The first Old Men of the Mountain’s breakfast of the New Year was held at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh on Jan. 2, 2018. Now all the OMOTM have to remember is to date everything 2018, or ’18.

This will be tough because many of the OFs have trouble remembering if it’s right leg in the pants first or the left leg. This may sound weird but this particular practice not only the OFs have, but most people — if they unconsciously slip out of their routine — become confused or irritated when doing many simple tasks like getting dressed.

To get the day started on the right foot, the best thing to do, at least according to the OFs, is take the pants off and start with the foot that is normally used when getting dressed. It is the same with many functions most do out of habit, like what side of the face to start when shaving; do we tighten the belt or pull the zipper first? One OF thought, for us OFs it is for the most part very important — just pull the zipper! This is true.

We all should realize now how a major portion of the country is going through quite a cold snap, and the OFs don’t think it is over yet. One OF said he knew a winter like this was coming because we had such a beautiful fall.

The OFs started talking about frozen pipes and the cold going so deep it is driving the frost deep in the ground where there is no snow cover. On the Hill and in our general area, an OF pointed out that, with the dribble of snow we have, he feels it does not mean much, as far as keeping the frost at bay, so the OFs should be careful with their water pipes.

One OF mentioned the people south of the Mason-Dixon Line must be having a lot of fun with their pipes. He bets many of these trailer parks have their water lines right under their trailers and unprotected.

“Even here,” one OF added, “most OFs are OK if the power stays on.”

Another OF said he has a whole-house generator but if the power is off for an extended period he worries about fuel because he uses propane and it is not easy to judge how much propane he will need. It is not like running to the gas station and getting a few extra cans of gas.

This brought up a conversation on the outside wood-burning furnaces and the power required to run the circulators because, if the power is out, the circulators are out. One OF who has one of these furnaces also has a portable generator to keep the regulators running. For the most part, the OFs are a resourceful lot.

The OFs continued chatting about the weather and how much extra fuel they are consuming to keep the castle warm. “The last two years have spoiled us,” one OF said. “Last year, we were riding our bikes and worrying about dandelions sprouting up in the lawn in December.” Another OF said he noticed in this cold weather how the miles per gallon on his vehicles has dropped.

The OFs have short memories because they have been through weather like this before.

Global warming

The subject of global warming came up and, as with most topics like this, there are OFs on both sides of the issue. The OFs on the warming side have a tough road to hoe when we have six or seven days below zero, the wind blowing a gale up your pant leg, and the OFs’ cheeks glowing red in just a couple minutes of being outdoors.

The OFs who have ponds that are close to the road are worried about how much salt has been spread so far this year and how much has gotten into their ponds. One OF said he may have to change his fish to saltwater fish.

Another OF said, unless these ponds are like a bowl of water and just sit in a hole in the ground, there should not be a problem. Most ponds have an inlet or maybe are springfed, but they do need an outlet so that salt will purge itself out of the pond. But this OF did admit that there is so much salt on the highway it is like driving on a dirt road.

One OF said he would rather have it that way than sliding into the ditch. Then the other argument started about which is best — driving on cold, hard snow, or wet, slippery, slushy snow.

Subsequently there were the OFs who preferred just using the old-fashioned sand and keeping the salt off the road. These OFs maintain that the roads and vehicles would last much longer than with all the chemicals that are dumped on the highway.

One OF said, “We don’t hear the environmentalists complaining about that one.”

Another OF asked, “Have we ever noticed how the cold weather follows along with a full moon? The moon is so bright at night that the moon shadow on the white snow is beautiful, or would be beautiful, if it wasn’t so d--- cold.”

Winter swim

An inquiry was contemplated. Did any of the OFs have any inclination to run and jump into Lake George in a bathing suit like that group of nuts we saw on TV?

“Yeah, right,” an OF offered, “as soon as my big toe would hit that water, I would have had a heart attack.”

A second OF yelled back, “Or maybe it would kick your ole ticker in high gear and get it running again.”

Harassment charges

Then an OF suggested he wouldn’t want to get that OF’s ticker running again. It was reasoned there wouldn’t be a girl safe on the planet with that OF’s blood pump in high gear.

Another OF said, “I noticed all these harassment suits are against guys. What about the guys? If the same thing happened to them and they brought charges to the distaff side, they would be laughed out of court, especially if they were OFs.”

This scribe’s wife comment on these OFs’ comments was: “Dream on, guys!

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh with none ready to complain about harassment were: Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey (our oldest member who is still getting to the breakfast like the postman), Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

The last of the Old Men of the Mountain’s breakfasts for the year 2017 was held on Tuesday, Dec. 26, at Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow on a real winter morning! Some of the OFs left before 6 a.m. in wind-driven snow, with temperatures in the low teens.

Kim was there, ready to go, as the OFs showed up. This scribe hopes she lives close by.

As life goes on, day by day, minute by minute, not only the OFs but no one else ever knows what to expect and what might happen in the next breath. The phrase “Johnny on the spot” is so true.

With today’s technology, it is possible to record history as it happens regardless of where anyone is at the time. This includes the OFs. Now there are moments in time caught forever on disc, or film, or on the phone.

One OF recounted a story that happened to him and his wife at Niagara Falls. The OF was going to meet his brother at the falls and he was there with plenty of time to kill.

He and his wife were in their hotel room when they heard sirens. The couple looked out of their hotel window and saw fire trucks and an ambulance stop in front of the hotel and park at the edge of the falls.

The OF said to his wife, “We have time so let’s go down and see what is going on.”

When they arrived at the scene, they saw a man (who they think was attempting to commit suicide) had jumped in the river to go over the falls.

This guy apparently had second thoughts and he had grabbed onto a branch of a tree as he was about to go over the falls. The OF said he watched the whole proceeding until the end and recorded it all on his camera.  

The amazing part was in the beginning of the rescue. The powers that be had actually stopped the falls on the American side and, while that was going, on a fire company shot two lines across to where the man was dangling.

Then a couple of firefighters used these lines to climb out to where the man was. All the while this process was going on, a large helicopter with double blade towers approached and by this time one of the firefighters had reached out and grabbed the guy.

At the same time, a basket from the helicopter was on the scene where they were. The firefighter pushed the guy into the basket and fastened him in and the chopper crew hauled him up.

The chopper then brought the guy to an ambulance by the fire trucks and the emergency medical technicians placed him in the ambulance and drove him away to the hospital.

This OF had been an EMT for years and he had a chance to speak to the firefighter who caught the guy and put him in the basket. The OF asked him how he did that so fast and without resistance.

The firefighter told him it was timing. When this firefighter saw the guy who was dangling on the tree branch look up at the chopper (which was lowering the basket), the guy’s attention was totally fixed on that procedure, so when the basket arrived the firefighter just pushed him into it and that was that.

When it was all over, a special team simply returned the water to the falls. If anyone showed up 10 minutes later, they never would have known anything had gone on; there was no fire truck, and no ambulance, just people standing at the railing watching the water go over the falls.

Some of the OFs commented on how well these rescue people must be trained, and how much this rescue must have cost. Helicopters do not come cheap.

Stopping Niagara Falls from flowing — that can’t be nickel-and-dime stuff. Then you have those two guys going out on lines over what is now about a two-hundred-foot cliff — you wouldn’t catch this OF doing that even when he was young and stupid.

“Johnny on the spot” with camera at the ready — so easily done today.

Lost and found

As the OFs are old, and getting older by the day, Tuesday morning’s breakfast brought out how many of the OFs set things down and two minutes later can’t find them. The OFs were telling how all of them have this malady but the best one was how one OF said he couldn’t find his hearing aids this holiday season.

The OF said he thought he knew where they were and everyone in the family was looking for them. Over and over in the same room, moving things, even looking on the floor (because there were quite a few wrappings all around) and the OF thought they might have been thrown out when the kids started picking up.

After at least an hour of everyone looking and getting ready to go through the trash, one of his kids said, “Dad, they are right in your ears!”

That is like looking for your glasses and they are on you head. In both cases, panic sets in pretty early when items like that are lost.

One OF said, “I think I keep losing my wife but, darn it, I turn around and there she is.”

Much more was discussed at this breakfast and this scribe could fill up a page of the paper; however, we will save those for another time when the OFs become so redundant that it is hard to come up with something new.

Those OFs who are the toughest and who made it through driving snow, questionable roads, and the dark morning with bright shining stars were: Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Rev. Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier and guest Winnie Chartier, and Amy Willsey, Harold Grippen and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Old Men of the Mountain met for their Christmas party (offered by Patty) at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.

It is a good thing this party was held there because one of the largest groups of Old Goats gathered around the tables at Mrs. K’s. Forty guys walked through the door of the restaurant and enjoyed the music and hors d’oeuvres that were placed up and down the tables.

An OF could make a meal with just the hors d’oeuvres but, being a group of gentlemen, they did not. The music was supplied by two of the OFs and one of Santa’s elves. The OGs were Roger Shafer and Gerry Irwin, and the elf was Debbie Fish who is definitely not an OF, and was not counted. With the restaurant this full, this scribe had to remove his hearing aids so he could hear.

The Old Men of the Mountain would like to thank Patty (following in the footsteps of her mom) who put on this spread for the OGs who appreciate it very much and look forward to it every year.

Some of the OFs reminisced back to the days of when the OFs started gathering together for breakfast and when some of the OFs passed on.

It is obvious that when a group of OFs, or OHs (Old Hens) get together on a routine basis, the change of ranks will be rather quick; it is not like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts where relationships can go on for years. If a group starts out with the beginning word “old” sometimes it is necessary to drop the “s” on years.

Dealing with lemons

A throw-away society — that’s us. The OFs discussed Tuesday morning’s topic to some extent as how we, as a nation, throw so much good-to-new “stuff” away. The OFs claimed they do not know about other countries, only what they have observed first hand.

Some of this “throw-away” mentality the OFs even participated in after World War II.  Maybe the habit developed from being in the military, or seeing the military discard perfectly good things.

Some of the OFs remember lend-lease, and some currently have witnessed political incompetence or corruption that lets food rot on docks; the food was never delivered from Good Will or other organizations that sent supplies to “third” world countries in order to help these starving nations.

This is not what the OFs were alluding to in this discussion. What the OFs were mainly talking about was how something brand new gets taken back to the vendor because it does not work right, or it is just not what the customer wanted.

The store generally just hands over a replacement and then (as a rule) tosses away the original item, which had been returned. Many times there is nothing wrong with it; the article just goes in the Dumpster.

The OFs think there could be a staging area where people would be able to go and either make an offer or rescue the discarded item to tinker with and see if they are able to revive it, or use it as it is.

One OF mentioned he can understand why stores do what they do because some devious enterprising individuals could buy something new, screw it up a little, take it back, and have a buddy purchase the one placed in the staging area, make a ridiculous offer on it, then take it home and fix it.  Because he is in cahoots with the guy who returned it, he would know exactly what to do.

One OF said he has toured the Ford Mustang plant in Michigan and said that tour was very interesting. When he arrived at the end of the assembly line and saw a car (which he had followed all along this line) start up and run out of the building to the staging area, it was very impressive. (Side note: The first trip a car takes is “pedal to the metal with screaming tires,” the OF said).

As the tour group watched this, the OF noticed some cars did not start, or they ran really rough when they did start. These cars were hand pushed to an area called the hospital. In this hospital, mechanics worked on them to get the vehicles started or running right.

This tour group was fortunate to observe one car that did not make it. The vehicle would not start at all. The mechanic slammed the hood down, and put a tag on it.

One of the people in the group asked the tour guide, “What happens to that car?”

The guide answered, “The car goes to the dealer and now it is up to him to fuss with it. Every car off the line is sold. We do not stockpile Mustangs.”

The customer who receives this vehicle gets what is commonly known as a “lemon.” Then it becomes what again is typically known as the customer, dealer, and Ford hassle.

The OF added that, in most cases, the dealer’s mechanics, for some reason, iron out the mechanical problem (especially those trained at a Ford facility). The OF said the tour guide said the group didn’t hear it from him, but he thinks “it’s because the dealer spends more time with the problem than we do at the plant.”

Those OFs who made it to the party at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh in fine running automobiles, for the most part, because one showed up in a horse and buggy, were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, George Byrne, Jim Heiser, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Marty Herzog, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Jake Lederman, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Mace Porter, Rev. Jay Francis, Gerry Chartier, Jerry Willsey, Shirley Willsey, Ted Willsey with chauffeur Denise, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. This, as has been mentioned before, is for some of the OMOTM the farthest and highest restaurant we OFs have on the roster.

Starting out Tuesday morning about 6 a.m., we found it was dark with a light snow and wet roads. The surprise snow blew strongly across the road, especially on a turn.

The OFs call this the “oops, surprise highway” as the car momentarily goes sideways for a few feet when it meets one of these turns at 45 to 50 miles per hour and the conditions quickly become 25 to 30 miles per hour, especially in the dark.

When the OFs left the breakfast, all their vehicles were covered with about 3 inches of wet snow. Old Man Winter is just getting the OFs ready for Christmas.

The first topic of conversation was how the OFs planned to use their 2-percent Social Security increase. One OF thought he would get a new truck and another said he was going to update his deck. Yet another said the wife and he would use it for a cruise to Alaska. Yeah right!

A couple of OFs said they lost a buck, another made two bucks, and some stayed even. This was a great conversation to start the day. It definitely was not how rich they were going to become. Some OFs opined on how they would spend the two bucks, others on how they would make up for the loss.

Bald truths?

There became a slight challenge between the OFs who had lots of hair; some with thinning hair; and some with hints of hair; and some, it has to be said, bald. Each OF began to discuss the benefits of each condition.

The ones with lots of hair maintained they look younger and attracted younger ladies. Many of the OFs disputed this claim saying, “You OFs are not counting all the wrinkles under that hair.” The one with hair maintained he had character lines not wrinkles.

A challenger from the hairless side said, “The one with hair has to go to the barber frequently and have it coiffed, has to keep shampooing it, and worst of all — clean that hair out of the tub and sink traps.  Now then, all I have to do is wash my head with a washcloth every day and dry it with a towel and I am all done.”

Then another OF retorted, “Yeah, you guys with hair tick me off. I go to the barber and they go zip-zip and I am done; you, on the other hand, occupy the chair three times as long and they charge you the same as they charge me. That is not fair.”

Then one of hairless ones came up with the standard cliché — “No grass on a busy street” (whatever that means) — and another OF pronounced an older cliché, which this OF maintains is true.  He said, “He (the OF with no hair) wore all his hair off on the headboard of the bed.”

“If you guys believe that one,” another commented, “I have a large bridge for sale and it crosses the Hudson in New York City.” And so it went.  Are we jealous or envious?

Tire talk

The OFs talked about flat tires and how seldom they see them with the new tires we have today, and they added how many more miles the OFs get on their tires. Then they started talking about problems they had with tires with stupid leaks.

Most of the leaks were attributed to the new tire sensors that are required to be in tires and how they can corrode with the salt and the weather in the Northeast, and in other areas where the winter brings ice and snow and roads are treated.

One OF mentioned how he had a tire that was continually going down and he found it was the hole in the rim was slightly oversized when the rim was made. Being an enterprising OF, he welded and drilled the hole again to the proper size.  Problem solved, tire stayed up.

The OFs then started to prattle on about tire punctures — these being a real nuisance.  One OF mentioned tractor tires and the thorndike thornberry tree (or shrub) that is native (on the Hill at least) to our area and how the thorns on the shrub can and do puncture tires of tractors if they should run afoul on one of these branches that has fallen on the ground.

A collection of these shrubs would be like meeting up with Johnny Horton’s song “The Battle of New Orleans” — the briars and the brambles where a rabbit couldn’t go. To work around these thorn trees would take an Oliver “Cletrac” — farm tractor with steel tracks that was made by Oliver until 1951 and now is quite collectible if you can find one.

Fordson fires

The OFs talked about things that haven’t changed from the forties till now. This conversation was about what the OFs consider poor design of equipment, highways, and buildings.

One that was in the thirties and forties was the Fordson tractor. This had the carburetor right over the manifold; the manifold became rather hot after the tractor was run for just a short time. The carburetor had a breather hole right in front of it and, when the float acted up anytime the tractor was plowing, the farmer would start a new row.

The right steel wheel would dip into the furrow, and gas would squirt out the little hole and Bingo! there was a fire. The farmer had to stop, or carry a bucket of sand on the tractor to toss on the flames, and then continue on. Gas might spit out on the next turn — then again it might not. What fun.

Condolences

The OMOTM would like to offer their condolences to the family of Willard Osterhout. While Willard could, he was a faithful attendee of the OMOTM. He brought stories to the breakfast that would enhance the stories that bounced around the table every morning. Only Willard could connect the dots as to who was related to whom, and many times, who they were currently.

The OMOTM who braved the weather, which wasn’t that bad, except driving in the snow in the early morning darkness at the ages of the OFs is not fun anymore, and those OFs were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Rev. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Jim Rissacher, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Marty Herzog, and me.

Location:

— Photo from John R. Williams

Really nice country: Some of the OFs travel the backroads of Schoharie County, and there is the Hollock Bridge that crosses the Keyserkill Creek just south of Mackey, New York.

As the old man with the sleigh draws closer to getting it loaded, the Old Men of the Mountain met on their usual Tuesday — Dec. 5, at the Home Front Café in Altamont. Some of the OMOTM have their shopping done, some are half done while others haven’t even started yet.

“What the heck,” these OFs say. “It isn’t December 24th yet.”

The OFs wonder how some people wait until Christmas Eve until they decorate the tree. It takes most of the OFs who do decorate a week to get that chore done. At least that is what they attest to.

The ones who decorate in a few hours on Christmas Eve must have a Charlie Brown tree, or all the other jobs are done like wrapping the presents, and having what ornaments that are going to be put on the tree all laid out ahead of time.

Sun sets on summer jobs

The OMOTM wondered when kids working summer programs phased out. The OFs remember when kids could work the summer at Thacher Park, or for the highway department where they were painting fire hydrants and trimming around the guardrails, sprucing up the town barns, and painting and mowing the town parks.

All these jobs seem to have disappeared.

The OFs remember how, in early spring, there were notices in schools from farmers looking for summer help to work the fields. These notices, too, seem to be gone. Now it must be word of mouth by the kids themselves.

The OFs can’t remember, if they even knew, what the reasoning was behind removing these summer work programs.  

This brought up a topic concerning summer help of migrant workers. This issue is in the forefront of the news right now.

The OFs mentioned what an important and necessary part of the summer labor force these workers are. One OF added, “These guys really know how to work.”

The machines to harvest much of the delicate fruits and vegetables have not been invented yet. “Maybe never will be invented,” one OF added, “so this work still has to be done by hand.”

Migratory Old Men

The OFs talked about heading to warmer climes and what would be the best way to get there. This seems to be an annual discussion at this time of year.

The OFs say it all depends on how fast you want to arrive at you southerly destination, or if the OF wants to take his time and putz along the road less traveled. This brought up the train that takes the OF and his vehicle along with him; it is not that expensive. It sounds like fun; however, none of the OFs around this scribe commented on availing this service from Amtrak to give a firsthand account.

Irene revisited

Believe it or not, Tropical Storm Irene popped its ugly head up again. This time, the OFs were talking how some local bridges held up and some did not.

The OFs seemed to think that those bridges that failed were not built correctly from the beginning. This thinking may be correct because the OFs know the ground as much as what is below as what is on top.

The OFs think that the footings on some of the bridges were not on rock (or what a lot of people think of as rock) but the footings were built on what the OFs call hardpan. Hardpan, as one OF put it, is hard, slippery, and fluid.

Some call it good old-fashioned blue clay, but hardpan is a little more than that. The dictionary defines it as any layer of firm detrital matter, as of clay, underlying soft soil.

One OF mentioned that the water running off both hills that fill the Little Schoharie Creek as it runs through Huntersland were like waterfalls. The OF said that there were streams of water coming down the mountains from both sides into the creek that were never there before and the water in the Little Schoharie was rising as fast as if it were a bathtub being filled.

The OFs still think water was let out of the Gilboa Dam and came with such force that it demolished the covered bridge in Blenheim. That bridge had weathered many creek risings and floods.

In the OFs’ opinion, it was some special and unusual force that caused the bridge to go. One would think the event of Irene would be on the back burner but to those who lived through it this scribe guesses not.

Bridges to beware of

The OFs say there are some bridges that these OGs hesitate to use but, as far as this scribe knows, the OFs all go ahead and shoot across them anyway. One OF mentioned that some of these bridges are on small country roads and cover some creeks that have carved out deep gorges as the eons have drifted by.

Many of the bridges in the localities where the OFs reside are Kodak moments. For instance, some of the OFs travel the backroads of Schoharie County and there is the Hollock Bridge that crosses the Keyserkill Creek just south of Mackey, New York. This is in really nice country.

After crossing the bridge and continuing on south to Flat Creek Road to County Route 17, the driver comes out at the Schoharie Creek below the dam at Gilboa. This is where there is another bridge that crosses the Schoharie Creek, which takes the driver back up to Route 30 — an interesting ride submitted by the OMOTM.

This scribe is sure there are many spots like this throughout New York State.

Those OFs who traveled to the Home Front Café in Altamont and traveled over some of the interesting bridges to arrive at the restaurant were: John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Miner Stevens, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, George Byrne, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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