Thoughts on last-minute tree-trimming and gift-getting

— Photo from John R. Williams

Really nice country: Some of the OFs travel the backroads of Schoharie County, and there is the Hollock Bridge that crosses the Keyserkill Creek just south of Mackey, New York.

As the old man with the sleigh draws closer to getting it loaded, the Old Men of the Mountain met on their usual Tuesday — Dec. 5, at the Home Front Café in Altamont. Some of the OMOTM have their shopping done, some are half done while others haven’t even started yet.

“What the heck,” these OFs say. “It isn’t December 24th yet.”

The OFs wonder how some people wait until Christmas Eve until they decorate the tree. It takes most of the OFs who do decorate a week to get that chore done. At least that is what they attest to.

The ones who decorate in a few hours on Christmas Eve must have a Charlie Brown tree, or all the other jobs are done like wrapping the presents, and having what ornaments that are going to be put on the tree all laid out ahead of time.

Sun sets on summer jobs

The OMOTM wondered when kids working summer programs phased out. The OFs remember when kids could work the summer at Thacher Park, or for the highway department where they were painting fire hydrants and trimming around the guardrails, sprucing up the town barns, and painting and mowing the town parks.

All these jobs seem to have disappeared.

The OFs remember how, in early spring, there were notices in schools from farmers looking for summer help to work the fields. These notices, too, seem to be gone. Now it must be word of mouth by the kids themselves.

The OFs can’t remember, if they even knew, what the reasoning was behind removing these summer work programs.  

This brought up a topic concerning summer help of migrant workers. This issue is in the forefront of the news right now.

The OFs mentioned what an important and necessary part of the summer labor force these workers are. One OF added, “These guys really know how to work.”

The machines to harvest much of the delicate fruits and vegetables have not been invented yet. “Maybe never will be invented,” one OF added, “so this work still has to be done by hand.”

Migratory Old Men

The OFs talked about heading to warmer climes and what would be the best way to get there. This seems to be an annual discussion at this time of year.

The OFs say it all depends on how fast you want to arrive at you southerly destination, or if the OF wants to take his time and putz along the road less traveled. This brought up the train that takes the OF and his vehicle along with him; it is not that expensive. It sounds like fun; however, none of the OFs around this scribe commented on availing this service from Amtrak to give a firsthand account.

Irene revisited

Believe it or not, Tropical Storm Irene popped its ugly head up again. This time, the OFs were talking how some local bridges held up and some did not.

The OFs seemed to think that those bridges that failed were not built correctly from the beginning. This thinking may be correct because the OFs know the ground as much as what is below as what is on top.

The OFs think that the footings on some of the bridges were not on rock (or what a lot of people think of as rock) but the footings were built on what the OFs call hardpan. Hardpan, as one OF put it, is hard, slippery, and fluid.

Some call it good old-fashioned blue clay, but hardpan is a little more than that. The dictionary defines it as any layer of firm detrital matter, as of clay, underlying soft soil.

One OF mentioned that the water running off both hills that fill the Little Schoharie Creek as it runs through Huntersland were like waterfalls. The OF said that there were streams of water coming down the mountains from both sides into the creek that were never there before and the water in the Little Schoharie was rising as fast as if it were a bathtub being filled.

The OFs still think water was let out of the Gilboa Dam and came with such force that it demolished the covered bridge in Blenheim. That bridge had weathered many creek risings and floods.

In the OFs’ opinion, it was some special and unusual force that caused the bridge to go. One would think the event of Irene would be on the back burner but to those who lived through it this scribe guesses not.

Bridges to beware of

The OFs say there are some bridges that these OGs hesitate to use but, as far as this scribe knows, the OFs all go ahead and shoot across them anyway. One OF mentioned that some of these bridges are on small country roads and cover some creeks that have carved out deep gorges as the eons have drifted by.

Many of the bridges in the localities where the OFs reside are Kodak moments. For instance, some of the OFs travel the backroads of Schoharie County and there is the Hollock Bridge that crosses the Keyserkill Creek just south of Mackey, New York. This is in really nice country.

After crossing the bridge and continuing on south to Flat Creek Road to County Route 17, the driver comes out at the Schoharie Creek below the dam at Gilboa. This is where there is another bridge that crosses the Schoharie Creek, which takes the driver back up to Route 30 — an interesting ride submitted by the OMOTM.

This scribe is sure there are many spots like this throughout New York State.

Those OFs who traveled to the Home Front Café in Altamont and traveled over some of the interesting bridges to arrive at the restaurant were: John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Miner Stevens, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, George Byrne, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.