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.

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Tuesday! Oh,Tuesday!

The Hill this time had an ice, sleet (in some cases) and snow storm all at the same time on last Monday night into Tuesday morning. Off the Hill, in many places, it was just wet. In some areas on the Hill, the ice was ¼- to ½-inch thick, and branches were down all over the place.

Late Tuesday morning into the afternoon, it was possible to hear the branches snapping — one right after another. Once off the Hill, it was definitely a ride to Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow over the flats.

The Albany Times Union had pictures of what it was like just a short distance from this scribe’s home and the homes of a few of the OMOTM. However, from the direction listed by the photos, it would be hard to spot these spots.

These places are not in Altamont! The shots that were shown are in the town of Knox. Barbers Corners is at the junction of the Knox Cave road (County Route 252) and Pleasant Valley Road (County Route 254) and Pleasant Valley Equisetum (Gallery) is just a few hundred feet south down Pleasant Valley Road from this corner.

The unfortunate part of this is that the town of Knox does not have a post office. It is serviced by Altamont, East Berne, and Berne — and they are all miles away from Knox.

None of these post-office mailing addresses are anywhere near Barbers Corners, or the Pleasant Valley Exquisitum. However, regardless of the address, the ice found us, and so does the rest of the weather.

OMOTM Hilltown local geography lesson for today supplied to keep visitors from getting lost and wandering all over these hills trying to find this or that.

Living wages

When the OFs who were not on the farm started working, the average hourly wage was 75 cents per hour; in 1956, it went up to a buck an hour.

One OF mentioned he made 88 dollars every two weeks, and everything was taken out of that, and the OF purchased a nice home on that money and at one time even owned a Jaguar. Pensions were based on figures like that.

After working 30 or 40 years, this brings the OFs into the 1990s with the hourly wage somewhere in the range of $6 to $7 per hour. The OFs had worked their way into better positions by then, but the pension programs still did not offer that much, nor did they have to based on projections.

At that time, no one dreamed gas would be $2.50 a gallon and a pound of coffee would be about an hour’s wage.

Schools in the 1940s and early ’50s did not teach much about money, only saving a portion of what the OFs made in a savings plan at the bank. What a difference it is today when there are even classes on just money and investing.

Yet many of the OFs did well and it was basically on hard work and catching on to personally investing in one project or another.

Another advantage, or disadvantage in some cases, was the time when the OFs first started working. Then companies were in the game for the long haul.

One OF mentioned, when working in our area, we had our choice of what company we would work for.  There was the railroad, American Locomotive, General Electric, the state, or a number of large companies we could choose from.

Working for these companies was for the duration of how long anyone was going to work. It was a career more or less. Then along came World War II and everything changed. Now companies come and go, loyalty of company to employee or employee to company is long gone.

One OF blamed it on Harvard, and the numbers guys who turned employees into numbers themselves. No longer did employers consider employees as people, but as numbers.

Today, one OF said his son told him the number employee/employer relationship has a formula that goes something along the line of skill required and years. If someone is a new hire, four years in a skilled position is reasonable by the employee.

This gives them a year or so to learn the job, and two to three years to pay back to the company. From then on, the employee owes the company nothing. It is hard for the OFs to understand this.

Some OFs say they are glad they are out of the work pool now.

Another OF said, “Hey, let alone the work pool, I am glad I don’t have to go to school. Everyone kept telling me I had 10 fingers and I kept telling them I had 11. They kept telling me I was wrong, so I would count them. I counted my left hand, I would go with their system, pinky, 10; ring, 9; index, 8; pointer, 7; thumb, 6, and the five on my right hand and tell them 5 plus 6 is 11. So I am really glad I am not back in school.”

We bet the teachers are glad this wise guy doesn’t have to go back to school now either.

To those Old Men of the Mountain who were low enough in elevation to miss all the ice and made it to Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow, we say congratulations, and they were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rick LaGrange, Joe Rack, Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Harold Grippen, and not me.

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— Photo by Marty Herzog 

Last breakfast: The Old Men of the Mountain ate at the Knox Market & Cafe for the last time on Christmas Eve. The café is closing in Knox and reopening in Clarksville, John R. Williams reports.

Last Tuesday’s breakfast was on Christmas Eve 2019, and it was the last breakfast at the Knox Market & Café because they are closing and moving to Clarksville.

This was the major discussion among the Old Men of the Mountain this morning. It took awhile to sort out all the ins and outs to arrive at the whys and wherefores as to why.

It was almost an immediate decision of the OMOTM to follow Mike to Clarksville. Mike assured the OFs that, at the new location, we would all fit because the place is larger.  The OFs follow the food, and not the quarters.

It is interesting to note the OFs are not diner connoisseurs. The OFs just have a couple of criteria, i.e., the food has to be good, reasonable, and plenty of it. We also have a second requirement — the coffee also has to be good.

The OFs must admit that in the Knox location the space was limited and 30 guys wrangling their way into the café made it a little chummy.

Mind-boggling

One of the creative OFs who had his yard decorated in a unique style (each decorated area tells a story) found that someone took photos and placed them on Facebook.

Some of the other OFs said, “What do you expect when your artwork is displayed in such a fashion? Surely people are going to be intrigued and take pictures if they can.”

The OF who displayed his art in such a background is not upset — just surprised. Many of the OFs are not up on the technology that most phones have now. The phones take better pictures than many cameras; the one taking the picture can post it on the net immediately, and then the whole world can view what the camera operator has just captured in real time.

To many OFs, this technology is mind-boggling.

Sticky wicket

On a note not quite so cheery, the OFs at one table discussed the recent news reports involving the suicides of farmers. The OFs could relate to that because some of the OFs could remember how regulations began to cause so much undo pressure on farmers.

Many small family farms gave up their cows when bulk tanks were a requirement. The small farmer could not afford these tanks and their installation. Then one rule after another came about by do-gooders (according to some of the former farmers), causing them to go under because they could not afford these new rulings.

Apparently, it has gotten worse instead of better. One OF believed that producing farms will soon become fallow land like hundreds of acres in the Hilltowns. Farmers will sell their land as building lots, piece by piece, until the productive land will all be paved over.

One other OF put it this way: A box of cereal will cost ten bucks; then only the rich can eat. The poor people won’t be able to afford to eat. It is a sticky wicket.

Diets

Talking about food and eating, the OFs began talking about what they eat, and how much they now eat. Some just eat what they want and nothing happens, while other OFs strictly watch their diets and others just so-so.

Some OFs said they watch their sugar intake because they have a tendency to be diabetic. As they talked about what they could and couldn’t eat, it made sense for most of the OFs to be on the same kind of diet.

One OF said he does not like to call it a diet but a sensible plan for eating. A few others said they watch their carbs, like breads, bagels, and noodle food. One OF said he watches everything he eats — he watches it go in his mouth and not slide off the fork.

Old soldiers

A couple of the OFs use walkers, and some others really should use walkers because they would be more comfortable. The OFs started a conversation on the design and use of walkers.

One OF complained they are a menace in the mall and the grocery store. The OF said that, when some little old lady wants to push her way through to condiments, those darn walkers are designed to clip us about five inches up in the back of the leg.

“That hurts,” the OF said. “And the little old lady doesn’t care. If we don’t get out of her way, she can whip her cane off the handlebar in an instant and give us a whack across the shoulders.”

“Like I said,” another OF chimed in, “we fight wars with the wrong group of people in the Army. It shouldn’t be kids who are in the Army. It should be cranky OFs like us, and little old ladies in their walkers. We have lived our lives, and we don’t give a hoot, just don’t get in our way. After we have thumped your butt, we won’t even cheer, even though you held us up from our early dinner special.”

All the OFs who were able to come and who managed to fit into the Knox Market & Café for its last day of operation were: Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Jake Lederman, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, (guest Greg Holmes), Russ Pokorny, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Rich Donnelly, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Rev. Jay Francis, Rick LaGrange, Jamey Darrah, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Another Tuesday, another dose of bad weather; this time though, many Old Men of the Mountain made it to the restaurant.

This time, it was Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh for the OMOTM to partake of their annual Christmas party. Patty at Mrs. K’s does it up round with cookies, cakes, and hors d’oeuvres.

The spread is rather lavish and, if an OF fills up on the cheese and crackers, veggie dips, and some kind of little pizza-like thingies (some of these things were pretty spicy), cookies and sweets, they would not have to eat breakfast. However, none of the OFs are so cheap they would pull a stunt like that.

The OFs found the weather to Middleburgh was really lousy, and many schools were closed. This meant the plows did not have to get out early to really clear the roads for the buses or so the OFs thought.

This may not be the case but most of the roads were a mess, and some of the roads the OFs traveled looked like they had not been touched yet. At least by six, seven, or seven-thirty in the morning, they weren’t.

But the OFs are seasoned winter drivers, and if the OFs did not think they were Barney Oldfield when starting out on the snow-covered roads they would arrive at Mrs. K’s in fine fashion.

Glad wishes were then handed out to all the OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s. (Getting home was another matter. This scribe hopes they all arrived home safely. If something happened with car and ditch meeting, most of the OFs are in no condition to push.)

During the holiday season, when friends and families get together, the discussion of the OFs on Tuesday morning was on who is related to whom, and what they are called. Cousins, nephews, first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins (some even brought up kissing cousins; this scribe doesn’t know if that counts), and cousins so far convoluted in the family tree do they even count anymore?

None of the OFs could make much sense of it, and the one that might really know was playing the guitar and singing Christmas songs along with other ditties so that he was not part of the conversation. (Two of the OMOTM were adding music to the festivities by playing guitar and bass guitar, which was a touch of the season that was great.)

One of the OFs who has passed on was fondly mentioned. This OMOTM would come to our December breakfasts in a complete Santa outfit, and he did not require a beard. This OF looked and played the part perfectly because that is what he did during the holiday season.

A story told by one OF about this OF who looked like Santa took place on Sanibel Island in Florida. These two OFs and their wives rented a double house together in Florida and were visiting Sanibel Island. While they waited to board a trolley to take them around the island, a little girl ran up to the Santa-looking OMOTM and asked if he were Santa.

Without skipping a beat, this OMOTM squatted down to her level because he was very tall, and he said “Yes sweetheart, I am Santa,” and he put a finger to his mouth, meaning shush, and he continued, “Don’t tell anyone you saw me. I am on vacation from the North Pole, and all the elves are up in the North Pole, busy making presents for next year. So don’t let anyone know I am down here, OK.”

The OF said that the little girl’s eyes lit up, and she went running to her parents, telling them she saw Santa. The parents, with great big smiles, flashed a high sign to the OMOTM who looked like Santa. The spontaneity of the OF’s response indicated to the OF telling the story that this OMOTM had been through this before.

A new kind of

doctor-patient relationship

The OFs have many continuing topics of discussions that include truck, tractors, cars, work, eating habits and food, trips, farms, and many others that are redundant. One that crops up so often that this scribe can almost sense it coming and that is — wait for it — doctors and health.

Many of the OFs have gotten to the point that they know and respectively call their doctors by their first name; they also know the wife or husband and kids of their doctors.

One OF was telling how a friend of his (and he gave his friend’s first name) had just invested in an antique car to fix up. This OF is also interested in antique anything, like many of the OFs, including cars.

As the OF went along with the dialogue, everyone assumed it was either a friend or relative. The banter back and forth and the topic of exchanging car parts led the OFs to think it was a friend.

Not until near the end did the OFs even realize it was the OF’s doctor. That is what one would call getting to know your physician, and why not?

These doctors are people, too, and hobbies and interests break down class and position, and even education. A Rhodes Scholar can play French horn, right alongside your plumber in the local band; the doctor can play the fiddle shoulder-to-shoulder with a good fiddler from the high school band; and both might play together in the local band.

For a miserable winter’s day, with some of the lucky OFs basking in their winter climes, the Old Men of the Mountain who did make it to Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh were goodly in number, and they were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Roger Shafer on Guitar, Paul Nelson, Rick LaGrange, John Dabravalskas, Bill Lichliter, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Ken Parks, Otis Lawyer, Marty Herzog, Pastor Jay Francis, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin on Bass, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Roger Chapman, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Tuesday, Dec. 10, was a rare day in December. As some of the Old Men of the Mountain began arriving at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown around 6:30 a.m. in the morning, it was dark, warm, and foggy.

The air smelled and felt like spring. A few OFs stood outside of the diner’s door and chatted a bit — soaking it all in before going into the diner. Then stepping into the light and warmth of the diner, they were greeted by the staff and a few patrons, saying good morning, and all starting idle chatter, and the feeling continued. What a great way to start the day.

A spoiler alert: There was a goodly group at the breakfast this Tuesday, unlike last Tuesday when only the brave showed up during the snowstorm. A few of the OFs who were at this breakfast (but not the last one) had to admit they were wrong on their guess of the amount of snow that would fall last week.

These OFs guessed 10 inches would be about it. Wrong!

For many, it was more like 24 inches and a few more inches could even be added for some. These OFs were not plowed out until later in the day, and some were working on snowblowing or plowing their own property out.

Those who made it to Duanesburg came from areas that had a little less snow than those on the mountain, but still it was a great effort for those OMOTM who did their own plowing and the road crews who worked through the night and kept the main roads open.

One OF mentioned that we don’t give enough credit to the workmen and women who are first responders. This includes those who keep our highways open and safe in all kinds of weather; also the power-line crews who are out in all kinds of weather to keep the power flowing for those who are invalids, and trapped in their homes.

These laudable people do their best to keep residents supplied with power no matter what. Many of the OMOTM fall into these categories. A few still are keeping up with these hardy workers while others have performed their duty for years and now age, coupled with health problems, keep them from participating.

Yacht or kayak?

On Tuesday morning, health, again, was one of the topics and how the OFs feel good health is better than money. This scribe has to go along with that wholeheartedly.

This scribe interjected into the conversation that these OFs thinks it is better to be able to travel someplace, or participate in some event on a hundred bucks, than to be able to go around the world with a million bucks and be sick and in the care of nurses. What kind of fun is that? 

One OF commented it depends on how young and good-looking the nurses are. There were a few who agreed with that. These OFs thought they could have a lot of fun on a yacht in the ocean with a couple of nurses.

Once they have seen a tree, they have seen a tree. A tree in East Berne, New York is the same as a tree in Japan, China, Italy, or France. A road with a tractor on it in South Berne, is the same as a road with a tractor on it in England, but on a big yacht, on the ocean, with a couple of young nurses — that is different.

“This OF is missing the point here,” another OF said. “You are sick, you OG, you hurt, you are drugged out, you don’t know what’s going on. There could be 100 nurses, you don’t care, you are sick. You might just as well be on the porch of a nursing home; you are out of it.

“I would rather have a couple-hundred bucks in my pocket headed towards a little cabin in Wells, Maine, in a car that is paid for, with a simple kayak on the roof, than on any big yacht where I have to be pushed in a wheelchair to the bathroom, and then helped into the stall.”

Uh-oh. Most could see where this topic was headed so the subject was quickly changed.

Cost of phones

The OFs then progressed into quite a discussion of cell phones, or iPhones, or whatever they are correctly called. Some of the OFs consider them pocket-sized computers.

It was noticed that some people (and some of the OFs are really into these things and know the ins and outs more than the others) don’t give a hoot; they feel they got along without them before, and they can get along without them now.

That is not completely true in this day and age. Most all the pay phones that used to be at every corner, and banks of them at every Dunkin’ Donuts, are now gone. Now it is necessary to pay hundreds of bucks for a cell phone either for the phone, or for the service.

Back in the day, when using a pay phone, it was only necessary to pay for the call that was being made. At the end of the year, the OFs’ phone expenses for this kind of service might only have been 40 bucks. Now the phone companies have got you for hundreds.

The OFs have to admit that the super-duper phones do a lot more than make phone calls now and someone has to pay for all this technology, and the people who develop it. It is hard for the average OF to comprehend how so much information can be stored on something no bigger than a small spiral-bound notepad, and it will also take beautiful pictures.

Not only does the cell phone do all this but the operator can punch in a few numbers and then can speak almost anywhere in the world. Kids today don’t give it a second thought.

It was good to see all the Old Men of the Mountain make it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown where this Tuesday we were entertained by a young lady playing the guitar and singing Christmas music. The OFs were also treated to a tray of cookies that was passed around to go along with the music.

The OMOTM who partook of all this, were: Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, Roger Shafer, Rick LaGrange, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Fred Crounse, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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