Elk in the Helderbergs? Maybe farm escapees

On Tuesday, May 7, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner. Finally! A reasonably nice day, so a few of the OMOTM stood outside in the parking lot just enjoying the early morning air before going in to the diner.

One thing about standing in the parking lot of the Chuck Wagon is noticing how fast the cars whiz by going to work at that time of the morning on Route 20.

Lawn mowers and grass, wet spots that can’t be mowed, and types of soil were early topics for discussion, but this scribe has covered conversations like this many times because the OFs talk about their yards quite often. These issues are like the weather — a good opening for conversations for the rest of the morning.

Over the weekend, one OF and his better half went to visit some friends and part of the conversation they had over coffee was quite interesting.

The friends said that they were with their surveyor discussing which direction they would face the new home they were going to build. While they were standing there looking at their land, two large elk came out of the woods adjacent to their property. They said these animals were not big deer with corresponding large racks; they were elk.

The OF and his wife knew the hill was basically farmland with large tracts of open fields, but elk? The friends said the elk walked right by them, about 50 yards away, and did not seem skittish at all, as they ambled up a little knoll, walked across the road, then disappeared into the field on top of the hill.

So this OF related this story to the OMOTM, and asked if anyone had heard of elk on the Hill. The answer was yes.

About the time they were doing the plot survey, the elk farm in Middleburgh had two of its animals get away. To make matters more interesting, the elk farm is on one of the farms on the flats in Middleburgh that was once owned by one of the Old Men of the Mountain. This farm still raises elk. Sometimes it is strange how events tangle together.

Black flies rampant

Another thought about things tangling together is how from year-to-year in nature nothing is the same. One spring is not like the spring before it, and one winter is not like the winter before that but, when a whole collection of springs and winters are strung together, they are all alike.

What made the scribe think of this was the discussion on how many black flies are out now in comparison to last year, and those nasty ticks seem to be everywhere. The OFs had to admit that these statements were true, but we have had springs when they were just as bad.

This year, the black flies attack in open areas; generally, they are around shrubs and trees. However, this year they seem to be everywhere. One OF bought one of those hats with screening attached just so he can walk out to the mailbox.

Another OF said he must have a pheromone that attracts the dumb black flies. He said that he and his uncle can go out in the woods and he is pursued by these little flying black insects. Even with repellent, he is still swatting so much that he feels that one of these days he is going to take off.

In the meantime, his uncle stands not two to three feet away from him and not a gnat, or no-see-um, black fly or mosquito is anywhere around him. His uncle says it is because he drinks his coffee black and doesn’t put all that sugar in it.

Stocking adventure

One OF told of how he spent one day stocking creeks on state land with fish — brown trout and rainbow trout. According to the OF, one of the stocking places turned into an adventure.

The creeks, like West Kill Creek in Blenheim, for the most part were easy to stock because they could stop on a road that goes alongside the creek and carry the tubs of fish over to the creek and dump the fish in the water.

However, not all the dumpings were in creeks; some were in large ponds on state land. The truck they were using to transport the hatchlings had compartments filled with water and each compartment contained fish that were to go in certain ponds and creeks

This was not a light load. One of the ponds was Mallet pond in Fulton, which is about 16-plus acres. There was no road getting to this pond, only an old logging road that was not in the best of shape. With all the wet weather we have had lately, the so-called road was sloppy and slippery.

After they stocked the pond, the group attempted to leave and was immediately stuck, that is up-to-the-axels stuck. The group tried pushing the truck and all they could do, the OF said, was move it about three or four inches then nothing at all. Up-to-the-axels stuck!

Then a conservation ranger showed up and he also had a truck. A way up from the stuck truck was a patch of semi-dry ground, so the group used a tow line from truck-to-truck.The ranger’s truck pulled the conservation truck (with the fish), which spun and the tow line broke. Up-to-the-axels stuck!

The OF suggested digging and filling in with stones. There was an old stone fence a distance up the hill so the group proceeded to dig and haul rocks.

The OF tied a bowline in the tow line and they started the process of towing truck number-one, pulling with truck number-two spinning in reverse. The OF said, if this thing starts to move, don’t stop. Up-to-the-axels stuck!

Well, the stuck truck started to move, and the pulling truck did not stop. It was the rocks that did the trick.The trucks were covered in mud; the crew was covered in mud. On this trip, the only thing not covered in mud were the fish. The axels were now unstuck!

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown on a nostalgic early spring morning were: Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Bob Snyder, Karl Remmers, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Marty Herzog, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Rev. Jay Francis, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.