Scenic drive with a red sky leads to talk of tools, toil, and ticks

On Tuesday, July 16, the Old Men of the Mountain shook out of bed and high-tailed it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. Middleburgh is a beautiful village along the Schoharie Creek in the county of Schoharie.

If you take Route 88 to the Central Bridge exit, you might head towards Middleburgh then branch out up Route 30 into the hills, or down Route 145 and take some of the side roads into the hills or even go in a different direction from 88 (maybe northwest to Sharon Springs) then go up into the hills. The rides will all be leisurely, picturesque drives.

One of the OFs’ first conversations of the morning was how red the sky was about 5:30 a.m. The old adage “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning” was brought up by some, but the Navy guys in the group said that was a lot of hooey, and Tuesday bore that out; it was — at least in our area — a nice day.

Maybe someplace else it wasn’t so nice, but here it was. The OFs supposed that the reverse was a lot of hooey too; “red sky at night, sailors’ delight” doesn’t mean much either. The sailor OFs confirmed that with a yes.

Show and tell

One OF obtained a bag full of rust-encrusted old tools from whoever (this scribe missed who donated these tools to the OF). The OF said he cleaned some of them up and brought one to the breakfast for another show and tell.

One OF brings a car; another a tool. No one could identify the tool and there were a few supposed experts at the breakfast but they could not ascertain what it was. What everyone agreed on is that it was from a tool box, or bag, that used to come with different pieces of basically farm equipment when purchased new, way back when the OFs were young farmers.

One OF said it wasn’t only farm equipment but older cars too, which came with their own set of tools. An OF said that his family’s Hupmobile came with quite a nice tool set so the owner was able to do his own basic maintenance. Hupmobiles were built from 1909 through 1939 by the Hupp Motor Car Company. 

Another OF said, with today’s vehicles, even a mechanic can’t fuss with his own car if it isn’t in a garage with all the special tools and diagnostic equipment required to work on the car at hand.

“Heck,” one OF said, “we used to have two spare tires with some cars, one in each front fender. Today, the owner gets a sample tire hidden under the floorboards.” The OF continues, “Sometimes it is necessary to take half the car apart just to get at the spare tire, which looks like it belongs on a wheelbarrow instead of on a car anyway.” 

Working — the system

An OF then brought up the subject of working. This is brought up quite often because it is the major portion of the OF’s life and much goes on during that time.

However, one OF made this observation: Why work? What does it get you?

This OF said he is finding out that, the longer he lives, those who were on the dole and did no work at all are getting along better than he is and they were on government money. This OF claims there must have been a school somewhere that taught kids how to do this.

He thinks that, when they graduated from this school, all were handed a teacher’s degree and they went on to either teach other kids in groups or in an individual home-school atmosphere how to work the system. This OF wondered what he worked for.

Obviously, he was having a bad day.

Racey talk

The OFs started a conversation about NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. This was a little unusual because rarely do they discuss racing even though the OFs talk cars, trucks, tractors, and equipment of all sorts, but rarely racing.

This scribe thinks they were combining NASCAR with all racing because they were talking about racing in the forties, fifties, and sixties and NASCAR like we know NASCAR today was not operating like that back then.

The OFs were talking about a bunch of guys getting together, getting a rule book, and building a car. It certainly is not like that today. Back then, it was called Stock Car Racing, which implied it was a stock car bought at a dealership, or off a buddy, and then they fixed up the car and went racing.

One OF suggested he thinks there are still tracks like that around the country but these tracks are not sanctioned by NASCAR. The OFs agreed there may be some like that.

Some of the OFs enjoyed going to the local tracks and watching friends and neighbors race. Many of these tracks are still racing and the thrill is still there for those who go. Back in the forties, fifties, and sixties, some of the OFs were buddies of those who raced the stock-car circuit and even worked on the cars.

Tick alert

Just as a public service, the OFs want to warn all about the influx of the tick population this year, especially in the Hilltowns and in Columbia and Greene counties.

One member of our group is going through a Lyme disease treatment right now for two tick bites. This OF thinks he picked up the ticks in Greene County.

It is a good practice if you are out and about in high grass or brush that you have someone check you over for ticks. They should be checking the back of your neck and the places on your body that you can’t see. At the very least, check the best you can by yourself with a mirror.


The Old Men of the Mountain would like to offer their condolences and prayers for the Wolford family and friends on the death of Barbara Wolford, the wife of the founding father, Herb Wolford, of the Old Men of the Mountain.

Those OMOTM that were at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh were: Pete Whitbeck, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Jake Lederman, Duncan Bellinger, Mike Willsey, Winnie Chartier, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.