Damp day cheered with chat of classic pranks

On a very damp, raw day for April 7, the Old Men of the Mountain headed up the mountain to the Hilltown Café, in Rensselaerville to meet and eat.

Much of the chat this morning was quite repetitive of chats that have gone on before, i.e., worms; honey; honeybees, where is spring (with the desire for that spring enthusiasm); and finally, a few new — not really new but different — takes on some old topics. 

One OF who used to do his own maple syrup said he hasn’t made any syrup in the last few years, and was telling about all the work involved in processing the sap into syrup. One reason for his not processing the syrup is because at one time he boiled the sap evaporator too long, and somehow the OF scorched the evaporator.

The OF then explained that he took the evaporator to George Gobel to have it repaired. The other OFs had a quizzical look on their faces as he was telling this story because they equated the name George Gobel with George Gobel, the well-known comedian, and not the George Gobel who lives in the Hilltowns and has a welding shop.

For the under-50 crowd, George Gobel was a very funny comedian who had his own show on T.V. George Gobel had a “crew cut” or “flattop” hairstyle, which stemmed from being a pilot in World War II.

“Well, I’ll be a dirty bird” was a George Gobel euphemism that was a very popular catchphrase in the 1950s and ’60s.

WhytheJapanesedidn’tconquerOklahoma.wmv is a very funny clip with George Gobel, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, and Bob Hope. In this clip, keep your eye on Dean Martin.

George Gobel died in 1991 after undergoing heart surgery.

Anyway, getting back to the OF and his syrup, the OF said that Gobel Welding repaired his evaporator to a like-new condition. This OF said he is thinking about making syrup again but it will be a lot of work digging all this equipment out from where he stashed it a few years ago.

To the OFs now, that is the key (it will be a lot of work).  If it involves a lot of work, the OFs now back off.

Winter water woes

Because this winter, while not the worst we’ve seen, is right up there with one of the worst, the OFs were talking about water problems. Not only have some of the OFs had water problems but we hear stories about a lot of others who have been in the same predicament.

Some water problems were not of the winter’s doing but just parts of their water systems decided to wear out and repairing them now became a winter situation. One OF who lives in the village and uses village water had the snowplow break the valve off at the line going into his home from the main line.

So the OF is without water, and the Department of Public Works decided to move that valve further back so the plow and valve would not come together again. Now the OF’s lawn is all torn up.

Another OF had to change a water pump that went bad, and the pump-repair person was standing in snow up to his knees for hours while doing the job, but at least the well was away from the house. Read on.

Another OF told of a friend who drilled his well and then built the house around it, concluding that this was a smart idea because the well would never freeze. That is true, but pumps do go bad from things other than freezing, and this one did.

The OF said, in order to pull the pump from the deep well, they had to cut holes in the floors and through the ceiling to facilitate the process.

Pranks of old

From last week we talked about pranks we pulled as YFs and these are pranks of old. Continuing this conversation, we noted the occurrences took place more than 50 or 65 years ago.

This particular prank is a classic and it was not revealed for over 50 years because it was done by one person who never mentioned it or told a soul until a class reunion some 50 years in the making. This prank the whole school knew about, and the whole community of Schoharie did also when it happened.

The OF in question just happens to be a classmate of an OF who eats breakfast with the rest of our distinguished group of OFs. In order to perfect this prank, the OF in question (when he was a YF) disguised his voice, which was not hard for him to do since he had lost the high-pitched voice of adolescence when he was in third grade.

This YF called the Schoharie Stone Quarry, which was directly behind the school, and ordered in the name of the school maintenance superintendent, two loads of stone. The YF directed the quarry where to dump the stone, giving the reason that the school was going to repair the drive and it required the delivery first thing in the morning. This way the school could have the job done by the end of the day.

The quarry did as directed; not knowing that, by dumping the stone where they were told to dump it, the stone would block all the school busses from getting out. And it did. In panic mode, school had to be canceled, and parents notified. 

In this case, no damage was done, no one hurt, just a bunch of ticked-off school officials, and the stone was used to repair the bus area, and the test that the YF was trying to get out of was given the next day. So there, the school won, and the YF had only one day’s reprieve.


Once again, The Old Men of the Mountain must offer condolences to family and friends of another member who has passed away. Ted Pelkey entered into the final, resting peace we all must venture into some day; there is no escaping it.

Teddy was 96 years old and he often said he had been on this planet long enough.

The OFs who hauled their creaky frames up the mountain to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville for their candlelight breakfast with enjoyable repartee were: Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Karl Remmers, Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, Bob Snyder, Jack Norray, Lou Schenk, Mace Porter, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Ted Willsey and his daughter Sally, Bill Krause, and me.