Tuesday May 16 The Old Men of the Mountain traveled to the Chuck Wagon on Route 20 in Princetown. This was an unusual event because the OMOTM were very curious as to what that “glow” was in the sky. Early in the morning it lit up the “back room” of the diner so the blinds had to be closed. This was not common so the OFs had to re-introduce themselves to the sun.

The first topic of most mornings is the weather; this morning it was the wind. The winds did blow and the OFs were asking each other if they had to chase anything down and bring it home. The OFs did not remember any of the forecasters saying it was going to blow like this so the OFs should batten down the hatches.

A common discussion as always is farming and this time it was combining then and now. This was brought about by the animals that were taken from the small farm in the Hilltowns. The OFs said unless they were missing something those horses looked fine to them, and so did the goats. A horse, when it sheds in the spring is normally a ratty looking animal, and a muddy barnyard is normal. A pig is in pig heaven when the pig is wallowing in mud. Maybe there is something more going on here that the OFs missed. The place could have been kept up a little better. The OFs only know what they read in the papers.

Crazy as a...

Loons!  The OFs began talking about loons, one saying that he was watching them dive underwater and had no idea where they would come up.  Another OF said that loons have trouble walking on land because of the position of their legs and feet. The OF said the legs of a loon are placed way in the back of the bird. This, the rest of the OFs did not know. The OF said they appear to raise themselves up a little and then push themselves along the ground, then collapse on the ground after going about a foot to a foot-and-a-half, then they start the whole process over.

The OFs said there are laws protecting loons and their nests. The wake of a boat can flood a loon’s nest and it is then destroyed. This OF continued, “The nest is built at the water’s edge and not only a boat can wreck a nest, but a strong storm can wash one away, or a drought can lower the level of the lake and loons can’t make it to the nest.”   It is tough to be a Loon.

One OF said he was on a lake in New Hampshire standing on a dock and loons were swimming in clear water only a few feet from the dock. The OF said he could see the loons under the water and he said they are fast swimmers and dart all over the place after small fish. The OF thought they could stay under for about two minutes and would come up nowhere near where they went down. This OF said it was a rare sight and many do not get a chance to see it.

Workaday

Does hard work help you live longer, or does hard work bring on an early demise?  The OFs were wrestling with this dilemma to see why most of the OMOTM are OMOTM. The OFs could not come up with a real conclusion. Many of the OFs worked hard when they were younger. The definition of hard work the OFs were talking about was physically hard work, i.e., lifting bales, hauling rocks to a rocking boat, lifting milk cans, swinging pick axes, using shovels — that type of work — and doing it day in and day out. Then there is hard work like driving a bus, the actual physical work is not much, but the mental, nervous energy is hard work. So who is going to make it to 80 and still be mobile and alert? The OFs considered work as work is a crap shoot. No one really knows.

This conversation sent this scribe to the net to do some research. The OFs considered lifestyle. A bad lifestyle and hard work (the OFs think) makes viewing grass from the brown side come pretty early, and the same goes for the mental hard work with the bad lifestyle. The OFs were beginning to think it is lifestyle and not what type of work the OF did for a living.

What this scribe found out is that going by the numbers, the numbers show playing by the book is the way to go. That is if you are a gambling man. The averages work better for those trying to live a healthy lifestyle than those who don’t. It isn’t that hard to do it right, only it is expensive. To live healthy costs money and many underprivileged persons don’t have the means to get on that bandwagon.

One OF mentioned a relative who smoked, drank, and caroused, beyond the dirty old man age and still lived into his 80s, while another relative had a lifestyle basically clean as a whistle and passed away in his mid 60s. A second OF added, “When your number is up, it is up, no matter what.” In this OF’s opinion lifestyle had nothing to do with it. Another discussion that can go on and on.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and ate what they wanted because, doggone it, many of the OFs are in their 80s and they didn’t get here by making too many bad choices, were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, (and it was Guest last week instead of Grippen), Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Art Frament, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Mike Willsey Gerry Chartier, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Jess Vadney, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On a rather chilly day for the month of May, the ninth, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg.

Duanesburg is quite a hub basically in the middle of nowhere. This is where two main highways intersect — Route 20, which travels east and west, and Route 7, which also travels east and west. Both highways will bring the traveler to Route 81 — Route 7 at Binghamton, and Route 20 just below Syracuse. However, Binghamton is southwest of Albany and Syracuse is about due west of Albany.

The OFs are very familiar with both roads because the OFs were traveling in these directions way before Route 88 and Route 87 (the Thruway) were built. The OFs were driving their cars on Route 20, going up and down the hills to Syracuse, and navigating all the small towns along Route 7 to Binghamton. The construction of routes 87 and 88 eliminated most of the dreaded curves and hills.

Bugged

This time of year, the bugs start to make their presence known. One that is not really a bug (but an OF tossed it into the mix of bugs) is the carpenter bee. There were two suggestion of how to get rid of these bees, which can do considerable damage with their ability to drill perfect half-inch holes in wooden trim and siding of the OFs’ houses, sheds, or garages.

The one that sounded like a sport (if the OF has the time) is to take a badminton racket and stand where these bees are hovering. When the bee shows up to find out what the OF is doing there, the OF can swat it with the racket.

“Works every time,” the OF who offered this suggestion said.

Made sense to the rest of us. The OFs will use anything that will get rid of them so we do not have to use sprays and poison.

The other non-poisonous way was to wait until evening when the bees are all in their holes, then take fine steel wool and duct tape and plug up the hole. Most will die but some of them might start another hole and chew their way out. According to the OF who uses this technique, this does not happen very often.

The OFs were a little upset about all these people that use pesticides and lawn chemicals so they can have lawns that look like carpets. These chemicals are decimating the bee population and other insects that pollinate the fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers. Some of the OFs feel that using these sprays also adds to the recipe of chemicals that pollute the air we breathe.

Duct tape guru

What did we do before duct tape? There was friction or electrical tape but that was nothing like duct tape. It is amazing to see a NASCAR car slam into a wall at 180 miles an hour, get mangled, and, when it is brought into the pits, the pit crew sticks the sheet metal back together with duct tape.

The car then goes back onto the track and races to the end, again at 180 miles an hour, and nothing flies off the damaged car. One OF said you couldn’t do that with friction tape.

Whatever happened to “The Red Green Show?” the OFs want to know. He was the duct tape guru.  

Small world

The OFs talked about how small the world really is, and they were wondering how two people who know each other sometimes meet in the strangest places. There are 7,500,000,001 (about) in the world and yet the OFs say they can be 3,000 miles from home, go into a restaurant, and there sits an uncle the OF hasn’t see in 15 years.

The former anecdote is hypothetical but the following is actual. One OF said that his sister was on a plane in Dallas, Texas and a man came and sat next to her and this man turned out to be her nephew whom she had not seen in about 20 years. She had lost all contact with him and found out that this nephew now lives in Pittsburgh.

Another OF said the same thing happened to him when they were in Hawaii. The OF said they were checking in at a hotel and the wife said, “Isn’t that Uncle Bill?”

The OF said, “It looks like him but he moved to Los Angeles and you know how we all have doubles wandering about that looks like someone we know.”

The wife said she was going to get closer and check; she did and it was Uncle Bill.  He was checking into the same hotel. It’s a small world after all, or maybe there is a parallel universe and every now and then we jump from universe to universe and don’t know it.

Parking-lot tryst

To some of the OFs, shopping is a drag, unless the OF is in a hardware store, so many of the OFs, when taking their wives to Kohl’s, take a nap in the car. This scribe would like to report that this is a rare happenstance; however, it is a common event.

The OFs started telling what goes on in the parking lots of some of these places while the ladies are shopping. According to the OFs, it is a lot more fun in the parking lot than in the store.

One OF said he was sitting in his car, drinking a soda, when a car pulled up in the line in front of him and stopped. There was only one person in the car but he did not get out. Shortly after that, another car pulled into a space about four cars down and a young lady got out and went to the car with the guy in it.

What went on, the OF recalled, cannot be printed in black and white in a family paper, but the couple were definitely not mad at each other. After a while (quite a while, the OF thought), the young lady got out of the guy’s car, went back to her car, and left. Neither one went into the store.

The OF was asked if he got the license plate numbers, and the OF said, “Darn it, no; I didn’t think of it.”

Apparently it is more fun in the parking lot. The OFs wonder if the people doing whatever in the parking lot knew most parking lots are now on camera.

The OMOTM who hauled out of bed and made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, and none were wiping the sleepy dirt from their eyes, were: Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Chick Aelesio, Ray Frank, Marty Herzog, Ted Peterman, Ted Feurer, Harold Grippen, John Rossmann, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Mike Willsey, Gerry Willsey, and me.

 

Location:

— John R. Williams

Roger Chapman restoring a large Farmall 560 is captured in this painting by John R. Williams.

— John R. Williams

Portrait of the artist on an Allis Chalmers. John R. Williams recalls, “We had a Farmall ‘H’ on the farm and a cub. Our next-door neighbor had Allis Chalmers. When I would go and help him, that is what we used...Another OMOTM, Carl Slater, had his Farmall wide-front M if front of his old barns and I did a painting of that one, too. Jim Gage’s on his M is another painting.”

On May 2,  the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie.

You can’t miss the Your Way Café. It is on the left-hand side of “Main Street” going into the village past the Old Stone Fort and Fox Creek end of the village, and it is painted bright yellow.

This is to answer all the questions the OFs get like, “Where did you guys have breakfast today?” when bumping into friends later on Tuesday or the next day. Almost all the inquirers then say, “Where is that?” and the OFs have to explain with the addition of, “You should try it; it is really good.”  The OFs don’t go to bad restaurants.

As one of the OFs was leaving the restaurant with a couple of other OFs, a patron going into the restaurant singled out an OF he knew but he did not know the other two OFs, and they didn’t know him. His greeting was “Hey, [name], when did they throw you out of jail? How the h---are ya?” The other OFs said they had to remember that one.

Most all the OFs wear jeans. One or two continue to wear the bib-type overall (this is not in the least unusual) because jeans are the pants of choice for both men and women these days. The OFs mentioned how, when they were young (and that was just a little time ago), a good pair of jeans cost five to nine bucks.

“Today,” one OF said, “they are selling artificially mud-colored jeans for $425.”

All the OFs said they have three or four pairs of clean dirty jeans anyone can have for $20. They are all broken in and won’t turn your legs blue the first time you wear them, and the zippers work.

“Holy cow,” one OF said, “I can buy a brand-new lawnmower for $425 and look how much work goes into making one of those.” How much effort does it take to sew in four pockets, six or eight belt loops, a zipper, and one button with a button hole?

Makes no sense to me; next thing you know they will be adding “real barn smell that will not wash out.”  Can you picture the ads for these?”

Tending lawns

The OFs mentioned how many times they have mowed their lawns so far. As of May 2, the tales were from two times to one OF who mentioned he has had to mow his lawn four times already.

Another OF listened as all the OFs were discussing the time spent on their lawns and he just kept turning his head to each OF as they spoke. Finally, this OF said he has mowed part of his lawn once and had to do that because some of the lawn had a few high spots in it. This OF said his lawn was 12-percent grass, 30-percent weeds, 18-percent rocks, 20-percent roots, and 20-percent moss and dirt. The OF said he mows about three acres of this concoction, and from a distance, “Hey, it looks pretty good.”

One OF said he wouldn’t mow his lawn at all. He is a closet naturalist and whatever grows, grows. However, the wife has other ideas, so he mows the lawn and keeps it looking good; he also has no plantings close to the house.

This OF said tall grass and shrubs are where the bugs hang out that get into your house. If you have cluster flies, mow your lawn and they will be gone, and ants and other bugs live on the shrubs and peonies and they get in the house by themselves or your cat and dog brings them in.

One OF said that he has a back room that is seldom used at his place and the occasional mouse has gotten in there so he keeps setting traps. At one time, there was a mouse in the trap and, when he removed the dead rodent from the trap, a deer tick ran out from under the mouse and down the trap. The OF said he had gloves on and was able to kill the tick, but the OF said that animals not only bring in routine pests but they can bring in some nasty ones also.

Tractor talk

The OFs somehow started talking about supply and demand. The OFs know of this little formula for living very well by many having been working for themselves — mostly as farmers.

The OFs think that a lot of what we purchase, especially if it is something everyone uses, or needs, industry builds in a planned obsolescence so whatever it is will break down or run out in a predetermined time frame. This means the dumb thing won’t work and the OF has to go get a new one, and that generates a perpetual demand. The OFs think the one exception to that rule happened by accident.

That is the Farmall tractor! Those things ran forever, and many that were made in the forties are still running and working today. That tractor was so simple and dependable the farmer could fix it with baling wire, friction tape, and a large pair of channel locks. (There was no duct tape then.)

When the 1940s began, International Harvester’s Farmall was the most popular tractor brand in the United States. But during the decade its market share was challenged.  Just before the war, IH had to respond to the introduction of the inexpensive Allis-Chalmers Model "B." IH had already been experimenting with small-tractor designs.

So, as the decade began, it quickly introduced the second generation of Farmalls — the famous “Letter Series” tractors. (Thanks Google). What happened is the Farmall (as it once was) is no longer made.

Those Old Men of the Mountain that made it to the Your Way Café, and, yes, they know the way; it is in Schoharie as they say, and not too hard to find, unless of course you are blind.  The color is yellow bright, so the OFs can find it at night, and the OFs that found it on Tuesday were: Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Ray Frank, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Chuck Aelesio, John Rossmann, Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Sonny Mercer, Don Wood, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Duncan Bellinger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ray Kennedy, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, April 25, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh.

Mrs. K’s is just down the street, towards the creek, from Middleburgh Central School. When the little darlings are going to school, particularly in the morning, traffic is held up so the buses can leave and enter the school discharge area.

In the street are two traffic wardens holding up traffic in either direction so this can be done. The lines of traffic that are held up both ways make the OFs wonder if there are any cars left in the county. Tuesday morning when some of the OFs left the restaurant, the cars on the street went from the school, to the bridge (and over it) that crosses the Schoharie creek in Middleburgh.

To continue with the early morning of the 25th, the weather was great, but about two days prior to the 25th the OFs talked about scraping ice and frost off their windshields. No wonder so many people have the sniffles, the OFs say; their old bodies don’t handle this 70 degrees one day, and 30 degrees the next, then back to 70, then down to 40 the next day very well.

One OF said that, with this weather, spring has sprung (and that is what it is doing, acting like a spring and bouncing all over the place) and he was digging large holes for transplanting shrubs. One of the shrubs the OF mentioned was the Beauty Bush.

The other OFs around our end of the table could not picture what would be called a Beauty Bush and they had no idea what it was. The OF said that, for some reason, when he was digging the hole to have a good earth ball on the plant, he found the ground (where that shrub was planted) was very dry.

When he lifted the shrub out of the ground, all the earth fell off the earth ball that was supposed to cling to the plant and the OF was left with just a collection of roots. The OF planted it anyway and hopes it will take hold.

There is such a thing as a Beauty Bush and a characteristic of the bush is its perfume-like fragrance when in flower. According to Google, the Latin name (in parenthesis) for the shrub is Kolkwitzia Amabillis. The OFs may have seen this bush but had no idea what it was called; again, it was those at this one section of the table.

Spicey question

Does pepper help in the aging process? Many of the OFs douse everything in pepper — well, almost everything. To see some of the OFs’ plates at breakfast, it makes other OFs wonder if their colons are made of cast iron. No matter what they order from the kitchen, the first thing these OFs do is make it black with pepper.

We have yet to see these OFs order oatmeal but, if they did, they would probably cover it black with pepper. With all the pepper in the air used by many pepper shakers being shaken, no one sneezes.

There is one OF who uses so much pepper that the other OFs around him either grab it first so they can also have some, or hide it so he can’t get to it before their meals come out. If this OF can’t find the pepper shaker, he goes and snitches one from another table.

Difficulties of death

The OFs are close to the end of having to get up in the morning so a discussion was had on how to provide for the kids when the time comes for the morning of all mornings. The discussion was not on stuff, but on all the legal hassle, paperwork, burial arrangements, and all the entanglements that can ensue.

The conversation wound up nowhere because even though some of the OFs have been through it and think they know what to do and how to set it up there always seems to be problems, and all of it costs money with nothing to show for it.

There must be some way, the OFs think, that, upon their passing through the pearly gates, their kids are not bogged down in legal entanglements and they realize their parents really did their best to try to avoid problems and thought they did all the right things.

That is one thing the OMOTM does not have in the group — an attorney that is crowding the end of light to give us advice on what he has done, and what the OMOTM should do.

No woe

There was also another discussion that was somewhat like the aforementioned, and this, again, is events that are life-changing and how that can turn a jovial person into an old crank. But as a member of the OFs there is much support to prevent this from happening because so many are in the same boat.

Operations that can go wrong, and operations that are just are operations. One OF mentioned he went from working out in the gym, to doing four- to five-mile walks, to doing nothing in one day. The OF said, “Thank goodness they have stuff other than rat poison to thin the blood now.”

Some of the OFs knew exactly what he was talking about. So sitting across from people who truly understand the OFs’ predicament is a big help. Much better than sitting home and going “woe is me.”

Going to the OFs and doing your “woe is me” here, you still won’t get any sympathy because you will be out-woed.  (Does anyone think that should be “woe am I”?)

Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and who beat the morning small-town rush hour were: Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Roger Chapman, Otis Lawyer, David Williams, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Don Wood, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Jess Vadney, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

This week, the Old Men of the Mountain managed to meet at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie on Tuesday, April 18.

At this breakfast, we were taken care of by a new waitress who apparently was not familiar with the OMOTM. When the first eight or 10 of the OFs arrived at the Country Café and had seated themselves, the waitress came, introduced herself, and asked what we wanted to drink.

She had a carafe of regular coffee in her hand, then asked who wanted coffee; the answer from the OFs was a typical OF answer. Out of eight or 10 OFs, some wanted regular, some wanted decaf, one wanted ice water, and one wanted OJ. The waitress was about to find out there is nothing simple when dealing with old people.  

After taking care of the early risers’ coffee requests, the waitress asked a normal chit-chat question. “Just what do the Old Men of the Mountain do?” she asked, pointing to the OMOTM caps on some of the OFs.

In unison, like singing a song, the OFs replied, “Nothing; we do absolutely nothing.”

This took the new waitress back a little — here is a group of OFs that get together and do nothing. The long and short answer is: Yep — you got it; nothing is our thing; “we do nothing” is our motto.

However, we do have a 22-page set of bylaws to keep everything civil and on track so doing something does not get in the way of our nothingness.

Springing into spring

Many of the OFs are actively getting ready for spring. This includes making sure all the small engines that are used during the spring, summer, and fall are in good working order and will start when they should. When all these little engines are put together, an individual OF will have quite a few.

There are the lawnmowers, the weed whackers, the chain saws, the leaf blowers, the rototillers, the tractors, the debris pumps, a generator, and who knows what else that has some little engine attached to it — plus, in the winter time, it is the snow blower.

As mentioned in previous columns, we have a few OFs who repair small engines; one in particular performs small-engine repair as a business. This OF is now putting people on a list that is two weeks out because he is so busy.

This OF must be really good at his job because his hands look like a surgeon’s hands. They are clean and not all nicked up with cuts and bruises

Tools of the trade

This led the OFs into talking about tools of the trade and how OFs who do a lot of woodworking, metalwork,  hobby and craft work, or work in the woods, have much better tools, and the right tool instead of the OF who does it only once or twice a year with a hammer and a crowbar.

The crowbar will be three times larger than required, or the OF will need one three times larger than the one he is using. The same goes for the hammer, or maybe the saw with teeth that are as smooth as the back of the saw.

The OF said that, having the right tool for the job, and having that tool in good condition, is key to making any job fun and easy. One OF said it cuts down on a lot of cussing and swearing, nicks  and bruises, trips to the doctors’ and hospital, and finally wasted time and a good reason for divorce.  

Shenanigans

The OFs talked a little bit about what they did to make a living when they were younger. If some of the shenanigans that went on at work were true, it is a wonder many of the OFs weren’t sacked.

Within this conversations were snippets of what may have precipitated the shenanigans. One was politics where one OF described an attempt to imitate a German accent on an employee (where he worked) opinion of politician’s work ethic even then as trick and swindle. This may or may not be true but seems to be a common trait today by some.

The other which brought agreement (and this scribe realizes this is in the paper) ,they didn’t trust the press then, and even less now.

One OF added, “I don’t know about you guys but I worked the farm; the hours were long, the work was hard; I was the boss and the hired hand. I didn’t pay any attention to either of them. If I had any free time, the wife and I would go to a farm auction or a square dance.  Life was simple and fun but at the time we did not know it.”

Head-scratching

This scribe does not know how many topics of conversation at the table get started or when they end, so this causes much head-scratching at the computer to figure out how to interpret some of the notes on this scribe’s little pocket pad. If the notes are truly in sequence, the OFs went from the topics above to Easter dinners and what to do with leftovers.

Food for thought

One OF described in much detail what was done with the leftovers at his place. This OF said after the meal they prepared the leftovers so they could be used for many meals later on.

They took the ham and cut all the meat off the ham and left the bone for making soup. They took the slices from the ham and prepared them for sandwiches. They took the meat close to the bone and cut it plus they used the ham sauce to be part of the ingredients for making macaroni and cheese.

If enough was left from that, they placed chunks in plastic bags for ham salad. The mashed potatoes were pre-prepared for making potato pancakes. The OF said in the morning they would cook up the potato pancakes, fry up some eggs and bacon, plop them on top of the pancakes and that is good eating!

One OF said, “It sounds like you had a meal with a 10- pound ham for only three or four people. At our place, after we pass out some paper plates for some to take home, there is not much food left over for leftovers.”

Maybe the OFs should sit down with the wife and write down some of their recipes, and special meal preparations, and  even include some of the OFs parent’s recipe collection and make their own OF’s cookbook.

That could be a collection of recipes going back to around 1885 plus, with the ages of the OFs, that would be a collection of recipes that would be doggone healthy, because we made it to be OFs!

Those OFs who made it to the Country Café in Schoharie because of the healthy eating of days gone by were: Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Rev. Jay Francis, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Herb Bahrmann, Elwood Vanderbilt, Jess Vadney, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

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