Snakes may be better than cats for catching mice

At breakfast this past Wednesday morning, this scribe, just in conversation, said to his wife, “I guess I’d better go up and write the Old Men Column.”

The wife said, with an exclamatory voice, “Is it Wednesday already? Wasn’t it just Wednesday? Where did a whole week go?”

This scribe just shrugged his shoulders and said, “You are right because I haven’t a clue where it went — the week just seems to be gone.” Anyway —

On Tuesday, March 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. Mrs. K’s is in the middle of town and, at the time the OMOTM show up, parking is not a problem this time of year. 

When the OMOTM arrive, the sun is just coming up. But when the OMOTM leave, there are cars whizzing all over the place and it is a good idea to be careful when pulling out from the curb onto the street from their parking spots.

A couple of the OFs were talking about cats, not just cats, but cats and mice. According to these OFs, it seems most cats are like Garfield when it comes to mice. The cats and mice seem to get along.

As far as the cats are concerned, mice are tolerated. To the cat, it isn’t worth the effort to even catch them. One OF said his cat is named Nuisance, but it should have been named Useless.

The other OF said he is considering getting a few snakes to take care of his mice problem. He opined that, as far as his cat is concerned, snakes would be a lot better. The snake is quiet, clean, and effective.

Snakes would be much better if it weren’t for their reputation. The OF said he never heard of a litter box for a snake.

Another discussion was on snakes and this time an OF said that he and his wife took a little excursion on the “Old Erie Canal.” This trip was on a canal boat pulled by two mules.

The OF said that, as the boat was pulled along, oftentimes the rope would become slack and drag through the grass along the banks and snakes would “hop” to use his expression, over the rope as it pulled the boat. This scribe did not know snakes hopped, but this scribe could imagine them slithering over the rope.

This OF said they were not the black snake or garter snake that anyone would have around to catch mice but the nasty kind. The OF mentioned diamondbacks, and water moccasins and another nasty one common to the area.

The scribe does not know if the tour guide mentioned what type of snakes they were or if the OF was able to spot them. This scribe might be able to spot moccasins because they are not that long, and they are big around and ugly.

The others from a distance would be tough to identify. It would be an interesting scenario if one of those things latched onto the rope and crawled its way to the boat.The OF who was relating this incident told an interesting and riveting story of their trip to Rome, New York.

Sign of spring?

Each year, the OFs mention the red-winged blackbird and this year it is no different. At least three of the OGs said they have seen the bird. A couple of OFs said the flocks they saw were small while one OF said he saw a large flock.

In our area, the return of the red-winged blackbird is considered a good sign of spring. However, the bird does not go that far away from us in the winter. Some make a short trip only to Pennsylvania or Ohio but it is encouraging to see them in the spring. But this is early.

“Alligator Alley”

Tuesday seemed to be a morning to talk about nature. Many of the OFs have been to the state of Florida, and some have traveled the old “Alligator Alley” when it was only two lanes. The OFs talked about the speeds traveled on that perfectly straight highway.

There are signs posted on the road about alligators crossing and the big cats that roam the Everglades that also cross the road, especially at night. The OFs said hitting one of these animals at high speed can cause the driver to lose all control of the car.

The OFs talked about driving accidents and hitting animals in this area, especially deer and raccoons. One OF said he hit a large raccoon and it was like hitting a wall, and he did lose control of the car, then he somehow managed to regain control, but not until after serious damage was done.

One OF commented on how he is able to tell if a driver is from the Hilltowns or not. If a guy is going 50 or 60 miles an hour and it is dusk, in the spring, he has no clue about what can jump out in front of him in the Hilltowns.

The OF went on, “If the car is going 45 or so on the secondary roads up ‘here’ it is a good guess he is familiar with what can happen and he is ready for whatever decides to cross the road. At rut time, the deer are not thinking about looking out for traffic.”

The OFs had some advice for each other and this came from experience: If anyone is planning a trip they should do it when they are young because when age creeps up on you and walking becomes an effort, all that can be done is to think about it.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh, and to some that is a trip, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, Paul Whitbeck, Rick LaGrange, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Ken Parks, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Ed Tiaeger, Bob Donnelly, Allen DeFazzo,  Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, John Dabrvalskes, Harold Grippen, and me.