We’ve lasted because we had a hard start in life, today’s young-uns are too sterile

The Old Men of the Mountain are starting a new month with breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner on Nov. 1, and it was unusually nice weather.

As most of the OFs said, we hope we can keep this up (nice weather) but deep down we know it isn’t going to happen. It is rare to see some people mowing their lawns in November.

This brought up conversations not only at this breakfast, but other recent breakfasts, about cold temperatures with snow flying and living in old houses. When the OMOTM speak of old houses, they are discussing homes 100 years old and older, none of these new residences.

The OFs speak of houses with histories and character that have proven the house can stand the test of time. The OFs are not too sure about some of the homes being built today.

One OF commented that he didn’t think it is the house as much as it is the people that live in them. The people that lived in the 100-year-old plus homes were tough, and they toughed out the winters. We can’t knock the houses of today unless we are here 100 to 150 years from now to check them out. To this OF, it seems that, if someone doesn’t take care of a mansion, it is going to fall down but, when someone takes care of a shack, it is going to last.

This brought up the construction of the new homes compared to the 100-plus-year-old homes. Insulation for homes 100 or 150 years ago was nothing like the homes of today. The OFs tied this in with the cold blast of winter. Back then, glass in the doors and windows were single-pane glass (double pane windows didn’t become popular until the 1970s) and still fluid, filled with bubbles and ripples.

One OF said storm windows weren’t even considered until much later when they were the type that hung on hooks and were taken down in spring, and put up in the fall.

What some of the OFs had were workable shutters that could be closed and heavy drapes that hung to the floor to keep out cold drafts. Sometimes the windows were so drafty on a windy day the OFs said the curtains and drapes would blow in the breeze.

Leaves and straw around the foundation was insulation. Of course mice and bugs liked this arrangement too.

The big farm house would shrink to just a few rooms during cold weather as other rooms were shut off. One OF mentioned that sleeping in one bedroom with his siblings at winter time was part of the shrinking process.

On many winter nights, there would be drifts of snow at some of the windows inside the bedroom. That did not bother us much because, even though the room wasn’t heated, we were all quite snug wrapped up in our feather ticks. In the morning though we did scurry downstairs to get dressed by the fire quickly, and then head out to the barn for chores.

“Today”, one OF said, “houses are so tight, the air inside is so unhealthy it is necessary to have air from the outside pumped in and purified.”

Another OF thought the OMOTM are the OMOTM because we had such a hard start early in life. This OF commented that these young whipper-snappers of today aren’t going to make it because they have not come into contact with germs like we used to, and they have not had the opportunity of building up natural antibodies to drive them off. These young-uns are too sterile.


Disappearing creatures?

The OFs had another observation of nature they talked about and that was the absence of snakes and a few other creatures that used to be common.

The OFs asked among themselves, “When was the last time you saw a snake?” and none could really put their finger on it. The consensus was years. Where did they all go, and why are they gone?

A few of the OFs attributed this transformation to hawks and other natural predators, while some said it was a change in the environment, like climate change. Some thought this was a bit radical but might be happening.

If the scribe remembers right, the OFs have gotten into a discussion like this before, only that time it was birds; however, birds entered this discussion too.

Another question was asked, “Does all this go together?” because one OF thought that even the nuisance insects seem to be fewer.

Some of the OFs never even thought about it; they claimed they don’t go out in the backyard looking for bugs and snakes. One OF said you can’t fool him; this OF says he has seen more stink bugs lately than he has ever seen. The OF also said a few years ago he never saw one.

“Well, with winter coming on,” he said, “all these critters are going to crawl into their holes, and hide in the cellars and attics until springtime. That will be the time to check it out. That is, if any of us with our great memories can remember to have this conversation again in April and May.”

This will give the OFs something to look forward to in the spring of 2023 — what is crawling in the grass and flying in our ears, nose, and eyes.

The OFs who are here because they were tough YFs in the thirties, forties, and fifties and who are now able to make it to the Middleburgh Diner were: Miner Stevens, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Jake Herzog, Frank Dees, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Ed Goff, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Dick Dexter, Herb Bahrmann, John Dab, Paul Guiton, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.