A foggy morning elicits clear memories of the Erie Canal

The Erie Canal in historic autumnal splendor was captured by John R. Williams in a painting commissioned by Ruth Easton. “Her husband says that every morning she has a cup of coffee and sits and shares time with the painting for about an hour and then starts her day. It hangs over their fireplace,” said Williams.

On a really miserable early Tuesday morning, Oct. 26,  with rain, fog, wind, blowing leaves, puddled roads, and truck spray, the Old Men of the Mountain managed to make it safely to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown for their Tuesday morning repast. To some of the OMOTM, it was comforting to spot the warm, greeting lights of the diner from the gloom of the morning’s weather.

Of course, because of the trip and the awful weather, the weather was an opening topic. The concern of the OMOTM was flooding and, if the rain keeps coming as it has, the Schoharie Creek, and the Mohawk River were concerns of the OFs. It was more the creek and, if it should overflow its banks again, one OF mentioned the valley of Schoharie would start to get a bad reputation for those thinking about moving there.

Another OF thought that, of all the planning that people do to try to outwit Mother Nature, they are up against a vulnerable foe. One OF said it looks like both coasts are being hammered by the ole gal just to show us who is in charge. Seems rain doesn’t fall. Raindrops.

One OF who was not a farmer asked what happens to all the corn that has turned brown and maybe soaked by the creek on the flats around Middleburgh, Schoharie, and up Route 30 towards Gilboa? A farmer told him that the value of the corn is in the kernel; the brown stalks are good for decoration.

If it is going to be silage corn, that is a different story. Silage corn was done long ago.

A completely unrelated-to-anything question was asked. What happens to emails that say they are sent, the computer says they are sent, and everything looks normal, but the recipient does not receive them?

Where do they go? Are they out there in electronic space looking for a home? Do they just go nowhere and disappear? The OFs are wondering.

Also, at the table Tuesday morning, the OFs discussed the Erie Canal. The OFs briefly mentioned a little history of the canal, which in the early 1800s took about 28 years to complete and was mostly dug by hand.

One OF said much of it was made deeper and wider during its lifetime. Another OF said that also over the years it was not quite as romantic as it now sounds. Little towns sprang up all along the canal and the canal in many sections was like a sewer.

Some of the OMOTM have taken trips on the canal. One OF mentioned he took a trip on the canal that was horse-drawn, as were the original barges on the canal.

This OF mentioned that, at the end where they turned to go back, the tow rope sagged and dragged along the grass, and snakes by the dozen slithered out of the grass and into the canal. The OF said after they turned around (which took a while) and started back, the rope did the same thing in the same place and then the snakes slithered back into the water.

The OFs wondered why the snakes did this. These snakes knew the barge was going to turn around and come back. Why not just hang around in the water for a bit, wait for the boat to go back, and then climb back in the grass?

The scribe says thank goodness the OFs don’t think like snakes. The OFs also assumed these were common black snakes, and according to their size the OF said he was pretty sure they were.

Another very interesting comment came from one of the OFs. He said that one of the OFs lives in a house that was built of stones that were rejected for use in the canal.

One OF knew that the Onesquethaw Reformed Church, on Tarrytown Road, was built from stones rejected for use in the canal. To check this information out, this scribe called the OF in question.

The OF confirmed that his house was, in fact, built of rejected stones from the canal, and so was the farmhouse across the street, and the houses around the corner just a bit down from him. The houses and the church can be seen from Clarksville, or off Route 32.

Make a turn on Tarrytown Road and there is a small cluster of these rejected-canal-stone structures not too far down or in from either direction.

One OF mentioned doing a commissioned painting for a couple who had shown a long-time interest in the Erie Canal. They sent definite instructions of when, where, and what was to be in the painting.

The painting was for the lady of the house, and she wanted the locale at Big Nose, and Little Nose.  This is where the ancient Mohawk River and the glacier cut a pass through a granite spur of the Adirondacks, just west of Schenectady.

Thank goodness the artist knew where this was; it was to be painted as if it was fall and also be colorful with a horse-drawn barge with people. That is being very specific.

With all the talk about rocks, and rejected rocks, at one time for the lock at Sprakers, New York, there is part of that lock wall that is still remaining. A ride along the canal is interesting, fun, and educational.

The Old Men of the Mountain who were at the Chuck Wagon Diner were looking out the window at the unending change in the weather were: Rich LaGrange, Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Paul Nelson, Marty Herzog, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Jake Herzog, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Paul Whitbeck, Rev. Jay Francis, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, and me.