— Photo by John R. Williams

Simple pleasures: Kim’s West Winds Diner in Preston Hollow provides outdoor seating where some of The Old Men of the Mountain enjoy the spring weather. Next time they visit the eatery, some of them plan to bring fishing poles.

On Tuesday, May 24, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Kim’s West Winds Diner in Preston Hollow. Kim’s sits practically in the Catskill Creek because this creek flows so close to the back of the diner.

On a tree on the bank of the creek about 30 feet from the diner, at the edge of the of the diner’s parking lot, is a small sign the reads “Fishing Permitted.” When fish is ordered at the diner, it should be fresh. Creeks are fun and quite romantic until they flood; then they become angry torrents.

Some of the OFs lingered as they left the restaurant and enjoyed the early morning hours at the tables outside the diner. They discussed many topics while listening to the sounds of the creek as it is wending its way to the Hudson.

Ah! Some of the simple pleasures of being retired. At this age, the OFs are not wasting time chasing women, running off to play ball, or just going to work. The OFs are out enjoying what God has put here for the OFs’ pleasure.

No longer naïve

As usual, at the table Tuesday morning, much of the discussion centered around what the OFs did when they were working, even prior to that, or in the military. Some of the OFs mentioned how life is different in larger cities and how most of them found this out while in the military.

The Hilltown OFs did not realize how naïve they were, nor how poor they were, until they ran into these guys. One OF said that at home no one locked their doors, or locked their cars, but in the service this one OF said you had to put your shoes on fast or others would steal the socks right off your feet. These experiences are carried over till this day.

Another OF mentioned that his experiences in the military ran along the same lines and originally caused a camaraderie between the city folk banding together and the country folk doing the same.  The OF said it took awhile before the country folk and city folk could sort each other out, and friendships began to develop across the city-country cultures.

However, this OF said that to him the tag of “country hick” stuck with many of the hay foot-straw foots even after many of the country boys turned out to be better soldiers, sailors, or marines, than the city slickers.

Stereotypes are earned

Stereotypes, they are traits that are earned!

For instance, the Welsh can sing, the Irish can fight, the French can love and cook, and the Spanish can paint. The Italians can cook but, unlike the French, love is not what they are noted for — all they can do, so the stereotype goes, is pinch.

However, we all know a Welshman that can’t sing a note, an Irishman that won’t fight, a Spaniard that can’t draw a straight line, an Italian that can’t boil water or won’t pinch even if the opportunity presented itself, and a Frenchman — well, maybe that one is hard to top. The OFs think all French are good at their designated stereotype.

Applying the past to the present

The OFs talked about taking the experiences they accrued over their lifetime so far and applying it to how they live life today.

One OF thought his mind hasn’t changed much, but there are certain things he did “back then” that he does do differently today, while another OF said he can’t remember how he did it “back then”; he only knows how he does it today. This OF claimed he does not dwell on the past; he claims today is all that counts.

Then the other OFs said, “Well, how did you know how to do what you do today if you didn’t do some version of it ‘back then’ and altered it?”

The OF retorted, “If you clutter your pea-pickin’ brain up with all the way-back-whens, it gets in the way of learning anything new. I am not going to be an OF that says, ‘Well, that ain’t how we used to do it.’  Forget how we used to do it, do it the way it is done today, so there!”

Another OF said, “I agree with that OF who says it’s not the way we used to do it. If the key to start the car is always on the righthand side of the wheel, don’t go sticking it on the left. I had enough trouble learning that to dim the headlights when I didn’t have to push a little button on the floor between the clutch and the brake.”

Yet another OF said, “Hey, you still holler, ‘Whoa!’ and pull on the steering wheel when you go to stop your truck.”

To which one more OF interjected, “We get too young stupid, and too old smart.”

Those OFs who made it to Kim’s West Winds Diner in Preston Hollow (and when Kim’s restaurant’s time comes again in the OFs’ rotation of fine eating establishment, they are going to bring their fishing poles) were: Dave Williams, Harold Grippen, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Don Wood, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Art Frament, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Pete Whitbeck, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Jess Vadney, Harold Grippen, Harold N. Guest Jr., and me.

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It’s Tuesday May 17, and it’s me again Margret (heh-heh-heh) with the weekly report of the Old Men of the Mountain.

On May 17, the Old Men of the Mountain were as high as they get at any restaurant they visit because the restaurant was the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. As usual, the OMOTM have their morning greetings and weather reports, and this morning it was mentioned that not many of the OFs had ventured out the past week because of the wind, and the fact that they were cold.

The OFs bet that the hummingbirds that have returned wish they stayed down south a tad longer.

This is a continuation of one of the discussions of the Tuesday prior (really many Tuesdays) only this further dialogue delved into other things besides just cars, tractors, and trucks.

This chatting was the lack of being able to work on, and repair, many appliances that the OFs used to repair with common household tools. Parts for the appliances could be bought at the hardware store or where the appliance was purchased.

It used to be (what a worn-out phrase but true) the OF could put brushes in an electric motor or power tool, or change a trigger, or replace a lead. Now the OFs can’t even find the screws to take the things apart.

One OF said the reason they can’t find the screws is because there aren’t any — a lot of these appliances and tools (once the innards are done) are encased in plastic; there is no way to take them apart.  So then you can just chuck it in the trash can.

Raise the hood of a car, and the OFs say they need $10,000 worth of special tools just to get at what needs repair. The backyard mechanic is long gone.

To work on just about any small appliance today, the OFs say it is necessary to apprentice somewhere, go to a factory training school, or attend BOCES to learn how to do appliance maintenance or repair.

One OF had a new energy-efficient furnace installed with a small stack that was just warm to the touch when the furnace was running. The original oil man looked at it and said, “Don’t call me to fix this thing.  It looks like a TV set inside that cover.”

The OF said it used to be (note the phrase) that he could put a new nozzle on the burner and adjust the air by himself; now half the repairmen who come have to call in an expert even when they are supposed to be heating and air-conditioning technicians themselves.

One OF said that many small appliances, and economically priced tools are not meant to be repaired — they are throw-aways.

Another OF said that goes for cars, too. Some of the upholstered roller skates they call automobiles these day are throw-aways. It costs more to fix them than the car cost.

NEAT dinner is really neat

Some of the OFs live alone, like many seniors, and they travel around to find meals that are cheap or free.

One they find particularly good is the NEAT (Not Eating Alone Tonight) dinner at the Reformed Church in Berne. According to the OFs, the NEAT dinner is really neat and they look forward to that one on the third Monday of the month.

This scribe did a little follow-up on this and found that the meal is served at 5 p.m., and requires a phone call to say you are coming.  That phone call is really appreciated. They have room for 95 people, and it is just one setting.

This meal is by donation. If you can afford it, drop something in the bucket; if not don’t worry about it, that is really what the meal is for.

Brother’s keeper

Walking to school: Here is a topic one can only appreciate if you are of a certain age. The OFs go back a ways (1930s to ’40s) to when the Hilltowns were dotted with one-room school houses and the OFs had to walk to school.

One OF said that, on his way to school in the springtime, the swamp on the side of the road would fill up with the spring rains and snow runoff, then the swamp would cover the road. This OF said his older brother would carry him and his other siblings through the swamp. The older brother went to school wet while all his brothers were nice and dry.

Some OFs were picked up by horse and wagon and sleighs in the wintertime, and some trudged their way two miles or so to go to school.

Back then, most of the one-room schools also had only one outhouse, so LGBT was not a problem — just lock the door.  Also back then, not many bothered locking the doors; they were farm kids and nature was natural to them.

The outhouses did not have heat either so there was no lingering when you got permission to go to the privy in the wintertime. There was no running water either; there were hand pumps with a bucket and a dipper. Some teachers gave the job of getting water from a creek to various students.

In the wintertime, some students were also given the job to go to school early to start the fire, and make sure the ice was broken if the water were frozen. No wonder many OFs look at the kids of today and say, “What a pampered bunch.”

One OF mentioned one winter was so bad that the school was held at his house for about two weeks. The house was on flat ground and the teacher and the kids could get that far. No snow days back then.

But now, when the OFs go to the hospital, they want the best of the “pampered bunch” to go and grab his laser to operate on the OFs back even if the doctor performing the operation isn’t old enough to shave. Go figure.

Those OFs who made it through their one-room schoolhouse days and who found their way to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville in their late-model chariots were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Ted Willsey, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Jim Rissacher, Art Frament, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

It is May 10, and it is a Tuesday, and any old man worth his salt is at the Old Men of the Mountain breakfast at the Home Front Café in Altamont.

Except for the cold, the OMOTM had clear driving on their way to the Home Front; however, some of the OFs had early morning temperatures in the low twenties. That will get your attention, especially in mid May. (Almost).

The OFs being just that — OFs — were youngsters during the Great Depression (1929 to 1939). Those whose parents were farmers got along (for the most part) pretty well.  Most were poor but didn’t know it because everyone else was poor by today’s standards.

A couple of the OFs never even knew there was a depression because their parents had pretty good jobs during the whole event.

One OF said his relatives made marine engines out of Harley engines and these engines, even then, were in demand. This OF also said his uncle had one of the fastest racing boats in the country for 29 years, and, according to this OF, he was never beaten even by company-sponsored boats.

The OF said that most of the boats used a nitro combination in their engines as did his uncle. The OF said his uncle used a higher nitro combination without damaging the engine.

His secret came from farming. Instead of using the pistons that came with the engine, his uncle removed them and replaced them with Oliver tractor engine pistons, which were much more rugged than OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) pistons, so he could burn this higher nitro ratio.  His uncle’s boat recorded speeds up to 134 miles per hour on water way back then.

Collectors or hoarders?

Now there are OFs who are collectors, and there are OFs who just have stuff. Then there are OFs who have accrued many items over the years that is neither hoarding or collecting; it is just bits and pieces of leftover items purchased in order to do a project of some sort and all of the material was not used and just put away for future use.

Then there are items that their kids have given the OFs over the years that the OFs didn’t have the heart to get rid of. Parts to this, that, and the other thing, just put on a shelf with the thought of using it later, and later still hasn’t arrived.

There are tons of clothes that the OFs have grown out of and still take up space in the closet. Eventually sheds, cellars, garages, and barns are nothing more than paths that the OFs wind their way through to find a place to stash something else.

The OFs maintain that they know just about where everything is squirreled away, and if and when something is needed, what path to go down and retrieve it.

The OF thinks someday he may use those old lawn-mower wheels; unfortunately this scribe thinks that “someday” is not in the OF’s future — so — some of the OFs were talking about downsizing. How this was going to happen never materialized. The term “garage sale” was never mentioned.

The beauty of retirement

There are a plethora of clichés pertaining to those who are joining the ranks of OFs, i.e., better on this side of the grass, age brings wisdom, (scribe’s comment: not necessarily smarts) etc., etc. One thing age does bring is retirement.

Some of the OFs are retired, and some still work after retiring, especially those who were in business for themselves, or those who had a saleable hobby, or interest.

A few OFs retired and proceeded directly into working at these hobbies or interests. The word “retired” makes working at these jobs practically stress free.

If the OFs want to go to their grandkid’s graduation, they go; if they want to go fishing they go, if they want to go to the Adirondacks to do a hike, they go.

Those working for themselves can tell their customers, “When it is done, it is done; I’ll call ya.” If working for someone else and the boss starts piling on the pressure, the OF can say,“Hey, buddy, take this job and shove it.” Oh the beauty of retirement.

However, the OFs left out all the aches and pains that go with the age of retirement, and the desire to not want to get out of bed because, in lying there, the OF realizes it is the best he is going to feel all day.

Another thing the OFs mentioned was that, when working at something that they really enjoy, they do not have to worry about deadlines; the craftsmanship goes up exponentially with age. But one OF said that is until the eyes dim, or the hands start to shake, or everything becomes an effort, just brushing you teeth is a chore.

“I don’t worry about that,” one OF said. “I just take them out of the Efferdent.”

The Old Men of the Mountain who sat at the tables at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and were tempted by the proprietor to talk about politics (but the OFs in their OF wisdom did not take the bait) were: Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Andy Tinning, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On May 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. Again, the OMOTM must report on the weather because for the drivers it was another miserable Tuesday morning.

It seems that for some time now the weather has been in the dumps on Tuesdays. Maybe our winter has spoiled the OFs but many say they feel colder now than they did in mid-winter. It is raw and damp the thermostats have been bumped up, the furnaces and wood stoves are still running, and even cranked up a degree or two higher than what the OFs had them set at during the winter months.

The OFs are getting too familiar with funeral homes, and the OFs started talking about friends that have passed and how some are really missed. This feeling is about good friends as well as relatives.

Many of the OFs’ relatives have moved away and are seen only on special occasions, like weddings, births, graduations, and, yes, even funerals. To take their place, many friendships are deeper than relative connections and the death of one of those friends hits harder than a relative. When a relative of a friend (who the OFs hung out with on a regular basis) passes on, the hole that is left is harder to fill.

Some of the OFs mentioned that the bond became so great, that years later when the OF wanted to go here or there, or do this or that, and that person or those persons are not around, there is the empty feeling of why isn’t so-and-so around so we could do this or that together. It is no fun doing it alone.

Cultivating new friends to fill the void is hard and not even thought of while the good times were rolling on with the friends we had in the past. Then we all get old and life changes.

Breeding bigger, better fish

One table of OFs discussed the work that SUNY Cobleskill is doing with raising fish, and cross-breeding the fish to make them larger and more tasteful.

One OF who worked at the college said that this research has been going on for some time, and now they have a new large building to house the work they are doing. The OFs thought this is extremely needed work as the population of the planet continues to grow.

The work at Cobleskill is for research, but the growing of fish on fish farms in the ocean, and in places like the fish farm in Coxsackie is for consumption and we are supposed to eat more fish.

Rent before you buy?

A conversation that included three topics that did not seem to go together (only the OFs combined them) is a routine conversation like they were all saying the same thing. They spoke about motor homes, then rocket ships, then submarines, and regular ships — all at the same time.  Only the OFs could tie this all together.

The only real story told about motor homes was how a friend of one of the OFs decided motor homing would be the thing for them so they purchased one — neither a fancy one nor an inexpensive one, just a motor home in the medium price range.

With hands on the wheel, they headed out on their first trip to Florida. They set up in a nice park that catered to motor homes but also had permanent homes as well. According to the OF, it rained almost all the time they were there, so their friends could not leave unless they used the motor home.

It wasn’t long before they decided this was not what they thought RVing was going to be like; however, there was a permanent home in the park they liked and it came up for sale. They purchased this home and found it to be more to their liking.

Now there is a motor home for sale that has only one trip to Florida registered on the odometer. What a deal for someone who wants to try their hand at motor homing.

As with many large investments of this type, it was suggested by some that maybe they should have rented instead of buying for their first try with one of these RVs. One OF said he has done this with cars — he rents a make and model he was thinking of purchasing to make sure he likes the vehicle before he buys one like it.

Another OF said, “Hey, that is not a bad idea; how about renting a wife and trying her out before taking the plunge and buying the license and hauling her home?”  

Another OF thought renting kids would also be a good idea to see if you wanted any of your own.  He figured that might cut down on the population explosion after that little trial worked its way out.

“You know,” one OF said, “The renting of the wife could work in reverse. The gals may want to rent you to see if you fill the bill, and you — you old goat - wouldn’t.  You’re ugly and don’t have any money.”

“Well,” the retort came, “I have a nice, late model car. I don’t drive around in something like that old rat trap of a vehicle you call a car that still has pedals in it.”

Oops.  Time to put the pedal to the metal and end that conversation.  

Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown (and some had quite a pedal to get there) were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Mace Porter, Andy Tinning, Duncan Bellinger, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, April 26, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. Fog and rain, snow, sleet, and hail do not deter the Old Men of the Mountain from reaching the appointed eating establishment for the week. This week was such a Tuesday — lousy weather — and we had a full house.

As the OFs report to the breakfast each Tuesday, they are greeted with a hearty “good morning.”  Sometimes the name of the OF joining the group is also greeted by his name (if he is arriving by himself) or maybe just a couple of OGs arriving together will have their names included in the greeting by the OFs who are already there.

The later the OFs arrive, the more “good mornings” are expressed. Most of the OFs being greeted have a reply, and some just wave.

On Tuesday morning, one OF came in and was welcomed with the round of “good mornings” along with his name. When all the greetings were done, the arriving OF replied, “To your misfortune I am here.” Now that was different.

Zeros and ones

Redundancy is something this scribe tries to keep at a minimum; however, this scribe is dealing with OFs and it is hard. At times, although the topic may be redundant, the approach is different, or the circumstances related to a topic are new.

That was the case with a topic Tuesday morning on technology and how much and how fast it alters the way we do things, especially for the OFs who did not grow up with the technology of today from the toddler stage in their life.

What the OFs talked about was the routine, low end of the work force that has been replaced by technology.  For instance, the OFs were referring to jobs like file clerks.

It took many workers to shuffle and file paper that was once necessary to keep on hand, but these records are now being taken care of by machines. Many of the people who are now titled learning-disabled but could handle this type of job easily are no longer working.

The OFs say that, no matter how hard many people try, they are just unable to grasp much of what is going on, but they are definitely not dumb or stupid. The OFs know many of these types of kids who have fallen through a crack large enough to sink an ocean liner.

One OF said that he did not mind all the technology; he maintained that things (for him anyway) are now so much better. Medicine, construction, solar energy, plus so much more are tons better thanks to those zeros and ones.

Then the OFs noted that many of today’s vehicles have so much technological garbage on them that has no real function in making the vehicle go, steer, or stop, which makes it more frustrating when something goes wrong like the Global Positioning System.

“Hey,” the OF said, “I know how to read a map.”

An OF added that, when the light comes on in cold weather to tell you your tires are soft, they may not be. Why do I need that thing when I can see if a tire is soft or not? Those things are more expensive to fix than a new tire.

One OF said, just put a piece of black friction tape over it and forget it. Another OF said that, if you drive a car that has automatic braking on the vehicle, as an operator of such a car, the OF would probably become so used to the car stopping by itself when that little feature failed, whoa — what happens now? — one huge rear-ender.

Yet another OF said he remembers when automatic transmissions came out (and electric windows, and power steering, along with power brakes, and tubeless tires), the same things were said.  He continued, “Go with the flow; give me all that new stuff. Anything that makes my life easier, I am all for even if it is nothing more than zeros and ones.”

Small engines, big headaches

The OFs also talked a lot about lawn tractors, small engines and lawn mowers. The gist of the conversation was small engines are not like tractor engines, or car engines.

The mechanics in the group all agreed that repairing small engines can be frustrating and regular mechanics do not even want to mess with them.

This brought up the new phenomenon of lawn-tractor planters. The OFs noticed in many yards, when a lawn tractor decides to quit, it is just left where it died and the homeowner trots out and buys a new one.

When approaching the tractor (left where it quit) the lawn is just mowed around it and there it sits as a piece of lawn sculpture, or a potted plant is plopped on the seat and it is now a planter.

Heartfelt condolences

In closing this week’s column, the Old Men of the Mountain would like to offer their heartfelt condolences to two families of our members — the Porter family, and the Stevens Family on the loss of Pauline Gaige, and Donna Porter.

Mother and daughter who passed away within days of each other, both are now joining hands in the company of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a better place.

Flying Dutchman

Those OFs who arrived at the Duanesburg Restaurant in Duanesburg, like the crew of the Flying Dutchman materializing out of the fog, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Roger Shafer, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Duncan Bellinger, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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