Archive » May 2019 » Columns

It is almost Memorial Day — the start of summer. Yeah, right! On Tuesday, May 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.

Most all of the OMOTM on Tuesday mornings are like the old TV show “Cheers,” and this morning was no different. It was evident as each OG came in and was greeted with a chorus of his name — a great way to start the day.

The OFs cover a considerable amount of geography when taking in where they maintain their humble domiciles. This has the group living where there are different companies supplying phone service, and different substations distributing power to the OFs homes.

Tuesday morning, the OFs discussed how some have had fewer power outages, while some complain their power is always going out. One OF said his power never goes out because the OF can wind up the creaky ole arm and chuck a rock to the substation.

This brought up the question of how many are prepared for power outages with generators. It seems quite a few have either a generator in their garage that can be switched over to provide temporary power, or a generator outside that they can plug into an outlet, or a whole-house (depending on the size of the house) generator that automatically kicks in when the power goes out.

One OF mentioned that he has a generator that he plugs into an outlet and he is able to use it just to run the freezer, fridge, water pump, furnace, and a few lights. However, it doesn’t run the stove, the OF said.

Other OFs mentioned that they have the same type of setup. None of the OFs run their generators close to the house.

Electric cars

The topic of power continued when one OF said he and his wife were in the grocery store parking lot packing the groceries into the back of their car when, the OF said, they both jumped back because they thought their car was moving.

Turns out it wasn’t their car, it was the car next to them. That car was backing up, and when it was positioned right so it could move forward, it did, and never made a sound. It was a Tesla — a full-sized vehicle.

One of the OFs said one of his relatives has a Toyota Prius and this car did the same thing, but the relatives installed a backup alarm on the car because they were afraid that people would not hear the car and then they might hit them when doing just that, backing out of parking space in a parking lot. This is exactly why the previously mentioned OFs thought their own car was moving; they could have jumped right into the Tesla.

Summer fun

The hunters and fishermen of the OFs were talking about hunting and fishing. This scribe now knows it is OK to hunt turkeys this month because it is turkey season, and bass fishing isn’t OK until next month.

This scribe really doesn’t care but, boy, a lot of the OFs do. One OF said his boat is still shrink-wrapped at the marina but the people promised him the boat would be ready and in the water for bass season.

This OF must like to fish alone because he said he has only one seat in the boat and this seat is a high one. It sounds like some of the OFs are getting ready for their summer fun.

Some of the OF’s hobbies become quite technical. The hunters and fishermen started talking about which are good fish to fish for and which are not, unless what the OFs are fishing for is catch and release. (This scribe does not think this is much fun for the fish.)

The reason for leaving those fish alone is, if you are going to eat them, they are way too boney. These OFs know their business because they started naming which are good and which ones to put back in the water. This scribe wouldn’t know one fish from the other.

A host of hobbies

Many hobbies that retired people enjoy are expensive; that includes fishing and hunting. Gas for that boat is four bucks a gallon. Then there are all the other bits and pieces that go with a specific hobby. Hunting is the same, so is golfing, and charging around on an ATV is not cheap either.

The best hobby is a hammock and a book with soft music in the background. To top it off is to have enough money to travel to the summer here, and the winter there — wherever there is. If the hammock is hung in the cellar then here on the hill makes the cost of that hobby pretty cheap. If it is hung there rather then here, that’s another story.

We have some OFs whose hobbies are bigger than most. A hobby can be building things, but we have one OF who has a special hobby of building boats. Not just rowboats, or canoes, but pirate ships — 30-foot pirate ships.

This particular pirate ship is still in the process of being built, but the weather is getting to the point (like the OF whose boat is still shrink-wrapped) where the water is getting warmer and warmer so this pirate ship should soon be back in the water, waiting for unsuspecting prey.

Still on the subject of hobbies, we have to discount the OF who said his hobby was girls. That is the one hobby that will get any OF in a ton of trouble and is this a real hobby?

Those OFs whose hobby is breakfast with the Old Men of the Mountain who met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh on Tuesday were: Bill Lichliter, Paul Nelson, John Rossmann, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Wally Guest, Dave Williams, Pete Whitbeck, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Roger Shafer, Ken Parks, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Jake Lederman, Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, Duncan Bellinger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Harold Grippen, and me.


I opened the 2019 fishing season on two small streams in Rensselaer County.

Before describing the trip, I want to share a newly discovered fishing resource. If you are fishing with bait or lures east of the Hudson and discover you forgot something, Tremont Lumber, on Route 43, in Averill Park has a well-stocked fishing section with an in-depth selection of hooks, sinkers, split shots, lures, spin cast rods, and assorted other tackle.  

My first stop was a small stream where, some years ago, I watched with awe when the water came alive with trout hitting caddis flies on the surface. Even though I was likely in view of these fish, they were recklessly rising, coming up out of the water and eating the fly from above, rather than a delicate, Downton Abbey sipping rise.

Since caddis hatches begin appearing in May, I returned to this stream. No caddis. No rising flies. In fact, it was almost no stream. A beaver dam had blown out, leaving a confusing set of muddy flats, braided stream and mud on tree trunks showing the former depth of the pond.

After seeing no opportunities, it was on to another stream. When I got there, it was windy, and the water was high and discolored. On the first cast of a Woolly Bugger, the current caught the fly and shot it downstream.

When a fly rides high in the water, the angler must add weight to the leader, even though that ruins the smoothness of casting.  

After adding a BB-sized split shot, on the second cast, the fly stopped moving. When fishing weighted flies, this usually means the fly has snagged the bottom.  

But then, “the bottom” started moving. A fish, and not a rock or twig, was on the end of the line.  

I got the fly line on the reel and played the fish from the reel, which led to anxious moments with a stubborn fish, strong current and light leader.  

When the fish came into the shallows, it was a fat brown trout, about 13 inches long.

After releasing the trout, I went upstream and fished awhile longer. While it was great to cast and prospect for places where the fish would be, the fish were either not there or not interested in the way I was presenting the fly.

An issue with fishing small streams is that there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of places where the fly gets hooked on a back cast. Also, a weighted line makes it harder to cast. If anyone has any advice on that, please write in.  

Mid-spring angling can be windy but the weight on the line seemed to offset the fly blowing off target from the wind.

On the way home, I saw a noticeable number of boats on the Hudson River. It is likely that anglers on these boats were pursuing the migratory run of striped bass that graces the Hudson each spring.

If you do not yet have a fishing license, or need to renew your license, you can do either transaction at several nearby locations. Guilderland Public Library on Western Avenue sells licenses. The library also has a good selection of maps and fishing books. If you do not yet have tackle, you can check out a spin-cast rod from the Library.

Licenses are also available at Phillips Hardware on Route 146, Guilderland Town Hall on Route 20, Dick’s Sporting Goods in Crossgates Mall, and WalMart in Crossgates Commons on Washington Avenue.  Phillips Hardware also sells some fishing tackle.

A New York State fishing license is issued from a computer-generated system with an online connection. Before going to buy or renew a license, it is worth calling ahead before going to a place to buy a license. Sometimes, the computer is down or the printer for licenses is not working.  

If you plan to pursue migratory fish in the Hudson River, remember to ask for a Recreational Marine Fisheries Registration. This credential is free of charge and, if you request it, can often be added to the document that is your freshwater fishing license.

The weather can be discouraging for fishing. For example, this weekend when I was pond fishing, it was a struggle to fly cast with a steady, off-the-steppes-of-Russia kind of wind.

But if you have time, please go out and see what happens. With a combination of skill and luck you too may experience the pleasant surprise of connecting with fish!


— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

This picture seems to have been taken the day of Altamont’s dedication ceremony. The plaque’s empty space filled quickly.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

Altamont’s Honor Roll grew wings to accommodate the names of all those who served.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

A crowd gathered at the dedication of Guilderland’s service flag and Honor Roll plaque. The Schoolcraft House, at that time the Magill family home, is visible in the background.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

Guilderland’s Honor Roll had been dedicated the day this picture was taken.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

Guilderland Center’s service flag hung on a special frame above the fire department’s locomotive ring that once called out the community’s firemen to fight a fire. It stood just outside the firehouse in the “old town hall” building on the main street, now Route 146, opposite the Cobblestone School.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

Guilderland Center’s honor roll was erected just outside the “old town hall.”

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

Some historically minded person not only snapped these photos to record the parade and dedication of Westmere’s Honor Roll, but in addition jotted explanatory notes on the back side of each snapshot. Marching in their dedication parade on Route 20 in 1943 were the Westmere Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary and the local Boy Scout troop.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

At Westmere’s dedication ceremony, Mary Johnston and Goldie Gipp raised the flag.

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

Posed in front of Westmere’s Honor Roll plaque after the dedication were Goldie Gipp, Minnie Benjamin, Mary Johnston, Alice Desino, Mrs. Hettenger, and Mildred Molliton.

The spring of 1942 found the United States at war with Japan and Germany. Japan, rapidly expanding its empire in the Pacific, was seemingly unstoppable.

The Japanese had not only had battered the American fleet at Pearl Harbor months before, but by early April had forced the surrender of American troops at Bataan in the Philippines, followed a month later by their taking Corregidor. Coming closer to our mainland in June, the Japanese landed in the Aleutians off the coast of Alaska.

In Europe, Adolf Hitler’s armies had occupied most of the continent and were sending endless bombing raids in an attempt to pound Britain into submission. Hitler’s June invasion of the Soviet Union was rapidly advancing. With ever worsening news from abroad, these were dark days for Americans.

In August 1940, with the threat of war looming, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called reservists and National Guard members to active duty, and that September Congress passed the first peacetime draft in our history, for men between the ages of 21 to 35.

By the spring of 1942, every community saw large numbers of its young men volunteering or being drafted. As the war went on, the draft expanded its classifications.

Local families whose sons and sometimes daughters were in the military hung rectangular service flags in a window, the blue stars representing their family members in the military and, as the tragic toll of war mounted, gold stars for family members killed in the war.

Communities, feeling the absence of so many of their young men and wanting to recognize their service, began displaying service flags and erecting wooden plaques or honor rolls in a public place for all to see. The honor rolls listed the names of all the local men and the occasional women who were in the armed forces.

Private Orsini MIA

as Altamont honors servicemen

The May 29, 1942 Enterprise had two front-page headlines, one reading “Honor Roll Plaque To Be Placed in Park, Plan Parade, Addresses,” while adjoining it was the lead headline “Altamont Man In Corregidor Area, When Island Fell/ War Dept. Waits Word From Japanese For Names of Prisoners Taken.”

The young Altamont man was Private Millard Orsini. Scheduled for June 21 in the park, the committee had already begun planning a parade and dedication ceremony, including all ages and groups, particularly recognizing the mothers of servicemen by seating them at the front of the dedication ceremony.

With the fate of the young Orsini serviceman hanging in the balance, Altamont’s dedication was probably the most emotional of all the local dedications.

On dedication day, the parade started from the fairgrounds down Grand Street to the Main Street, right on Lincoln Avenue, over to Western Avenue and then across Maple Avenue past the reviewing stand there and over to Depot Square and the park. Along the route, all the homeowners had been requested to display their American flags.

Four divisions marched in the parade, the first including Grand Marshall John Walker, a World War I veteran who had fought with the British and was a member of the Helderberg Post American Legion, followed by the ceremony speakers, village trustees, color guard, the British Empire War Veterans Kiltie Band, American Legion and its auxiliary, Red Cross members and their ambulance, Army jeeps and their representatives.

The second division had the Altamont Fire Department members and auxiliary and other  groups. The third division was headed by the chief air-raid warden and included the Altamont High School Band, air-raid wardens, and fraternal and civic groups. The fourth division was led by the chairman of the local Boy Scout committee, leading Boy Scout and Girl Scout units.

Once at the park, the large honor roll plaque was unveiled and dedicated. It listed 52 names with space for additional names to be added as the war continued.

The ceremony began and ended with invocation and benediction by Altamont’s two Protestant ministers with additional words from a LaSalette priest. A local woman sang “America,” followed by a welcome from the village mayor.

The actual dedication was led by Margaret Rickard and Ken Orsini, assisted by Margaret Orsini, Mary Rau, and the color guard. After the president of the fire department read off the names on the honor roll, General Ames T. Brown was the principal speaker. Mothers of servicemen were presented with service pins at the end of the ceremony.

Hamlet has plaque

on church lawn

July 1942 brought other honor-roll dedications in Guilderland’s communities.

Hamlet of Guilderland residents gathered on the lawn of the Presbyterian Church for the dedication of their honor-roll plaque, listing the names of 26 men in that election district. Both the plaque and a service flag with stars representing the 26 men had been erected on a corner of the Magill property next door to the church.

Today we know this as the Schoolcraft House, but the Magills lived there for many years in the 20th Century. There was no parade, but a dedication service was held in front of the plaque.

Opening the program, the orchestra of the Federated Sunday School played a march, followed by an invocation given by the Federated Presbyterian Church’s Rev. DeGraff and two solos, “America” and “Recessional” were sung.

Guilderland Center’s Rev. W.D. Worman of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church offered a prayer, then remarks were made by Aaron Bradt, a Spanish-American War veteran, and Rev. DeGraff offered a prayer.

The Home Bureau presented to the community a service flag that was accepted by Guilderland’s fire chief. To one side of the honor-roll plaque had been erected a flag pole to hold an American flag with the service flag hanging horizontally.

Next, many community organizations marched to the honor-roll plaque: Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, a color guard, Sunday School children carrying flags, relatives of servicemen, Home Bureau members, the Red Cross, the Order of Red Men and their Pocahontas auxiliary (this was a fraternal organization based in the hamlet).

Next, the director of the Girl Scouts, assisted by her brother-in-law, a naval storekeeper third class, unveiled the honor-roll plaque. A Boy Scout presented the American flag and a Girl Scout presented the 26-star service flag, which were then raised by a member of the Order of Red Men. The ceremony concluded with Rev. Worman offering benediction.

Parade starts

Guilderland Center ceremony

The next weekend, Guilderland Center dedicated a service flag sponsored by its fire department. The event began with a parade headed by the 50-piece Roesselville Band (this high school preceded Colonie Central High School).

As he had been in Altamont, World War I veteran John Walker had been invited to be Grand Marshall.

In front of the Cobblestone School, an invocation given by Helderberg Reformed Church’s Rev. James Moffit was followed by a solo of “America,” a welcome, then the guest speaker Past Commander of the Albany County American Legion, followed by a few words from Fr. Dillon of LaSalette Seminary.

The main address was made by Col. John Chambliss, the officer in charge of the Voorheesville Holding and Reconsignment Point (the official name of the Army Depot).

Then the service flag was presented and the names of those on the roll of honor were read, a bugle call to the colors sounded out, and the audience recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The flag was formally accepted for the community.

Then auxiliary members of the Guilderland Center Fire Department presented service pins to mothers of servicemen and the dedication service culminated in the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” and a benediction offered by Rev. Worman of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

In Westmere: A promise to

‘have a good America waiting’

The community of Westmere dedicated its own honor-roll plaque in June of 1943, recognizing the 90 men from that fire district serving in the armed forces with a parade on Route 20 and a ceremony at the Westmere firehouse.

It was noted that this was the first time in history a parade had been held in Westmere.

One of the speakers was the Albany chairman of the Joint War Veterans’ Advisory Board who looked to the future saying, “Let us promise those men in uniform that we will have a good America waiting when they return … .”

The president of the Albany Chamber of Commerce also spoke, warning the present war is “an all-out struggle for our way of life.” Reverend Carothers had opened the ceremonies with a prayer and town Supervisor Earle B. Conklin of McKownville also spoke.

Honor rolls grow

In Altamont, July 4, 1943 was marked with a parade and rededication of their honor-roll plaque, which was so filled with names that two side panels had to be added to provide space to list nearly three times the number of the original names.

The list given in The Enterprise article included one man who had died in service; one woman; and, next to Millard Orsini’s name: “held prisoner by the Japanese according to report of the International Red Cross.”

One of the seven Orsini brothers who fought in World War II, Millard survived the war and came home to Altamont. The American flag he fashioned as a prisoner of war, risking his life to do it, is now displayed at Altamont’s Home Front Café.

Two flag poles had been donated, one for an American flag and the other for a service flag erected on each side of the now expanded plaque. A man volunteered to repaint the weathered names on the original plaque and add the new names.

The rededication ceremony was similar to previous ones with clergy, civic groups, the Altamont High School Band, and officials taking part. Later that year and again in 1944, notices appeared urging anyone knowing of an armed-forces member from that vicinity not listed to make officials aware so his name could be added.

In 1944, Guilderland Center folks were raising money to enlarge the service plaque, while in Guilderland the Home Bureau was raising money to get new flags and enlarge its honor-roll plaque. If McKownville had an honor roll or service flag, there seemed to be no mention of it in The Enterprise.

These patriotic dedication parades and ceremonies served not only to honor and support the men and women in the armed forces, but also to raise morale on the home front. As members of the community came together, the ceremonies fueled their determination, no matter their ages, to do what it would take to win the war.


Getting young kids ready for their school experience is one of the most important things we can do as parents. We want to give them the best chance at having success throughout their entire educational career, so they can become productive and engaged members of society.

One of the best things toward this end is to help them get ready for homework, something they’ll be doing for many years. To do this right we should really aim to prepare them for all aspects of the discipline needed to excel at homework. Let’s call this kind of preparation “Preparation H.”

To begin Preparation H, explain to them that homework is not just a chore or busy work. They need to know that homework is not a pain where the sun don’t shine. Far from it. Homework is a valuable tool to reinforce and expand on the hard work done in the classroom to ensure that the lesson is understood. Preparation H is a great way to get this point across.

A big part of Preparation H is making them aware of homework even before they start school. For example, let’s say you take your little ones camping, a great family activity that we can all enjoy no matter how young or old we are.

Don’t just let them run around turning over rocks looking for worms to go fishing, or cavort for hours in the lake. Give them a chore to do, like picking up sticks for the fire. Then, when they’re toasting marshmallows later, they’ll know they contributed to the good times. You see, Preparation H can be loads of fun, not just a pain in the rear.

Preparation H can make the itchy problem of preparing kids to really focus on homework and learning a smooth, soothing experience. Explain to them that we don’t learn obscure things like math and science just for the sake of learning them, but that we learn these things because they teach us how to think and solve all kinds of problems on our own.

Kids may not care at first when they hear about the Pythagorean theorem, but later on in life, when they go to build a deck, they’ll find it’s the best way to make sure all the corners are square. When you use Preparation H, and use it a lot, you’ll be giving your kids all kinds of life-enhancing skills like this one and much more. How great is that.

Some parents don’t bother with Preparation H, and just send their kids off to school and hope for the best. That is not a good thing to do. You don’t want your kids struggling with homework night after night, dreading the experience. That could cast a shadow on their whole academic career.

School is important — high school graduates earn much more throughout their lifetimes than dropouts, and college graduates way more so. We all know money can’t buy happiness but it can pay for chocolate and good housing so that’s something. Preparation H can definitely help your kids graduate and reach their potential. Be sure to apply it judiciously.

If a little Preparation H is good, is more Preparation H better? I’d say yes, no doubt, because getting them into good study habits at an early age will benefit them throughout their entire academic career and even their whole life.

I meet so many people who tell me they don’t read, and that just makes me so sad because reading is truly one of if not the most enjoyable things in my life. There is no joy like the joy of immersing yourself in great writing. Perhaps if more parents used Preparation H there would be a lot more books read and a lot less TV watched and many fewer video games played.

Studies are coming out now saying that too much “screen time,” be it phone, computer, tablet, or TV, is very bad for developing youngsters. My daughter makes sure the TV is off in any room my new grandson is in, and they’ve already amassed an impressive collection of great children’s books for him to enjoy as he grows.

This is Preparation H in action. It sure feels good. Such a relief. Preparation H can really make a potential problem area a lot smoother.

Pick a random successful person, say President Trump for example. You know he must have done all of his homework to make it from his lowly beginnings in Queens, New York (imagine, his father only started him off with a million-and-a-half dollars, the poor guy) all the way up to the White House.

In fact, I’m so sure about how he was raised, and I can tell so much by his words and character, that whenever I hear or see him, I immediately think of Preparation H. I even thought he’d make a great spokesperson for Preparation H, but with his complexion, he’d be a far better spokesperson for orange juice.

There’s a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” If that’s true, and I think it is, should we all be using Preparation H so all the kids in the community can benefit? I’d say yes.

Don’t be shy about letting any youngster you meet know how important homework and good study methods are. When they see a successful guy or gal like you touting the benefits of studying and working hard, they can’t not be impressed. Using as much Preparation H as you can (on a daily basis!) benefits us all.

So whether you have kids or not, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell the world you use Preparation H. Using Preparation H is one sure way to guarantee the sweet smell of success. The more you use. the better it is for all of us.


Some of the Old Men of the Mountain who travel to Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow travel over the mountain to get there. This past Tuesday, on May 14, the temperature for many leaving for the trek to Pop’s Place was in the mid-thirties and snow was expected on top of the mountain.

But as luck would have it there was no snow — only fog and drizzle. This weather, as we have been reporting, has caused some grumbling among the OFs; however, a few the snowbirds have returned, and our grumbling is minor compared to these guys whose blood is still as thin as water. The rest of us OFs believe our blood is still thick; it has not had time to thin out.

There is one big “however” to add to the above paragraph. In 2002, on May 18, the hill had about three inches of snow. An OF said that his brother-in-law had a 50th-year surprise birthday party planned for that day and it was to be held at Thacher Park.

Everybody showed up and the snow was on the ground, greeting all who came. The snow was more of a surprise than the party. Eventually all wound up at the OFs home where the woodstove was already running on May 18.

Ah, the Northeast! It is almost impossible to be bored. Still and all, we are getting pretty sick of the rain, chilly weather, and more rain.

But with this constant drizzle, damp weather, and rain the OFs who live in the valley are keeping a close eye on the creeks — especially the tributaries that feed the Catskill and Schoharie creeks. These OFs have a tendency to be a little skittish of long-duration rainfall.

All the other OFs can understand, especially when it wasn’t that long ago (2011) when some of the OFs had seven feet of water in their living rooms.

The last straw

There was quite a discussion on plastic straws. One OF said he was at a restaurant where they were given straws made from some kind of weed. The OF didn’t know whether to drink from it or smoke it. Either way, the straw did not last long before it dissolved into mush.

One OF’s wife purchased a combination spoon and straw made from stainless steel. The OF said, once they got them home, they found out the spoon part wouldn’t fit into a soda-type bottle.

The OF added, if he wanted to use the straw in the soda bottle, it was necessary to put the spoon part in his mouth. When he tried it with the spoon part in his mouth, he found it is really silly looking and it doesn’t work anyway.

The first thing the OF found out is that it was necessary to put the bottom part of the spoon on top; otherwise, when sucking whatever up the straw, the liquid hits the spoon and spreads all over. The OF doubts if these will ever get used at his house.

This scribe listened to the OFs talk, if briefly, on straws and plastic bags so this scribe went to our friend Google, and found that maybe we should be using multi-use shopping bags, or bags made from corn-husk fibers.

Both paper and plastic consume much of our natural resources, in oil and trees. Check it out for yourself as it would take too much space in this little column to report on all the information found.

Ailing biz

This scribe found out that one of the OFs worked for many years for Shafer Brewery until it left Albany for Pennsylvania. According to this OF, it was the workers’ own union that killed Shafer. The OF told what some of his jobs were and some were jobs that one would never think of, but they were jobs that had to be done.

One job was putting a plug in the barrel containing beer and the OF said if he (or anyone) missed with the whack of the hammer, they were covered in said beer. One OF asked who was covered in beer, and the OF answered, “Me.”

The OF said that once he was going through a police checkpoint and, when the cop looked in the window, they pulled him over for being drunk. The OF said he told the cop he went home smelling like this all the time. The OF said he worked for Shafer Brewery and showed him the emblem on his shirt and they let him go.

Another OF piped up that it was the union that killed Capital City Container and his son was out of a job because of it.

“Dangerous varmints”

The OFs talked about their first guns and how they got them. Some of the OFs received them as Christmas gifts.

One OF remembered he was given his first gun when he was about 10 years old. It was a simple single-shot Remington 22. His dad got him and his brother each one. These guns had a single purpose on the farm, and that was to shoot woodchucks.

Woodchucks were dangerous critters on the farm. They were pretty easy to get out of their holes most of the time; the Young OFs could just whistle them up. They would come out of their holes and stand up and look around for the whistle.

In the beginning, when they were farming with horses, it could be disaster for the horse if it stepped into a woodchuck hole. When they were able to switch from horses to tractors, woodchuck holes were just as bad. If a front wheel of the tractor hit one of those things, it would spin the steering wheel right out of your hand and the driver could end up with a broken thumb, or wrist. Yep, those “chucks were dangerous varmints.”

Again the Old Men of the Mountain who met the challenge of the weather (but nothing like the weather going on in the South, Midwest, and Southeast) and made it to Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow were: Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Paul Nelson, Pete Whitbeck, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Harold Grippen, and me.


The cover of “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves,” by Frans de Waal, depicts the face of a chimpanzee.

A devout cowboy loses his beloved Bible out on the range — so the story goes.

A few weeks later, a chimpanzee shows up with the treasured book under his arm. The cowboy can't believe it. He takes the book from the chimp, raises his eyes to heaven and shouts: “It’s a miracle! A miracle!”

“Not really,” the chimp says. “Your name is written inside the cover.”

It’s an Aesop’s fable of sorts but I keep wondering what drove the monkey to show up. Did he know what it felt like to lose something and wanted to save someone grief? Do monkeys see the world that way?

Why didn’t he throw the book away? Was he devout too? And where’d he get the address! How’d he get there, Uber? Can a monkey be in charge of his own destiny?

These are all questions of political economy — the energy a person uses to manage his life — and are based in how a monkey feels about things and acts accordingly. It always includes a sense of justice.

I can say something intelligent about these things now because I just finished reading (studying) Frans de Waal’s new extraordinary book “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.” It just came out in March (W.W. Norton).

If someone asked me to describe the book in a sentence, I’d say it’s about the inner life of animals: how they feel about themselves and others, the pains they suffer and those they inflict, as they negotiate their needs in life in a community of others seeking the same thing.

I started reading de Waal 30 years ago, impressed with his desire to understand the psycho-social life of animals — especially chimps, bonobos, and capuchins — and how his findings always wind up pointing a finger at the human race.

“Mama’s Last Hug,” which has gotten rave reviews, is about the last days of an agèd chimp, Mama, who was once a major player in the community in which she lived. At the very end, she tenderly rubs the face of her friend (and collaborating-researcher of 40 years), Jan van Hooff, with her old wrinkled hand. Jan had come to see her off; she was a relative.

I get the sense Mama could feel the loss her friend would feel when she was gone — like a cherished Bible.

Mama’s, and all the other stories de Waal has told in his decades-long exposé of justice among animals, are always about the animals but, again, the morals of their stories keep pointing at us.

One of the reasons I liked de Waal in the beginning was that he had tapped into the work of the great Russian/World Citizen, Geographer/Gandhi-like anarchist and social theorist, Peter Kropotkin, especially his landmark “Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution,” which appeared in 1902.

As a young man, Kropotkin, assigned to Siberia in government service, set out to test Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” principle only to discover that living beings embraced another ethic — mutual aid — when members of a community gather around those in need to alleviate their suffering. Those who are best at it look for nothing in return.

Kropotkin saw that, when mutual aid was practiced, the persons and groups involved stood a greater chance of making it to the future as well as enjoying quality-of-life now. Win-win for everyone.

That’s all I’ll say about Kropotkin except to add that every high school student in America who takes Biology or Earth Science — or whatever their current versions are — should be required to read (and be able to discuss intelligently) the basic tenets of “Mutual Aid,” clarifying, for example, how Kropotkin and Darwin converged or differed on the chances of a society making it to the future.

I might add that Darwin was perplexed by the mutual aid thing: Why would anyone live for the benefit of another? And would a chimp return a Bible to a fellow chimp just like he did for the cowboy?

De Waal and his colleague Sarah Brosnan homed in on these questions by asking members of their capuchin monkey community how they felt when someone treated them unjustly — being defined as less and being paid less in return.

Political scientists would call it the unjust distribution of resources (rewards, compensations), when one gets less for doing the very same thing someone else did, and under the same conditions.

De Waal and Brosnan situated two capuchins, who are ace barterers, in side-by-side cages so that each could see what was going on with the other.

A pebble was thrown into the cage of monkey A — let’s call him Arthur — to retrieve. He easily did and was given a cucumber slice as a reward.

The researchers then threw a pebble in the cage of monkey B — we’ll call him Bob — and Bob retrieved the pebble and got a cucumber slice just like Arthur. Things were going well.

Then the researchers repeated the experiment but with a hitch: This time, when Arthur retrieved the pebble, he was given a big fat juicy grape, a lot better than a cucumber chip.

But when Bob performed the same task, he got the usual cucumber chip. He got worked up: Cucumber? Where’s the grape! Arthur got a grape!

Bob, no pun intended, had gone ape.

The experiment was conducted with many groups of monkeys over time. Those who got the short end of the stick, the lesser-prized rewards, generally got testy; some hurled the pebble back at the researcher; some whipped the cucumber at him: How dare you!

Such anger grows out of a sense of being defined as inferior: doing the same thing as someone else and getting less for it. We look at what the other got and are wounded.

It’s like when Thanksgiving rolls around — maybe it’s just the kids — and the slices of pie are meted out; we look around and see we got the smallest. The feeling is always: Why do I get the short end of the stick? Where’s my grape!

This kind of reactive anger and resentment exists in all social institutions in the United States today. A lot of people see what a lot of other people are getting and get fired up with injustice. They start flinging their cucumber chips back at society and the more-crazed do it with a spray of an AK-47.

I sometimes talk to these fired-up souls — with a sympathetic and open mind, I really want to know — and have discovered that, after a sentence or two of outrage, they are unable to describe what’s going on in the feeling department.

They’re can’t articulate envy, jealousy, and the injustice they’re feeling: analytically and therapeutically.

A few weeks ago, Congresswoman Katie Porter from California, quizzed Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan, during his appearance at the House Financial Services Committee.

Dimon had just received a $31 million juicy grape from his company’s reward-distribution center, called a bonus.

Porter greeted Dimon cordially but then homed in on why some monkeys he worked with got cucumber chips of $16.50 an hour while he got his $31 million carload of  grapes.

Porter asked: Are you aware that, when the resource-distribution-center in your company offers many of your monkey-colleagues cucumber chips worth $16.50 an hour, they are barely able to survive? That they are flooded with constant anxiety over how to make ends meet?

Watch Dimon’s response on Youtube: he mumbles, he homina-homina-homina’s like Ralph Kramdem.

If a consulting monkey was called in to set that reward-distribution system straight, he’d say: The great big fat unequal grape-cucumber chip compensation system — $31 million versus $16.50 an hour — is flooding society with hordes of short-stick-enders who, filled with anger and rage, go rogue, and sometimes in beastly ways.

But, as we know, when some monkeys hear the words “equal distribution of resources,” they go ape and, quite strangely, among them are those trapped in a $16.50 an hour cucumber-chip existence.

That is one reason America is not happy these days. Would taking the blindfold off the eyes of Justice be a first step toward healing?


May is my favorite month of year here in upstate New York. After a seemingly endless stretch of cold, monotonous and gray landscapes, we are finally rewarded with warmth; sunshine; fresh green grass; budding leaves; and, best of all, colorful tulips.

May is also the month we celebrate older Americans. The Administration for Community Living leads our nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. Its 2019 theme, “Connect, Create, Contribute,” encourages older adults and their communities to:

— Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation;

— Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment; and

— Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

What a wonderful message this is!

Older adults represent a source of tremendous vitality for communities. They are engaged in every aspect of community life as good neighbors, experienced professionals, small-business owners, volunteers, and mentors to younger generations.

Older adults play a key role in the vibrancy of our neighborhoods and civic and faith-based organizations. Many start new ventures in retirement to assist not-for-profits or become entrepreneurs and help revitalize local economies.

The Administration for Community Living notes that “everyone benefits when everyone can participate.” We at Community Caregivers agree wholeheartedly and believe everyone has something to offer.

As a volunteer-powered organization, we offer ways for anyone, and most especially older adults, to “connect, create, and contribute.” Our volunteers engage lonely adults in our area through friendly visitor and assurance-caller programs.

Others volunteer transport non-driving adults to appointments. Some contribute freely of their time and talent as members of our board or committees.

We offer — often in partnership with libraries, the Albany Guardian Society and others — education and enrichment activities. We promote health literacy and driver safety for older adults and family caregivers. And, as partners in the Village Movement here in the Capital Region, we are discovering more ways to help older adults thrive in their communities and stay in their homes in their later years.

Please join us as a volunteer or at a future event as we celebrate older adults and their role in strengthening our communities this month and throughout the year. You can find volunteer and event information on our website, at our Facebook page, or by calling the office at 518-456-2898.

We welcome your interest this month and throughout the year. You may also join our mailing list by sending a note to

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 our website, find us on Facebook  at  or call us at (518) 456-2898

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


On Tuesday, May 7, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner. Finally! A reasonably nice day, so a few of the OMOTM stood outside in the parking lot just enjoying the early morning air before going in to the diner.

One thing about standing in the parking lot of the Chuck Wagon is noticing how fast the cars whiz by going to work at that time of the morning on Route 20.

Lawn mowers and grass, wet spots that can’t be mowed, and types of soil were early topics for discussion, but this scribe has covered conversations like this many times because the OFs talk about their yards quite often. These issues are like the weather — a good opening for conversations for the rest of the morning.

Over the weekend, one OF and his better half went to visit some friends and part of the conversation they had over coffee was quite interesting.

The friends said that they were with their surveyor discussing which direction they would face the new home they were going to build. While they were standing there looking at their land, two large elk came out of the woods adjacent to their property. They said these animals were not big deer with corresponding large racks; they were elk.

The OF and his wife knew the hill was basically farmland with large tracts of open fields, but elk? The friends said the elk walked right by them, about 50 yards away, and did not seem skittish at all, as they ambled up a little knoll, walked across the road, then disappeared into the field on top of the hill.

So this OF related this story to the OMOTM, and asked if anyone had heard of elk on the Hill. The answer was yes.

About the time they were doing the plot survey, the elk farm in Middleburgh had two of its animals get away. To make matters more interesting, the elk farm is on one of the farms on the flats in Middleburgh that was once owned by one of the Old Men of the Mountain. This farm still raises elk. Sometimes it is strange how events tangle together.

Black flies rampant

Another thought about things tangling together is how from year-to-year in nature nothing is the same. One spring is not like the spring before it, and one winter is not like the winter before that but, when a whole collection of springs and winters are strung together, they are all alike.

What made the scribe think of this was the discussion on how many black flies are out now in comparison to last year, and those nasty ticks seem to be everywhere. The OFs had to admit that these statements were true, but we have had springs when they were just as bad.

This year, the black flies attack in open areas; generally, they are around shrubs and trees. However, this year they seem to be everywhere. One OF bought one of those hats with screening attached just so he can walk out to the mailbox.

Another OF said he must have a pheromone that attracts the dumb black flies. He said that he and his uncle can go out in the woods and he is pursued by these little flying black insects. Even with repellent, he is still swatting so much that he feels that one of these days he is going to take off.

In the meantime, his uncle stands not two to three feet away from him and not a gnat, or no-see-um, black fly or mosquito is anywhere around him. His uncle says it is because he drinks his coffee black and doesn’t put all that sugar in it.

Stocking adventure

One OF told of how he spent one day stocking creeks on state land with fish — brown trout and rainbow trout. According to the OF, one of the stocking places turned into an adventure.

The creeks, like West Kill Creek in Blenheim, for the most part were easy to stock because they could stop on a road that goes alongside the creek and carry the tubs of fish over to the creek and dump the fish in the water.

However, not all the dumpings were in creeks; some were in large ponds on state land. The truck they were using to transport the hatchlings had compartments filled with water and each compartment contained fish that were to go in certain ponds and creeks

This was not a light load. One of the ponds was Mallet pond in Fulton, which is about 16-plus acres. There was no road getting to this pond, only an old logging road that was not in the best of shape. With all the wet weather we have had lately, the so-called road was sloppy and slippery.

After they stocked the pond, the group attempted to leave and was immediately stuck, that is up-to-the-axels stuck. The group tried pushing the truck and all they could do, the OF said, was move it about three or four inches then nothing at all. Up-to-the-axels stuck!

Then a conservation ranger showed up and he also had a truck. A way up from the stuck truck was a patch of semi-dry ground, so the group used a tow line from truck-to-truck.The ranger’s truck pulled the conservation truck (with the fish), which spun and the tow line broke. Up-to-the-axels stuck!

The OF suggested digging and filling in with stones. There was an old stone fence a distance up the hill so the group proceeded to dig and haul rocks.

The OF tied a bowline in the tow line and they started the process of towing truck number-one, pulling with truck number-two spinning in reverse. The OF said, if this thing starts to move, don’t stop. Up-to-the-axels stuck!

Well, the stuck truck started to move, and the pulling truck did not stop. It was the rocks that did the trick.The trucks were covered in mud; the crew was covered in mud. On this trip, the only thing not covered in mud were the fish. The axels were now unstuck!

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown on a nostalgic early spring morning were: Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Bob Snyder, Karl Remmers, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Marty Herzog, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Rev. Jay Francis, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


— Photo by Mike Nardacci

The Onesquethaw Creek south of Clarksville emerges from the woods and flows for a time along Lower Flat Rock Road, exposing its strange topographic features to easy viewing.

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

Erosion and chemical solution have formed a series of descending terraces, some partially blocked by vegetation. Water flows over, through, and around these terraces to create a confusing maze.

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

Becraft Limestone contains massive quantities of fossilized fragments of ancient shellfish called brachiopods, visible as crescents or rings. A pair of sunglasses is included for scale.

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

Close-up of a section of the streambed showing the confusing maze and some temporarily isolated potholes providing mini-environments for minnows, pollywogs, and water bugs.

— Photo by Mike Nardacci

The Onesquethaw continues its southward flow through channels and potholes in the Becraft Limestone, eventually to join up with the Coeymans Creek before entering the Hudson River.

The stream called “Onesquethaw” undergoes extensive changes as it flows from its placid source in our portion of the Appalachian Plateau known locally as “the Helderbergs.” It incises its way through several rock layers — or “strata” — from the Devonian Period, which are between 360 and 400 million years old.

It has formed canyons, flows lazily over stretches of level terrain, and gurgles over gentle rapids and through potholes. Eventually it joins with Coeymans Creek before discharging into the Hudson River where its waters mix with those of thousands of other tributaries on the river’s course toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Some of the Onesquethaw’s most rugged and picturesque segments are off limits to most hikers as it flows through private lands; however, a stretch that parallels Lower Flat Rock Road off the section of Route 443 known as the Delaware Turnpike is easily accessible by car or bike and provides a quiet place to reflect on our area’s almost unimaginably long geologic history and the thoughts that changing seasons bring.

Privately-owned Helderberg Lake lies just north of Route 443 where it briefly runs congruent with Route 85. The lake was enlarged by an artificial dam in the 1930s and at its southern end its overflow becomes the Onesquethaw Creek as it cascades down a series of terraces and has carved out a steep gorge that descends for a mile or so as it plunges out of the steep hills of the town of Berne.

Almost entirely on parcels of private property, the gorge is formed from the thin-bedded Hamilton rock layers, strata composed of dark sandstones and shales. About 220 million years ago, a vast landmass that was to become Europe was beginning collision with proto-North America in one of the great movements known as plate tectonics.

The collision was closing the body of water that had divided the two landmasses and was pushing up a towering range of mountains in what is today eastern New England. Rain and snowmelt washed millions of tons of sediments from the slopes of these ancient mountains, filling in the waterway between the land masses and forming a series of interlocking deposits termed by geologists “the Catskill Delta.”

The deposits eventually turned to rock and are visible in western Albany County and throughout the extensive eroded plateau known as the Catskill Mountains.

This material alternates between being moderately resistant to stream erosion and poorly resistant, and thus the gorge below Helderberg Lake frequently exhibits a profile similar to that seen in many canyons in the West such as the Grand Canyon: a series of alternating steep and gradual slopes covered with piles of enormous quantities of eroded fragments called “talus.”

Near the area where Wolf Hill Road, Route 85, and Route 443 intersect, the Onesquethaw has cut down through the sandstone and shale layers to the Onondaga Limestone, the highest stratum of limestone in Albany County. The Onondaga is a hard, clean gray stone, indicative of its formation during the Devonian Period in clear, shallow, warm waters.

It is rich with fossils of many kinds of corals and in places features nodules and beds of chert, a dense rock commonly known as flint composed of silica. A number of extensive Albany County caves have formed in this layer.

For the next couple of miles, the stream runs parallel to Route 443 over nearly flat terrain with a surface bedrock of the Onondaga which in this stretch is highly fractured. In dry times of the year, the stream may flow entirely under the exposed streambed leaving it bleached and dry. In periods of heavy storms and snowmelt, the Onesquethaw boils to the surface and, gathering temporary energy from the flood pulse, may create whirlpools and rapids as it flows south toward Clarksville.

But approaching the hamlet, the stream’s path is temporarily diverted east by imposing Bennett Hill, a glacially-sculpted “rock drumlin” composed of the Hamilton strata. Eroded by the mile-high glacier that passed over it thousands of years ago, the step-like terraces of Bennett Hill are visible for many miles.

The Onesquethaw again becomes somewhat energized as it cuts through the limestone at the base of Bennett Hill and flows down through another impressive canyon. Here the stream encounters an extensive series of faults whose “slickensides” — tell-tale parallel grooves carved into the bedrock during an earthquake — are visible in sections of the canyon walls and the streambed, and in places the strata are bent and contorted by the movement of the ancient fault.

Within the canyon are small caves and springs, plunge pools, enormous potholes, giant boulders and slabs detached from the bedrock, and thick deposits of sediments composed of many rock types, some carried down from the Helderbergs, others left behind long ago by the retreating glaciers.

But in this stretch, the Onesquethaw is described as an “underfit” stream, meaning that with its average velocity — which for most of the year in these modern times is not much more than a trickle — it is incapable of eroding great chunks of the canyon’s hard bedrock or transporting and polishing large boulders. Much of this erosion occurred at the end of the glacial period when the Onesquethaw may have carried hundreds of times its present-day volume due to the melting of the glaciers.

As the Onesquethaw approaches the eastern boundary of the village, it cuts down into the crumbly Esopus Shale and for a stretch of several hundred feet it has exposed the marvelous fossils characteristic of the Esopus known commonly as “rooster tails.” These fossils represent a vast colony of tube worms whose feeding tunnels radiate out from a single point.

They indicate an ancient environment of relatively deep, calm water in which the delicate worms could have remained anchored to a single point on the sea bottom for a lifetime and burrowed through the murky organics-laden mud absorbing nutrients.

Just beyond the rustic stone bridge over the Onesquethaw on Tarrytown Road there is a pull-off on the left side of the road where a short path leads to the stream’s edge and offers a dramatic view of strata contorted by the movement of an ancient fault.

Beyond this point, the Onesquethaw is not visible from any public road and flows through private land. It continues to cut downward through the Esopus Shale and cascades over an impressive waterfall into a plunge pool.

It finally incises its way through the entire exposure of the Esopus and comes into contact with an even older Devonian layer known as the Becraft Limestone. But it is not until the stream bends and enters the wide, shallow valley through which passes Lower Flat Rock that it again becomes easily accessible and enters one of its most evocative sections.

Here for a thousand feet or so paralleling the road the Onesquethaw flows due south and is bordered on both sides by a forest of hemlocks and pines, floored by ferns, mosses, and other vegetation that flourishes in humid, shady environments. The stream itself broadens out and descends a series of low terraces producing miniature rapids as it continues through a bewildering maze of gurgling and babbling channels, potholes, and plunge pools.

The Becraft limestone layer has a thickness of only about 20 feet in this part of the county, but along Lower Flat Rock Road the rock has been smoothed off by the passage of the ancient glaciers in a broad plain known to geologists as a “bench.” Although much of the bedrock is covered here by a thin layer of soil and the forest it supports, the Onesquethaw’s path reveals the Becraft with its fascinating collection of fossils and erosional features.

The Becraft is a very hard rock and, because its surface was subjected first to abrasion by the glaciers and subsequently polished naturally over centuries by tiny water-borne sediments acting like fine sandpaper, exposures show the clean, gray limestone is flecked with thousands of closely-packed fossils. Mainly these are the shells of sea creatures known as brachiopods and they stand out as shiny white circles or crescents.

The Becraft resembles a rock type called “coquina,” which consists of great masses of fragments of sea shells naturally cemented together by calcium carbonate and often found near reefs and on the coast of Florida and islands in the Caribbean Sea. That most of the shells have been shattered indicates that the rock formed millions of years ago in relatively shallow-water environments in which the shells were subjected to violent agitation and deposition by waves in Devonian seas.

In addition, the Becraft in the streambed shows many fractures and joints — cracks caused by repeated freezing and thawing over centuries as well as expansion of the bedrock as upper layers are removed by erosion.

Because the limestone and its fossils are made of calcium carbonate, the rock is subject to chemical weathering by mild natural solvents such as carbonic acid, formed when water absorbs carbon dioxide as it falls through the atmosphere or flows over rotting duff on the forest floor.

As a result, the mildly acidic Onesquethaw waters have worked their way through every crack and crevice in the streambed, dissolving the maze of channels and potholes visible along Lower Flat Rock Road. Small channels encounter larger ones, fractures lead into potholes and plunge pools, and the tiny distributaries enter a confusing pattern of flow, sometimes briefly backwards or sideways or in miniature whirlpools, but eventually forward toward the Hudson under the pull of gravity.

Tiny dams formed by the presence of water-loving plants or water-borne debris create miniature pools of slow-moving or still water in which minnows and pollywogs and water bugs find refuge, feeding on tiny prey or bits of organic matter carried by the stream.

And of course, the patterns of flow and the sounds they produce change with the seasons and the weather.   Snowmelt and seasonal rainstorms raise the volume of the stream, causing the channels to overflow and create earnest-sounding if temporary rapids.

In dry times — especially late summer and fall — low flow in the Onesquethaw reduces the sounds of the stream to whispers. In winter, thick layers of ice form on the bedrock beneath the overhanging boughs of hemlock, creating weirdly-sculpted shapes in the streambed as well as yet more channels and dams, and water may burst from them like the icy rivers that emerge from the base of glaciers.

At such times, the stream appears black and lifeless and the sounds of fracturing and shifting ice may shatter the quiet of the valley. But with spring will come again the agreeable babbling of the brook and the cries of peepers.

A professor of mine once told our class that to be an effective geologist, one must have a good imagination — and this portion of Lower Flat Rock Road is an excellent stimulant to the mind.

Standing on its banks, one can imagine the crash of ancient seas transporting and depositing sediments and sea shells, the growth and grinding of glaciers during the Great Ice Age, and the relentless shaping and reshaping of the landscape and the labyrinths of the streambed as the Onesquethaw continues its unrelenting search for the sea.


— Photo from Jesse Sommer​

Jesse and Mum.

My mum was only 4 years old when her own mother died, just before Christmas in 1954. That terrible loss blasted a hole in her heart that she’s spent a lifetime trying to fill, first with the thousands of furry or feathered friends for whom she’s cared in her capacity as a veterinarian, and then, eventually, with four babies of her own. She wears that psychology on her sleeve, nurturing as many souls as she can find in the same way that her mother couldn’t do for her.

In short, she became the mother for whom she mourned, while I became the beneficiary of a limitless love borne of that bereavement — blissfully unaware that a “mom” was something which might one day disappear.

Growing up as the son of the town vet was often surreal; classmates would routinely approach me at school to volunteer intimate reports of their pets’ medical conditions while recounting my mother’s exploits.

Sometimes I benefited from her performance — as when the crush who’d never before acknowledged my existence showered me with gratitude because “Dr. Holly” had fixed the family dog’s broken hip — while at other times I was treated to cold and bitter stares from friends who would announce, unforgivingly: “Your mom killed my cat.”

Yet irrespective of the particular medical treatment, my mother was widely regarded as among the planet’s sweetest and most empathetic women. And no amount of evidence to the contrary — be it my reports of the insufferable organic “health food” to which she subjected me, or the capriciousness of her school-night curfews, or her unAmerican prohibition of Nintendo, or the indignity of being forced to make my bed on Saturdays — could convince the community otherwise.

Mother’s Day is this weekend. First observed in 1908, it was founded by peace activist Ann Marie Jarvis.  In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson formally designated the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to honor mothers.

But when my mom’s mom died four decades later, “Mother’s Day” assumed a significance for her that was very different than what it’s always meant for me.

For the first time in my life, I’m viewing Mother’s Day in a new light. Rather than conceive of it merely as the intended day to honor mothers, it suddenly seems like a holiday honoring my incomprehensible privilege of having taken 35 consecutive Mother’s Days for granted — having been blessed to annually send the perfunctory two-sentence “Mother’s Day email” to the woman who gave me life — when so many among us aren’t that lucky.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about this now. But, if I’ve ever deemed mailing a Mother’s Day card to be a cursory chore on an interminable to-do list, then I’ve clearly failed to grasp that my mum would have given anything, everything, for the chance to send her mom a card each May.

Because for some, Mother’s Day packs the prick of wrenching heartbreak that I’m not ready to confront myself. Logically, I know that someday I’ll join the ranks of those whose mothers have died, for whom Mother’s Day is a day of remembrance. Logically, I know that someday I’ll have to mourn not only the loss of my mother, but the loss of that final connection to a childhood she made safe.

But just because I’m not ready to contemplate that distant someday doesn’t mean I have to wait until my mum isn’t around to appreciate the significance of the holiday that celebrates her. Henceforth, the annual “second Sunday in May” will be a day I pledge to honor Mum’s values, and to take stock of whether I live up to them.

Too often I fall short. Most relevantly: I don’t call enough; I’m not great with in-person demonstrations of affection; I’m reliably late in reimbursing my sisters for the Mother’s Day flowers they send in my name.  (OK, Robin, relax — I just sent it to your Venmo. We good now? Sheesh.)

Yet I’m hoping this column will nonetheless warrant posting to the refrigerator, just like that dried noodle artwork on my Mother’s Day cards 30 years ago. Because, as the person who officially made my mum a mother, my arrival on Earth redefined her relationship to Mother’s Day. And despite the vast multitude of my imperfections, I’m hoping that mothering me so lovingly over the course of my entire life has helped my mom heal the scar of losing hers.

Even when she’s gone, my mom will always be my Mum — which is why I still won’t be able to buy Froot Loops when I pass through the cereal aisle because it’s just not worth neurotically combatting the admonishing voice in my head as it recites the evils of sugar cereals.

Even when she’s gone — leaving me gripped by sadness and nostalgia on Mother’s Day — I’ll still be soothed by tender memories of the crackers and daytime television she’d permit when stomach bugs kept me home from school (she practically made illness something to look forward to).

Even when she’s gone, on Mother’s Day I’ll still join the legions of people nationwide who will reflect on all those mornings that mom got us ready for school, on all her paths not taken so she could ferry us to hockey practice or dance class, and on all the glorious sleep we denied her — whether as crying infants or that time we kept her up sick with worry because we forgot to call.

Together, we’ll take a moment to honor the first person we met when we entered this world, and of whose body we were once literally a part.

But since Mum isn’t gone, I’ll use my space in this edition of The Enterprise to exclaim: Happy Mother’s Day to you, Dr. Holly Cheever. And to my sisters who are now mothers themselves in turn. And to all those who care for others as only a mother could.

And happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers no longer with us, but for whom we’d give anything for just one last chance to say “I love you, Mom.” Indeed, on this Mother’s Day, I address a woman I never knew, but without whom I wouldn’t exist:

Grandma, you would have been so proud of your daughter, just as I am so proud to be her son. Thank you for looking over her, and for blessing me with yet another Mother’s Day where I can call my mum to tell her that I love her.

Just as soon as one of my sisters reminds me to.

Editor’s note: Captain Jesse Sommer is a paratrooper and Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He is a lifelong resident of Albany County.


It was Tuesday, April 30, and it was miserable: Drizzle, fog, and the early morning chill, which went right through the Old Men of the Mountain, but the OMOTM all managed to be in the right place — the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg.

The question was asked Tuesday morning, “How long do you think it will be before money will be obsolete?”

The number of OFs who gave an answer to this hypothetical question was surprising. Some answers were close to each other and some were far apart. The average answer (if an average could be figured out) was in about 20 to 30 years in the future. A couple of OFs thought we were in the beginning phase right now.

One OF related a story about needing $2,000 in cash. Naming what the money was for might identify the OF with what the OF was purchasing, but it was nothing illegal. According to the OF, the bank did not have enough cash to handle it right then.

A couple of the OFs said, “Say what!”

Then one OF said, “You should-a come to me; I would take your check.”

See, what the OMOTM meant was that, if you require a ditch dug, a tree cut down, a tractor repaired, or to get something off your chest, or even two grand in cash, it is right here among your buddies in the OMOTM.

That was just an interlude in the question of a moneyless society. The OFs seem to think this development is coming sooner than later but had no idea on how it would work.

It would be interesting to see money in a museum. The dollar currency would be seen in a glass case laid out with the penny, nickels, dimes, etc., up to a thousand-dollar bill; then would come the English pound, the Russian ruble, the Mexican peso, and so on.

This collection of money would take up a whole room in a museum when taking into consideration all the currencies in the world. People viewing the display of all that cash would probably be wondering how in heck we kept it all straight.

Thacher Park

The OFs discussed the unfortunate lady that was struck by the falling rock at Thacher Park. The OFs commented on how many times they have been to the park, and walked the Indian Ladder path along the lower part of the cliff and never even thought about falling rocks.

An OF opined that this situation is going to get worse with rock climbers and the zip line coming in and ruining the park. The park, this OF claimed, is a part of history, not a playground.

Another OF added that, with the newspaper putting the settlement amount in great big headline type, watch and see that not only Thatcher Park, but other parks, will have copy-cat type injuries to try and get large settlements. The OMOTM feel this misfortune is something the press should have buried on the inside, if reporting on it at all.

Who’s smart?

Those OFs who watch Jeopardy talked about how this guy that has won a million-and-a-half dollars on the show makes them feel so dumb. They questioned how one guy knows so much and is able to recall it in such a short period of time.

One OF said all of Jeopardy makes him feel like he never went to school at all.

Then another OF said, “I bet I am smarter than that guy; I can rewire a lamp and I bet he has trouble changing a light bulb.”

This OF was defending all the OFs.

This OF continued, “I don’t care who the king of Underbakedistan was in 1450, when his brother was off fighting the nation Notonyourlife. Hey, that was thousands of years ago, and I don’t even care who won. All of us OMOTM are just as smart as that guy is, only in different areas.”

However, none of us have made a million dollars in 21 days. Dang!

The grass is always greener ...

Lawns! Every spring the subject of lawns comes up among the OFs and not just at one breakfast, but the breakfast after this one, and the one after that.

Lawns and their care, for the OFs who have lawns, is generally a spring-summer topic. This spring, those on the Hill are having trouble working on their lawns because they are so wet.

Some of the OFs have lawns like carpets, and others are rather scraggly. The scraggly OFs maintain they have other things to do than fuss with the lawn. Those with the lawns like carpets say that is their exercise — fussing with the lawn and being outside in the nice weather.

Then there are the really old OFs who say, you guys who can fuss or not fuss with the lawn are lucky because at our age and physical condition, showering, getting dressed, and coming to the breakfast is our exercise for the day.

Disappearing species

The OFs, as part of their conversation Tuesday morning, spoke about how many tree species are either really endangered, or have disappeared from the New York landscape altogether since the OFs were YFs.

The OFs were surprised at this list. The elm, the ash, and the butternut tree were a few that were mentioned. The OFs were not completely sure that somewhere in the state there may be a few hidden in some woods in some places. If they are still here, they sure are scarce.

Those OMOTM who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and paid for their breakfast in hard-earned cash were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jim Rissacher, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Roger Schafer, Marty Herzog, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis, Lawyer, Joe Rack, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, Russ Pokorny, Rev. Jay Francis, Warren Willsey, Gerry Irwin, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Duncan Bellinger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


This report is for Tuesday, April 23, at the YOUR WAY CAFÉ IN SCHOHARIE. This is very important to keep in mind.

This scribe has a lot of apologizing to do. This scribe does not know if it is because what hair he has is gray, or because his co-pilot was not with him, or it is just because he is an OF. The scribe and another OF arrived at the Duanesburg dinner about 6:40 a.m.

The OF and the scribe sat there and had a couple cups of coffee, waiting for the other OFs. The reason the one OF was there with the scribe is because he had been traveling south for about five weeks and called this scribe to see where the next breakfast was. The scribe told him the Duanesburg Diner.

This scribe on Monday even called the Duanesburg Diner to advise the diner that the OMOTM would be there. This scribe does that every Monday to alert whatever diner is next in line to prepare them for about 20 to 30 guys. When the OF and the scribe got to Duanesburg, the diner was all set up and ready for the OMOTM.

A little after 7 a.m. this scribe noticed none of the OMOTM were there and the scribe then realized that he and the other OF were at the wrong restaurant. WE WERE SUPPOSED to be at THE YOUR WAY CAFÉ in Schoharie.

To compound this apology is to admit that the Your Way Café was not alerted that it was going to be under attack from a gaggle of hungry OFs demanding to be fed. So this scribe publicly would like to offer his apology to both the Duanesburg Diner and the Your Way Café for being  victims of this scribe not reading his own emails.

Another duty the scribe does is to send an email to all the OFs (who have computers) to tell them where the next breakfast is going to be, plus the next two or three restaurants in line. The scribe does this so the OFs who didn’t make a particular morning’s breakfast will know where the next one is

At least the scribe knows the emails are read because all the other OFs were at the right place; they were at the YOUR WAY CAFÉ, which proves the email at least was correct.

To add insult to injury, the scribe was so sure it was the Duanesburg Diner that, at around 5:30 a.m. (a.m., that is morning folks; it is a good thing this scribe is an old farmer because 4:30 a.m. was “go get the cows” time), when the phone rings and it is the Chuck Wagon Diner advising the scribe that next Tuesday the diner would be closed for repairs, this scribe advised them that the OMOTM would pick them up on the next go-round because they follow the Duanesburg Diner, and thanked them for letting the scribe know, and the scribe would announce this at this morning’s breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner.

But (please pay attention) now the Chuck Wagon does not have to worry because next Tuesday it WILL be the Duanesburg Diner, and the week after that WILL be the Chuck Wagon. Now this scribe has to call the Chuck Wagon and advise them, “No problem, the OMOTM will be there as scheduled.”

You know maybe it is because this scribe is taking Benadryl to help him sleep that things are getting all screwed up — PHEW!

When the scribe and the other OF made it to the Your Way Café, the ribbing was not that bad. This scribe expected much worse.

On the other hand, the OF and the scribe were banished to sit at a table for two, and had to make more conversation between ourselves. We had been talking together for awhile by the time we made it to the Your Way Café but we managed to find a few suitable topics that we had overlooked. This fiasco left the scribe out of much of the conversation for anything new to report on this week.

The scribe has to admit conversational subjects were scarce Tuesday morning. It could have been about Easter (as something different) but you can bet the standard fare would have been — as it usually is — on trucks, tractors, cars, kids, gardens — topics like that.

One OF who is walking with a cane, and has missed a few breakfasts, was asked how he was doing (this is another standard topic with the OFs, aches and pains coupled with mobility) and he replied his hip operation went fine; there is no pain and the hip works like a charm, but his knees are giving him trouble now. This seemed a little odd because it was the hip that was the most recent bionic repair.

The OFs have always maintained that the guy who moves and does simple aerobic exercises daily, like nice long steady walks, swimming, or golf, will live longer and have less aches and pains in later life than the athlete who lifts weights, takes all kinds of supplements, gets on all these machines, and pushes his body beyond what it was designed for.

The Old Men of the Mountain that made it to the YOUR WAY CAFÉ in Schoharie, because they have stayed away from the gym instead of going to it were: Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Dave Williams, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Mark Traver, Ken Parks, Joe Rack, Jim Heiser, Roger Shafer, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Harold Grippen, and me — SORRY DARCY!


I like to watch boxing when I can. Yes, it’s both violent and dangerous, but it’s not called the “sweet science” for nothing. You better be in shape and at your best when get you in that squared circle, because there is just no place to hide.

In fact, my father and I never had much in common other than being related — not books, music, TV, most sports, or really anything. But one thing we both liked was “Friday Night Fights” when that was a regular thing. I really looked forward to spending some quality time with my dad watching something that we both enjoyed immensely. Good times.

So the other night, I’m watching some boxing. The match had just started. Every match is different because each bout pitches two unique individual styles, experiences, and levels of conditioning against each other. You truly never know what’s going to happen in a boxing match.

Then the commentator said this: “It all starts with the left hand.”

He of course was referring to what’s known as the “jab,” which for a right-handed boxer is when you use your left hand to set up your right, your power punch, if you have one (and hopefully you do or it might not be a good night). But I got that phrase “it all starts with the left hand” stuck in my head and then it occurred to me that commentator might be on to something.

I’m right handed, and when I went to grade school we spent a lot of time on cursive writing and penmanship. That’s why it kills me to think that this skill is no longer being taught in some schools. You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s fundamental!

But anyway, when I was taught penmanship it was my left hand that held the paper so my right hand could make decent, legible cursive script (not now unfortunately that doesn’t happen unless I go very slowly). In fact, without the left hand, I couldn’t have written a thing.

One of the Jack Reacher books features a beautiful female agent practicing at the shooting range. In one of the classic man-teaching-a-sexy-woman-something moves, he slides up behind her and shows her how to take all the weight of the gun in her left hand, using her right only to pull the trigger. Of course, it works great. I haven’t shot in a long time, but it totally makes sense to me to do it that way.

If you work with tools, you know the left hand, for righties like me, is very important. How could you saw or drill if you didn’t hold the work piece in your left hand? Even with clamps, it’s still good to use the left hand for added support. It just makes you feel that much more in control, which is always a good thing when working with tools, especially power tools, which can be very dangerous.

I spend a good part of my day at a keyboard, for better or worse. While many people think desk jobs are cushy, it turns out sedentary work is terrible for your body in many ways (loss of flexibility, muscle tone, and aerobic conditioning for starters).

Often at the keyboard I have to use my right hand to click the mouse for something or other, but many times I can use my left hand for a quick keyboard shortcut that saves a lot of time. These really do work, and keep your hands by the keyboard where they can stay busy. In fact, many computer pros rarely use the mouse at all because they get so good with the keyboard shortcuts.

Of course, if you’ve ever made good Italian sauce from scratch, you know you taste with the small spoon in your right hand while stirring with the big spoon in your left hand. Keep stirring and tasting, stirring and tasting. It’s a tough job but somebodys gotta do it.

If you ride a motorcycle, you know the throttle is controlled by the right hand. Vroom-vroom; it’s the right hand that makes you go. But if you ride, you most certainly know that twisting the throttle is the easy part. The left hand controls the clutch, and it’s the smooth operation of the gears and the clutch that separates the good riders from the great riders.

There are some riders who can shift gears so well it’s almost like they have an automatic transmission. That’s how skilled they are, and efficient clutch control with the left hand is a huge part of that.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a car making out with someone, but that left hand comes in really important during those intimate moments, let me tell you. In fact, I think they hire special testers to make bra clasps very hard to unhook with one hand

Been like that forever and I doubt it will ever change. If there was ever a rite of passage for a man’s left hand, that was it for sure. Only Fonzie from TV’s “Happy Days” could do it perfectly every time, and that’s why they call it fiction.

If you should ever be so fortunate to do extensive travel and find yourself in an Arab country or around Arab people, be especially careful with your left hand. In those societies. the left hand is considered unclean and should never touch food, shake hands, or even wave.

This is a very big taboo within this culture — the left hand is used for personal functions only. Being that we have so many ethnic restaurants now, even in the Capital District, this is a really good tip to know. Just remember: Your left hand remains in your lap while dining.

Maybe that boxing announcer, when he said, “It all starts with the left hand,” was truly on to something. Of course, if you want to give me a “left-handed compliment” for this column I totally understand.