Discussing New Year’s celebrations and the building of the Erie Canal

— Photo from John R. Williams

John R. Williams was commissioned to paint the Erie Canal as it looked in the 19th Century, running between the south cliff, known as Little Nose, and the north, known as Big Nose.

Yeah! The Old Men of the Mountain still gather at the appointed restaurants; however, right now this scribe is unable to attend as he is attached to an oxygen hose.

The scribe does have a portable unit and, once he is cleared to go using that, the scribe will be there. Last week there was still, they think, traces of pneumonia rattling around in there.

He will be tethered to an oxygen hose until he can get his percentage to hold, at (this is what the scribe thinks) 94 percent. This may or may not be right; right now it is holding at 91 percent. 

Now to business at hand with notes from a couple of OMOTM.

On the second day of the New Year, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.

The OMOTM, because they are mostly old, generally do not partake of all the New Year festivities, not that the mind doesn’t say “Hey let’s go” but the body says sleep comes first and most are sawing lumber by nine.

However, some must have done something because the crowd was on the slight side at breakfast Tuesday morning. As one OF suggested, “Maybe many are traveling and are not around.”

One OF with an older-young body to go with the mind that says he celebrates the New Year by going for a ride on his motorcycle. This year though the OF reported that, by the time he did all the preparation work on the bike to get ready, it was getting late in the day so the OF said he would do it on Tuesday instead.

This prompted another OF to comment that he would start a tradition of his own. The OF said, with all the warm weather and the lack of ice on the lakes and rivers, that he would take his boat out on New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Days when it is not like this, the OF could rig a sail on the boat and accomplish the same thing by skidding over the ice of the lake. 


Erie Canal

An unusual discussion at the table of OFs was the Erie Canal, and for some of the OFs this was a firsthand discussion. Those who worked on the project said it was so ad-hoc that they had to invent tools to do some of the work, and a lot of the ditch was dug by hand.

Not only that but even the surveying tools used, and plotting the direction of the canal were done by rule of thumb. It was brought up that many other canals were being dug about this time but the Erie was the only canal that paid for itself.

One OF’s home was built from stone that was rejected for use on the canal, as was the Onesquethaw Reformed Church, where the OF and his family attended, all built from rejected stone.

It was not mentioned in the note how the stone got all the way to Onesquethaw, which is just a tad west of Clarksville from where the canal was being built. That is a hike and uphill at that.

It is cool that the OFs discussed the Erie Canal. Quite a while back, this scribe was commissioned to do a painting of the Erie Canal.

The person that wanted the painting was an expert on the canal and very specific on how she wanted the painting, the period, the locale, the time of year, and very colorful. The painting was to be done as the canal went through Big Nose-Little Nose.

In the scribe’s research, he found that it was this gap in the Appalachian Mountains that made the engineer know the canal could be done.

It was reported by the family to this scribe that the woman who commissioned the painting had it placed over the fireplace of their home and would have her morning coffee and sit and look at the painting for an hour or so before she started her day.

The scribe just thought he would add that. The scribe must also give thanks to Doug Marshall for the notes, and Lou Schenck  for those who made it and they were: Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Jake Herzog, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Dick Dexter, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Cross, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Doug Marshall, but not me.