, there’s a person, or type of person, who still gets to me — on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m talking about Plastic Paddy, the Irish-American stentorian gasman draped in emerald blaring his 2 a.m refrain of  “The Wild Colonial Boy” unable to count the many sheets to the wind he’s become — and thinking Castlemaine is a large building in the State of Maine.

And how often is this Paddy accompanied by a lass sporting a Kelly green T-shirt inviting oncomers to “Kiss me I’m Irish.”

I’ve talked to a number of these Hibernophobes and realized that the St. Patrick’s Day they celebrate has nothing to do with Ireland and the people who live there.

They might claim Irish heritage but the Irish part is subculturally divorced from the people who call the Kingdom home.

I have also asked these Paddies what poet they like best: Seamus Heaney, Paddy Kavanagh, or Paul Durcan?

And asked as well: Can you tell me why Ireland was the first country in the world to sanction same-sex marriage by popular vote — a country whose ties with the Roman Catholic Church was hithertofore impregnable.

The Plastic Paddy phenomenon has not escaped the attention of others, some feeling their patience tested as much as mine.

In October 2016, the Irish journalist Rosita Boland explored the world of Plastic Paddy in an article for The Irish Times, “How Irish-America sees Ireland.”

Boland sought to find out if the “Irish” in Irish-American was grounded in a cultural reality. She headed to Boston, the city whose clannish Irish-American population is the most concentrated in the United States.

Like an unabashed ethnographer, Boland entered the lives of eight Irish-Americans — who had never been to Ireland — to query them about connections to their roots.

Her conclusion was, “When Irish-Americans talk about identifying with the Irish they mean the Irish who came to settle in the United States and their descendants, not those of us living in Ireland.”

Her Bostonian sample saw Ireland as an “abstract, romanticized receptacle of dreams and green fields, and the place that will soothe a lifelong ache.” The sweet ersatz isle of John Ford’s “The Quiet Man.”

One of those interviewed by Boland was Rob Anderson, a Natick man who plays bagpipe in two Celtic bands; he himself was perplexed by his Irish-American identity. He said he was aware of, “the expressions that people in Ireland have about us: Plastic Paddies and the fake Irish.”

Then he offered an apologia of sorts, “I guess there are two factions of people in Ireland, one who see us as silly and that we are Yanks, the other who is grateful that things have moved on for the people who emigrated. I know there are a number of people in Ireland who don’t consider people like me as Irish, and that’s technically accurate, but we’re doing our best to keep our Irish culture and heritage alive, and pass it on to our children. At the end of the day that should be enough.”

Case closed? Not exactly.

Anderson revealed that, when talking about his Irish self, he had two scripts: “If I’m talking to someone from the old sod — Ireland —” he says, “I’ll say I’m an American of Irish descent. If I’m talking to someone here in America it’s easier to say I’m Irish, because here everyone comes from somewhere.”

He then showed the root of his thought. He said his grandmother used to say, “Those who had to go got up and left Ireland. They endured a 3,000-mile boat journey, and when they landed here they saw signs that said ‘No Irish Need Apply.’ It’s those people I identify with. They are the people who made the Irish in America what they are today.”

Because there’s so much to unpack in what Anderson says, we’ll put it atop the agenda for St. Patrick’s Day night when, after the fifth jar of stout, we start discussing in earnest. The topic ranks up there with “identity diffusion” among Irish Americans as well as the incendiary, “Are you a Plastic Paddy?”

I would like to add something else to this agenda: the 21 A-list essays explaining how Ireland became “modern” found in “The Princeton History of Modern Ireland” (2016) edited by Richard Bourke and Ian McBride.

Of these enlightening explorations, I would require every wannabe Hibernophile to read Maurice Walsh’s “Media and Culture in Ireland, 1960-2008.”

It’s explosive. The Irish journalist looks at every piece of the cultural erector set from which the modern-Irish-self was wrought, giving especial attention to those powerful forces that sought to take charge of the identity-shaping process for their own ends, especially the Roman Catholic Church.

Walsh talks about how subversive television became in the 1960s, serving as a mirror in which the Irish could gaze upon themselves as they were — individually and collectively.

On talk shows broadcast on RTÉ, Ireland’s national television station, such as “The Late Late Show” (modeled on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”), the Irish people from O’Connell Street to Blackwater Bridge in Kerry, saw for the first time probing questions posed to government and church officials.

Colm Tóibín, the Irish novelist, said that without such shows it’s quite possible — with respect to the touchy subject of “sex” for the Irish — “that many people in Ireland would have lived their lives in the twentieth century without ever having heard anyone talking about sex.”

And when, after dinner each night, the Irish family gathered around the television set instead of kneeling around the bed to say the rosary, officials from the Roman Catholic Church’s Marian devotion team, condemned television as harmful to the health of the family. Their view was that of the Mayo-born prelate Patrick Peyton: “The family that prays together stays together.”

But church authorities took a severe blow when the Irish investigative journalist Mary Raftery produced a three-part documentary, “States of Fear,” exposing the sexual and physical abuse of children in Ireland’s industrial and reformatory schools from the 1930s to the 1970s — by members of Catholic religious orders. The country froze in shock.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern issued an apology to the abused and to all the people of Ireland. Then, in 2000, a Child Abuse Commission was set up.

When the commission’s report came out nine years later “The Irish Times” called it “the map of an Irish hell ... a dark hinterland of the State, a parallel country whose existence we have long known but never fully acknowledged. It is a land of pain and shame, of savage cruelty and callous indifference.”

We need to add this item to our agenda as well.

In James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” an Irish nationalist, Davin, fed up with his friend Stephen Dedalus’s lack of commitment to things Irish, annoyedly asks, “Are you Irish at all?”

An indignant Dedalus retorts, “Come with me now to the office of arms and I will show you the tree of my family.” It didn’t matter, Davin thought his friend had been touched by Plastic Paddy.

Whether one’s roots in Ireland are deep or shallow, every Irish American on St. Patrick’s Day 2019 ought to include in their celebratory discussion (as the sixth pint of Guinness is being poured) Davin’s question: “Are you Irish at all?” We all want to know.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!


Tuesday, Feb. 26, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie. At this restaurant, the staff places the tables in a long line and the OFs feed like cows at a trough.

When everybody is there, and the food is coming out, the conversations are at the loudest. The scene of many of the OFs putting their hands to their ears to adjust, or remove, their hearing aids is rather comical. It is apparent that none of these hearing aids work at places where there is noise or music.

The OFs began talking about the cost of owning animals. One OF told about a friend of his that had his taxes done and received a little more than he expected in his tax return — it was about $1,500.

The OF said he was really excited about receiving the $15,000. A few days after getting his tax refund, he came home from work and found that his dog was dragging itself by his front feet and his back legs were just dragging on the floor.

He took the dog to an animal hospital. The OF said they performed all kinds of tests and could find nothing wrong.

That was until the doctor picked the dog up by the hind quarters and something inside him “clicked” and the dog stood up and has been fine ever since. However, the amount of the vet service was almost equal to the tax return.

One OF said it seems anytime he gets a windfall something comes along and takes it all away, and occasionally a little more.

Another OF said he pays $125 just to get his cat’s hair cut twice a year. Then someone else said they used to feed the pets table scraps; now it is all special food and this OF thinks his pets eat better than he does.

One OF said a vet used to come to the farm on a regular basis and check the cows and horses, and other farm animals. If there was a cat or dog that was ill, he would look at them and the OF said there was never an item on the bill that he had taken care of them.

Another OF said that pets and their care has gotten out of hand so much that only rich people can have pets; poor people can’t begin to afford them with the way prices are.

One OF commented that it is not only pets and animals but it seems everything has gone up, i.e., housing, food, gas, services, medications, everything, so why not pets and their care?

“Yeah,” one OF said. “Jeans ain’t five bucks anymore.”

Some OFs gripe about prices all the time and well they should.

Cabin Fever rages on

The OFs who clear out of New York when winter comes quite often call and gloat over the weather conditions where they are now. This year, gloating was not so much; it either has been too hot, or all it does is rain.

It all depends on what section of the country the OFs are in. The OFs who hang out in the Northeast grumble that they are hampered by not being able to do much because they are trapped indoors. It is generally called Cabin Fever, and Cabin Fever is beginning to claim many of the OMOTM.

Unreal reality shows

It was found out at the breakfast Tuesday morning that some of the OFs watch the same TV shows, like building off the grid, Maine cabin masters, the show that restores old buildings with old building materials — shows like that. These shows stimulate the thought process and the OFs wish they were young enough to take on projects like these.

To the OFs, these shows are in the category of a reality show and there is a camera crew of sorts around all the time, but the shows themselves are good and do show some interesting points that the OFs can use later on.

One OF brought up this thought: Where does the money come from, and how did these young people get the money to purchase a hundred acres in a pristine section of a beautiful forest?

Most of the time their tools are number one, and completely up to date, and this OF said he uses tools with leads taped, and handles replaced. He has good tools but they are on the tired side.

Another OF thought that the people building the project seem to have friends that own a crane, or are master craftsmen in carpentry or roofing or electronics, and have worked with off-the-grid solar energy.

The OFs say our friends have broken-down pickup trucks, or a couple of ladders with a rung missing.  Many don’t even know how to use an iPhone, so electronics are ruled out as well as the solar system. These OFs are still using wood-burning stoves and wood-burning outside furnaces.

In one show, the home was being built where there were so many bears the builder installed a bear-proof fence around the perimeter of the property to keep the bears out. This scribe was surprised the OFs have heard of this and have seen one in practice. Well, that fence is an unusual expense that is imposed on the builder when building off the grid!

The OFs who appeared at the Country Café in Schoharie and did not have to open the gate on a bear-proof fence were: Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, Marty Herzog, Dave Williams, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Jack Norray,  Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazzo, Harold Grippen, and me.


If you’re like me, you can’t help but be worried about the state of the world these days. Everywhere you turn, it seems there’s animosity, upheaval, and some kind of trouble.

Just watching the evening news or reading the paper can give you a massive headache. What makes it worse is it’s so hard for everyday folk like us to do anything concrete that really makes a difference.

Yes, we vote but don’t you wish there was a way to make a real impact?

Well, we may not be able to do anything really big and bad, but I know three guys who can, and they’re all named Jack: Jack Reacher, Jack Ryan, and Jack Bauer. These three fictional dynamos can really get the job done, and done well.

The three Jacks, as I call them, were all born out of frustration with the many thorny problems in the world and how to fix them, but not just fix them — to crush them. The fact that they’re all fictional heroes named Jack – tough guys that pack a punch and then some – should tell you all you need to know about how frustrated we all are today.

The three Jacks would never have become the huge mega-stars they all are if we all weren’t living vicariously through them. You can bet your bippy on that.

Jack Reacher

Let’s start with Jack Reacher, the ex-military nomadic wanderer brainchild of author Lee Child. From the very first page of the very first book, you know right away you are dealing with a man of action, a man who likes things settled quickly and effectively.

No waiting for new legislation to be enacted with Jack Reacher: Why wait for politics to help when a chop on some bad guy’s noggin is so much faster?

The Jack Reacher novels are quick and breathtaking reads; every time, Child reels you in with an intriguing premise, and then the action is non-stop for the remainder of the book. The sentences, especially the dialogue, are all short, crisp, and to the point; no excess filler or big words to slow you down.

Very Raymond Chandler-esque (think of his legendary pulp-fiction style detective, Philip Marlowe, complete with overcoat, hat, strong whiskey, and beautiful dames). That’s why the Jack Reacher novels are such fun to read.

For once, there’s a guy that can just handle problems, take care of business, and get things done. There are no gray areas with Jack Reacher — if you’re a bad guy, you’re going down. No two ways about it. Very satisfying, to say the least.

If you’ve been reading my column for a while, you know that while I like movies, I love books. The Jack Reacher novels are one great example why.

On page one of the very first Jack Reacher novel, “Killing Floor,” we’re told that he stands 6 feet, 5 and weighs 250. So guess who got to play him in the movies? All of 5 foot, 7 Tom Cruise!

It’s some kind of a terrible Hollywood joke is what it is. Just awful. Always go to the book first, you’ll be very glad you did.

Jack Ryan

Next we have Jack Ryan, from the many Tom Clancy books and movies. Though Clancy died a long time ago, Jack Ryan lives on as a huge money-making franchise with several other authors doing him justice.

Like Jack Reacher, Jack Ryan is an ex-military man, but where Reacher is the quintessential loner, Ryan is much more organizational savvy. He even becomes director of the CIA and the president as the books and movies go on.

Of course, Ryan can kick your butt with a chop or a kick like Reacher, but he’s much more likely to use his deductive reasoning skills to unravel some global terrorist plot that threatens his country and, many times, his family at the same time.

Jack Ryan books and movies are for the real military intelligence and hardware geeks. Clancy’s deep knowledge of military procedures, weapons systems, and inter-agency politics was so vast and detailed, many in the military read him for tips and tricks.

If you like really intricate spy stories with complex plots and a lot of action, you can’t go wrong with Jack Ryan. The books are all great, and, unlike with Reacher, the three actors chosen to play Ryan — Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck — are very believable as this smart, strong, and dynamic character. Too bad Jack Reacher didn’t get so lucky.

Jack Bauer

Finally we have Jack Bauer, the star of the TV series “24.” It’s rare for me to get excited about something not based on a good book, but the premise of “24” — each episode shot supposedly in real time — was too interesting to pass up.

Jack Bauer is a member of the fictional Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), and as such the writers had him involved with many fast-paced, multi-layered story lines (bombings, pandemics, nuclear threats, etc.) taken straight from the headlines.

Like the other two Jacks, Bauer is a man of action. No pussy-footing around with him. He gets to the gist of the problem quickly and then gets to fixing it straight away. In fact, he gets so much done in 24 hours, he never even has time to go to the bathroom, sleep, or eat.

The thing about Jack Bauer, probably because his character is written for TV as opposed to the other two who are mostly literary, is you get to see all his violence and depravity up close, and often in excruciating detail.

My lovely wife started to watch “24” with me but then had to quit when it got too graphic for her. Jack Bauer has no problem hooking up electric wires to your delicate parts, or drilling into your head with a power drill, or tweaking any number of body parts with pliers, if it gets him closer to the truth or the bad guy.

It’s one thing to read about this stuff, but it’s another to have it go on in all its gory detail right on the screen in your living room. Still, Jack Bauer is a great character, and “24” always took you for a rollicking ride that you never wanted to stop.

Macho name

So there you have it. Three dynamic heroes, all named Jack, and don’t think it’s happenstance they are all named Jack, either. Jack is such a macho name, straight and to the point.

You can feel the testosterone oozing if you say it the right way. If you’re old enough, you may even remember Jack LaLanne, the exercise guru from the fifties, who was arguably the fittest guy on the planet for decades.

All I know is I went on and on about all three Jacks for so long and with so much enthusiasm that my new grandson got named Jackson, or “Action Jackson,” as I like to call him. Coincidence? I think not.

You take any of the three Jacks — Jack Reacher, Jack Ryan, or Jack Bauer — and add in the fourth Jack, Jack Daniels (try to find the green label, it’s much smoother) and you’re in for a fun night in the easy chair for sure.

Just relax and enjoy the ride, because it’s bound to be a good one.