— Photo from John R. Williams

A beaver dam has pooled water that is close to Thompson Lake Road and Old Stage Road. Some of the trees that the beavers toppled to build their home are at least a foot in diameter, says John R. Williams, adding, “This is quite a critter God has put here for one reason or another.”

On April 27, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh. This time it was a meeting of many OFs, and again it is because of vaccinations, and the releasing of some of the restrictions as more become vaccinated, and the percentage overall of citizens contacting the virus.

One of the discussions (a continuation of one of the conversations of last week) was on the beaver pond on two busy roads in the Hilltowns. Trapping the beavers is not as easy as it sounds. One of the events that might happen — which many of the OFs might never have thought of — is how to trap the beaver and not the neighbor’s dog.

The OMOTM are lucky to have a professional trapper as a loyal member of this group. When people in the area have problems with wildlife, the town, county, and state have contacted this individual to take care of the problems.

They still continue to contact him but, as always, age and other problems seem to creep up on the OMOTM and we are not as able to do what we used to do. Such is the case here.

This OMOTM said he does farm these situations out to his kids but with his supervision. However, no one from any of these public entities has contacted this OF on the beaver-dam problem.

According to one OF, some government departments have washed their hands of the pending problem and claim it is not in their bailiwick and so they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Hmmm.

 

Now what?

The OFs discussed a dilemma that has gone on for a long time, probably longer than the Old Men of the Mountain have been gathering to discuss the world and its problems. This is companies going in and out of business. This trouble happened to be on motorcycles, but it can be anything.

In this case, the difficulty was purchasing a motorized two-wheeled conveyance in one place, and then having something go wrong. In some of the places the OFs discussed, the shops were not just around the corner. The OFs then attempt to go back where they bought the item and it is out of business. Now what?

One OF commented that, when he tried to get his motorcycle repaired, in the first place he tried other than the place from which it was purchased, the owner said, “I only repair what I sell; better go somewhere else.”

Thank goodness, that response is becoming less frequent. Another comment from the place an item was purchased sounds something like, “Oh, we don’t carry that anymore; it had too many problems so we dropped it.”

Hearing that sentence is like swallowing a bowling ball and feeling it drop to the bottom of the stomach.

This predicament doesn’t have to be only motorcycles. It can be TVs, microwaves — anything. The problem is the OF now knows he has purchased a piece of junk, but sometimes it is top of the line except not too popular and doesn’t move, so as one OF mentioned it is not necessarily the cheap stuff. On the other hand, generally it is.

 

Hoof prints

In the chatter, it is often that one OF thinks what has happened has only happened to him. As the story is told, the OF finds another OF has gone through the same thing. Which only goes to point out what a small world this is.

One OF was telling how, when the company he worked for went to trade in the leased car the OG had for his use in the business (because the OF traveled for the company) there were scratches on the hood and roof. Those scratches were put there by goats.

The dealer that was going over the car at the trade-in completed his routine checking of the vehicle for dings and scratches and asked, “What are those marks on the roof and hood of the car?” He asked if it was parked under a tree.

The OF said they weren’t tree scratches; they were hoof prints. The dealer said with a very questioning tone, “Yeah right, hoof prints” and the OF had to maintain, “Yeah, hoof prints.”

After telling this little story at the OMOTM gathering at Mrs. Ks, another OF started telling another story about his vehicle also having hoof prints on his car. The stories were similar, but not quite the same; in the second OF’s story, the hoof prints were also questioned.

When people hear this they don’t believe it but they don’t understand goats. A goat’s favorite game is to butt heads while standing on top of anything it can get its eight tiny hoofs on. Goats then rear back and slam their goat heads together. They can do this for hours. This little game doesn’t look like fun to the OFs.

 

Bucket lists

The OFs discussed a little bit about bucket lists, a rather recent term applied to events the OFs would have like to have done but either never took the chance, or they were too busy making a living and raising little Jack and Jill, and keeping the wife happy.

At ages 50 to 60, maybe even 70, most of these were still doable, but at 80 that bucket was now just a little sand pail. However, I am proud to announce that I completed the first item on my bucket list. I have the bucket.

Those OFs who made it to the Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh and left their buckets at home were: Rick LaGrange, Marty Herzog, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Mark Traver, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Herb Bahrmann, Allan Fazzio,  Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgett, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Joe Rack, and me.

 

 

The Old Men of the Mountain met again at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. As the OMOTM talked after this very long hiatus, we discovered that many have not fared that well, and it is not COVID-related.

This is just a long time of not being together and catching up. The OFs found that cancers, age, and other serious conditions caught up with them, and now hearing about the collective numbers all at once makes these situations sound worse than hearing about problems every now and then. The prayer lists get longer in a hurry this way.

On the practical side, the OFs found it makes a lot of sense to do some financial planning ahead of time so that whatever the OFs have great or small doesn’t all wind up with the state, or at a nursing home. One thing that came to light was that it now takes seven years for many plans to take effect, where it used to take five years.

After talking to some of the OFs, depending on the individual circumstances, wills do not cut it like estate planning, even if the OFs don’t think they have too much of an “estate.” The wicket just becomes stickier, and stickier, with the underlying glue being the state.

The state seems to want to get its hands on whatever you have, in any way it can. It appears high taxes are not enough.

Do the OMOTM sound bitter? You betcha!

The scribe thinks this is another “we get too soon old and too late smart.” This is another reason to join senior groups where the senior generation can get good advice from people that have gone through it.

This scribe thinks if possible, don’t wait. Do something as soon as you can; age comes too quickly and there is a point of no return. The OFs comment the right thing to do is not become a burden to the kids or the neighbors, so plan ahead.

A couple of OFs, who were caregivers to their parents, mentioned that, even though it was hard at times, the OFs never considered the parents to be a burden. As one OF said, “Just consider how much you were a pain in the a-- when you were a kid and all the grief you caused your parents.”

Another OF added, “The rule of natural selection is you can’t select your gender, or your parents.”

 

Varied vaccine reactions

Many of the OFs have had their vaccinations, and there was quite a discussion on how most had no reaction, to some having quite a reaction.

A few said that the first shot one was fine; with the second one, they slept the whole next day; a few complained about having flu-like symptoms for a few days, and one OF said he became quite ill. This may or may not have been a reaction to the vaccine.

Either way, the OFs have heard that a reaction is a good thing because it shows the vaccine is working. One OF said, “Where does that put us? We had no reaction. Is it working for us? “

The other OFs said, “Hey, we don’t know. We are not doctors — Google it.”

 

Blessing in disguise?

One of the current events covered was working from home during the pandemic. Some of the OFs think this is going to change the dynamics of many companies like banks, insurance companies, big companies with large billing and collecting departments, and so many more.

The OFs think we’ve seen the last of the big skyscrapers. One OF thinks that now, worldwide, many of these buildings will be only half full.

To which another OF said, “Look how that can help with housing shortages. As the world’s population grows, there will be square footage for housing already there and we won’t have to gobble up all the farmland. Now we can grow food to feed the population as it grows. Is this a blessing in disguise or what?”

The OMOTM have mentioned this before, and this scribe thinks many times before, but the OFs said that, with all this high-tech stuff and knowing how computers work, they are now able to understand computer talk, so the new workforce can work from home.

Now who is going to fix the leaky faucet, change out the toilet, or hot water heater — all that kind of stuff. We need those people right now. Have any of you guys tried to get a contractor to come and build something or do home repair?

One OF asked, “How many actually show up, if and when they do get back to you?  If they give you a price, even show up to do the work, and if you get someone that is good and reliable, let me know.” (I was going to put a joke in here about carpentry, but I didn’t think it wood work).

 

Flood fallout

The OFs discussed speaking about contractors, etc. about how the villages of Middleburgh, and Schoharie and that area still show remnants of the flood of 2011. One large building that will pick up the area (the OFs think) is when the Parrott House in Schoharie is finished being brought back to life.

The quaintness of some of the other small towns and areas hit by the flood might be back to what they were, so hopefully, the whole valley may bounce back. The OFs are talking about this but really don’t have any answers — yet.

The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and are beginning to try to get back into a routine. This was the first time at the diner in quite awhile. The waitress wore an Old Man of the Mountain T-shirt. How fitting. (Pun intended.) Those who made it to the diner were: Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Chuck Aelesio, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jake Herzog, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Dave Hodgetts, and me.

This scribe can write, “The Old Men of the Mountain” met at the Chuck Wagon Diner for real this time. There was a group that met most of the time while this pandemic was going on; however, a few more showed up that have now had their shots and feel safer.

The Chuck Wagon had shields between each booth so hearing what was going on was tough, but at least what the scribe was able to understand it seemed as if their preceding gatherings had kept on meeting. Much of the conversation was like a continuation of last week with considerable current events thrown in, just like always, and great to hear.

 

Busy beavers

One OF reported that there were beavers building a dam practically in his front yard. The OF said the close dam was the latest of three dams these hardworking critters have built on the pond across the road.

There are now four ponds at this location; each pond is lower than the other as the ponds are built up on sloping land. The dam holding the water in pond number three is higher than the state highway that separates the beaver ponds from the land of the OMOTM.

Dam number four is just about 50 to 60 feet from the OF’s property. The OF said, if that dam ever lets go, it might take that whole section of highway with it and wash out his pond in the bargain.

One OF said, “Too bad beaver coats are out of style. It looks like quite a family of these rodents is working over there. You could trap them, skin them, and make a nice coat.”

Then another OF commented that he thought the Russians still wore beaver hats. Maybe there is a market for the pelts.

Still one other OF declared, “Are you crazy? Killing a beaver over here in order to sell pelts over there would start another war — swatting a fly is almost a crime.”

One OF compared the beaver to the hippopotamus. The OF said the hippo makes canals and builds ponds during the rainy season and in the dry season all the other critters take advantage of the hippo’s collection of water, and the beavers do the same thing.

Many other critters and birds take advantage of the beaver ponds. Now people are taking over, and the critters are just doing their thing. The beavers don’t know their way to survive can cause havoc on people and people’s activities.

This situation is not too far from this scribe’s abode, so this scribe took a walk to look at it, and it is just as described. These dams appear to be holding back water on over three acres of ground just on the lower three dams. The upper dam should not let go because there is a road over that one, and it is now not a beaver dam.

 

Cost spikes

The subject of not doing much gallivanting, or visiting, mostly staying at home and eating, means the OFs in our booth have all gained weight, and this has cost money at the grocery store. As one OF in this group noted, many people are struggling and grocery prices are going out of sight.

The OFs could not understand why such basic foods cost so much. Purchasing items to go to food pantries is getting quite expensive, one OF mentioned. With so many people hurting for no reason of their own it is hard for the OFs to understand why we have all these spikes in the cost of necessities.

 

Getting out

Upon greetings, the opening conversations were on how everybody was doing, and it seems that over the span of time many of the OFs’ wives and acquaintances, and OFs themselves, are pretty darn sick, not with minor illnesses but cancers, tumors, joint replacements, trouble walking, serious arthritis, sleepless nights, and getting about, not just simple running noses.

The old problem of age jumped right in there but, as one OF put it, “We do the best we can, and we don’t give up. Sitting in a rocking chair moaning ‘woe is me’ doesn’t cut it for me.”

Another OF answered, “This is the best medicine of all — just getting out. All the other stuff would have gone on anyway. As we generally gather weekly, the news of physical problems would be incremental and not noticed as much as getting a ton of information all at once.”

Among all this somehow the comment, “We should be eating more bananas” was mentioned and, “We would all be healthier.” The OFs in the booth all agreed as if this had been one of the conversations all along.

How the heck did bananas become part of the talk this scribe doesn’t know, but all of sudden there it was. Bananas! The food to end all our problems.

All the OFs in the booth seemed to like bananas and did eat them, some on a daily basis. However, some ate them only because bananas are easy to prepare, are filling, and taste good with just about everything.

The last word on this banana topic is: Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

Those attending — the OFs that challenged COVID (and so far are winning) — at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown were collectively Rick La Grange, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Bill Lichliter, Jake Herzog, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, John Dabrrvalskes, Herb Bahrmann, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Paul Whitbeck, and me.

As it stands right now, the Old Men of the Mountain are going to attempt to start up our weekly trek to the restaurants that will have us. The next report shall be from multiple sources and, true or not, from actual visual and verbal connections. Will it be any different? We shall see.

However, right now we will continue with some of the phone calls. Before that, this scribe was contacted by two gentlemen in Altamont that want to do a book on the paranormal of Altamont and the surrounding area.

They asked if any of the Old Men of the Mountain had any encounters, or know of anyone who did have interesting or real ghost stories to tell of the immediate area, so that they could include these in the history they are trying to collect. These gentlemen considered the Old Men of the Mountain because they are the Old Men of the Mountain and have collective years under their belts, and those anecdotes of their friends would be a good place to start.

This scribe is sure that the information does not have to stop at the OMOTM, but they would be interested if anyone has a story of their own, or in their family history. For complete information, anyone can contact The Enterprise and they would fill you in on all the particulars and put you in touch with the two fellas that are assembling all the stories and putting them in readable form.

This scribe, for one, would be interested in reading such a book. Altamont and the Hilltowns should be replete with tales of spirits wandering around occasionally making themselves known.

Because of the scribe’s own experiences, the scribe has a tendency to take some stories with the “Hmm, could be so” attitude; however, many others have made the common comment, “Really?”

 

Where are the April showers?

The OFs spoken to are glad to see the weather in April as it is. However, a few spoken to said it is too dry too soon.

The warm air and the breeze are nice but don’t help with the next growing season. One OF said the so-called miserable weather in April we generally have is very necessary to keep the ground moist if not wet.

Another OF mentioned snowfall disappearing too fast and it was not sinking into the ground. Many of the OFs, as previously reported, were farmers and know how this old planet works. The OFs were taught by the best teachers and from the best schools, the school of hard knocks, their parents, the animals, and life.

This scribe mentioned to one OF that the OG was right. If too much snow goes from the top and not the bottom, there may be problems ahead if not enough rain comes to make up the difference.

 

Swap University

This scribe wonders, after talking to the OFs, if there should be a school called “Swap University.” At this school, the semesters would change instructors.

One semester would have teachers 80-years plus. These older instructors would teach nature the way it really is, weather the way it really is, animal husbandry, etc. and students would be your typical freshmen. The next semester, the students would be 80 and above, and the instructors would be the typical freshmen, and they would teach the 80-year-olds how to use a cell phone, how to use the TV, and how to use a computer so an 80-year-old can understand it.

The 80-year-olds could teach how to drive a shift car, and freshmen could teach how to drive these new cars for which it is not even necessary to use a key to start. The degree would not be a bachelor of arts, but a “living life” degree. The graduates would now be ready for whatever came along.

This education would go along with what one OF mentioned way before this pandemic started and it almost now sounds prophetic. The OF said that too many of the young people live only for today; even though they might make tons of money some have a tendency to spend their money on pot and good times.

This OF said there should be something set aside for when things go wrong. This OF thought everyone, boys and girls, should learn to be handy: Guys should know how to cook, and girls should know how to fix a faucet and be able to do so.

This OF thinks the young folks should have two plans. One would work before retirement, and the other for when the market, or whatever their money is invested in, collapses. Make plans for their money and investments one way, and food, water, fuel, shelter, and medicine in the cellar in case of the other.

This scribe answered that he thinks to have young people make these plans is much easier said than done. Those who live in people-packed cities may have a tad of a problem having a store in the basement just for them, and a garden in the backyard, when they don’t have either a cellar or a backyard.

The scribe is now looking forward to our first meeting in almost a year where we can have more of these interesting discussions and solve life’s problems. Some days I amaze myself, and other days I look for my phone when I am talking on it.

This column is basically about being old; that is the reason for the so-called title. There are many books, articles and cartoons about being old. Maxine comes to mind, and oodles of others pertaining to the category of becoming old.

The fact of the matter is, as soon as we are born, we start getting old; there is no getting around it. However, there is old, and there is old.

To wit: One Old Man of the Mountain called and related this heartwarming story to another OF. It seems the OF was grocery shopping with his wife and they were checking out. In front of them was an elderly gentleman who had just checked out and was struggling with two bags of groceries and trying to maneuver putting his change in his wallet.

He was having quite a time of it. The Old Man of the Mountain finally decided to help the old gent out and so he helped put the bags in the old gent’s cart.

After doing this and asking the man if he wanted him to go with him to his car, the old gent told the OF no, he could handle it from there. The OF said the old gent thanked him and the old gent further said that not too many young guys would step in like that and help out an older fella.

Then, the OF continued, the elderly gentleman said to him, “Getting old is tough; just wait until you get to be 72 and you will see how hard it is.”

The OF almost said out loud that he was 84, but thought the better of it and let it go. There is old and there is old.

This scribe does not know how many of these events happen but they can sure boost your spirits when it does.

 

Together again?

Some of the OFs have asked if now that many of the OMOTM have had their shots, and restrictions have been lifted a little on the restaurants, maybe we could start getting together again. Some of the OFs have been gathering right along at a couple of the restaurants but this scribe has contacted some of the other restaurants and so far not getting much response.

One mentioned that the restaurants are not set up for big crowds and don’t think they could handle us yet. One said maybe we could change the day to Thursday as they are now closed on Tuesdays.

This scribe does not know how large a crowd we will be. Maybe that is a survey this scribe will have to take before he starts calling again with a little more solid information.

Boy, the scribe can’t wait as he and the wife still practice the stay-at-home protocol even though we have had our shots. This is getting boring.

 

Phone calls

When calling the OFs, most of the time the scribe found the phone is answered right away because almost everyone is at home. It used to be this scribe spent a lot of time talking to a machine. That is the way it should be because it shows people are out and about spending money.

The phone calls this week were mostly about the weather, or if someone was born or passed away. None of the OFs have been out causing trouble, getting arrested for one thing or another — now the problem is just loitering.

One OF did say a year ago he and the bride were talking about getting another car, but heck, the OG said, “We haven’t put any miles on the one we have, and the doctor is just about around the corner so that doesn’t add many miles either. That idea has to be put on hold for awhile.”

Another problem this scribe has run into is that he is finding more of the OFs are ill, or their spouses are ill, so the scribe has to think twice before picking up the phone. These OGs have to get out and move around; also it might be necessary to give the little lady a break from the OGs.

 

Road trip?

One outside event that was discussed is the OFs just go for a ride to nowhere and back. Pack a lunch and take a longer ride — just get out of the house; it’s making the OGs sick.

One OF did mention that he has taken rides on roads he has never been on before right here on the Hill. The OF said there was no reason for him to be on those roads because they didn’t go anywhere he was headed at any time.

However, this idea sounds like it might be fun. You can go to your area on Google and list the road not traveled and then travel on them to check them out.

One OG added that, if we do that, make sure it is not a dead end and the folks living in the last house don’t come out and meet you with a gun. In any case, the scenery won’t change much because the OF will still be wandering the hills. This scribe thinks he will take his own advice and do this a couple of times.

 

Wake-up call

One OF answered the phone at 3 p.m. and sounded like he just woke up, and it turned out that, in fact, he did. The OF was glad for the call because, he said, he has been sleeping too much.

His comment about the stay-at-home pandemic advice was that he sleeps too much, he was not much of a reader to begin with, so all he does is eat, watch TV, and sleep. This OG thinks he is going to get sick just staying home. He could be right; check paragraph above.

 

Time warp

All this discussion on age made this scribe realize that his birthday will be coming up shortly. Age is a relative term. All my relatives keep reminding me of how old I am.

Well, I am so old that I have actually dialed a rotary phone connected to a party line, while listening to a black-and-white TV with aluminum foil on its rabbit ears, and chewed Black-Jack gum. I am sure none of my grandchildren have the slightest idea of what I am talking about.

Once upon a time many years ago, some male babies were born. At that time, these young babies did not know that much later they would become old men, and most would have babies of their own.

Also, little did they know they would eventually become members of the Old Men of the Mountain. Nor did they know what kind of life the years would bring.

These mysteries would shape the memories of their formative years. As the memories are related today, many details are as sure as if the event happened yesterday. A couple of the stories tied with current events made this hard to sort out from the forties and fifties, or the current century and 2020.

What prompted this was a discussion on high school and the kids in the class, who are now senior citizens. These stories had the kids in school, still the kids in school; this is how the OMOTM talked about them and this scribe actually believes they truly saw them in their mind’s eye.

The girls are vivacious, and the guys are young athletes, when in fact, the guys are probably bald and fat, wrinkled and bent; the women are also fat, wrinkled, and bent. But the OFs who have not seen them in years do not picture them this way.

One OF told the story of haying with the gang from Berne all day long and then taking off and going swimming. The OF mentioned he had not seen many of these guys in years and wondered what they were doing.

He remembered young and virile people, and it was possible to tell this by the sound of his voice. This OF mentioned one of the girls in the group and wondered where she was and what she was doing, and the OF would like to see her again.

Not wanting to spoil the illusion, this scribe thought to himself as the OF carried on, if the lady in question is still alive. It is interesting what the OF’s remember and how they do it and in what context.

Recalling some of the antics the OFs pulled when they were kids have many of those in the group discussing how we did some dumb things when we were kids. In a way, the OFs take it easy on some of the things kids do today.

However, one OF said, “If you recall, much of what we did back then was mischief; it was not mean.” 

“Today,” this OF continued, “A lot of what the young people pull is downright mean. There is a difference.”

This scribe retorted, “Some of our exploits might have put us in jail today, instead of just getting scolded, if we were caught, even though most of the stunts were just nonsense.”

That phrase started a certain memory.

“I remember the time when there were five of us in a coupe and we raided Middleburgh for girls because apparently there were no girls in Schoharie.”

That is not all that coupe of boys raided, but again it was nonsense, and not mean by any measure. It was one of those things that could be very funny, but the culprits dared not be around to take part in any of the fun, they just had to talk about and imagine what was happening and what the reaction would be.

With this stunt, the perpetrators would want to be long gone. There was really not much sense in hanging around because, if caught, they would be tarred and feathered at least.

This scribe asked the question, “Was our youth more fun than now, or even back a few years, to our adulthood?”

The answer for the OF was: H--- yes.

Whoever said old age (and we are old, there is no getting around that) was fun?

A common reaction received from one OF was: “I ache from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head; all my friends are in the same boat. They either have cancer, or heart trouble, or are deaf with blurry vision, have arthritis in every joint, and have had their car keys taken away. What fun is there in any of that?”

“Yeah,” another OF answered. “It is more fun to remember being young, than it is to be old. 

“Boy,” the scribe thought, “Did I call the wrong guy!” 

Come to find out this is more a product of the pandemic than the way the OF really felt. Being cooped up with no release, the scribe thought, is more of what is going on than the “down in the dumps” recitation, because usually the OF is upbeat no matter the situation.

In a way though, remembrances are fun even if in our 80-year-old minds we still see our high school mates as if they were in their teens. The girls are still young and pretty and the guys all have hair and muscles.

This scribe agreed with the OF and added that he still sees his kids as in their teen years, even though they are in their sixties with kids of their own. What about the OFs who have more great-grandkids than some OFs have grandkids? How do they still see their kids?

We have survived spankings, lead paint, rusty playgrounds, second-hand smoke, toy guns, no seat belts, no helmets, and drinking from the hose. And we still have memories of childhood that are the dreams that stay with you after you awaken.

It has been suggested that, as many of the Old Men of the Mountain get their shots, we discuss how those who have already had their shots can get together. This is not a bad idea for those who have them or have appointments to get them.

The first thing this scribe did was check Albany County for current restaurant protocols. The answer was simple and ambiguous

In essence, it said 50-percent seating capacity and mask, and with the typical six-foot distancing. However, it also said to call the restaurant to be sure it is open and how it is handling the COVID virus now.

Well, that is not too bad. This scribe will have to get on the phone and start there. Maybe writing the column will be a lot easier and more entertaining if enough of the OFs can get together to make it so.

The phone calls this week had many different ideas; however, there were a few common threads. The main one was to be sure all those in attendance had their shots, and they had observed the two-week waiting period after their second shot.

This scribe thinks again that the Old Men of the Mountain are in the age bracket where this virus likes to hang out and the virus is not playing any games.

As mentioned a few columns back, the OFs do want to get out but don’t want to be dumb about it. One OF mentioned that there are some out there who don’t believe in the vaccination or that it does any good.

The reasoning behind this is poor at best. The feeling behind this seems to be that no one knows where this virus came from and that it will eventually disappear and no one will know where it is going.

In that phone call, it was pointed out that the OF should look at all the vaccinations that work. This is not rocket science; there are plenty of vaccines out there preventing all kinds of diseases so at least the medical researchers had a starting point.

 

Celebrating birthdays

Somehow, on one of the phone calls that were made to the OFs, we started talking about birthdays (maybe because this scribe has one coming up) and this discussion came up with a neat idea for those who have a number of kids with birthdays falling close together: Have one birthday party for all of them at the same time.

The OF said he couldn’t do that because he would have to rent a hall. The OF’s reasoning was that, if he allowed each to invite their friends, he would have to hire a cop for crowd control, and with everyone bringing presents, the chaos would be worse than Christmas

The other thing would be sorting it all out at the end of the party, whose presents belong to whom, etc. etc.

Then, as the OF and this scribe talked, the conversation switched to the COVID problem again and when this particular OF and this scribe thought the pandemic would be over so we could have normal birthday parties again.

The OF thought (hoped) by the end of summer, and this scribe commented he doubted if the world would ever be over it. It may pop up like the flu season, or the cold season, and soon we will have the COVID season. This scribe thinks we will have to regularly get the COVID shot, just like the flu shot.

 

One planet

This scribe suggested to the OF that he doesn’t think the world is going to be made up of countries, the way they are now, for much longer. The way we travel here and there, and we carry different germs all over the place, pretty soon conditions are going to be tough to avoid germs around the world.

This would also apply to invasive species of all sorts, like bugs, plants, spiders, and snakes, whatever, as well as germs. Eventually, that way we will be one planet even to the point where true cultures and races will be gone — whether we want it or not, or even like it or not, also that may be a good thing or not.

This remains to be seen, but the scribe added, the OFs won’t be here to see it, nor will our kids, or their kids, even the next generation of kids, but this scribe feels it surely will happen.

Again, the OFs are accused of getting too deep into these types of discussions. This must be a byproduct of being cooped-up all the time — too much time to think.

Then one OF said, “Thinking hurts my head, I’m too used to comic books and cartoons. Give me a horse and a plow slowly plodding along turning over the sod and sniffing the aroma of the earth as it becomes exposed and I am happy.”

To others, the OFs suppose it is the smell of the exhaust of the tractors doing the same thing.

As the OFs have been saying all along, they just want to get back to some kind of routine. At one point, this OF wondered if there is going to be a COVID baby boom, to replace all those that were lost to this pandemic.

In 2033, will there be a whole bunch of quaranteens? Just wondering.

Further wondering — we never thought the comment, “I wouldn’t touch them with a six-foot pole” would become a national policy, but here we are!

 

Condolences

It is with great sadness that we must report that John Rossmann, another faithful member of the Old Men of the Mountain, passed away around 10 a.m. on Monday morning at his home in Huntersland. We all offer our prayers, and condolences to the family of John.

A 1939 Hupmobile

A 1939 Hupmobile could be fixed on the spot if it broke on the road, one of the Old Men of the Mountain fondly remembered. John R. Williams recalls his family’s earlier model was dark green with wooden spokes in the wheels. “That vehicle was a limousine; it had shades, with fringe and tassels that could be pulled down in the back, but the car had a sad ending,” he said.

The Old Men of the Mountain, at breakfast when they were together, talked many, many times about the vehicles they drove when they were younger. These vehicles are considered collectibles today, as are much of what the OFs used brand new when they were in their teens and twenties.

If they purchased these vehicles used, some of these items would be 100 years old today. Even the OF is now a collectible.

This vehicle memory came up in two conversations this week. One OF’s grandson purchased a new vehicle and the OF, of course, gave it the once-over with the required OF hmms, here and there.

The gist of the conversation was, when the OFs were young, many cars and tractors came with a repair manual and a set of tools, and the owner was expected to be able to repair the vehicle himself. Well, those days are long gone.

Today, the OF said, the new owner of a new car better take roadside assistance, and belong to AAA.

The OF said looking at the new car he couldn’t even find where to start the engine; everything seemed to be hidden. To him it looked like it was necessary to take half the car apart just to change the plugs — if the car even had any.

The other OF commented that, even with a newer car today, he is a little leery when starting out on a long trip to somewhere where he is not too familiar. In the old days (in the 1940s,’50s, or ’60s?) if the car should have problems he could jump out, figure out what is going on and probably fix it right there with the emergency repair box that he would have in the trunk.

This is not a fairy tale; it was done by the OF and this scribe, actually more than once. This scribe has a story about a broken spring but that will be for some other time.

Today, the number-one thing, the OF said, he would have to have is a cellphone and know how to use it, and that phone only works if there is reception in the area where the car happened to decide to give the OF problems.

These new vehicles are so full of artificial intelligence that, if the owner doesn’t treat them right, the car will wait for some godforsaken place in the middle of the night to say, screw you and quit.

One OG said, “My 1939 Hupmobile wouldn’t do that, but if it did, most of the time I could fix it right there with the parts and the tools I carried, and a flashlight. But today all I could do is look at the thing and scratch my head; heck, trying to fix a flat tire is a circus.”

The stories continued about how the OFs had problems with vehicles when we were younger; however,this scribe interjected, “The vehicles today seem to go many more miles than they used to, before there are problems.”

The scribe got from one OF a cryptic comment, which seemed to mean much more than these four little words: “Don’t count on it!”  We did not go into that because it seemed like deep water.

Checking with the online car guy it seems that remembering how things used to be also included a reminder of how many weekends we used to spend on Project Cars. Back then, clean fingernails, free weekends, intact knuckles, and financial stability were totally overrated.

Hilltown vaccine

One OF said it looks like the Hilltowns are finally getting some attention regarding the COVID shots. The sheriff’s department is taking care of Knox and Berne with vaccine PODs. The OF commented that “we” (OMOTM) have been saying there should be something like this for the old people that can’t get around. 

This scribe mentioned it must have been short notice and happened rather quickly because this OF knows he doesn’t live in a cave but he had not heard about it until the day of one taking place and the day before the other came to pass.

Either way, the scribe was glad to see it happen. The conversation continued on that both the OF and the scribe hopes this type of vaccine distribution is going on in the Adirondacks and some of the other sparsely populated counties.

Young county

This drifted into another thought — that New York State may be having an increase in age of the median population of the state; then again, maybe not. So this scribe decided to check out some statistics. Hello, Google.

In Albany County, the ages of the Old Men of the Mountain are rare. Albany County is a young county with the average age being 31.

In Hamilton County, the average age is 56; in Schoharie County, it is 45; in New York City (the five boroughs), it is 37, and going up — and the United States national average is 38; all this is as of 2019. That was a fun little project.

Breaking out?

One of the OFs spoken to said he had to go out, and took a chance (because he has not had his shot, at least at the date of the phone call). At the restaurant where he stopped to have a bite, he bumped into a couple other OMOTM having lunch there.

An interesting coincidence or are many of us getting antsy and wanting to venture out of our cages?

Condolences

The Old Men of the Mountain are sad to report that they have lost another OMOTM member. Bill Krause passed away on Feb. 28. The OMOTM offer their condolences and prayers for the family and friends of Bill.

The Old Men of the Mountain would like to also offer our condolences and prayers to the family and friends of another faithful Old Man of the Mountain, Jim Heiser, who passed away on March 6. Both of these men’s families have our deepest sympathies. 

Now that some of the Old Men of the Mountain are in the process of getting the COVID-19 shot, the group is getting anxious to get back together and tell stories back and forth, but the main thing is getting out of the house without worrying about catching anything that keeps the undertaker busy.

This scribe thinks this is not going to happen till the end of the year.

The discussion this week with the OGs that were spoken to, was on the weather. Not the weather outside the window right now, but the type of weather we have at this time of year and how it is conducive to some outdoor activities for the OMOTM — like ice fishing.

It has been cold enough for the ponds and lakes to be frozen long and hard enough so the ice is safe. It will take some time for the ice to thaw at the temperature it is now, but nice enough to be reasonably comfortable outdoors for long periods of time and not moving around much.

One OF said that he was planning to ice fish for smelt on Lake George the last day of February. Smelt are a small fish that are really good.

This OF said he has been jigging for smelt since he was a little kid. The OF said he has some rare smelt fishing tip-ups that were hand-whittled by an Indian guide when he was a youngster.

The OF added that was many years ago (being 70 to 75 years ago), back when the OF fished for smelt on Lake Champlain. This OF said that back then the Indian had a little shanty that they used made out of cardboard. Today, some of these shanties are like homes away from home; back then, not so much.

The Indian also taught this OMOTM how to jig with both hands and not get the lines tangled, especially when the smelt are running and they were catching the little fish right and left. “It takes a lot of the little buggers to make a good meal,” the OF said.

This scribe remembers taking his kids ice fishing at Basic Reservoir and the scribe never got a chance to get his hook wet. The scribe spent all his time digging holes and freezing, baiting hooks and freezing, setting tip-ups up and freezing — but the kids had a good time.

The other interesting tidbit the OF mentioned was that, as time went on, there were more and more people enjoying ice fishing and there were, at one time, 30 to 40 shanties on the lake. One entrepreneurial guy would come around and tow your shanty to a new place for a couple of bucks.

The scribe mentioned to the OF, “Just like the movie, ‘Grumpy Old Men,’ with Jack Lemon and Walter Mathieu.”

The OF replied, “Yeah just like that, except we never met anyone like Ann Margaret.”

The OF added that it is activities like this that shorten the winter quite a bit. Skiing and snowmobiles do the same thing.

 

Trapped inside

Another OF spoken to is trapped indoors for the most part. This OF does brave an occasional trip out but, like many of us as we age, some of the things we did as kids show up when we get older.

But this conversation has been held before and the summation is that, when the OFs were younger and knew what it was going to be like when they became older, they vowed they would do the same thing all over again.

As one OF said, he wasn’t “going to live in a bubble.”

This OF is paying now for what he did when he was young, that is, playing basketball and getting injured. Back when his injuries occurred, he said, there was not the medical technology around that there is today.

This OF thinks that, if the same thing occurred today, it would be handled differently and, when he got to the age he is now, he would not have the problems he is having.

We, (the OF and the scribe) thought this was true. In many cases, there have been numerous advancements in 70 years. Some of the medicines and procedures were not even thought of 70 years ago.

One OF mentioned, “What do you think it will be like a thousand years from now?”

There is a thinker for you.

 

Time-jumping

The following discussion was in progress when the OFs were still gathering at the breakfast table. The scribe is time-jumping here in one conversation.

One OF interjected, “You mean if we all don’t blow ourselves up first.”

Then another OF suggested medicine will just be a small part of it, and this OF thought we would be traveling through space like going to Aunt Bette’s today for Thanksgiving and medicine will be like Star Trek. Well that’s a thought.

Back to the phone conversation.

The scribe and the one on the phone think that today’s progress is exponential in many fields and, even as old as we are, we still have time to take advantage of much of it, and in our later years lifetime will be of better quality, once we are through this COVID craze.

Aside from Velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can’t see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of $75 per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything, said Dave Barry.

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? — so said Dr. Seuss.

The OMOTM aren’t the only ones to have this discussion in their spare time.

This little report is a capitulation of current conversations, and a couple from way back, when a pair of the OMOTM had to give up farming. This happened to one because of sickness, and the other because the government (in a way) forced him into it.

The current conversation was of two completely wasted pieces of good farm land by developers. The haphazard destruction of good farmland is very short-sighted in the opinion of some of the OFs. One OF said that this planet is not getting any fewer people it is getting more, and by the day.

The current pandemic might give some people pause, but one OF said he would bet, if the population clock showed deaths and births, the births would still win out. This scribe could not argue or take the bet because this scribe has not seen such a graph, or clock, to compare the correlation between worldwide deaths and births, no matter what the cause of deaths were. The cause of births is well known.

According to this OF, all of the bodies on the planet, which are growing in number, are going to have to be fed, and, as far as he knows, what dirt is here, is here; we aren’t making any more dirt! Well maybe that which we can’t wash out of our ears.

Then again, the scribe chimed in that his own father, in the early forties, had a garden in the cellar of the house that grew vegetables and there was no dirt, just fertilizer and water. The OF jumped in with, “Ah chemicals, we use too many chemicals.”

These discussions can go on and on. This conversation could go on infinitum.

The OF mentioned developers will build a whole new mall right alongside of an existing mall that is failing and decaying. Why is that? Why not tear the old one down and rebuild a new one — leave the land alone.

Right around here, good land is being ruined all over the place. For instance, in Voorheesville, right by the golf course, beautiful farmland now features nothing but houses.

It seems solar farms are being developed everywhere and now the land cannot be used and it is all open ground. “Look at all the energy and material it takes to build one of these things,” the OF said, “and we will never get that back.”

This OF thinks there are waterfalls and tides that can produce energy. The OF would like to see graphs or reports that show how much energy is really produced and saved by these developments. He concluded that he would rather eat than blow his hair dry.

No mention was made of fossil fuels. Now we need to go on to the opposite position.

This scribe then remembered a conversation quite a while ago from one of the OMOTM who has since passed on. This OF had a series of strokes and had to give up farming.

He had the opportunity to sell some of his land, so he did, and a couple of houses were built on it. This OF was chastised by a certain do-gooder in public for selling his land and not keeping it.

This OF was a feisty little guy and stated that he retorted that it was his land, he paid taxes on it for years, he maintained it and worked it since a young man and didn’t need anyone to tell him what to do with it.

The OF told the other OFs that the ones complaining about him had nothing invested in his land. In fact, he didn’t even know them and, if he wanted to sell to someone who was going to build a skyscraper, it was nobody’s business but his and the one who wanted to purchase the land.

This scribe remembers how everyone jumped in on this conversation with a supporting comment that the government put the OG out of business and now all his land is going fallow. The OFs remarked that he might just as well sell the land to developers and let them build houses on it.

According to some of his supporters, the big shots don’t really care anyway; the big shots think peas come in a can and are already in the grocery store. Many city people have no idea how they got there in the first place.

It is easy to see why there is such a division among people on the same topic with a different approach to the same problem and coming up with different answers. These conversations are extremely condensed but the gist is there.

 

Closed in

One newer phone conversation was on the pandemic and the virtual approach to so much entertainment and outdoor activity, especially now that we are at the end of February and March is coming up with baseball, and NASCAR, and tons of outside events, parties, and picnics, and just plain old visiting.

The OFs are really beginning to feel closed in; one OF used the word claustrophobic — the OF said he felt like he was trapped. This OF said that, with his health and age, he is afraid to go anywhere.

The OFs comment was, “Why is God so mad at us?”

And so ends another week without me becoming unexpectedly rich.

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