This little report of the Old Men of the Mountain has been hitting the printed page for about 23 or so years, and every Tuesday of those 23 or so years the Old Men of the Mountain have met at one restaurant or another. This Tuesday was no different; so on Tuesday, Nov. 6, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie.

This scribe does not know about other hearing-aid wearers (or should that be other people who wear hearing aids) but this scribe and other OMOTM who wear them say the same thing: Hearing aids do not work well in a crowded or noisy restaurant.

This Tuesday, the scribe forgot his and actually heard better than if he had worn them. This scribe thinks leaving them on the kitchen table may become a routine because, when they are in the ears, while driving to the eating place, all the scribe hears is the car engine and road noise, and very little conversation going on in the vehicle.

With them out of the ears, the scribe hears more of the conversation and says “what” when he can’t make it out and it is repeated more loudly. This works well.

Wood talk rekindled

Separated by a week, the wood conversation continued, only this time it was on pellet stoves, how they work, and what they cost, and deals that are out there. In essence, with these stoves, the OFs are still burning wood.

It is like a printer who gets ink in his veins, as does a writer who gets words in his brains. Wood-burners get wood in their veins, and smoke in their nostrils. If the house catches on fire, does a wood-burning aficionado think it is a natural smell and pays no attention to it? Hmm.

Cash conundrum

Next the OFs started talking about money, and who has it. The OFs looked up and down the table and arrived at the conclusion that none of them have any.

Then they started talking about 1,000-dollar bills, and one OF said you can’t get one anymore. That OF is right. The government stopped printing any bills higher than $100 in 1969. If you are lucky enough to have a few 1,000-dollar bills hanging around they will still be honored by the bank.

One OF who is in business for himself required a good sum of money to make a purchase on a large piece of equipment in a cash-only deal at an auction. This OF went to the bank and the OF said the request was for 10 grand in cash.

The OF claimed the bank could only scrape up 54 hundred bucks. The OFs all looked at the OF, telling the story like this is a bunch of hooey, but the OF insisted it was factual.

The grass is greener

Now that it is early November and the grass in the geography the OFs travel is greener than springtime, the OFs started talking about still having to mow the lawn, even though many have winterized their mowers. However, some of the OFs say, to heck with it.

One stated, “I am not mowing the lawn while everything is so wet; let it grow!”

Another added he doesn’t want to mow the lawn in a mackinaw and mukluks. “Amen to that one,” was the general reply.

This brought up (for some reason) lawn tractors that die in the middle of a mow. The OFs say they go by many homes where the old lawn mower sits in the yard right where it quit and grass is growing up around it. The owner has purchased a new one and just mows around the old one and there it sits.

Ah! Lawn Art!

One OF said, “Hey it is Lawn Art. Stick a potted plant on the seat and give it a title and there you go.  Heck, we have lots of OFs that have good examples of Lawn Art. Some by accident, and some by design. If you get a couple of junk cars, put some flowers on the roof, and vines around the bumper — bingo! There’s your Lawn Art.”

The OF continued, “If you have to replace the john, take the old one and put it alongside the driveway, stick a pole in the tank, and a sign on it with your name and house number — voila!  There it sits, a clever icon for your home that is not going to blow over.”

The OF continued with lots of what we consider junk and how he could turn it into Lawn Art with just a little imagination, time, and very little money.

If you have two junk cars, put them on the front lawn, front end to front end, and jack up the back a couple of feet. Then hide some speakers inside one or the other vehicle, go purchase a sound-effect CD of crashes and explosion and have a ball — Ah! Lawn Art!

“With Christmas coming up,” this OF said, “look at the possibilities with the lights or old Christmas trees.”

The OF thought maybe we could use an old top-loading washer. Take a motor, some plywood, and any cheap thing to use as a couple of rods. Put a two-foot lighted tree in it and have the lid push up, and have the tree rise up at the same time and then go back down like a jack-in-the-box.

Of course, it would need Christmas music coming out of it. The OF thought that would be slick. Ah, Lawn Art.

Another OF came up with having two johns do the same thing with Santa hats on the tops, the lids going up and down with music playing. Why, three in a row could be choir. Ah, Lawn Art.

Those OFs who made it to the Your Way Café in Schoharie, and are going home to search for Lawn Art were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Rev, Jay Francis, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mine Willsey, Winnie Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

The breakfast was on Tuesday, Oct. 30, one week before Election Day. Thank goodness! Election Day can’t come soon enough.

Those OMOTM who watch the news are so sick of the political ads they are ready to shoot the TV, or just give up watching it altogether until the election is over. Many of the OFs who have digital video recorders have recorded the shows they like and they will watch them later and skip the ads.

One OF said he thought it was a concentrated effort from all parties to keep the vote down so they can control the voting. This way, only the party faithful will go to the polls.

The OF is so disgusted by all of these ads he said, “How can we trust any of them?”

This OF said he just can’t vote for any of the people running for office because these ads are so intruding, unnecessary, and vulgar. How can their family and friends put up with these ads? Why would any decent person want to run for office?

After the venting settled down, at least we can report that Tuesday morning all who showed up at the Country Café in Schoharie (the waitress was nice enough to open up before the opening time and at least get the coffee going) did so without getting lost by road closures, or fog.

Christmas catalogs cause confusion

This time of year, the OFs are getting tons of catalogs that have (most of the time) mostly useless items in them and all the items seems to be priced at $14.99. Every now and then, one of the items will have a different or cute twist to it that just fills the bill for someone on the Christmas list and orders are made. This is all it takes to continue the flow of these catalogs.

A few of the OFs had the same experience and got snookered into a legitimate scheme used by the catalog companies to get the unsuspecting OF ordering into a “Free Shipping” program. Most of the time (this scribe heard), it was the wife doing the ordering. The OFs themselves think that these catalogs are comic books and they just look at them and emit the occasional chuckle from time to time.

Almost all these catalogs have a shipping trap in their order form and some of the OFs have been caught in that. One form to order so much in dollars, and that dollar amount is not much, so it is easy to get to it, then they will ship free when the box for free shipping is checked. That is a big whoop.

The OF found a charge on his credit card from a certain company and he had no idea what it was for. In checking with his credit-card company they researched it and found it was a shipping company from a catalog and the OF had signed up for that company to pay the shipping.

The charge would come every month and the shipping from that catalog would be free. “Say what!” That offer was killed in a hurry by the OF.

The other OF had his problem hidden in the order form (off in a corner space) and it offered basically the same thing. If you order so many dollars in merchandise, you receive free shipping.

However, this form said, if you do not want the free shipping, check the box. That is clever. Sure you want the free shipping — so the OF said to himself, why check the box? Then the same thing happened.  

The OF had this charge from some company he did not know, but the charge was small and he thought his wife bought something, so he paid it. The next month, the same company and the same charge so then the OF called the credit-card company.

Same scenario as above and, as the conversation went on, the OFs found out the amount being charged was the same in all cases. As one OF said, “It is always buyer beware.’”

Ahoy!

The Pirate Ship was again a short topic of discussion as it is now in the water. The OF has the ship decorated for Halloween with life-sized skeletons waving to the passers-by with knives and swords in their hands.

This thing is getting to look more like the Flying Dutchman from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Best of times

The OFs — at one section of the table — jumped off the Hill for awhile and talked about what the small towns of Central Bridge and Howes Cave in Schoharie County were like in the late forties to the early seventies. They were much different than they are now.

North American Cement was thriving big-time, and supporting smaller little businesses that were around the area from Cobleskill to Schoharie and Middleburgh. Even Albany and Schenectady shared in what was required to keep the plant running.

Central Bridge had tons of businesses: a hardware store, a lumber and coal yard, a good-size grain mill, a hardware and fuel-oil company, a car dealership, an engine-reconditioning plant, and assorted stores. Since the demise of the cement plant, most all is gone now.

The OFs still think they lived in the best of times; however, these OFs will pass on and other OFs will take over and those OFs will think they lived in the best of times.

The OFs who think they lived in the best of times may be right as they are still able to make it to the Country Café in Schoharie and some were waiting at the door like cows waiting at the gate to go to the barn. Finally, the farmer’s daughter came and let them through, and these OFs were: Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Wayne Gaul, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Kenny Parks, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

Tuesday — and the month of October is almost gone because it was the 23rd of the month when the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Family Restaurant in the center of the town of Middleburgh.

It is fun and encouraging to see the OMOTM filter into each restaurant and see they are still OK and ambulatory. The early morning chatter was on the subject of the morning entrances because we have a couple of OFs who are not able to make it. Concerns for these regulars who are having a tough time was deep and heartfelt.

Here it is October, and the OFs haven’t even had a chance to go trick-or-treating (using their own ugly faces as masks) nor have they even had a chance to put out the Thanksgiving decorations and they were talking about Christmas. This scribe feels it is Madison Avenue brainwashing and what brains the OFs have left fall right into it, including this scribe’s.

Many of the OFs are giving up traditions that used to be looked forward to with happy anticipation. Now it all seems like work.

One of these “traditions” was burning wood. Some of the OFs are chucking it in and are not going to burn wood any more. A few of the “younger OFs” who have wood lots are still going to heat with this renewable fuel source.

Of course they would; except for the time, fuel, and equipment, it is free. (English: a simple, but confusing language. For instance “Would wood be the answer to build those shelves?” is just one such English example.) The cost of a cord of wood today is another reason the OFs named for giving up heating with wood.

According to the OFs in this discussion, a cord of wood is about the equivalent of 100 gallons of fuel oil. A cord of wood today, according again to the OFs, is from $300 a full cord to $240 or $270 a full cord.

Now, one OF said, it is approaching, and in some cases exceeding, the price of fuel oil and with fuel oil the supplier pumps it in the tank, and the furnace burns it. All the OF has to do is change the filter every now and then.

“Look at what I have to do to burn wood,” the OF continued. “I have to stack it, store it, haul it in, put it in the stove, burn it, haul out ashes, make sure they are dumped in a safe place, and clean the chimney every now and then. The glamour is gone,” the OF said.

Trees fade away

Now comes Christmas and the Christmas tree! Here too, the OFs said, the kids are gone, and there are still the grandkids, but with many of the OFs, the grandkids are ready to be parents themselves, and some are.

This leads to the demise of going out and getting a tree. Taking the kids out in the snow to cut a live tree was an integral part of Christmas.

Later on, putting up the big seven-foot artificial tree (after the kids left home) was the next step. That, too, became a lot of work, and just finding a place to store the big tree was another hassle.

Some missed the nostalgic feeling of the tree, real or not, and hanging all the ornaments, but it finally broke down to all the work involved in hauling all these ornaments out of the attic or basement, and putting them away.

One OF thought this was part of the fun and they really decorated the tree and the house for Christmas. Then, the OF said, after the kids moved all over the country, they cut way back on their decorating.

However, the OFs said, they still get the urge, and still have most of the stuff. But this OF said he is ready to join the others with the three- to four-foot table trees. Only a few of the OFs said they have no tree at all now. It is quite a tradition, and business, too, for that matter, that the Germans started years ago.

Winning ways

The huge lotteries out there right now were a lively topic the OFs discussed. “What would you do?” the OFs asked each other, “if you won all that money?”

The OFs basically had no idea. Most said they would spread it around the family, and donate it to their favorite charities, or church.

Some of the OFs had their own lottery-winning stories. One OF said that a friend of theirs from high school days moved away and became quite wealthy on their own. They won a big lottery, in the millions, and, before even accepting it when, the taxes could be taken out, winnings were immediately donated —  half to a hospital where they worked, and half to some charity (the OF forgot which one).

Because they never accepted the winnings and all the money went to charities, the state was not able to tax it, the friend said. This OF doesn’t know if it was maintained or not, or if the state was able to wrangle their paws around what they say is their share.

The OF said he never followed up on that point. It would be interesting, now that the OFs were talking about lotteries, to see how that would work in New York, or if any state would have in place a sneaky little law or rule just to cover this to make sure the state got its chunk of the pie.

Of all the OFs at one end of the table who discussed the lottery, none of them said they would share it with the Old Men of the Mountain, and all OMOTM who attended the breakfast at Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Roger Shafer, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Duncan Bellinger, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazzo, Harold Grippen, and me.

By the way, this year, everyone is the same age. Take the year you were born, add your age and the answer is 2018. Try it with any age 75, 25, or 5 years old. 1932 plus 86 = 2018.

Location:

A beautifully restored 1933 M.G., like this one, was a standout at a huge car show recently attended by some of The Old Men of the Mountain.

Finally! A Tuesday when it wasn’t foggy, with rain or drizzle, hampering the drive to whatever restaurant was on the list for Tuesday.

This past Tuesday, it happened to be the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and still a couple of carloads of Old Men of the Mountain were left wandering around the hills because of unexpected detours, twisting the OMOTM around. As one OF put it, it is election time and some the roads are being fixed or at least patched.

At Tuesday morning’s breakfast, some of the OFs reported on a boat trip they made up the Hudson River from Coxsackie to Albany on one of the OF’s boats. From their report, the weather was perfect and a great day for boating.

This was rare; the OFs said we have not had many of these lately. The captain of this crew said one of the OFs took the trip for just what it was supposed to be. He sprawled out on the back seat and took the whole seat up for the entire trip.

He did perk up when they were passing a huge beautiful yacht. The OFs had quite a time reporting on how large this yacht was; the OFs said it was painted gold.

It was also, according to these OFs, decorated in the Art Deco style, and was being piloted by a couple who apparently considered clothes optional. It was that aspect that perked up the old gent in the back seat.

The captain reported he was unable to partake in this short show because at the time they were passing the yacht there was a tug boat approaching and he had to navigate the waters with the swells from these larger boats, and he was trying hard not to run into either one of them.

When cars and phones were simpler

This gets so redundant but, with a bunch of OFs, it is to be expected. Again, some of the OFs attended a huge car show in Pennsylvania.

And to these OFs the hit of the show was a 1933 M.G. This was beautifully a restored vehicle. To the OFs, one would think it would be something more upscale that caught their eye.

One OF said that when he was younger — much younger — sports cars were his thing, The OF said that he went through the ranks and graduated to a Jaguar XK 120 CM (coupe modified), which is a vehicle he should have kept, but being young, “What did I know?” the OF asked. That car could be his retirement today.

Another OF said we all have cars we would like to get back. The new ones may be nice, but they don’t seem to have any character. Another OF brought up that he thinks that goes for just plain older folks — not only for vehicles but other items also.

Then one old goat said, “Don’t go into the past” because he likes things the way they are now.

Some thought the OG may be right in a way because, when we were in our forties, we would always show up at the dealerships and see what the newest vehicles were and what they could do differently, etc. However, somewhere along the line things changed and the new didn’t seem that new or interesting. Then it got out of hand and we wanted the vehicle we had in the 1950s.

Another example cited was the old-fashioned rotary phone. They were easy to understand. Just insert your index finger in the hole on the dial and twist — that was it. It wasn’t necessary to go to school to learn how to use your phone.

Dealing with critters and crickets

The OFs began talking about the amount of small critters we have this fall like field mice, chipmunks, squirrels, and assorted other beetles and bugs that want to get into the house to keep warm this time of year.

One OF told of a nest of chipmunks he had in his place and, after a little patience and pest-detective work, he found where they were getting in and he plugged up the hole with a piece of tin. That, the OF said, worked for a little while, then he heard them again in the same spot where they must have returned to the nest.

This time, through the same detective work, he found they worked their way up through the cellar. It was suggested he get some live traps and haul those suckers away.

One OF suggested rat traps. Another, who spoke from experience, said the chipmunks just haul those things away and then they die someplace and smell like a dead rat.

A second OF said, “What do you do with them after you trap them in a live trap?”

The other retorted, “I’ll haul them to your place — you have 20 acres.”

“Yeah right,” the second OF said. “You start pulling that stunt and I’ll trap skunks and bring them to you.”

Oh, the comradery of this group called the OMOTM.

It went from this to trying to locate a cricket in the house, and the OFs mentioned how much damage those bugs can do once they get in. A couple of OFs agreed, but this is one of the insects the OFs said they have not seen much of lately.

A cricket in the house can be a tough one to locate even though they advertise quite loudly where they are. One OF thought they were ventriloquists, because when they announce where they are, they show up someplace else.

Grasshoppers were another creepy-crawly that an OF said he thinks are on the decline because he has not noticed many.

Those OFs who are planning on being the mighty great hunters of mice, chipmunks, and crickets and who made it to the Middleburgh Diner were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Rev. Jay Francis, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

My goodness, Magee — last week, there was fog and drizzle and there it was again this week, Tuesday Oct. 9, when the Old Men of the Mountain met at Pop’s Place (formerly the West Wind Diner) in Preston Hollow.

The Old Men of the Mountain had this miserable driving condition the whole way. With a detour on the mountain that was unexpected, and in no man’s land with the fog and drizzle, two carloads of OMOTM got lost in the hills. Another carload missed a turn they take almost daily because they could not see and they had no idea where they were in the dark and fog.

Just like last week in the fog and drizzle, some were driving by the entrance of the restaurant because the OF doing the driving did not know where they were, and did not even see the restaurant, let alone the driveway to the parking lot.

We are talking early morning here; the sun hadn’t even had a hint of showing up yet. This last carload had to do the same thing the OFs did last week — find a building with lights on and turn around.

The OMOTM think the weather being sleep-in weather was the reason for a low turnout at Pop’s Place.  Most of the OFs who didn’t show also had missed the experience of getting cows for milking many times (in their farming days) on the same type of morning.

Some of the OFs did not get to really enjoy the experience of hearing the cows mill around early in the morning before the sun comes up, or seeing cows waiting at the gate in the fog of late summer to early fall. For the ones who missed that occurrence, there was something about it that made the world feel like everything is going to be all right.

The OF who was returning to his winter home and had the snake problem brought lots of talk about snakes, and snake incidents at Tuesday morning’s breakfast. It appears that most everyone has one snake story or another to relate — some in size, others in quantity, and others in location.

The discussions centered on if the snakes were of the nasty kind, or if they were just the regular garden variety. These were the major topics. The OFs have had their run-in with rattlers, both here and in the South. Some of the OFs told of signs in the western part of the country advising people to stay on the provided path because of these critters.

One OF told of such signs at the Very Large Array in New Mexico that not only advised visitors to stay on the path because of these snakes but their sign also warned visitors to be aware of lightning strikes.

This OF and friends wondered how anyone could do that. The snake they could see but, with a lightning strike, by the time they noticed it, it would be too late to do anything about it.

The OFs wondered why so many people are leery of snakes. Some of the OFs say snakes don’t usually bother them, but can when they are not expecting them to be around. If one wiggles across his path, the OF is startled.

One OF mentioned finding a nest of rock snakes. These snakes are in our area but rare. They are harmless and beautiful; finding a nest of them is rarer yet.

The OFs discuss snakes on occasion but Tuesday morning the OFs covered the black snakes, garter snakes, milk snakes and, of course, the kind the OFs don’t want to mess with — the copperheads and the rattlesnakes. Those two can be found in the OFs’ territory but fortunately they are rarer than the rock snake.

One OF said he developed a relationship with an average-sized garter snake while painting the sunny side of his barn. The OF said he noticed the snake curled up in the sun in front of the barn and paid no attention to it. The snake stayed there while he worked around it.

The next day, he put the cat’s milk dish out where the snake was and the snake came to it, curled up, and stayed there while he painted. Each day for six days, the OF and the snake met to paint the barn.

Schoharie intersection

Outside of the diner on nice days some, if not most of the OFs, gather and continue to shoot the bull. Tuesday morning, a group discussed the tragedy in Schoharie, where a limo crashed, killing 20 people. Most of the OFs know this intersection well and the OFs’ conversation went back to when the intersection was a Y at the bottom.

The OFs agree this T-intersection is much better. Some of the OFs have come down this hill with an old K9 International Truck loaded with hay and had to make that turn and then look through the cab to the right in order to continue on to Schoharie.

Way back then, it was a trick to pull out onto Route 30. Some OFs had just been down that hill and the T-intersection with no problem.

Common ailments

A common thread that sews old people together is their health, their doctors, their aches and pains, their operations, and their spare parts. Sometimes the thread could be kids, but not all old people had kids, but aches and pains they all have.

Sometimes this thread is food, but so many old people have diet restrictions food is not the thread, but doctor visits they all have. So it is with the OMOTM.

Tuesday, there were discussions on operations and, in this case, one OF has had one knee done and the other knee requires the same type of repair.

“No way,” this OF says.

He is going to do without it. Right now, he handles the pain by keeping off the bad knee, and using Tylenol when he has to go someplace where walking is necessary.

This sentiment was echoed by other OFs who have had some similar operations, put up with them for years, and now are questioning if the operation was worth it. Some, however, say the operation may have stiffened them up some but the pain is gone.

It is a Catch-22. One OF said it all depends on your sawbones — if he knows what he is doing or not.

One OF suggested it is the OFs themselves. If the OF does not do the physical therapy completely, he is going to get stiff, and may still have some hurt.

“Look,” one OF said, “it is the practice of medicine and the doctors are all still practicing.”

The OFs groaned at this because they have heard it so many times. However, most of the OFs are happy with the doctors they have.

Condolences

The Old Men of the Mountain would like to offer our sympathies, condolences, thoughts, and prayers to all those who lost their lives in the accident at routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie. It is tragic and was completely preventable.  

Those OFs who made it to Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow, regardless of their physical conditions, were: Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Pete Whitbeck, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Marty Herzog, Jim Rissacher, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter (it’s a small world after all, Amy is the cook and runs the diner and Mace is her great-uncle), Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazzo, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

Pages