The Old Men of the Mountain met Tuesday, March 10, at the Country Café in Schoharie. The OMOTM were a grumbling group Tuesday morning because of the time change.

Some of the OFs are still using 2019 half the time; now we have the time change to Daylight Savings Time which makes us drive in the dark again. Now there are two things to get used to.

Then, in the fall, the time will change again; then, in January, the date will change again. The year-change, the OFs say, we can do nothing about, but at least leave the time-change alone.

The main topic of conversation was about the coronavirus. Like most conversations in large groups, the talk was varied and this time 90 percent of it seemed to be conjecture, personal opinions, and rumors.

Many agreed the press was on the verge of causing panic. From the time the breakfast was held on Tuesday, and this column is in the paper, much more dialogue will have transpired.

Suffice it to say, the situation was discussed but no conclusion was reached. But at our ages, to err on the side of caution, as they say, is the best course of action.

Lilacs alive

To quote Monty Python: “Now for something completely different.” This scribe’s next note is about blossoms on the trees, especially in the valley. The shrubs that really show signs of life are the lilacs — some even have a green cast, and it is only mid-March.

A few of the OFs think winter is on its way out, while a few others think we are in for some surprises, maybe not bitter cold but snow. The waiting game for the other shoe to drop is not fun when it comes to the winter weather.

As the discussion on the weather continued, it drifted into a discussion on our locales versus that of moving or being a snowbird in warmer climates, or leaving and staying. This led to what creeps and crawls in the south and the west.

The OFs did not want to encounter alligators in their backyards, or some of the nasty snakes that creep hither and yon in either direction, south or west. One OF said he is not a fan of scorpions either; just the word makes him uneasy.

Another OF said he heard of snakes falling out of trees. Most of the OFs have heard stories like that but some are not too sure about the facts in these tales.

One OF said we have our share of snakes up here that are not so nice.

“Yeah,” another OF said, “but at least up here you can see them and hear them; down there, (meaning southern states) these snakes are small as well as nasty. And there are the spiders — those black widows.” 

The other OF said, “We have our nasty spiders here too!”

So the OFs started swapping stories about alligators, snakes, and spiders and this scribe could fill up the whole paper on spiders and snakes, and the virus. One OF said, if taxes get any higher in this state, he will put up with the spiders, snakes, scorpions, and alligators, just to get someplace where he can keep at least some of his money for himself.

One thing these few really warm days (in the waning days of winter) prompted was a few of the OFs who have motorcycles got them out, polished them up, and got ready for the season. A few even got the lawn tractors out and started them up, changed the oil, and they, too, got ready for the season.

Then going back to the earlier discussion on the weather, a few of the realists commented again that winter isn’t over, but one OF said at least we are ready when it is over.

Celebrity turtle

Then the OFs mixed conversations together, talking about critters again, only this time it was about a local snapping turtle that is huge and is old. The OFs said he hasn’t been around lately.

Those OFs who knew this reptile said they haven’t seen him or her around either. This turtle has been watched for at least 15 years or so about the same place and about the same time twice a year.

The turtle is not hard to spot because of its size and the OFs say it also has moss growing on the top of its shell. One OF said, “I hope no one has messed with him because the turtle is kind of a celebrity.”

Feeling of home

There is a phrase “ontogeny-recapitulates-phylogeny” and the OFs discuss this quite often, without even knowing it. Well, so thinks this scribe anyhow, by traveling back to when they were really young, and then fairly young, and then family guys, into what they are now.

The OFs, and this scribe included, discuss what they did when they were traveling through time to where they are now. They muse over how the past shaped their future and how what they did then will probably wind up on their tombstone instead of what they do now. (This does not always happen but most of the time it does.)

Tuesday morning, some of that was mixed in with the spiders and snakes, and old friends. These were good friends. However, once the OFs reached 80 years, many were gone.

One OF said all his good friends are gone and he did not really cultivate new ones while the old ones were still around. Now that they are all gone, he has friends, but not like those who have passed away. What keeps him here now is the feeling of home, because most of his family is spread not only all over the country, but the world, so spiders and snakes will not keep him here, but home does.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Country Café in Schoharie to be with friends and have a cup of coffee and a breakfast, shoot the breeze for a little while, and even make plans for the rest of the day, or in the future, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Rich LaGrange, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Jake Herzog, Karl Remmers, Rev. Jay Francis, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jamey Dairah, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Bob Donnelly, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

At breakfast this past Wednesday morning, this scribe, just in conversation, said to his wife, “I guess I’d better go up and write the Old Men Column.”

The wife said, with an exclamatory voice, “Is it Wednesday already? Wasn’t it just Wednesday? Where did a whole week go?”

This scribe just shrugged his shoulders and said, “You are right because I haven’t a clue where it went — the week just seems to be gone.” Anyway —

On Tuesday, March 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. Mrs. K’s is in the middle of town and, at the time the OMOTM show up, parking is not a problem this time of year. 

When the OMOTM arrive, the sun is just coming up. But when the OMOTM leave, there are cars whizzing all over the place and it is a good idea to be careful when pulling out from the curb onto the street from their parking spots.

A couple of the OFs were talking about cats, not just cats, but cats and mice. According to these OFs, it seems most cats are like Garfield when it comes to mice. The cats and mice seem to get along.

As far as the cats are concerned, mice are tolerated. To the cat, it isn’t worth the effort to even catch them. One OF said his cat is named Nuisance, but it should have been named Useless.

The other OF said he is considering getting a few snakes to take care of his mice problem. He opined that, as far as his cat is concerned, snakes would be a lot better. The snake is quiet, clean, and effective.

Snakes would be much better if it weren’t for their reputation. The OF said he never heard of a litter box for a snake.

Another discussion was on snakes and this time an OF said that he and his wife took a little excursion on the “Old Erie Canal.” This trip was on a canal boat pulled by two mules.

The OF said that, as the boat was pulled along, oftentimes the rope would become slack and drag through the grass along the banks and snakes would “hop” to use his expression, over the rope as it pulled the boat. This scribe did not know snakes hopped, but this scribe could imagine them slithering over the rope.

This OF said they were not the black snake or garter snake that anyone would have around to catch mice but the nasty kind. The OF mentioned diamondbacks, and water moccasins and another nasty one common to the area.

The scribe does not know if the tour guide mentioned what type of snakes they were or if the OF was able to spot them. This scribe might be able to spot moccasins because they are not that long, and they are big around and ugly.

The others from a distance would be tough to identify. It would be an interesting scenario if one of those things latched onto the rope and crawled its way to the boat.The OF who was relating this incident told an interesting and riveting story of their trip to Rome, New York.

Sign of spring?

Each year, the OFs mention the red-winged blackbird and this year it is no different. At least three of the OGs said they have seen the bird. A couple of OFs said the flocks they saw were small while one OF said he saw a large flock.

In our area, the return of the red-winged blackbird is considered a good sign of spring. However, the bird does not go that far away from us in the winter. Some make a short trip only to Pennsylvania or Ohio but it is encouraging to see them in the spring. But this is early.

“Alligator Alley”

Tuesday seemed to be a morning to talk about nature. Many of the OFs have been to the state of Florida, and some have traveled the old “Alligator Alley” when it was only two lanes. The OFs talked about the speeds traveled on that perfectly straight highway.

There are signs posted on the road about alligators crossing and the big cats that roam the Everglades that also cross the road, especially at night. The OFs said hitting one of these animals at high speed can cause the driver to lose all control of the car.

The OFs talked about driving accidents and hitting animals in this area, especially deer and raccoons. One OF said he hit a large raccoon and it was like hitting a wall, and he did lose control of the car, then he somehow managed to regain control, but not until after serious damage was done.

One OF commented on how he is able to tell if a driver is from the Hilltowns or not. If a guy is going 50 or 60 miles an hour and it is dusk, in the spring, he has no clue about what can jump out in front of him in the Hilltowns.

The OF went on, “If the car is going 45 or so on the secondary roads up ‘here’ it is a good guess he is familiar with what can happen and he is ready for whatever decides to cross the road. At rut time, the deer are not thinking about looking out for traffic.”

The OFs had some advice for each other and this came from experience: If anyone is planning a trip they should do it when they are young because when age creeps up on you and walking becomes an effort, all that can be done is to think about it.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh, and to some that is a trip, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, Paul Whitbeck, Rick LaGrange, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Ken Parks, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Ed Tiaeger, Bob Donnelly, Allen DeFazzo,  Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, John Dabrvalskes, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

Tuesday, Feb. 25, and already we can see the days getting longer, and the sun coming up a little earlier. This makes it easier to drive without those awful white lights in oncoming traffic making cars slow down, or even at times pull over.

An OF mentioned, “One of these mornings, I am going to run right into the back of one of these cars that slow down because they pull the maneuver so quickly.”

Even so, a whole gaggle of The Old Men of the Mountain (plus J.J., our favorite waitress’s helper) made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh for an informative gathering over breakfast.

One of the first topics of conversation was the coronavirus disease. The strange part was not how it is spreading so fast, or the quarantines, or how hidden the disease is, but how it has affected the stock market.

Those in the market, according to the OFs, are taking a serious hit. One OF said he has been through so many of these unsettling events in his 58 years in the stock market, somehow things always seem to work out, and if you can hang in there you will come out on top.

Another OF claimed he does not like the “air” money; he wants to see it and touch it so he plays with gold, and another OF said he was always broke so he doesn’t give a hoot, because he doesn’t understand it anyway.

“When I was in school,” the OF said, “no one taught us about money. We learned we should work hard and be honest and life would treat you well. The closest we came to money management was through the FFA [Future Farmers of America], and how to manage the farm.”

The problem with this disease is not just about money but how about getting sick? The OFs didn’t talk much about that before they jumped to something else.

Lots of stink bugs

The something else was bugs and insects coming out as soon as the temperature rises a tad. Some OFs have had spring flies in the windows already; others have had stink bugs. These pests are like when the OFs went through the period of earwigs all over the place; now it is rare for the OFs to see an earwig.

Where did these stink bugs come from? One OF said, when he saw his first one, he had no idea what it was, so he squashed it!

That was a mistake! Now he knows why it has the name it does, and like the rest of us he gently catches them in a tissue and flushes them down the john.

The question still remains: Two years ago, there were none around; now they are all over the place like the earwig. A little research showed that the stink bug was introduced to the United States from Eastern Asia in the mid-1990s. 

Also, you can reduce the number of these pests by spraying entry points with essential oil. Peppermint oil (smells nice to humans) or garlic oil (rumored to also keep out vampires) are two oils that will work.

Eye for eagles

To follow along with that, the OFs started talking about birds and animals we have not seen in awhile but which seem to have returned. Bobcats are one, foxes are another, and one OF mentioned just yesterday seeing two bald eagles flying circles around each other in the sky over his house.

As we have mentioned before, the OFs are seeing eagles, and now it seems they are almost as prolific as vultures (one OF said turkeys) but the eagles still have a way to go before they match how many vultures are around.

This brought up another story by an OF. The OF said he and his wife along with two other couples were in a restaurant (Maple on The Lake) when they noticed an eagle flying low to the water at Warners Lake. The OF saw the eagle drop his leg and extend his talons, make a sharp right turn, and just in front of the restaurant’s dock scoop up a fish and fly back the same way it came, staying low to the water.

The OFs wondered how the eagle spotted the fish, adjusted for angle of reflection, and nailed that sucker on the fly. All those calculations had to be made in an instant.

Then one OF asked, “How do they do that from 200 hundred feet up or even higher? They come down at 100 miles an hour at the right angle and grab a fish swimming close enough to the surface that the bird doesn’t even get wet. It is amazing.”

Animal compassion

This brought up some stories firsthand of animals showing a lot of compassion to their fellow species. One OF said that, during the winter, some geese boarded down in front of his place on Warners Lake on open water, but during the night it became bitterly cold and the lake froze over with a skim of ice. (This happened in the same area of the lake as the eagle story.)

Most of the geese were in water that did not freeze completely and took off. However, one goose’s feet were frozen in the ice and it could not free itself.

The OF said the goose flapped its wings and honked and honked. Then he said two geese came back and started pecking the ice all around the goose frozen in the ice.

Finally, the OF said, the goose was able to break free of the ice and took off with the other two. The OFs were wondering how did they know to do that? How many times have the geese been in the same situation?

The animal world is funny in a way; some eat their own, while others will die to protect their young. Go figure.

The OFs who were wondering all this were still glad they walk upright, and use their opposable thumbs. That way, they could eat a nice breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and enjoy the rest of the day, and those Old Men of the Mountain were: Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, George Washburn, special guest JJ, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, Rick LaGrange, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Marty Herzog, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Jake Herzog, Ken Parks, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

The Old Men of the Mountain met Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. If anyone wants to dine back in time, take a trip to the Chuck Wagon in Princetown.

The first topic we discussed was the accident at the end of NASCAR’s Daytona 500. There were serious concerns at the time, but as one OF mentioned, the radio this morning said the driver, Ryan Newman, was in an induced coma, stable, with non life-threatening injuries. Though bad, that was good news.

The OFs brought up batteries and the design of planned obsolescence. The OFs say, in earlier times, this sounded like the OFs were speaking about heraldry times with castles and jousts. Really they were talking about the first part of the 20th Century when craftsmen built with longevity in mind and did the best they could to achieve that.

At last Tuesday’s breakfast, the focus seemed to be on how well people tried to build anything. The column of last week showed most construction did not last long, mainly because of tools, and materials, but the craftsmen did their best.

It is easy to tell how many tried to outdo each other when looking at the gingerbread on houses, and inside moldings and railings. The artwork on furniture, and pottery, even though some of it was done for a select few of the upper crust, much of it was done for the general public.

This doesn’t say, as one OF pointed out, that we don’t have super craftsmen today, but for their work the average bloke would have to mortgage the tent to pay for it.

A quandary

The OFs briefly touched on the news about single-use plastic bags being discontinued in March. Many of the OFs are in a quandary because they used these bags when they got them home for other things.

Sometimes the bags served multiple purposes at home. The OFs question now what are we going to do. Some lined the garbage buckets; some used them in the garden.

The stores themselves used the plastic to put meat in, which is a very good idea. Lining the garbage bucket with paper is not a good idea, and, if it is not lined (even if scoured), eventually it stinks to high heaven.

Then the owner of the bucket goes out and buys another bucket, and that bucket is also made of plastic. Some bags are exempt under the law, so plastic bags may still be distributed to consumers in a few  specific circumstances, such as a bag used by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs, and produce bags for bulk items such as fruits and vegetables.

The OFs think that much of what some of these environmental people think they don’t quite think things through. Our brains are throbbing now with all this thinking.

Another OF said his father always told him, “Don’t come and complain to me how we do things unless you have a better idea, or at least a suggestion. Too many people b - - - -  about this and that and don’t have a clue how to change it, or do something different. If you can’t change it for the better or at least have an idea, don’t b - - - - about it.”

The OF said all he hears about is banning the plastic bags, and using reusable bags, which quickly become soiled and then discarded because it is almost impossible to clean the things, and that uses water, and soap.

Then one OF summed up the conversation with, “Well, what did we do before plastic bags, and what did we do before cell phones?

Boy, the OFs opened up another can of beans. One OF said, “Soap and water don’t wind up in the landfill.” Too much thinking.

Thoughts on snow

Another discussion arose about the past, and that was on how we have been lucky this year so far with snowfalls. We need snow for the summer, or at least water, but one OF mentioned it should be snow.

This OF declared that, if we get rain on frozen ground, instead of seeping into the ground, it runs off. Snow takes time to melt and a thick snow cover is warm underneath and the ground thaws faster in the spring than if it’s an open cold winter.

But the lecture on winter, snow, and water was not the point of the discussion. The discussion was how well the highway departments keep the roads today with the skill of the operators and the equipment they have.

Going back to the late thirties, forties, and fifties, almost everybody carried a set of chains in their vehicles and knew how to put them on. Now with snow tires, four-wheel-drive cars, and basically open roads, chains are not even thought of.

One OF said that chains are still better in real snow than any snow tire, studded or not. An OF mentioned the old car tires were also much thinner, and they were better than these big wide tires we use now.

The old snow plows had thin tires for traction, but one OF said they also had chains. Things do change, even the weather, one OF said because he does not think we have winters with snow like we used to have.

The debate on planned obsolescence will have to wait until next time. One OF wondered if we, as people, have a planned obsolescence built in. We really, finally, did stop thinking!

Those OFs at the Chuck Wagon feel the obsolescence fixation is mute with the Old Men of the Mountain because we celebrated another milestone birthday when on this day, 90 years ago, Harold Grippen entered this world to make his mark and he was at the breakfast bright and chipper.

The rest of the OFs were Rick LaGrange, Roger Shafer, Marty Herzog, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Paul Whitbeck, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Roger Chapman, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Jake Herzog, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Rich Vanderbilt, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, John Dabrvalskes, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

Through the dark, fog, and drizzle, the Old Men of the Mountain made it to the Roasted Garlic in Clarksville on Feb. 11.

In the area of the OMOTM’s habitat, the OFs have had to learn how to navigate all kinds of terrain in all four seasons. This season is ice and snow.

Getting out and about on Tuesday morning, we experienced ice covered with snow, and then water on top of the whole sandwich. This made it slow walking for all the OFs, especially those with canes.

The first challenge came for those who do not have attached garages, or those who have to cop a ride, then arriving wherever the destination is. “Careful” was the word of the day.

To some OFs, there is a store that attracts them like bears to honey. Anytime these OFs are anywhere near this place, the car automatically pulls in.

A certain store that lures the OFs in is Kohl’s. When the wife wants to go shopping at Kohl’s with these OFs as husbands, there is no argument. The OFs will drop the little lady off at her place and the OFs immediately head over to their place across the street.

This is not true with all OFs. Some of the OFs use the trip to Kohl’s for a good long nap in the parking lot. Kohl’s would get a lot more walk-in customers if the store took a section of its storeroom and built a small room called the “Gentlemen’s Lounge” with five or six comfortable recliners.

The store the OFs head to, across the street, is called Harbor Freight and it is full of tools. This scribe never understood the name of this place. Harbor Freight does not sound like tools; it sounds more like it is a storehouse for products that arrive by ship.

However, some of the OFs like visiting this store whether they purchase anything or not. The OFs say they never know what to expect, and the place has the right smell to it.

The mention of tools led to talking about tools. The chatter was about how long the old tools lasted compared to how long the new tools last. It was found, as the OFs began comparing item for item on quite a few things, old is not always the best for longevity, but in some cases it is.

Case in point. One OF said, “For instance take a half-inch drill. The old one weighs a ton, and used a bushel of current and it was necessary to be careful with it. Don’t drop it with its brittle metal case. Today a half-inch drill weighs nothing — uses a spoonful of current and I can run over it with my truck,” and then the OF whispered, “And I have, and it won’t affect it at all — and it didn’t.”

A second OF said, “Look at cars today. A newer car with 200,000 miles on it can look and run like brand new if taken care of properly. Older cars, once they hit the 30,000 mile mark, might be time to start looking for another one.”

A third OF summed it up rather nicely. The OF said, “Metal rusts, plastic doesn’t.” He continued, “Some of the new plastic and fiberglass gears and bearings will outlast steel any day, and if you bang on them like banging on cast ones they don’t shatter. We have come a long way, baby.”

Lost in transit

The OMOTM are always talking about their working days; this is reported often and is understandable.

On Tuesday morning, those who once worked on the New York State Thruway discussed items that had fallen off trucks and cars as they traveled that highway. (Side note by scribe — this road was supposed to be toll free in 1996, another case of the tax-paying public being sold a bill of goods.)

Many of the items were strange, but all were lost due to either carelessness, complete inattention, or lack of knowledge when tying down the load. Some were from professional drivers who forgot to close the doors of the truck or trailer.

Others were from Joe Homeowner who had no idea how to fasten a load. Mattresses were a big item, especially when the mattress was held down with two pieces of string going through the front and back windows. Then driving 65 miles an hour. Duh!

One OF said they were going back to their shop when the work crew spotted a very large box on the side of the road. Upon examination, they saw it was a refrigerator. The crew hoisted it into the truck and took it back to the shop.

Some time later, a guy came in asking if anyone found a refrigerator in a box alongside the road. Of course they did and the Thruway crew was perplexed as to how that refrigerator fell off the truck because there were three more refrigerators on the truck and they looked like they were tied down OK.

The crew didn’t ask any questions — they just helped put the refrigerator on the truck and wondered how the driver was going to explain the condition of that fridge because the box was pretty well beat.

Lawnmowers were another item that came off a truck or trailer or out of the backs of cars. The OFs telling the stories said, if the driver doesn’t miss the items that are gone until he gets home, he might just as well go purchase another. Most articles are quite beat after bouncing along the road, and, when you do realize it is gone it is a trip to the next exit to turn around, and then a trip back to the next exit to turn around again and then hope it is still there.

Those Old Men of the Men Mountain who agreed that, with the exception of liquor, wine, and the arts, things usually do not get better with age, but some OMOTM took exception to that, and whether well-aged or not showed up at the Roasted Garlic in Clarksville, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, Rick LaGrange, Marty Herzog, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Paul Whitbeck, Jamey Darrah, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Jake Lederman, Jake Herzog, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, and me.

Location:

On Feb. 4, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. This column keeps stating that those who get up early enjoy the best part of the day. Tuesday morning, while it was still dark, the morning had the aroma and feel of spring even though it was only the 4th of February. The Old Men of the Mountain arriving early commented on this little fact.

One OF mentioned that, even though he has given up making his own maple syrup, he knows of a couple of people who are already tapping the trees. A few of the OFs thought this was a tad early because there is the rest of February to go and winter, this OF thinks, is not done yet.

However, the tree tapper said that late February is a good time to start, and these guys are only a couple of weeks early, and the weather reports look like it is a good time to get started.

There! OF lesson for the day.

Quizzical

One OF said he had to defend the rest of the OFs because he was with friends, who were with friends of the friends, at a house gathering. One friend introduced the OF and mentioned he was in the group of Old Men of the Mountain.

The OF said the friend of the friend OF kind of looked down his nose and said the OMOTM was just a social club. The OF informed him we are in no way a social club!

We don’t review books, or even read books, we have no agenda, no dues are collected, we don’t get dressed up, we don’t gossip, we show up if we want to, and we don’t take on civic projects. Actually, we just go and have breakfast.

We act just like how a couple of guys would act if they went over to your house and had coffee and a Danish. We are anything but a social club. The OF said this guy didn’t know what to say; he just had a quizzical look come over his face and he walked away without saying any more.

Taking a spill

One thing (well, maybe more than one) the OFs have in common is a collective fear of falling. Unfortunately, one OF did just that.

Going from his house to the barn, he slipped and fell on the ice. This was not a hard thing to do because like most driveways these short little roads to the barn are rutted and at this time of year the ruts are filled with frozen water — better known as ice.

The OF said his foot slipped on the ice in a rut and he fell backwards and hit his head. All the OFs know the skin on the head is very thin and it doesn’t take much for this skin to split, and so it did.

The OF said the blood was running down his face. He didn’t want to go back to the house because his wife would panic and call the ambulance, so he went on to the barn and took care of his wound with a clean shop rag.

The OF was at the breakfast bright-eyed and alert — none the worse for wear.

One OF said that cracks on the head are better off if they bleed; that way they don’t swell up and hurt for weeks.

Now and then

The OFs at one end of the table discussed a lot of what life was like in the past and what they did. The bump on the head, this scribe thinks, is what prompted this conversation.

The OFs said we are all lucky to be here and to be the ages the OFs have come to be. The bumps and scrapes the OFs had as youngsters left many of the OFs, if not all of them, with scars. 

Years ago, the OFs on the farm were particularly lucky working around open drive shafts, uncased whirling gears, and open power drives of all kinds. The OFs were only 9 or 10 years old (some maybe as old as 14) and they were driving tractors, trucks, and even horses.

One OF said, when he was a youngster, he remembers being able to handle two bags of oats from the combine like there was nothing to it, and each bag was close to 100 pounds. “Now,” the OF said, “it is an effort to pick up a medium-size bag of dog food, let alone one of the big boxes of kitty litter.”

Then an OF said he thinks winters have changed. He remembers winters being quite different. The OFs talked about getting ice from ponds and putting this ice in an ice house. Years ago, ice was very important.

We had ice boxes, not refrigerators, and we needed ice year-round to put in the milk coolers. Life certainly was different. One OF said they covered their ice with sawdust, and others said they used straw and old hay, or hay that had gotten wet and couldn’t be used.

The OFs also talked about how they ate, and they agreed it was pretty darn good. Almost all those who were on the Hill (or anywhere else essentially) said they would raise pigs and keep one aside for butchering.

The same principle was used with cows, particularly a heifer that had what was called “yellow bodies,” which meant it could not be bred. Chickens — same thing. (Chickens are the only living things we eat before they are born and after they are dead.) One OF remembers that a heifer’s meat was so tender knives were unnecessary.

The OFs did not worry about chemicals because there weren’t any. One OF said he never knew it was a problem until he was 60 years old.

Sometimes it is fun to time jump from 60 or 70 or 80 years ago until now with people who have first-hand knowledge, not people 30 years old trying to tell us what it was like and how we should live today. Let them wait until they are 80 — if they make it.

The OFs who have made it, and still have most of their mental faculties, gathering as a group and not a social club were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rick LaGrange, Jake Lederman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Jami Daiah, Russ Pokorny, Glen Walsh, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Paul Whitbeck, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Mike Willsey, Erin Bradt, Ray Bradt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

The day was Jan. 28, 2020 and so far in our section of the planet we are squeaking by the month of January pretty easy. Three more days to go and it was February, and by the next gathering we will be past Groundhog Day which was Sunday, Feb. 2. This pampered rodent let us know if the rest of the winter will be like January.

So far this winter, the Farmer’s Almanac has been pretty much right on. The Old Men of the Mountain celebrated the weather conditions last Tuesday at the Your Way Café in Schoharie.

There was a very funny movie in 1993 called “Grumpy Old Men” starring Jack Lemon, Walter Matthau, and Ann-Margret. Tuesday morning, the OFs discussed how they became grumpy old men.

The OFs declared that becoming grumpy has a lot to do with age, and not being able to do what they used to do. The OFs claim they have good reason to be grumpy.

One reason is, in conversation, a lot of names and facts don’t filter out from the brain to the mouth. In many cases, the OFs say they can see the person in their heads but can’t hook a name to a person — right away that is.

In most cases, the name will connect but the conversation that required that information is long gone. One OF said it doesn’t have to be a person; this memory problem can also be related to a place or thing.

This leads to grumpiness. A frustration that increases the grumpiness is when a whole circle of guys know who they are talking about and no one can come up with the name, place, or date.

Another problem arises when the OFs rely on Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol to start the day. This also adds to the grumpiness.

When it takes three or four minutes to exit a car or truck — this is not fun. The OFs declare that most can get down with effort (and in some cases even pain) but getting up is another story. An OF said getting down has to be well planned so there is something to grab hold of in order to get up.

So much of what used to be done without thinking now takes a lot of concentration just to get from point A to point B. So the OFs are entitled to be grumpy. On the other hand, the OMOTM are all in the same boat so they can have fun with their grumpiness.

Finding facts

The OFs spoke about the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others. The OFs think that it is going to take a day or so to sort it all out as to what really happened. They believe the press will be all over it with only half the information way too soon.

One OF thought this happens quite a lot and they have to correct it later on. Then another OF said, “Just like the weather people. In some cases, corrections and apologies are never made after 2 inches of snow becomes a foot, or vice-versa.”

Hair envy

Some of the OFs still have their hair, and some don’t. This has been mentioned before, but one OF has a thick head of shiny silver hair and is the envy of those who don’t and some of those who do.

The OFs wonder if some of these super genius-type doctors who are in medical research are working on how good genes can be cloned and then injected into those who have bad and even destructive genes.

The OFs thought this would be slick. However, this scribe thinks it would be quite a challenge. The gene-change process would have to be done in infancy so the hair experimentation would really be up in the air. (No pun intended.)

Not having any medical experience, but with so many trips to see doctors, this scribe feels he is ready for a medical degree.

Old Goats’ Grungy Gear

As has been mentioned before, we brought up the subject of the OFs who have “collections” of one sort or another. Many items have been accrued over the years, and we really are talking years here.

Now that many of the OFs are at the short end of the ruler, it is time to unload a lot of their possessions and the kids don’t want these items. (An old-fashioned 7-ton house jack comes to mind).

A few OFs have started giving articles away to other people; some have learned to use Ebay and are getting rid of things that way.

It is not clear if any of the OFs have tried garage sales or not. What may be a good idea is to have all the OFs gather up what they feel they will no longer need and put it in a pile.

We would need a catchy theme for this sale like: Old Goats’ Grungy Gear. Then the OFs could rent space in some parking lot and hold one huge garage sale.

That would be some sale! Each OF could have their own space, or the objects could be marked by different colored tags for each OG, or we might have one huge collection with just a group of OFs running the show in case not all OFs had the time or the energy to be there.

Imagine what a garage sale that would be! It definitely would not be junk.

The problem would be the same as what all garage sales have. Not everything sells. Then there is all the work to bring the stuff back home and the OFs would still have a collection of stuff they don’t want.

But it is an idea. And there is a chance that the OFs would not gain much because each OF would see something another OF had, and the OF would purchase that. After all, what are friends for?

Now that the Old Men of the Mountain had downsized not one iota, they all decided to go to the Your Way Café in Schoharie for breakfast, and they were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Bill Lichliter, Rick LaGrange, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser,  Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Ken Parks, Jake Herzog, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, (who was 91 on Tuesday and we all sang “Happy Birthday”), Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Marty Herzog, Paul Whitbeck, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, and me.

Location:

On a cold Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, the year of perfect vision, 2020, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. The café must have been expecting the OMOTM because it was the area on that side of the street the OMOTM could see was shoveled. The first cup of coffee not only tasted good but the warm cup also felt good.

So, other than the cold, the first topic of conversation was the month of January itself. Not only is it generally the coldest month of the year physically, but the month has no heart. The highest, and with most of the OFs, the most urgent, bills come due. Taxes, insurances, sometimes fuel bills, and these bills are piled on top of the regular bills that come every month.

This prompted the OFs to talk about taxes and what we get for them. One OF thought we on the Hill get darn little. We have the dump, and the roads maintained and plowed, and a dog warden, and town clerk — that is what the OFs could see.

Then someone piped up that there is much more than that. For instance, we have the town parks, and planning boards, and zoning boards, and youth groups, the senior centers — lots of things. Then this OF thought it would be a good idea that, when our tax bill came, it would come with at least a simple  pie chart letting us know where our money is going.

Talk of tires

The OFs then (at least at one end of the table) discussed tires — especially winter tires. Some OFs thought these summer-winter combination tires were useless.

“If you mean mud and snow tires that are supposed to go year ’round,” one OF said, “I agree.”

These OFs think a regular snow tire is what works. Another OF believed that what really works is studded snows.

Then another OF thought we should have two sets of wheels, one with snows, and one with summer tires on them, and then change them back and forth as the seasons change. This would be no hassle.

“Yeah,” one OF said, “the problem with that is where to store them out of the sunlight. Not everybody has this capability.”

There is always a hitch-in-the-get-along to many suggestions. Not all people can be slotted into one slot.

One OF brought up the name of snow tires from a long time ago; they were called Knobbies, and most of the OFs who were on the farm at that time generally bought them at Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Wards.

Compared to ice or snow tires, they lacked studs but contained deeper and wider grooves meant to help the tread sink into mud or gravel surfaces. One OF commented that it was easy to tell a vehicle that had them on because of the noise the car made coming down the road.

Tech frustrations

The OFs can’t quite get their heads around “machines talking to machines” and things happen. Some of the OFs thought machine-to-machine talking was unreal but when the OFs used examples (though sounding unreal when talking them through) the process was quite simple and even logical.

One OF said it is not new technology as this has been going on for years. “It is just getting more commonplace,” the OF said.

Most of the OFs said they would rather talk to a person. One OF said, when he calls his doctor’s office, he gets a machine that gives him a “menu.” The OF said a menu to him is what he gets at a restaurant, not a bunch of numbers he is supposed to punch to talk to someone.

This OF contended that not one of the selections he is given is what he wants to talk about anyway, so when he chooses the one that is the closest to what he wants to say, it generally is wrong. The OF says he gets so frustrated he wants to throw the phone out the window.

Many of the OFs could sympathize with him. He added to his little frustration release (this, incidentally, is something joining the OMOTM is good for — getting rid of some pent-up tensions) by adding, “Maybe I might give in and say machine talking to machine is a good thing. At least they can understand each other because I sure as heck can’t.”

Another OF told of scrutinizing the phone calls he makes to so many places that have menus with numbers that are supposed to take you to the person you want to talk to.

This OF says he pushes the number and he usually gets another message such as:  “I am away from my desk right now; please leave a message with your name, phone number, date of birth, you mother’s maiden name, the name of your dog and what breed it is, the purpose of your call, and the current population of China, and I will call you as soon as I return to my desk.”

The OF said that person must have a bladder problem because that bathroom call went on for two hours. “Technology,” the OF said, “You can keep it!”

Timely advice

One OMOTM (who is in a particular service business) said now is the time to bring your lawn mower and rototiller in for service to get them ready for summer, and vice-versa for your snow blowers, and plows in the summer; likewise have your furnace checked out in the summer.

He admonished, “Don’t drive me crazy with a snowstorm howling out the front door and you stand here with your snow blower and tears in your eyes.”

Good advice from the Old Men of the Mountain who were at the Country Café in Schoharie, and they were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Rich LaGrange, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jami Dairah, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Jake Herzog, Mike Willsey, Joel Willsey, and me.

Location:

The Old Men of the Mountain met this on Tuesday, Jan. 14. We are halfway through the month and most of the OMOTM can take the weather we have had so far this January for the rest of the year.

However, we either need lots of rain, or more snow, for water in the coming summer. Most of the OFs (after 70 or 80 years of trodding these hills and valleys) say, regardless of what the weather does, it all comes out in the wash.

There’s no sense worrying about it: Take what comes, put on galoshes, or a heavier coat, or take off more clothes. Whatcha got is whatcha got — you ain’t gonna change it.

The OFs started talking about what they received as presents when they were kids, either at Christmas time or on their birthdays. It was surprising how many received train sets. The OFs began talking about what kind of trains they had, and how old they were. Some received Lionel; some American Flyer.

One OF said that his train set is still in its original packaging. A few dragged them out for their kids (when their kids were young) at Christmastime and put them around the tree. A few even purchased train sets for their own kids.

Most all the OFs say their interest is not there anymore, and they thought that kids today are not interested in them at all. With some adults, the interest grew and as adults they now have quite the train layouts.

One OF said he has a friend where the layout takes up the whole cellar and another OF said he had a friend where his train layout did the same thing. This particular set was on cables and came down from the ceiling of the cellar.

This column keeps mentioning that it is good to develop hobbies and interests when young. This means the type of interests that would be able to be maintained into adulthood.

One OF thought the electronics craze is not one that could be carried on. Then again, another OF thought it is not a strenuous hobby or interest and as long as you keep the mind active, and the body healthy, this OF feels that it would be a good hobby or interest.

There are many ways to look at everything; that is why it’s tough to get anything done by committee.

New truck conundrum

One OF purchased a new truck and, just like a new car, the new trucks are as confusing to run because of so much new technology installed. At the breakfast on Tuesday morning, there was quite a discussion between the OFs to try to help out this perplexed OF.

The OFs who have newer trucks and have been through the learning curve spoke up on what button to push when, why the truck won’t start when the door is open, and when to use all-wheel drive as opposed to four-wheel drive — stuff like that

One OF said, “Whatever happened to a switch that said ‘on’ and ‘off,’ or ‘run’ and ‘stop?’ That is all we used to need.”

This OF said, “The more crap (technical term) they put on these trucks, cars, and appliances, the more that can go wrong, and does.” The OF added, “Memory seats, clutch, brake, and gas pedals that move up and down depending on the length of legs of the driver — next thing you know, they will have these pedals anticipate the weight of the driver.”

Another OF added the fact that now it is not necessary to start the vehicle with a key, and the OFs covered this feature too. In the old days, if you lost your keys, at least you could have someone jump start the car to get it going. 

Now, the OFs say, if this is an electronic “start,” you are screwed (another technical term). This scribe is sure the manufacturers wouldn’t leave the customer in such a situation and there must be a way to overcome this problem but apparently they keep it a secret because none of the OFs at the scribe’s end of the table knew it, and some had these types of vehicles.

One OF mentioned that some vehicles are equipped with remote starters that will start from a distance. When the remote starting device is used, the driver does not have to be in the vehicle.

Now no one is there to have his foot on the brake to start it. How does that work? One OF said these remote starters don’t work if the doors are not closed and locked. How about the brake thing? The other OF didn’t know.

As we keep reporting, this electronic stuff is flying right by the OFs. Next thing you know, when we meet the grim reaper, there will be wings on coffins and we’ll just be shot toward the sun and that’ll be it. The OFs will be on their way to heaven anyway so why not meet them halfway?

The stress of getting dressed

The OFs discovered another facet of their lives that most of the OFs have in common and that is getting dressed.

It was found what happens after the wife does the laundry, folds it, and in some cases puts it away (and in a few cases it was told the OF puts it away, and in rare cases the OF does the whole thing). Anyway, what most of the OFs do is, when they get dressed, they put on whatever garment is on top of the pile, no matter what!

If these garments go together, great! If not, so what? The body is covered apropos to what the weather is. This causes, in more cases than the married OFs would like to admit, the wife going bananas.

One OF said his wife keeps throwing up the argument that he is wearing the same thing over and over. The OF said this is how he works.

First, he puts his clothes away by moving the clothes in the closet out and then he puts the clean clothes in. Then he puts the clothes he has taken out and places them on top of the clean clothes so he is always wearing the older clothes first.

The wife always answers if it is screwed up (yes, wives use technical terms) when you start, it is going to be always screwed up. To which the answer is, “Who the h--- cares? I am only going out to the barn, or out with the OMOTM.”

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh and, according to this scribe, did not look like clowns but he must admit he is a top dresser, (snicker) were: John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Rick LaGrange, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Rev. Jay Francis, Marty Herzog, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Ted Feurer, Herb Bahrmann, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Wayne Gaul, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Donnelly, Fred Crounse, and me.

It is becoming so redundant to report about Tuesday mornings being the time Mother Nature shakes out her bad weather for the day or week for those of us on the Hill. This past Tuesday was no different.

On Jan. 7, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and the drivers for the OMOTM had to be a little careful at 6 or 6:30 a.m. in getting off the Hill.

Some went over the mountain because they didn’t want to meet those white and blue blinding headlights, and some went over the flats and they had to put up with those very dangerous headlights. Why these headlights are legal, many drivers, not only the OMOTM, don’t know.

The OFs discussed change, not that the OGs are against change; they have lived with change for many years — and here comes the “but.” BUT, it should be for the better and not worse.

So much technology moves so fast, and much of this technology is changing right in the middle of getting used to technology that is already in use. So we OFs generally feel the old way was better. Not always but many times.

“If it works,” one OF said, “why mess with it? If the change makes it easier, go for it, but if the change just adds confusion to get to the same point, why bother?”

Disasters

The OFs discussed Puerto Rico and the earthquakes on top of the recent hurricane — what a mess. We go back to Irene and what havoc that storm did to our area, and these poor people seem to be going through the same type of event on a routine basis. This earthquake was the worst to hit Puerto Rico since 1918.

Then the people in Australia have been having record-breaking bushfires since September. One OF said we have problems with California burning up but even though the California fires are bad they are nowhere near what Australia is going through.

To add to this, the western coast of Canada is having its own problem with fires. The business to be in is building fire trucks.

One OF thought of all the animals that are burning up. Another OF said the ones that live in the treetops may have problems but he thinks some of the ones on the ground may make it, and the burrowing animals and snakes might be better off.

This OF’s reasoning was that the fires move so fast, and they are roaring through the brush and trees so that those critters that live underground might be spared. Anyway it is looked at, it is not nice.

Then one OF said, “Once the fire goes through, the land should repair itself quickly, even the trees.”

This OF used, as a point of reference, something that happened locally about seven or eight years ago. It was then that the gypsy moth cleared the whole side of the hills looking west going down Route 145 from Middleburgh to Livingstonville and beyond. Not a leaf left on a tree. Then came the next year and the whole hillside appeared like nothing happened.

Square-dance fashionistas

We then managed to segue into a happier discussion. Some of the OFs were square dancers and line dancers in their younger years — say in their sixties to seventies, maybe some in their fifties. 

To take part in this hobby (not rigidly applied), it was kind of expected to wear certain apparel and most of the time the partner’s outfits matched. Of course the ladies would not like to be seen in the same outfit from one dance to another so square-dance-outfit shopping trips were common, and the guys had to match their cohort.

Quite often, it was an event and some couples would get together, plan a date and go shopping. As one OF said, “Don’t forget finding a place to eat; it was an outing.”

This little adjunct to the dancing had the OFs taking part accrue quite a collection of square-dance clothes. Some of the OFs still have them and claim these outfits take up two and three closets, or a big section of their basement. Others have given them away, and others managed to have the Salvation Army take them, especially the men’s stuff.

Feeling taxed

Around this time of year, most of the OFs get their tax bills. This prompted a discussion on taxes and New York State.

One OF suggested that one of the reasons for New York being the highest taxed state are the sponges. The OFs talk about this topic a lot but the sponges as a reason had not come up. The sponges are New York City and its five boroughs, Buffalo, and Rochester.

This OF thinks these cities just suck up tax dollars because a large portion of the population in each city does not contribute. The other factor may be that the New York State Legislature is made up mostly of lawyers and money to them is not a problem.

They think everybody makes a hundred-thousand dollars a year, so they just go ahead and make another tax, create another fee, or generate another mandate and for all of this just utter a whole bunch of words that don’t mean anything.

They say that they are thinking of us, when in essence all they think about is how to get re-elected, because, if they don’t, they will get caught in some of their own hair-brained schemes.

If there was anything that the OMOTM agreed with, it was this OF’s thinking, although one OF said that not everyone fits in the Albany cesspool, they just got caught when the toilet flushed. Wow! Some of the OGs can get wound up.

The Old Men of the Mountain who (we must say it —again) made it to the next restaurant in order, and this time it was the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, were: Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, Rich LaGrange, Russ Pokorny, (this scribe thought he was being clever and placed all the “Rs” together), John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Marty Herzog, Harold Guest, Jim Heiser, Ken Parks, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

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