Doodlebugs, made from worn out cars or trucks, were common on the farm in the ’30s, and ’40s.

Where were you on April 10 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.? This scribe knows where he and 22 other guys were. We were at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, New York where absolutely nothing happened.

One question an OF put to another OF was, “Do I look old to you?”

Boy, talk about putting a guy on the spot.

“Hey we are all old,” the OF replied, and the first OF pressed on, further questioning, “Come on, do I look old to you?”

The other OF said, “Well, your ears are long like mine,” still trying to get out of it.

The first OF dropped the inquiry and continued to tell stories of how he and his wife were treated on a trip to Hungary. The other OF said after the stories were told that many of the OFs should be proud to carry the badge of age when they carry it well.

Some people realize all too soon they will be old, so they treat age with respect. And, in some cultures, age demands respect and the youth are taught that. Conversely, in other cultures, the young think they will never be old and treat age as a nuisance and the elderly are just in the way.

Many of the OFs have trouble with being old and trying to keep up with how everything is changing so fast. The wife of this scribe sums it up very nicely when she says, “All I want is an on and off switch,” and the OFs agree.

Trying to remember all the buttons to push to operate a microwave, or the kitchen stove and in the proper sequence can drive you nuts. Even a simple thing like a clock radio, let alone the newer vehicles, all have ways of operating them that are so far out the OFs need instructions on how to just turn these things on and get them started.

Change sometimes is necessary and the OFs understand that, but change just for change’s sake does not make much sense to the OFs.

Yeah, I guess the OFs are old but that is not a bad thing. Within each gray hair and each wrinkle is a storehouse of experience that perpetuates change, which all the young ones think is theirs alone.

And snicker a tad when they have to show an OF how to set his TV.  Just wait until there is a massive power outage and none of the young ones’ electronic toys work, and the OFs have to show them what to do just to stay alive.

“Don’t sell the younger generation short,” an OF interjected. “The way they are going, the grid will only be used for large manufacturing plants. Solar power and small wind-powered generators will be able to keep the home fires burning.

“Even electric cars that can be charged at home with your own home-generated power will keep the younger generation (and us) on the road. Food will be sustainable with the farms that have their own power plants. The same will go for small and light industries. Even large buildings can share their own local power source.”

This OF maintains in the not-to-distant future fossil fuels will not be required.

No fuelin’

In previous columns it has been noted how much extra fuel the OFs say has been necessary to keep the old homestead comfy this year. One OF commented that he has operated his wood-burning furnace so much more this year that his woodpile is down to the base.

He is now burning old wood, some of which has sunk into the ground, and is years old. The OF said he has had to bundle up and go out to the woodlot and do a little logging in snow up to his knees to keep the home fires burning.

“Never had to do that before,” the OF said.

Doodlebugs

Another OF commented that he had made a purchase of a Model A doodlebug with steel wheels. This is going back a ways. Doodlebugs were common on the farm in the ’30s, and ’40s, and maybe even later.

When a car or truck began to wear out, many farmers and the farmers’ kids turned the thing into a doodlebug. Not only was it fun but the usefulness of the tired old vehicle carried on doing farm chores (and all it had was an off and on switch).  Sears and Roebuck even had a kit for turning Model A’s into doodlebugs.

Of carp and kayaking

The OFs were literally all over the map this Tuesday, speaking on their different topics. The topics went from fly fishing, to making their own flies, to kayaks and kayaking, to feeding and catching carp, to China, Russia, and Hungary.

For the OFs at the table, the kayaking bit was when they were younger. The OFs discussed kayaking in the Schoharie Creek. If any of the readers know the creek from Boucks Falls in the town of Fulton, downstream to Old Central Bridge, they will know a popular area for kayaking.

One OF said he would put his kayak in on Vlaie Pond, which is just outside of Middleburgh on Route 145 south.  (Google tells me Vlaie or Vly is a word for swamp that comes from the Dutch settlers of the area). The OFs said that putting a kayak in at Middleburgh and taking it out at Old Central Bridge is a nice day trip, and it is downstream.

The OFs next discussed carp and how it is quite an interesting fish. One OF said he feeds the fish in his pond and some are carp.

Another OF said that in Williamsburg, Virginia (where the world’s largest living history museum is located) there used to be two good-sized carp ponds that held nothing but overgrown goldfish. However, this was in the seventies so he is not sure if these ponds are still in use there.

Stories to be continued….

The Old Men of the Mountain who enjoyed the early morning at the Chuck Wagon Café were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank,Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen and me.

Location:

It is Tuesday again — funny how fast the days come around as the OFs get older and older.

This Tuesday, April 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. April is going to be the month of the Green Moon; all the planets that are whirling around are going to line up and the moon will turn green.

Those who want to see this phenomenon will have to watch it now because it won’t happen again for another 420 years. The OFs won’t be around for the next Green Moon — they will be lucky if they make it to the next breakfast.

This scribe is getting a little tired of having to report the OMOTM’s main topic of conversation. Lately, it is the redundant yakking about the weather.

It is miserable at least in the OFs’ locale. The OFs know the sun is up there.  How do they know this? It’s because, when the OFs fly anywhere, once they are above the clouds, there’s the sun.

The OFs feel it is about time those clouds find some place else to go, giving us at least a couple of days in a row of sun with no, or at least very little, wind. We don’t want the wind blowing the OMOTM’s hats off and down the road.

There! That is two-thirds of the conversation that took place.

Some conversations were, in a roundabout way, connected to the weather and that connection is the way the OFs were talking about how they have used more fuel this year than they normally do.

One OF said, “It isn’t over yet.”

The OFs also are already complaining about how muddy it is going to be especially on the Hill as one OF retorted. Another OF said, “What makes you guys think you are going to be so special? It is going to be muddy in the valley, too.”

Yet another OF commented that he has already purchased some cheap throw-away rugs to put on the floor of his mud room because, where he lives, the mud is clay and sticks to his shoes. The OF said his feet get so much clay stuck to them in just an hour that he adds 10 pounds; just lifting his feet tires him out, lugging all that mud around on his shoes.

A few OFs complained that snowplowing their driveways has turned their lawns into major spring projects. Now they’re putting the lawns back together where the plows dug in because the ground didn’t have much frost in it — if any.

Disappearing senses

A topic came up out of the blue, and this scribe is trying to remember how it started. One OF asked if the other OFs had lost any of their senses as they got older.

The answer was yes, the most common being eyesight, but the sense of smell seemed dulled, and the sense of when their feet were hitting the ground was a different one. The combination of the sense of smell and taste in concert was another one, and the OF who mentioned this said smell and taste were both about gone.

But this OF said it came after an event of some sort that this scribe wasn’t quick enough to write down. Catching that might indicate the reflex senses are not what they used to be.

One OF thought all our senses tire out as we age; that is why they make hearing aids, glasses, and canes. Another OF agreed with him.

This OF said his mind tells him he can hurry across the street and the OF thinks he is hurrying but all he can manage is the “Tim Conway” shuffle. One OF said that if he has to hurry all he can do is hope he passes gas and get an assisted boost from the pressure release of the gas.

Another OF said, “If wasn’t for that little pressure assist, I couldn’t get out of a chair. Is that natural phenomenon a sense that increases with age or is it a sense at all?”

One OF recited the old farmer saying: “A farting horse is the horse to hire, for a farting horse will never tire.”  To which yet another OF said he has worked behind horses like that.

Calling veterans to parade

For Memorial Day, the Hilltowns of Berne, Knox, Westerlo, and Rensselaerville are having a parade on May 28. If you are a veteran and would like to participate and join some of the OFs, call Zenie Gladieux at 518-894-8589 or, if you are computer literate, you can email her at zeniegladieux@gmail.com and indicate if you want to ride, or prefer to walk, or are in a wheelchair.

Because the OFs are of an age many veterans are, you can indicate if you need assistance getting in or out of a vehicle. The OFs understand this because for many of them walking any distance is a chore, yet for some of them their exercise is taking a walk, while for others just lifting the fork up and down at breakfast is their exercise.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, and none of them who walked to the restaurant, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Karl Remmers, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

What a sunrise on Tuesday morning, March 27! Most of the Old Men of the Mountain mentioned it when they arrived at the Your Way Café in Schoharie.

As the OMOTM funnel into the café from their homes scattered about, they have been on the road from about 6 to 7:30 a.m. and many headed west. At this time of day, the OMOTM encounter many vehicles driving in the other direction on their way to work. One OF suggested these cars should be saluted because they are probably loaded with working people who are contributing to Social Security, which right now keeps the OFs afloat.

One OF mentioned that he had to advise people to stop sending him email, and why they didn’t get any emails from him for awhile was because he was on vacation. Another OF piped up, “On vacation from what?”

This brought the first OF up short, and he was speechless. What was he on vacation from really? The OF has been retired for years. The OF finally came up with, “From you guys. What else?”

This is true if the OFs go someplace exotic for an extended period of time. It is only a trip. The day after the retirement party, the OFs are on vacation, unless they take another job. If the OFs do that, they are not really retired; they have just left one job on the best of terms to go to another.

The OFs have covered this topic before about those who have breakfast with the OFs, but are not quite in that OF category yet. These are the few that are in business for themselves and are attempting to slow down.

Some of these OFs are having trouble accomplishing that because they are good at what they do. Tuesday morning, they discussed how paperwork in New York is making working as an individual entrepreneur harder than the work. On top of this, collecting money for work done is also becoming harder, and even trying to do business with suppliers on a cash-only basis is getting difficult.

As one OF put it, he likes to purchase parts, pay for them, and leave. Some of his suppliers want it done on a credit basis, paperless, and on the computer.

The OF says the suppliers are confused if he orders a couple hundred dollars worth of parts, and hands them two-hundred dollars. The clerk just looks at him with the look of “now what.”

The OF says he has tried it “their way” with some suppliers and “their way” doesn’t work for him. If one of the parts is bad or doesn’t work, he has to return it for another, and if he has to pick up something else while making the trip to the supplier, things start getting wacky.

This has proven to be true especially if he has other items on backorder. Maybe one of these parts has come in, then the wackiness begins to get worse.

Drivers as dunces

The OFs who have had occasion to work at jobs that required them to work on highways around the state started talking about what foolish mistakes drivers make, and they wonder what in the world these drivers were thinking.

One OF said, “That is the key — they weren’t thinking.”

The dangers highway crews face include just doing routine jobs when along comes some dork and drives right into them. Regardless of all the signs and warnings to move one way or the other because there is road work ahead, some drivers just ignore the signs and keep on cruising right toward the work area.

The OFs who have worked on these roads, summer and winter, said that the workers should get hazardous-pay stipends for doing this work. A couple of the OFs commented that it is getting worse because the new cars are practically driving themselves and drivers are unconscious to the fact they are driving a ton-and-a-half guided missile.

If the vehicle becomes out of control, consciously or unconsciously, there is trouble ahead, Matilda.

Hare warfare

When it was time to pay up for our meal, some of the OFs received their bills with a rabbit picture on the back. This started a rabbit battle as to who got a rabbit and who didn’t.

This scribe thought the OFs were going to come to blows over rabbit or no rabbit. It even came down to who got a smiling rabbit, and who got a mad rabbit.

“My rabbit is not a happy rabbit,” an OF muttered.

“At least you got a rabbit; I didn’t get one,” another OF stated.

Then the no-rabbit OFs started to pester the waitress because they wanted a rabbit. Those OFs had to continue with their pouting because they weren’t going to get a rabbit, so they paid their bill and went home.

One OF offered to pay the OF’s bill across from him so he would have rabbit. The other OF wouldn’t swap even though his bill was higher with the rabbit on it.

This all started because at the restaurant there are two young ladies that take and bring out the orders. On one side of the long tables the OFs sit at, the waitress drew little rabbits on the back of the tabs and the other waitress doesn’t.

As one OF noticed he had a rabbit, all the other OFs started looking at the back of their tabs, and the war was on. The odd thing is no one gets to keep the bill; once paid, it is stuck on that spike by the register.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Your Way Café, and who did not drive off the road looking at the sunrise were: Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Jim Heiser, Allan DeFazio, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Warren Willsey, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey with middle daughter Amy, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

This scribe shook out of bed early on March 20 (the first day of spring) to gather a rider and head to the Country Café in Schoharie along with many of the Old Men of the Mountain.

When this scribe and the rider left the Hill, it was 8 cold degrees. When we arrived at the Country Café in the valley, we found out we were the warm ones. There were reports of 0 to 3 degrees from those who lived in the valley. This is the first day of spring?

One OF commented that, when he watches the weather on TV and it shows the traffic around us, for instance, headed up the Northway and Clifton Park, or the Thruway at Coxsackie, there is not even a snow bank. “Is God mad at us on the Hill?” he muttered under his breath.

It is fun to watch the OFs as they all converse, and it isn’t only this scribe who does it. At Tuesday morning’s breakfast, it was noted that the other OFs watch all the other OFs as well as listen to them as they talk.

It was found that the OFs are just like everyone else — some sit with their arms folded while they talk; others, when they go to interact, lean forward when they speak. Some just lean back and talk, and it was found most of the OFs who did that were the ones with naturally big voices. Others do as much talking with their hands as they do with their words; some move in and out with their chairs.

Tuesday morning, a hand talker was speaking and his hands were moving in rhythm with the conversation, so much so that another OF commented on it. The interesting part was the OF using his hands kept them moving with his conversation while unconsciously raising them over and around objects on the table.

The OF never hit a thing! The ketchup stayed upright, and the coffee urn remained vertical. Nope! Not an object was disturbed.  

Spectrum of diligence

The OFs have discussed this topic before but, as with many repeated topics, the approach was different. This subject was about hard workers. The OFs who were in on this conversation were all in agreement.

The OFs used their own experiences to draw their conclusions and it was found that working for people with different concepts of work is hard. It is hard to work for a hard worker because the hard worker expects everyone to work as hard as they do.

At times, work is an obsession with the hard worker and is that worker can be unreasonable. The OFs came to a social conclusion that only other people that are work obsessive can keep up.

They went from that discussion to talk about people who don’t do anything, and in this they found that many kids today are so into their electronic devices that they don’t know how to work. Every now and then, the OFs said, a good kid comes along and keeps his nose to the grindstone.

The others work a little, text a lot, work a little, text a lot. The OFs are out of the loop, they say, and this way of working might become the next norm. One OF suggested when the OFs were young and on the farm, digging a ditch might take four hours.

Today’s kids digging the same ditch may now take six or seven hours. Then one OF piped up and said, “It is not fair to dump all kids in the same brew. Some kids are darn good workers.”

Then another OF said, “Watch out for them — they will turn into the obsessive ones.”

Dressed for success

Last week’s column was a tweak on fashion according to the OFs. This week, part of the conversation was in the same vein, i.e., how the OFs dressed when they were working and how they dress now.

One OF remembered that when he was young his father told him to buy one dark suit for weddings and funerals. The OF said he still goes by that today.

All he owns is one dark suit, with one pair of shoes to match. That suit is older now and a little out of style and a little tight but still manages to fit the bill.

Another OF alleged he never owned a suit. Most noted they have a dark blazer and a couple of nice shirts, and one pair of khakis along with another pair of gray pants to go with this blazer. They have one tie for each pair of pants and these OFs maintain that will get them anywhere.

Pay based on locale

Many of the OFs have worked in other parts of the country other than New York. The OFs found that there is quite a disparity between what workers get paid for the same job.

New York City seems to have the highest paid workers for the same job; however, it also costs a ton of money to live there. The OFs thought even though people made less money for the same job in other localities they made more money in the long run because it costs so much less to live in other places than it does in New York City.

One OF said it’s not only New York, but he thought that, in other major cities, the pay would probably be more. That OF also was of the opinion that what could be done with the money in the bigger cities would actually be less.

The OFs who made it to the Country Café in Schoharie, regardless of what the cost of living is in New York, were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Gerry Chartier and his wife, Wilma Chartier, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, March 13, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in the heart of Middleburgh.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on which side the OFs were on), this scribe was not there. This scribe was not feeling too well and, not wanting to be embarrassed, decided to stay home.

This gave the scribe a chance to review notes from past meetings and use those for the basis of this report. They will not be current events but will be subjects discussed at the breakfast. The current event will be an observation of the scribe: Enough with this snow and mid-winter temperatures!

This scribe supposes that, as the OFs talk about bus trips, many senior groups take advantage of these excursions. Listening to the OFs talk, you learn there are good bus trips and bad bus trips.

One OF summed it up by saying it all depends on three things:

— Number one: The carrier has to be a reliable, responsible one, with a congenial driver;

— Number two: It has to start off well; if it starts off poorly, it never seems to correct itself; and

— Number three: It is good to go with some friends. If the people on the bus mesh quickly then the trip is going to be a good one.

“If, by chance,” the OF said, “The bus is old and smells of diesel fuel, the driver is a cranky OG, with most of the people a bunch of complainers, then the best thing to do is get off at the first rest stop, rent a car and go home.”

The big “however” here is most of the trips the OFs have been on seem to be very agreeable affairs. Some of these trips are not long. They travel to the casinos in the area.

The OFs go often enough that trip is like taking a city bus from Delmar or Guilderland to downtown Albany. Some go to plays in New York City; some go to see either a Yankee or Mets game. Generally, when the OFs go on one of these trips it is the topic of conversation when they return — good or bad.

When the OFs go to see a play, they may mention the play was OK, but what they really talk about is the bus trip, or where they ate once they arrived in New York. They would talk about who were troublemakers on the bus, and what happened to them, or the OFs would mention just plain bus gossip.

A few of the trips were, at best, endurance trips for the OFs because they were overnights as a rule and were shopping trips for the better half. The OFs say they don’t really need anything, and for anything they do need there is always Tractor Supply, and Wal-Mart.

The OFs maintain they don’t need a 500-mile bus ride so the little lady can spend hours shopping and purchase little. One OF said they have to buy something so the wife can say she bought such-and-such some place in some exotic shopping center.

One OF mentioned that, if they want to go shopping in Kittery, Maine, he is all for that because he can get lost in the Kittery Trading Post. Another OF said that the newer buses are like traveling from your favorite chair at home. They are quiet and comfortable with TVs like airplanes have and, when you’re with a good group of people, it is really the way to go.

Another OF added it is just like flying, or taking a boat ride: What do you do once you get to where you are going? It seems that unless you follow the crowd you are stuck.  “If I can drive,” the OF said, “I am going to drive.”

Another OF jumped in saying, “That is OK on long trips with overnights, but on one-day trips — say to a ball game — give me the bus.  All the driving hassles are gone.”

Size demise

The OFs at one time discussed a rare topic, almost feminine like, and that is what has happened to the sizing of clothes. The OFs say they used to know what size they were and could go and buy a shirt labeled large and it would fit.

The length would be long enough to stay tucked in; the shoulders and arm lengths would be perfect. Now nothing fits all within the same size. T-shirts are shorter and the same size they were 20 years ago is tight.  “Clothing sizes have gone the way of the candy bar,” one OF said.

“Jeans! That is a whole ’nother story,” an OF added.

The zippers used to be long enough to get the dumb things over our hips. However, now the zippers are only four inches long, and width-wise this OF can’t figure out what is going on. His pants say 38 inches but 38-inch jeans lack three or four inches of closing.

“Maybe it is your shape that has changed,” one OF suggested, to which the reply came: “Thirty-eight inches is 38-inches. You can’t change that.”

It used to be a pant leg was a pant leg. Now there are all different kinds of pant legs and, if the OF grabs the wrong one, the OF can’t bend over. Again, the OF’s physical build became the subject: “It is your gut that won’t let you bend, you OG, not the pants”!

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and thank goodness they all had their pants on, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Bill Lichliter, Otis Lawyer, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Wayne Gaul, Lou Schenck, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Joe Rack, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and not me.

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