Tuesday, Jan. 22, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner, in Duanesburg. This was another Tuesday where the OMOTM had to be careful on the roads, especially in the dark of early morning.

One set of OFs came upon a car in the ditch and this mishap appeared to have happened just ahead of them. The OFs said they stopped to see if they could help and the driver said, “No, we’re OK.”

The road where it happened is straight so it must have been inattention or a tad too fast for conditions or overconfidence in the car, because said vehicle was a four-wheel drive. It was no morning to be in a snowbank; the temperature was -2 degrees and the wind was blowing. Oh joy! The fun of winter driving.

The OFs were chattering about how alarmed the weather guys were because the storm of the century was pending and they carried on so. One OF commented that it is called job security.

Of course these OFs are OFs and most all, or maybe all (this is a fact this scribe would have fun looking into — what is the origin of the current group of OFs?) of the OFs are northeasterners and in 70 to 80 years have seen their share of winter storms. Though miserable for some and glorious to others, this storm was maybe normal.

One OF asked what are they comparing it to. He said, “What about 1957-58?”

Then another OF said, “Those years weren’t of this century. We are in the century of 2000 now and the century is young yet.” This OF continued, “The weather guys don’t have to go back too far for any storm to be the storm of the century — they only have to go back 18 years. We have many years to go and probably will have many ‘storms of the century’ coming up.”

Continuing on, discussing the weather during the winter months, it was noted that some of the OFs arrive early at the designated eating establishment. This means the sun has not peeked over the hill yet and these OFs are driving in the dark.

Tuesday morning with the full moon, the OFs talked about how beautiful it was; as the OFs have aged, they are becoming more appreciative of their surroundings and not afraid to talk about it.

OFs contemplate their obituaries

Along with this, the OFs talked about obituaries and how long and what they would say in their obit. With this group, there are enough years under their belts that they have a pretty good idea about what their life was like, and what they would like in their obits.

Some OFs said they would like their obit to read “He lived, he got married, he had six kids, and he died.”  That would be it!

One OF suggested it might be a cool thing to have your obit all written and kept with your will. Another OF added that it might be a good idea to keep on the good side of your kids.

Just like the quite-often recited truism — be nice to your kids because they are the ones who are going to choose your nursing home — it should be added that the kids are going to be the ones to write your obit.

It was further stated by another OF that obits can cost money. If you want to have a long obit, it would a good idea to stick an envelope with money in it attached to the will and have it marked “for obit expenses” and have your pre-written obit in that envelope.

One OF said he doesn’t want an obit, but is going to leave money specifically for his headstone. This OF wants a large, fancy headstone, and on it he wants engraved “Here lies Guess Who, Born 1937 — Died 2022” (or whatever the death date might be) and that’s it.

One OF said he wants to be cremated and his ashes spread in the ocean. Then the kids don’t have to worry about a plot, or headstone.

Another OF piped up, “They will cremate you all right but probably spread the ashes on the manure pile.”

The first OF answered, “That might not be too bad either; at least my ashes will be doing some good after I’m gone.”

The other OF replied, “You got that right because you didn’t do any good while you were here.” (Yep, it was just another day at the OMOTM’s breakfast).

What’s left behind

Most of the OFs think they are leaving quite a mess for their kids. A few are better organized than others and have totes with labels for the tchotchkes that have some value.

One OF said that, the longer he lives, the more junk he accrues. An OF added, “My wife and I are on the short end of the ruler and we still hit the garage-sale circuit and purchase items that catch our eye.”

The OF said they change them out with items already in the house and take those things being replaced to the barn. The OF said he thinks he is not as attached to these pieces as his wife, but if she hits the pearly gates before he does, their kids would have to do the garage sale.

The OF doesn’t think he could handle it. It appears dying is a lot more complicated than living.

All the Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and found a very pleasant and efficient Waldo bringing out the vitals were: Rev. Jay Francis, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Hey! Tuesday, Jan. 15, the Old Men of the Mountain did not have to slip and slide on the roads on way to the Your Way Café in Schoharie. This day was cold, but clear and dry. Maybe it was the weather conditions that prompted some of the OGs to comment that the weeks are going by so fast that it seems like it was just Tuesday yesterday that we all gathered for breakfast.

The first topic of the morning was the dismissal of three of the transfer-station employees in the town of Knox. The OFs were generally upset about this and, as one OF said, for the life of him, he does not understand why.

One OF said it stinks of backroom politics. Another said all he knew was what he read in The Enterprise and it did have quite an aroma to it.

However, most of the opinions were from word of mouth and The Enterprise. As far as the scribe could ascertain, there was only one OF at the meeting of the Knox Town Board, but at least the OMOTM were represented. The discussion was closed when one OF said, “There is always November.”

Federal shutdown

The next conversation was on the government shutdown. This discussion had pros and cons, but was not political, even though it is the result of the circus we call the legislative body of our country and it is a circus.

The OFs have no idea how to get out of this situation. Some of the OFs remembered when they were young and lived hand-to-mouth, particularly those that were not farmers. Some brought up training from their parents on how to prepare for living six months ahead in case something went wrong.

One OF mentioned how, many years ago, a Chinese couple taught them how to plan a year in advance, and what they should purchase and store, “just in case.”

The OFs did commensurate with the younger couples. One OF ventured that suppliers, and financial institutions could show some compassion here and work with the people who aren’t getting their paychecks on time because, when the bubble bursts, these employees will get paid.

However, it is a “sticky wicket” and many of the OFs claim all these big legislators with their million-dollar homes pay hollow lip service to the plight of the workers so they can stroke their individual egos.

One OF just threw out a comment that required no answer, “Do you think any of the big-shot politicians care?”

As part of this conversation, the OFs also talked about General Electric’s situation with all of that company’s financial problems. Some of the OFs have worked for GE at times and some have GE stocks (or had GE stocks) that were purchased at good prices while they worked for the company.

The OFs are not financial whizzes but they think a lot has to do with mismanagement from the top, and the cost of GE’s big-ticket items on the world market. The OFs feel the company just could not compete, which may be the major problem. The OFs also feel that GE made good products so the OFs feel that was not part of the problem.

Map mishap

Recently, the news on television has been running a story about a lady who has had GPS and Google show her driveway as a road. Many people who rely on the GPS electronic guidance system, and the maps of Google, were trying to travel on her driveway as a road.

One OF who lives on the Hill had the exact same problem with Google’s recent mapping of this area. The map showed his driveway as a road that had a beginning and made a loop and ended back on the main road, when it actually ended at his home.

The OF had all kinds of visitors, and cars and trucks turning around in his yard. The OF said it took two calls for him to get Google to change its directions but it finally did.

This scribe checked it out on Google maps and it does now show his driveway as a dead end. The scribe does not know about GPS doing anything wrong.

Brain drain

The OFs started to talk about how the group as a whole is beginning to show some wear and tear in the memory department. One section of our breakfast table, which included about 11 OFs, were having a discussion about farming, and building or repairing equipment for the farm along with working a job, when really the OFs would rather be doing something else.

One OF brought up a statement one of his doctors told him. This doctor said he doctored as a hobby; he would much rather be on his tractor planting corn.

This brought up the same rationale of one of the OFs who knew a national celebrity who would rather be doing woodwork, and did do high-quality woodwork, and no one could remember his name, not even the OF who participated with him as he was exhibiting his craftsmanship in wood.

Eleven guys could not remember the celebrity! One OF said, it is in our heads, but as we age there is so much more up there it takes effort to drag some of it down so we can use it. The OF said it will come to most of us later on. We all hoped so.

The Old Men of the Mountain fortunately do remember where they are supposed to be on Tuesday mornings, and on Jan. 15 it was at the Your Way Café in Schoharie, and those who made it there were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Marty Herzog, Rev. Jay Francis, Otis Lawyer, Karl Remmers, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Bob Donnelly, and yes Harold Grippen, and me.

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We are back! It’s obvious because the morning driving on Tuesday, Jan. 8, was miserable as usual for the Old Men of the Mountain to drag their butts to the restaurant for that week. This Tuesday it was the Country Café in Schoharie. The OMOTM who arrive and go into the restaurant early on a miserable morning enjoy the cozy atmosphere of the sun not quite up yet, and the aroma of bacon on the grill.

It is just like the cozy feeling of sliding back the manger door on the barn, waking the cows who begin to stand and make the manger noises, and the cats that scurry to the old milk-can lid and wait for their first dash of warm milk.

Right then and there, all is right with the world. The Chanticleer, Charles John Stevenson, is on the radio bringing the farmer up-to-date with all the information of what has gone on and what will go on for the day — so another day begins.

Hot wheels

There was an odd conversation Tuesday morning for the OFs. Most people would imagine a group of guys from 60 to 90 as a rule would discuss doctors, medications, getting around with the latest wheelchair, grandkids, and great-grandkids.

Nope, not this group, at least not Tuesday morning. The one topic was on motorcycles, from big hauling Harleys, to real humdingers of off-road bikes.

These OFs were not talking nickel-and-dime machines but parts to jazz up the big boys. The conversations were on who had what parts, where to get them, and how much these parts cost. To this scribe, the prices they were talking about on these altered machines were more than the scribe paid for his first house, and that house was definitely not a shack.

It is also odd the collection of bodies in this group. Some can’t even lift their legs to get them across a seat to mount a motorcycle, while others just whip that leg up and over that seat and sit down.

Most of the OFs (when they were younger) could walk up to a horse, put their foot in the stirrup, and whirl their other leg around and — Yahoo! The OF was in the saddle. Other OFs would just grab hold of the mane, hop up and over, and the OF was ready to go bareback.

Today a few can still do this on a cycle with the seat only three feet off the ground, and others can’t even do that — scribe included.

Dangers of internet shopping

The OFs started talking about ordering goods off the internet and how tricky that is. The OFs are not too sure about that and it may be the OFs don’t understand the ins and outs of the net because younger people seem to do it all the time with few troubles, while the OFs seem to wind up in hassles.

The problems are many, from not getting what they thought they ordered, to prices not being what they thought they were supposed to be.

One OF said that he likes to look products over i.e., top, sides, and bottom. Number one, he wants to be sure the merchandise is not defective, that all the parts are there, and the sellers used the proper fasteners in putting whatever together. The OF maintained he can’t do that over the internet.

This OF said he ordered a winch over the net because he could not find what he wanted in stores. He said, when he received the winch, half of it was held together with grade-2 junk bolts in important places and only a couple of grade-5 bolts on a couple of clips.

The OF said he had the darndest time trying to return it. The OF maintained you can’t get this type of information from a photograph and that is why he likes shopping in a store.

Another OF said not many people would realize the type of bolts holding a winch together and they would probably care less. The other OF said, then they would wonder why it did not hold up and fell apart the second time they used it.

To this OF, quality comes first. Caveat emptor. Buyer Beware.

Mice multitudes

The OFs discussed how many mice there seems to be this winter. Most of the OFs are catching them in their sheds and basements but there is no food for them in these places. The OFs think they are just coming in to warm up and breed.

One OF said that they were the subject of their own “not thinking” and they had a 50-pound bag of birdseed that they had left in their shed. When they got around to using this seed, it had a few families of mice in it. Pretty smart, these critters!

Make your home in wherever you eat, keeps these smart mice away from predators, plus not having to travel far for a meal.

Another OF said he has not seen many snakes around in the last couple of years, and he has wondered where they have gone. The absence of the snakes, coyotes, and the kestrels may be the reason for so many mice.

There was a brief discussion on traps verses poisons and the use of either was about 50/50. To the OFs, it seems the use of poisons is OK until one of those rodents passes on to rat heaven between the walls and rots. That smell will get your attention for awhile.

Those OFs who were in great attendance as they filed into the Country Café in Schoharie after the rare two week hiatus, were John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Wally Guest, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Marty Herzog, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Roger Shafer, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Rev. Jay Francis, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt Bob Donnelly, Allen DeFazio, but no Harold Grippen; he inadvertently made an appointment on a Tuesday morning, so it is just — and me.

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— Photo from John R. Williams

A sing-along for The Old Men of the Mountain: Roger Shafer plays guitar and Gerry Irwin plays the bass as their friends breakfast at Mrs. K’s.

Christmas carols are in the air, and many of the Old Men of the Mountain start singing along when they hear them. The breakfast Tuesday morning again was when the Hilltown roads were like skating rinks. Most of the OFs came to the Mrs. K’s on the flats; a few came over Cotton Hill — that was a mistake.

However, no matter the conditions of the roads, Mrs. K’s was full of OMOTM, and Patty had quite a spread laid out for the OFs as they arrived for their 2018 Christmas party.

The conversations Tuesday morning were quite mixed. Much was material covered many times; some the conversations were on family traditions at Christmas time.

Most OFs related that, when the OFs were young, the most common gift was clothes and a present. That was it — a present, not a whole store full.

One OF said that he would get more than one present but it was from each of the relatives. Sometimes the OF thought the aunt or uncle would contact the family to see what the OF needed in the line of clothes. The OFs said when they were kids they were more than happy to receive anything.

During World War II, there was not much to buy even though at that time most parents had money, a least those who were not on the farm. One OF said that kids get so much today, it is what keeps the economy going.

Another OF added that today even kids 8 or 9 years old want gifts that cost hundreds of dollars. It is a different time.

An OF chimed in that he thought kids today are not kids; they are young adults. The OFs said, think back to when we were kids. We were kids! We had fun doing kid things.

Today they start teaching kids math, and reading skills when they are only 2 years old. Kids today are forced to be adults before they are ready to be adults; the OF stated that as a fact and not his opinion.

While the OFs were talking about Christmas and Christmas giving, we found out that one OF has 18 grandkids, and four great-grandkids, and another one has 19 grandkids and two great-grandkids. Between those two OFs, there are 86 feet trotting this planet, and that is from only two of us.

What does Christmas mean to those guys? The other OFs bet Christmas was a ball at their homes when the majority of them were growing up. The OFs couldn’t imagine the family tree on either family when considering all the in-laws required in generating 43 grandkids. These two OFs should get together and write a book, along with their wives of course, on parenting. (By the way, the scribe adds neither one is Catholic.)

The Old Men make their own music

The diversity of the Old Men of the Mountain has been brought up many times but even at our own party, we bring our own entertainment. We had two OMOTM up playing Christmas-type songs, and not-so-Christmas-type songs.

The OFs could be heard joining in with the more familiar songs. The OFs even had one with musical talents at the table taking in festivities. If you follow the names along with the police you will find the names of Roger Shafer, and Gerry Irwin — Roger on the guitar and Gerry on the bass.

Holiday hiatus

For the first time in 30-some years, the Old Men of the Mountain are not going to go to breakfast on Tuesday. Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday this year, and so does New Year’s Day so the OFs decided not to gather on those days. This means there will be a two-week hiatus for the column.

The OMOTM have never done this. In the years 1984, 1990, 2001, 2007, and 2012, the OMOTM met on Monday. This year, by not meeting at all, it means there will be an 11-year gap until this happens again in 2029.

At that time will come the major decision again: Do we meet on a Monday or skip it? But this year it means, by the time the group gets together again, it will be Jan. 8 and there will be many stories to tell because, in all the time that has gone by, even if it is only two weeks since getting together, interesting events are bound to happen to the OMOTM.

Those OFs who in a way slid their way to the party at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh for the last gathering of year, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Otis Lawyer, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Kenny Parks, Jim Heiser, Rev. Jay Francis, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, John Gab, Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Amy Willsey, and me.

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For once, we had a beautiful ride to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh on Tuesday Dec. 11. The sun was not yet up, the sky was dark and clear, and there was one bright star or planet in the heavens that was very visible.  The weather was much different than most of the recent mornings the Old Men of the Mountain have been used to driving in on these early morning restaurant trips.

The OFs started a conversation that was somewhat different on Tuesday morning. This conversation was on recyclables.

Generally the first chatter of the group is quite redundant (like most meetings) and with the OFs it is quite a comedy show until someone brings up an unusual topic. This particular OF recollected how (just a few years back) we had to separate everything going to the transfer station.

Glass had to be separated by color, green with green, brown with brown, etc., and no caps were to be on bottles. The metal and aluminum were to be separated. No aluminum pie plates were to go in the trash. Power cords were to be removed from appliances.

It was a real chore at home to do all this, but we did. We even had a separate bucket or bin at home to hold the different recyclables.

This has changed now. We can’t get anybody to buy the recyclables from the towns. What has happened? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Some OFs think it is still a good idea and we should still use items made from recycled paper, glass, aluminum, metal, and plastic.

One OF said, “Like many products and even problems we rarely go back to the source. We don’t need plastic bags — paper bags are fine and come from a renewable material source, the tree.”

“However,” another OF said, “the current way I discard my trash is to chuck the bottles with tin, separate the plastic, paper, and cardboard and that is what I’ll do.”

Rambunctious robo-vacuum

Somehow the OFs continued on with the cleaning theme.  It wasn’t exactly like the garbage theme but it was about vacuuming. This time. the subject was the new high tech robo-vacuums.

One of the OFs was telling how the one his kids have works. The OF said, “He (son) likes it; it is a lot of fun to watch.”

The OFs asked him, “How much can it vacuum? They look rather small.”

Another OF asked, “Don’t they have to keep dumping it out all the time?”

The OF said he didn’t know about this because he never asked.

The OF told of an experience his kids had with this robo vacuum. “One of the kids kept hearing this thump, then another thump.” The OF said the kids told him there was no rhythm to the thumps.

“Sometimes there would be four or five minutes between the thumps, and sometimes it was thump, thump, and thump in quick succession,” he said. “The kids finally tracked it down to one of the bathrooms.”

The vacuum had apparently hit the bathroom door and the door closed. The thump was the vacuum trying to get out of the bathroom, finish the vacuuming, and get to the docking station. The OFs got quite a chuckle out of that little story.

To this scribe, unfortunately, it indicates the scary part of AI (artificial intelligence). This little vacuum cleaner was given a job to do and that was to complete its mission of vacuuming, and returning to the docking station to revitalize itself.

That was its job; AI will do anything to complete its assigned task and revitalize itself.  The next robo-whatever may not be assigned to just do vacuuming, mowing the lawn, or plowing the driveway, but it could be something much more sinister, and the AI will complete the task and return to its revitalizing station.

Climate change?

The OMOTM talked about all the nasty weather this week that brought havoc to the Carolinas and Virginia in the form of snow. The pictures were just like here when we have a nasty storm only they are not ready for it.

One OF who has relatives in Virginia said they missed it. There again it is like some of those storms that nail us. Where these storms hit, they hit!

Sometimes the area is not too wide, and at other times, as one OF said, “Our storms cover from Canada to Pennsylvania and the whole East Coast.” Another OF has relatives in the Carolinas and they reported, “This storm was just like the ones we used to have when we lived in Plattsburgh.”

Yet another OF said, “Maybe there is something to this climate change or global warming.” That brought the swift answer that the world has been through all this before but there were fewer people around for the storms to directly impact them.

Now the population has increased and people get really disturbed because they plopped their fancy homes directly in disaster areas and some have encountered tragic situations as a result.

One OF said, “That is kind of tough talk, but I have to agree it’s true.”

Another OF thought that even applies to some of the OFs, which took the OFs back to “when we were young.”  (Oh dear, here we go again to “when I was your age,” but this is always fun).

“You can’t stop progress”

This time, the OFs talked about how far it was from farm to farm, and how even going to town for supplies took planning. One OF said that he purchased a home on a dirt road; the home was not quite finished. Just beyond his place, the road was shut down during the winter months because it was too dangerous to drive.

This home was purchased so the OF would have privacy and be alone, but not hiding. The OF said he likes and enjoys people but doesn’t want them living on top of him. The OF said now there are 40 houses around him.

“You can’t stop progress — just like the robo-machines that do the work so we don’t have to.” an OF said.

The OFs who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and want to stop the world so they can get off, were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Kenny Parks, Rev. Jay Francis, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazzo, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.

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