If you smoke — quit! Throw those things away!

— Photo by John R. Williams

Early morning in Schoharie: “Around 6:30, the sun was shining through a light mist. It was quiet, calm, and the aroma was clear. Small-town atmosphere all around,” writes John R. Williams of this scene. “Some of the OMOTM were outside of the Country Café, watching what was a sample of the old lamplighter putting out the lights coming up the walk, only this was the workman that waters the plants coming with his wagon of water, watering the plants as he drove along.”

The Old Men of the Mountain made the trek to the Country Café in Schoharie on a beautiful Tuesday morning on July 30. The Farmers Almanac has our area down for a cool summer. Can’t prove it by the OMOTM and the 90-degree days.

As usual, the OMOTM talked about their health, and the health of others. Tuesday morning, the chatter was on one very bad habit — that of smoking.

There is one OF who is going through the process of trying to get rid of lung cancer. Tuesday morning, he and a few others admitted, at one time, they were heavy smokers. This brought about OFs who had family members or friends who were heavy smokers and how many of them have managed to quit. 

The OFs discussed some who had passed away from the habit. 

The problem is that, when the OFs were YFs, there was no stigma attached to smoking. The Army used to pass cigarettes out for free and even, to some extent, encouraged smoking

At the age the OFs started smoking, it wasn’t but a few years of puffing on these white nails and the OFs, along with everyone else, were hooked on the nicotine. The OFs did not know what we know today and how dangerous the cigarettes, or cigars, or pipes were.

The OFs were unsuspecting guinea pigs, because, as suggested, the OFs think tobacco companies knew from Day One that nicotine was addictive.

One OF said he thought the medical profession also had hints, but the doctors themselves kept on smoking, especially cigars. Another OF said his doctor scolded him about smoking while he was smoking a cigar.

Duh! The message here, the OFs guess, is, if you smoke — quit! Throw those things away! They know it is hard but some have done it that way.

One OF said his father woke up one morning, hacking and coughing his head off. The OF said his dad stared at that pack of cigarettes for awhile, walked out on the front porch, and heaved that pack of cigarettes as far as he could; it landed on the edge of a hay field

The OF said his father never lit another cigarette, but he was a miserable old coot for some time. He still died young, but maybe he lived longer than if he had kept on smoking. The best thing, the OFs say, is never start.

Applejack is potent

The OFs went from smoking to drinking; this time it was the making of a special brew called applejack.

This was made right in the farmer’s basement or outdoors in a wooden keg. This stuff was lethal. 

Applejack was clear as water, smooth as silk, and was easy going down. Some OFs reported the inexperienced would not know what was happening to them because it appeared nothing was.

About three-eights to half of an inch in the bottom of a water glass was all you wanted of this stuff. The uninitiated would fill the glass half full.

The OFs said they warned them beforehand that was way too much but, being as the applejack was so smooth, the drinkers had no idea, until they went to stand up and found they couldn’t. A great “I told you so” event for the OFs. 

Smoking and drinking were great topics for the OFs from the school of hard knocks because they have found neither one is worth the effort.

The trials of meds

Another rehash the OFs talked about was what it was like when they were in school. This time, the discussion disclosed how little we knew about medicine, and what few medicines we had.

After World War II, the medical profession took off as all kinds of antibiotics were coming out, all kinds of procedures were being done, and new medicines were being developed.

According to one OF, that might not have been a good thing. This OF said that he has to take a medicine that tastes so awful that he studies the glass for a long time before he gathers the courage to bring it to his mouth and drink it.

Another OF added that one of the pills he takes (which is like a horse pill) sometimes becomes stuck crosswise in his esophagus and doesn’t go down but starts to dissolve; the taste is horrendous.

The OF says he drinks another gulp of water as quick as he can, but it doesn’t help, and that awful taste hangs around for a good half hour.

Another OF questioned, “What is in this stuff?”

Bygone diseases

When the OFs were in school, there was such a thing as a quarantine (isolation of people or animals out of a certain area to prevent the spread of disease).

These diseases are rare now and, because of vaccinations, many people have never heard of them. A couple of OFs said they missed a whole year of school because of the mumps.

If mumps was in your household, none of the other kids in the house could go to school until they had them. Measles was the same way; whooping cough was another winner. Measles, when the OFs were young, could develop into rheumatic fever, and from there it was singing in the angel choir. 

It is much different today. Polio now is almost extinct, and the OMOTM are very familiar with that one. When the OFs were in school some of these diseases, when caught, put the OF back one whole grade.

Escaped bison

The OFs started singing: 

“Oh give me a home

where the Buffalo roam,

Where the dee

and the antelope play.

Where seldom is heard

 a discouraging word, 

And the skies

are not cloudy all day.” 

The Old Men of the Mountain who were at the Country Café in Schoharie, discussed the escaped bison roaming somewhere in the hills of Schoharie and Otsego counties. The members of the Old Men of the Mountain choir singing about the buffalo were: Dave Williams, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Otis Lawyer, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Pete Whitbeck, Wally Guest, Bill Bartholomew, John Rossmann, Paul Nelson, Jim Heiser, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Rich Donnelly, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Marty Herzog, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Rich Vanderbilt, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

This choir was as flat as a pancake.