This column with its report on the Old Men of the Mountain starts out like many conversations — with the weather. To keep up that tradition, today’s column will be no different.

Tuesday, Nov. 16, many of the OMOTM approached the Your Way Café, in Schoharie, looking at the cliffs at the end of Route 443 where it meets Route 30. Many of the OFs who arrived at the café around the same time commented on how beautiful the sunrise was with sunlight on top and dark shadows on the bottom.

The sun came up red in the beginning and then quickly changed to orange-red, and then just orange as the light crept down the mountain. This scribe told a couple of OFs as they entered the Your Way, “If I ever painted it like it was at first light no one would believe it.” The OFs agreed.

Once inside, the OFs were offering their normal greetings as other OFs filed in. Some of the conversation was discussion of the man and family of Bill Barthelomew who recently passed away, and that segued to inquiries of OFs who were in the hospital, or had just left and were home.

The OFs were genuinely concerned on how they were doing and anxious for their return to the breakfasts.

How that turned into a discussion of how much those pesky little fruit flies were this year, I will never understand. However, it seems all the OMOTM had problems with these little pests this summer.

Some used apple cider and vinegar to trap the little buggers, while others had their own remedies — some worked and some didn’t. One OF said that hanging a banana skin by the end where it was cut from the tree calls the fruit fly.

They are fruit flies after all. But then — what now? You have them in a bunch. How do you actually get rid of them? That was not mentioned. Every now and then, spray them with fly spray the OFs guessed.

One OF mentioned he purchased a sticky trap (trade name Dynatrap) that comes with 3-by-4 cards that are sticky on one side. This OF said that thing really works

You plug it in, a blue light comes on, and the light attracts the flies and soon they are trapped on the sticky card. One thing the OF said was that the card catches more than fruit flies.

It grabs regular flies and the occasional moth. This trap is chemical-free, and effective. When the card is no longer catching the pests, chuck it out and put in a new one.


Schoharie’s Nashville

The OFs talked about the park outside of Schoharie up on the hill where in the forties and fifties, and maybe even later, the good ole country boys would go with their banjos, guitars, fiddles, harmonicas, moonshine, beer, and some light bulbs and on Saturday night Nashville was no equal.

It was good ole country music by the good ole country boys, and all that could boogie danced the night away. At times, a fight or two would break out, and no one really knew the reason.

When the participants settled the disagreement, they would be back on the dance pavilion’s dance floor, dancing with the same ones they were just fighting with. Occasionally someone (who knew how to call) would form up squares for dancing and away they went.

These squares may have gotten rowdy at times, but all in fun. The OFs did not know if this type of amusement still goes on or not.


Way to go

Now to something completely different and, again, how it got started this scribe does not know, but it seemed to have started with the new higher toilets. Age creeps into a lot of things and now the OFs know it’s creeping up because it affects how they go to the bathroom.

It used to be that older people had problems getting up and out of chairs including getting off the john.

Then someone invented a riser and attached it to the toilet so it would elevate that older person. Apparently the plumbing industry saw the need and started building the higher toilets, and the contractors started installing grab bars so the older people could help themselves get off the john.

The OFs said, now that they own these higher toilets at home, when using the older-style lower toilets still found in public restrooms, they feel like they are sitting in a hole and do have trouble getting up, and they actually look around for grab bars.

Then one OF said that sitting on these higher toilets is “not the way to go.” This OF said your knees are supposed to be up and your back straight so everything is lined up and then it is not necessary to strain, especially if you have heart trouble.

The OF said the best thing to do is use the high commode with a stool so your knees are high. When it is time to get up, kick the stool out of the way and stand up. This OF said he still uses grab bars high or low.

This dialog on age reminded me that age is a relative term. All my relations keep reminding me how old I am.

The discussion went from the height of the john, to snow tires in one fell swoop. It was just necessary to be there and these Old Men of the Mountain were there: Joe Rack, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Rich LaGrange, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Paul Nelson, Henry Whipple, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Herb Bahrmann, and me.

Once long ago, when this planet was first being formed, three old guys were pushed out of the cave so they would leave the ladies alone. These three guys grunted their displeasure and decided to hunt for something to eat.

For no particular reason, the hunting was easy and the three old guys had a good time and decided to do this more often. Soon other old guys saw the three go out and have a good time, so a few more put down their rocks from beating on other rocks to make dirt (because these guys were older than dirt) and joined in.

This group is still gathering today; though not the same guys, it is the same group. This scribe has often been asked how long, or when, did the Old Men of the Mountain begin.

This scribe hopes this answers that question and on this past Tuesday, Nov. 9, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh to keep up the tradition from having been kicked out of the cave by the women, to being kicked out of the house for the same reason.

Only now the OFs do not have to hunt for food, they just travel their round robin of hunting grounds where the food is prepared and brought to them.

Although many years have gone by, not much has changed: The OFs are still burning wood.

Some of the discussion on Tuesday morning was on the burning of wood. How much the OFs have or had on hand for the winter. How do the OFs feel the winter is going to go? What kind of wood do they burn?

That seems to be an ambiguous question, because most of the OFs know it is not a good idea to burn pine. This discussion seems to come up every year, but since the time in the cave, one would think the OFs had progressed more than that.

One OF, in a way, answered the question. Burning wood is more or less therapeutic and to this OF there is nothing like the aroma and the crackling of a wood fire on a cold and blustery winter’s night. But some of the OFs said they gave that up long ago; it is too much work.

Give them just a simple thermostat, a full tank of oil, and a furnace that works — and they are happy. If the OF is chilly, he just walks over and moves that ’stat up a degree.


Scribe’s challenge

This scribe is trying to report on what the OMOTM are doing, saying, traveling to or from, in or out of jail, anything different or unusual. However, for quite some time, the OGs are behaving themselves, and where they have been has already been reported on.

This makes the job of scribe a little more interesting because the scribe has to resort to older notes to see what happened and is still relevant.


Choosing an ice floe over assisted living

Going back in time, it was noted that assisted living was discussed, and was found not to be the best way to go. This scribe had a note scribbled “Ice Floe” and remembers what this was about.

Most of the OFs in that conversation thought at that time the Eskimos up north have the right idea. Place the old folks on an ice floe with enough food to last awhile and send them out to sea.

There the old folks would be able to make peace with their god, and prepare themselves for death. The ice floe would melt, and the old folks would be buried honorably at sea.

It would be, so the Eskimos thought, only their bodies would be offered to the sea. The gods already had their souls. This scribe does not know if any of this is right or not, but the OMOTM seemed to have some understanding of the ritual.

After checking with Google, it seems that this is a legend that is not entirely wrong. The common perception of taking Granny out to the nearest ice floe and setting her adrift is wrong. But yes, in the past, some Eskimos did kill old people when circumstances were sufficiently desperate.

The OFs would rather do this than go into a nursing home, or assisted living. This, if the scribe remembers correctly, brought out a few humms.

Most of the OFs are in some kind of pain or have another issue, but they never seem to complain. The pain of being left alone seems to be the worst and not many of the OFs look forward to that.

Wasn’t that a cherry dialogue to find? This scribe can see why it wasn’t reported when it was discussed.


No list, but desires fulfilled

Then a few weeks back, there was a note on “Bucket List.” It was found that not many of the OFs have such a list.

Some have the “I wished I did this or that” but not a desire to say “I am going to do this or that and call it a Bucket List.” The OFs think the term Bucket List is a new catch phrase for something many OFs have been doing for years.

Like saving up to go on an extended vacation in Hawaii or for some it would be Alaska. For one it was a desire to return to Normandy and the area where he served in World War II, and that “Bucket List” item (so to speak) was achieved.



It is with deep regret that this scribe must report on another Old Man of the Mountain passing on to meet with the other Old Men of the Mountain on their Tuesday morning cloud. Bill Bartholomew has gone to join that crowd. And, like all the others, he will missed be greatly.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh with their woulda, shoulda, coulda, in mind, but not necessarily a bucket were: Paul Nelson, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Ken Parks, Rich LaGrange, Glenn Patterson, Jim Guest (guest of Harold and Wally Guest), Wally Guest, Otis Lawyer, Marty Herzog, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Paul Whitbeck, Jake Herzog, Gerry Chartier, Rev. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, John Dabrvalskes, Russ Pokorny, and me.

We are already into November and the older the Old Men of the Mountain get, the faster the time goes. For time itself, yet for things not exactly related to time, they seem to take forever.

It takes forever just to get things done and there doesn’t seem to be enough time. However, on Nov. 2, Election Day, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.

As always, the OMOTM discussed old cars, old trucks, and old tractors. That’s because of the ages of this group. It was obvious that one OF was tickled with what he had accomplished with his old Massey-Ferguson tractors.

To do this, he had to use 2021 technology. This OF proudly showed how he has gotten his old machine to run, along with sound effects. The OF passed around his phone, which had a photo of the machine running in his garage. The OFs were impressed as each in turn looked at the phone to see the display.

A simple phone does a lot more now than just making phone calls. Attaching the name “phone” to these devices does not sound right. Of course they can, and are, used to make calls but it seems most of the time the new phones get used for something else.

The OFs can remember when the phones had operators and you could ask the operator to get the person you were calling. In the town of Esperance, New York, the operator could see out to the street from a large window in the telephone office.

When calling the garage, you would say (this is an actual number) 19 the house, or say 19 the garage, and the operator would do it, or the operator might say (actual stated conversation), “Milton is not there; I just saw him go into the tea room. I’ll dial that for you.”

Also the OFs remember the phone number for the doctor was 1, the phone number for Mexico (a local tavern) was 2, and the phone number for the artificial inseminator was 3. It was much simpler then.


Lots of bear and deer

The OFs have mentioned recently that bears are on the prowl. Tuesday morning again, bear sightings were reported, but added to it was the amount of healthy looking deer roaming around, not only in the woods, but in some of the OFs’ yards and fields.

There does seem to be more than normal. The OF’s sightings are mostly rural and Encon will, of course, bring us up to date on this situation.

One OF mentioned bears may be only around here; the OFs have no idea about the other tiers of the state. Maybe in some other areas  the bears don’t appear and our region has them all.


Hollow Halloween

Halloween has come and gone, and there was no mention of it at the breakfast. Apparently not many (if any) of the OFs decorated for Halloween, or had any great influx of kids.

No one even mentioned decorations of others like they do at Christmas time. This scribe has seen a few cute decorations when he was out and about, some really clever.

Of course this scribe didn’t wander very far, Altamont and Voorheesville, and a little bit in Guilderland Center was about it. Fall decorations — that is another story.


Prices jump

The cost of living has been touched on at a couple of meetings, but just around the edges. However, at this meeting, it was discussed quite a bit.

To the OFs, it is getting out of hand in a hurry. One OF mentioned that prices are not just inching up but are jumping by leaps and bounds. Another OF thought it was supply and demand and likened to all those unloaded boats, and scarcity of truck drivers.

One OF mentioned he had to sell his plane because it was just too expensive to park it and maintain it, let alone supply the fuel to fly it.

Some of the OFs wondered who was paying the demurrage (a charge for detaining a ship, freight car, or truck) on the ships just parked offshore. Some thought it might just be like the railroad, or trailers left off to be loaded or unloaded. In those cases, it is the company that pays that fee, not the railroad.

It was thought that many hobbies of this type, like flying, boating, golf, even maybe fishing, will go by the wayside because it will become too expensive to maintain participation in them when on a fixed income. That will be a shame.

One OF mentioned how much harder he had to work now compared to just a couple of years ago as a truck driver, and that the pressure applied made the job not only physically more exhausting but unsafe.

Another OF who was just discharged from the hospital said that previously the care he received in the same hospital was good but that this time he compared it to being in hell. The OF attributed this to lack of help and overworked staff.

The OF mentioned some of the particulars as he saw them, but this scribe is not going to mention them because it may just be an OF grumbling because things were not like they were before, and he was just repeating what he was told by overworked employees.

The OFs keep asking, “Where has everybody gone?”

It seems just like a little while ago so many were unemployed it was making news as one OF put it. One other OF answered that it was just the news people, making news where there wasn’t any.

This OF said, if you wanted to work, there was work, and people looking for workers. That again the scribe does not know.

The scribe only knows what he reads in the paper like this media clip from The Miami Herald: Man married, sentenced on same day.

Then one OF capped it all up by saying he is so old he has been through all this before and there is no sense “bitchin’” about it; it tain’t gonna change, and it will all work out in the end.

The OF may be right, but in this case: Will the end be worth it? The older the OFs get, this can be said about many things.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Middleburgh Diner and showed up in their fancy cars and trucks and not their old tractors, with mismatched tires, only one fender, and no cowling (a removable metal covering that houses the engine) were: Paul Nelson, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Jake Herzog, Gerry Chartier, Russ Pokorny, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, Jack Norray, Paul Whitbeck, North Carolina guest Jay Williams, and me.

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.

At Tuesday’s breakfast on Oct. 19, when the Old Men of the Mountain gathered at the Country Café in Schoharie, the OMOTM found out that the report on the goodness of the OMOTM who brought the raspberries to last week’s breakfast has an interesting ending.

It is now necessary to revisit the raspberry saga. The OMOTM who brought the raspberries also brought bags to put them in so the OFs could carry them home.

This scribe has noted on various occasions that many of the OFs carpool to the breakfast. Last Tuesday was no different. One carload left as usual after the breakfast and headed home.

One OF placed his raspberries in the bag supplied so that he could easily carry his berries. The OMOTM who was driving said that he would put his berries in the same bag because he would be dropping him off last and they both could use the same bag.

The driver did his normal thing and drove up to the last rider’s home and dropped him off. The last rider took his raspberries out of the bag and went into the house. The driver continued home and took the remaining bag of berries into his home and put them into the refrigerator.

The OF’s wife went to get the raspberries at supper time to use them and said to the OF, “What’s this? All we have is a couple cartons of some kind of animal food, not raspberries!”

The OF said (whatever you think) and related the story to the wife. Whether they thought it was funny is again (whatever you think).

Remember when leaving the restaurant the driver put his raspberries on top of those already in the bag? When dropping the rider off the rider took the berries on top. Guess who should have gotten the dog food. You are right.


Vacation treasure

There is an OMOTM who is taking off to his winter home in Florida on Monday. The OF mentioned that they have rented an Airbnb on the east coast in Key West, or Sebastian, Florida and they are going to scan for gold and collectibles from the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which went down not far from Key West.

There is a museum in Key West, the Fisher Museum, which holds many artifacts from that wreck. Another OF mentioned that he has been to that museum and it is fascinating. According to both OFs, after a storm there is still gold and silver washed up on shore from these wrecks. Wrecks (plural) because the OF renting the Airbnb said the Atocha had a sister ship that many surmise went down in the same storm. 

One OF said this particular OF is going to be there with everybody else and their Geiger counters. Then another OF questioned if the workings of these things have changed because he understood the Geiger counters or metal detectors only detected ferrous items and gold and silver are non-ferrous.

The OFs thought the OF leaving would not be alone; it might be just like those who go to Herkimer and the Herkimer diamond mines hoping to find a Herkimer diamond, or those who travel out west, or up in the Adirondacks and go panning for gold.

The OFs thought it sounds like fun though and could be profitable; at least he will be doing it in jeans and T-shirt instead of a mackinaw, and mukluks.


Dearth of drivers

The OFs talked about their ages and jobs since it seems so many companies are looking for workers. “Hey, how about us?”

“Yeah,” one OF said, “we are willing to work but not really able.”

Truck drivers and school bus drivers seem to be desperately needed. Many of the OFs can and do still drive, but one OF mentioned that some OFs really don’t trust themselves in an emergency response to a busload of kids. For instance, what if one student gets sick while on the bus, or maybe the bus gets behind the wheel of a jack- knifing tractor trailer.

One OF carried the conversation a few steps further and commented that he thought, with such a demand for drivers, the employers are going to be taking the bottom of the barrel. They have already snatched onto what was left from before the pandemic and have taken the best of the worst.

This OF fears that there are going to be many drivers behind the wheel of these trucks that don’t even belong on the road with reins in their hands, let alone driving a truck of any kind. A good slogan for OFs or anyone with a driver’s license would be: Drive carefully. Ninety percent of all people are caused by accidents.


Dangers with birdseed

Again, the OFs talked about birds and animals that the OFs used to see, but lately are finding scarce, or not at all. That brought up a brief discussion on birds, and many birders and ornithologists say: Don’t feed the birds because they are finding much of the seed has chemicals on them that are harming the birds and their eggs.

One OF said, “This sounds like we are going back to the days of DDT. That stuff really worked on bugs, but was causing problems with the birds.”

The OFs wondered if the same type of problem was beginning to show itself.

“Strange things,” one OF mused. “Insects are very important to our ecology, but can carry some wicked diseases.”

Those OFs who accepted the invitation of the Country Café in Schoharie to have breakfast with them were: Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Marty Herzog, Paul Nelson, Jake Lederman, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Jake Herzog, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Rev. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, John Dabravalskas, and me.


On Oct. 12, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. Most know of the fire that happened last week in the village in which a lady died in the blaze. The house is just kitty-corner of the Your Way Café and this prompted conversation on the fire. The lady that was a victim of the fire was known by many of the OMOTM, as was the family.

A lot of the OMOTM were volunteer firemen and the burned-out pile of rubble brought to mind the fire and how it was fought. This scribe is not sure how much of this is true but the OFs seemed to know what happened.

What the OFs were wondering is why was Middleburgh the first fire company there, when the Schoharie fire department is only about 2,000 feet away? Westmere, why were they there? That fire department is quite a ways away.

One OF expressed the thought that maybe towns should do away with volunteer fire companies, and have paid, professional fire departments instead, but he added, he also thought it should be a combination of paid and volunteer.

Another OF claimed he did not know how this would work. The first OF also agreed it would get the equipment to the fire much faster but then what?  

This scribe assumes this isn’t the first time this conversation has come up with volunteer fire companies. It sounds like there are passionate, devoted people in the mix here, because the next place to go up may be theirs.

There was much debate as to answers but they were not all in agreement so much of the discussion has to be left out. The OMOTM offer their condolences to the families involved with the fire in Schoharie with the loss of their loved one.


Touch a Truck

Speaking of fire trucks, one OF said there is going to be an event in the Berne town park for basically kids (and maybe a few adults who still are kids in some respect) called “Touch a Truck” where the kids will be able to sit in and pretend to drive all sorts of trucks.

The OFs hope all the keys are out of these things and in a safe place). This sounds like fun for “kids.”


THE bridge

One OMOTM told a story when he was asked, “What are you doing since you retired?” Well, he is still driving truck and making deliveries apparently on his own terms.

One of his deliveries took him downstate to “THE” bridge. The OF could not get the new name out. The OF knew it but couldn’t say it and finally, with help from the OFs around him, announced you mean the Tappan Zee bridge, and this scribe must report there was much laughter and snickers.

No one was going to call it the “Governor Mario M. Cuomo” bridge no matter how many or how large the signs are — it is still the Tappan Zee.

One OF gave a brief history of the original name of the bridge: Tappan, for the Native Indians that lived in the area, and Zee, the Dutch word for sea, which was for the Dutch that settled in the area including Albany. Now you know the rest of the story.


Disappearing toll booths

To go along with the bridge and the toll just to use it to cross the river, the OFs talked about these no-toll booths on some interstates. The OFs don’t trust these booths at all.

One OF said he was headed up the Northway and the vehicle ahead of him was hauling a boat. This vehicle was also used for plowing snow.

As the OF passed said vehicle, he noted it still had the frame for attaching the plow to the vehicle, and from behind the OF said he could not see a license plate at all because of the boat. Even after passing it, he could only see the edge of a plate. The OF wondered, if this vehicle was on the Thruway, how would a camera get a picture to send a bill?

Many questioned this arrangement, again when the driver gets on and off quickly (especially downstate where the exits come up fast) the state is doing all this for perhaps 20 cents. The OFs don’t quite understand it.

One OF thought there must be some kind of special camera equipment involved. Say, for instance, the first vehicle through is a tractor trailer hauling doubles, then the next one is a Volkswagen beetle, and the one after that is a pickup truck hauling a camper, and they all leave the Thruway at different exits.

To do this, the OF opined, it must take quite a sophisticated piece of camera equipment to sort all this out and send the bills to the right people.   

However, some of this new technology takes a while to sink in, in the older brain cells, not that it won’t ever sink in; it just takes longer. We OFs remember that Moses had the first tablet that could connect to the cloud.

The Old Men of the Mountain made it to the Your Way Café, and helped them open the doors for the day. Those OMOTM with their hands on the key were: Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Rick LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Miner Stevens, Paul Nelson, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Jake Lederman, Gerry Chartier, Russ Pokorny, Pete Whitbeck, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Duncan Bellinger, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, and me.

The sun is rising later and later, daylight is beginning to peek through around 7 a.m. now. Charging off to breakfast for the early birds is going to require headlights, and headlights were necessary for these Old Men of the Mountain on this Tuesday, Oct. 5, as the OMOTM that either can’t sleep, or are still waking up to go get the cows, were off to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh for breakfast.

Some of the OFs were mentioning relatives and OMOTM who were no longer with us, and in some cases what caused their demise. Habits, lifestyle, and smoking were mentioned ,which caused much of what was the reason for an earlier-than-should-be departure.

Smoking was a topic of how so many OFs picked up the habit. In the late forties, and early fifties, when many of the OFs at the tables were still in their formative years, smoking was not a problem.

One OF mentioned that he does not remember his first cigarette. Another OF commented that he was putting in hay with a few guys and he was (the OF thinks) just a junior in high school, and the workers stopped for a break.

One of the men took out a pack of cigarettes and offered the other two and him a cigarette from the pack. The OF said he just took one, and the conversation never stopped. He did what the others did.

He had the cigarette, took the light, and he was on his way like he was 20 years old. He doesn’t remember anything being said. It was just a matter of fact that now he was a member of the group.

That is how common smoking was in those days. Now we know so much more and how bad smoking is, and it is one of the most dangerous health hazards on the planet.

The OF remembered in the military when things were getting tough it was “smoke ’em if you got ’em,” which was to help you relax, and maybe it did. Now they have pot to do the same thing and that stuff is just as bad.

Give it fifty years. “Yeah, but something else will come to take its place!”


King of spices

An unusual topic for discussion was the use of pepper. Somehow this came up, only briefly, but everyone seemed to know what was being discussed.

It is odd how people talk about other people’s eating habits. Some think it is weird how and what other people eat, yet those “other” people think you eat weird and have strange eating habits.

Some OFs like a lot of pepper and, as one OF put it, they even take the top off the pepper shaker and just dump the pepper out on whatever is on the plate. Others say just a little pepper cleans out the nostrils.



It has been said before: It is fun to watch how and what the OMOTM eat for breakfast. Every breakfast, I think I’ll order pancakes, but I keep waffling.


As most people know, there was a problem with Facebook a little while ago, just after last week’s breakfast. The column speaks about the OMOTM talking a lot about the past, and that is true; however, many are as up-to-date as anybody much younger.

At the breakfast, the OFs began talking about the Facebook problem and the OFs started hauling out their smartphones, and checking out the Facebook situation. These OFs were wondering how these problems were similar and different, and who had what apps, especially Google.

These phones can cost a few bucks, but in many cases the smart phone and its connections seems to be the individual’s life blood. Take that phone away and these particular individuals are lost.


Income dilemma

Senior housing was another topic that came up. This subject is near and dear to many of the OFs’ hearts. The OFs harkened back to their first jobs if not on the farm.

At times, the OFs thought, if they were making a hundred bucks a week, they would soon be millionaires. For some, one hundred dollars every two weeks was good money.

Of course, as one OF put it, our wages grew and prices went up and it was relatively easy to keep up, but then things somehow seemed to have gotten way out of hand. Young people are getting starting wages per week more than the OFs made in a year.

The OFs complain that senior housing is so expensive they can’t afford it on their fixed incomes. That leaves many of the OFs with low-income housing and some never thought they had what is called low income.

The OMOTM quite often delve into deep, and sometimes, emotional discussions. Regardless of what is touted so often of how badly we eat, and occasionally behave, people are living longer.

Yaay for processed foods and ready-made meals. There, that’s one vote for the other side.

This scribe wonders, does pepper have anything to do with it? The OMOTM pepper eater will be 90 shortly, and still is a good driver, works in his garage, mows his own lawn, and has a good time.

The Old Men of the Mountain who, in the mist of the early morning, managed to make it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and they were in goodly number: Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Bob Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Allen DeFazio, Rev. Jay Francis, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Duncan Bellinger, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Pete Whitbeck, Rick LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Jake Lederman, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Paul Whitbeck, Ken Parks, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Wally Guest, and me.

On Sept. 28, this scribe was not in attendance at the weekly Tuesday breakfast. A more important task was in order and this scribe had an official excuse.

Fortunately, there were some of the OFs who would take names and advise this scribe if anything interesting went on. It was reported some stories were different and topical. This saved research into notes not used from previous gatherings.

On Tuesday, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. One of the OMOTM is a gardener of sorts like some of the others, but this OF’s specialty is raspberries. This OF’s raspberry patch is substantial and he has friends (and strangers) come and pick the berries.

Raspberries have a taste all their own, and are used in many dishes, mostly desserts. Is there a raspberry ice cream, or a raspberry cookie? The OMOTM who grows the raspberries never heard of any. However, just a quick check on Google gave many cookie recipes and suppliers of ice cream.

The raspberry-growing OF (on the Tuesday this scribe wasn’t there) decided to bring to the breakfast cups of raspberries for all the OFs in attendance and pass them out. Which he did; however, there is going to be surprise for one of the recipients.

After the breakfast, the generous OF with the raspberries hopped on his motorcycle and headed home.

When he arrived home and went into the house, the OF’s wife greeted him with, “Hi honey, where is the dog food? I went to the fridge and all I found for the dog was a cup of raspberries. I don’t think the puppies will be too happy with that.”

Oooops — the generous OF grabbed the cups of raspberries for the OFs from the refrigerator and took them to the breakfast. Some OF is going to get home, open his cup of raspberries and find — guess what? This scribe hopes the OF knows how to bark.


Search for the S.S. Minnow

The alternate scribe also reported that one of the OFs continued his tales of boating on Lake Anna in Virginia so once again the report goes back to last week. The location and cast of characters are the same.

This particular story of the lake had the same OF with four friends in the boat and this OF was taking them for a ride to show them the lake. Apparently, the OF thought it would be cool if he showed them the S.S. Minnow (which was reported he “discovered” last week). However, he entered what he thought was the right river (numerous rivers drained into this lake) but it wasn’t right.

The OF said he went up the river, found no Minnow and the water started getting shallower; now it was about four to five feet deep. The OF said he knew this was wrong, so he turned around and went back to the channel.

He turned right and proceeded up and spotted another river and thought that was the right way and he went up this river about two or three miles and the water started getting shallower. Again, the sonar showed only four to five feet of water. Wrong way for a second time so the OF went back; by now the friends were getting a little anxious.

The OF again headed up and spotted another river and it sure looked like where they came in — same thing though, three to four miles up, shallow water, wrong again, back again.

Another turn, found another river, same thing, kept going up this river, after traveling for a while the water became shallow, another wrong choice. By now, the OF knew he was lost.

The OF decided to go back to the channel, which he knew was 15 feet deep, and he would head back down instead of up and keep maintaining 15 feet by checking the sonar.

This he did and, after some time of riding back, one of his guests in the boat said, “Hey, I recognize that brush. Didn’t we come through some brush to get in this channel?

 The OF turned and went through the brush, traveled a little ways and there was the lake.

As an OF was relating this story that the other OG had told at the breakfast to the OMOTM, this scribe thought, “Now do we not only have the S.S. Minnow, but we are on the African Queen going through the brush to get to the channel, only the boat is without Katharine Hepburn.”

It seems the OMOTM who were at the Middleburgh Diner have two choices. Be sure to check the containers of raspberries you may be given, and be careful about getting on an OF’s boat, or you may be in for an adventure, and these forewarned OFs were: Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Jake Herzog, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Russ Pokorny, Jack Norray, and not me.

— Painting by John R. Williams

John R. Williams painted this scene of the now-gone shipyard where he and his wife waited for a whale-watch boat and he painted the name on a newly repaired lobster boat. “The boat that I lettered was right by those rocks,” Williams recalled. “The lobster man asked if I lived around there and I told him no, we were just visitors from the hills around Albany. He said I should move to the area and I would live very well just lettering boats and be much in demand after the other lobster guys saw his boat.”

This scribe is royally ticked off at this scribe. To explain that sentence, this is the second time I have typed this. The column was all finished; however, there was a lack of concentration and, just like in bowling and missing your spot (and you know you missed and want the ball back), this scribe put the cursor on the wrong dot and clicked.

As soon as the finger hit “click” on the mouse, this scribe wanted it back but it was too late. The ball was already in the gutter. All was lost. Now trying to remember what was in the original is a stretch. Oh well, here goes.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, those OMOTM who were not on vacation, or -n late summer visits, met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. It is somewhat of a misnomer to equate a retired OF with being on vacation.

They are retired, where do they have to go? It sure isn’t work for most of them; they are on constant vacation, but it is nice to get away to different scenery, or visit friends that live a distance away. In a sense, these may be considered vacations.

The night before the breakfast was the Harvest Moon, and many OFs thought they were the only ones going out and taking a look in the late evening (some even with binoculars) but they found out there were others, this scribe being one of those. Most of the viewers on the Hill did not have to deal with artificial light and had good views.

Around seven o’clock, as the moon just came up, this scribe thought the Earth and the moon were going to collide. Other OGs agreed and commented it looked darn close.

On the way to the Chuck Wagon, early Tuesday morning, the moon was still up in the west. The OFs had the sun and moon at the same time. “Shine on, Harvest Moon” — that is a tune for the old folks.

One OG returned from vacation close to where he was brought up. This OF took his boat with him and traveled to Lake Anna in Virginia. The OF said it has 275 miles of shore line made up from navigable rivers, creeks, and coves all around the lake. The OF told everyone it is in the middle of nowhere, and Culpepper, Virginia is the closest town anyone knows of.

While riding in his boat on the lake one day, the OF decided to travel up one of the tributaries. After traveling for a while up this river, he saw on the bank an old, pretty good-sized hulk of a cabin cruiser with “USS Minnow” painted on the stern in large letters. The OF said he could almost see the captain chasing Gilligan around the shore.

Another OF just returned from Maine. This is a state where many OFs go, to be by the ocean. The OF said that a lobster meal was on the menu — of course there would be that.

The OF said they went to the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine. This place is like the Chuck Wagon (or really any diner) only it was extremely busy with generally a waiting line to get in.

The OF said the lobsters cost him $70, and he felt ripped off because these lobsters were so small. “Seventy bucks!” the OF said again, but then he said the prices on the coast are getting out of hand for those on a fixed budget. That sure fits the OMOTM.

The OF said the next day he went to a lobster pound and ordered two lobsters — one three pounds and one two pounds so he could have some real lobster. The OF did not say how much they cost.

One OF said he could understand the price of lobsters going up and maybe some other things; just look at the price of gas or diesel fuel. The OF bet it cost quite a few bucks just to put fuel in one of those lobster boats.

Speaking of lobster boats, this scribe, who is also an OF, has to sneak in a story on lobster boats. This scribe and his wife were in Kennebunkport, Maine early in the morning, waiting for the boat, which takes people on a whale watch, to arrive.

This was at the Arundel Shipyard in Kennebunkport. While meandering around the boat yard, the scribe spotted a lobster boat with just-completed repairs and an older gentleman attempting to letter the stern.

At the rate the fellow was going, it would take him at least a couple of days to do it. This scribe watched him for a short while with his shaky hands and the scribe was getting antsy watching him.

Finally, this scribe told his wife he was going to go over and do the lettering. The scribe’s wife said, “John, don’t interfere; besides, our whale-watching boat may come before you finish.”

This scribe didn’t listen and went over to the man painting and asked, “Who owns this boat?” The man said “I do.”

This scribe said, “Give those brushes!” and took the brushes out of the guy’s hands. In 20 minutes, the job was done and looked sharp. This scribe went on to paint lobsters at each end of the lettering and they looked real, from a distance anyway.

The gentleman must have thought it was going to cost a fortune and said, “How much is this going to cost?”

This scribe said, “It’s on the house” gave the brushes back and went to watch whales.

One definition of an OF is that he’s a person who has had many interesting experiences, some of them true.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, while enjoying the show in the sky on the way in, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Duncan Bellinger, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Jake Herzog, Pete Whitbeck, Marty Herzog, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, John D, and me — and rest in peace, Roger Chapman; enjoy your breakfast on the cloud along with all the other OMOTM there waiting for you.

— Photo by Irving Rusinow, National Archives and Records Administration

John R. Williams’s mother cooked on a stove similar to this one. “If I remember right, my mother had two cans of grease, one was just bacon, and the other had different kinds of grease and fat in it,” he said.

The Old Men of the Mountain are still hanging around the Schoharie Valley and on Tuesday, Sept. 14th, they met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. A couple of the OMOTM decided to save room in the parking lot and showed up on their motorcycles. The next thing you know, some of the OFs will be showing up on their horses.

One OF reported that, on the way to the restaurant on Route 145, a short way past Knox Cave Road, he had to slow down to let a black bear cross the road. The bear just took his time as he crossed and then disappeared into the woods headed in the direction of Middle Road.

This started a conversation about recent spotting of bears in the area. The chat included Altamont and Guilderland, Old Stage Road above Altamont, and more sightings over in the valley. There could be three bears or more or just one bear that likes to go for walks.

Again, the talk continued on big cats spotted in the same area, and of course, deer. One OF mentioned the weather has produced an abundance of food for all the critters that roam the fields and woods. It was expressed that all the animals did not have to search for water at least in the Northeast this year.

It might be the reverse. Actually, there was too much water and the creatures large and small have had enough — even the animals with opposing thumbs think there has been too much heavenly water so far this year.

One OF said currently the Gulf at the Mexico arch (also known as Land’s End at the extreme southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula) has seen enough rain. “If only we could catch it some way and send it to the West Coast, it would be great,” an OF mused.


Bacon grease

The scribe was doing his duty, reporting on the doings of the OMOTM basically to supply alibis. Over his morning coffee, he read in the food section of the Times Union on Sept. 16 a section on keeping bacon grease. At last week’s breakfast, there was quite a discussion on how our (the OFs’) mothers kept a can of bacon grease on the top shelf of the stove. This grease was basically bacon but sometimes there was other grease dumped into the can.

The discussion was on how the grease was used and how good that grease made a lot of food taste. One OF mentioned how the smell of eggs and bacon, as he opened the woodshed door to go through to get to the kitchen when he came in from milking, was great. The OF said he wished he could capture all that again. This keeping of (especially) the bacon grease must be making a comeback.

Another OF said that, on one of his trips to Maine, he found a restaurant that had a bacon-grease-and-lettuce sandwich. The OF was questioned if it was just bacon and lettuce, without the tomato, and the OF said, “No, it was just bacon grease and lettuce.”

Sounded weird, but worth a try, probably cheaper than bacon and lettuce, and just about the same thing — the flavor without the bacon.

One OF said, if you haven’t had pancakes cooked on a cast-iron skillet, coated with bacon grease, smeared with butter, and real maple syrup, two or three eggs and a cold glass of raw milk, you haven’t had pancakes, or even a whopping breakfast.

This scribe notices at the breakfast some of the OFs try to emulate these early farm breakfasts, by ordering pancakes with a couple of eggs on top, toast and coffee, and the OFs stow all this away each Tuesday morning.

All of the talk about eating brings to mind a small witticism. Bread is like the sun: It rises in the yeast and sets in the waist.

After eating like this on a regular basis, some of the OFs who are in their seventies and eighties were planning to take some people on a hike. Maybe it is because the OFs ate like this when they were young, worked hard outdoors, and the food had only the chemicals in them that came from basically natural sources that they had a good start.

None of this food was processed; a lot of it came from the backyard. The OFs threw in how they were out digging up dandelions for salads, and whatever grasses and weeds that were edible.

These were much different times, and there was space to hunt for wild greens suitable for eating. Today, with a couple million people living in a few square miles, this is a little hard to do.

Jumping back to Tuesday morning’s previous exchanges, the OFs started talking about hunting large animals — especially with bow and arrow. Those OFs who were talking about this made it sound like quite a challenge and apparently not one for those weary of heart, or muscle.

These OFs discussed eating the venison which is a good thing; after all, we started out as hunter-gathers.

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and not out scurrying about taking advantage of the early days of fall, and the late days of summer, were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rich LaGrange, Miner Stevens, Jake Lederman, Robie Osterman, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Pete Whitbeck, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Bob Donnelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, John Dabrvalskes, and me.