It was Aug. 24, and the Old Men of the Mountain gathered at the Chuck Wagon Diner on Route 20. As most in the area know, Route 20 travels basically east and west and the sun comes up in the east and sets (duh) in the west.

Many OFs at this time of the year are driving directly east as the sun peeks over the horizon. Going east and meeting the glare of the sun in the morning can be an experience with old eyes. However, one OF said he would rather put up with the glare than drive in fog, drizzle, and gloom, and expect no better for the rest of the day.

The OFs are guaranteed to talk about the weather; who is ill or under the weather; old times, including tractors, cars, trucks, and motorcycles; what they did in school, mostly high school (college seems to be left out); what they did at work, and current events.

Some mention odd or universally interesting hobbies, or gossip; many other topics are just touched on or not mentioned at all.

This leaves the scribe reporting on, and trying to make different commentary on, the same topics over and over. Again, this is understandable; it happens in any group that has been functioning for years.

This past Tuesday, the chatter was on the weather and all the water and how wet it has been, because the OFs remembered how devastating Irene was and how this tropical storm affected so many of the OFs from actual damage, or volunteering to help others who were in need.

So, in talking about weather, that storm of 10 years ago was real weather, and is still talked about off and on today. Not only is it talked about but the evidence is still around.

 

Stringing phone lines

The Middleburgh Telephone Company was a discussion that was different. The OFs remember when the company was around in the forties and fifties, and at that time it was like a backyard operation.

The OFs remember working with actor John McGiver who lived in West Fulton (about 40 miles west of Albany). They were stringing phone lines through and on trees, even on fence posts.

Maybe there are phone lines strung like that in the North Country or out west someplace, but like one OF said, “If it works, so what?”

The Middleburgh Telephone Co. was started in the late 1800s and has been around ever since.

 

Fair talk

Some of the OFs talked about going to the New York State Fair in Syracuse. That is quite an event.

Local fairs are fun, especially when young, when youngsters belong to a club or organization that participates in these local fairs. Sometimes this even leads to their taking part in the state fair.

The state fair has a butter-sculpture exhibit that appears just about as people enter the fairgrounds. These sculptures are very well done.

Some of the OFs have seen these works and are really impressed. This scribe has seen the sculpted butter and, like the rest, is impressed.

What happens to all this butter when the fair is over? This scribe would hate to see it go to waste, and so would the OFs, but the OFs think this butter has to be destroyed just to be safe.

It is like sand art. Once it is done, and viewed by those that attended, whoever sponsored the event must have made plans for what they would do with this display when the fair is over.  All the sculptors have now are photographs of their works.

Going to the state fair on a good day, you will find the exit to get off the New York State Thruway can be packed.

One OF said, on a trip to the fair, the right lane of the Thruway was stopped quite away from the exit ramp. Of course, that exit ramp was backed up also.

The OF explained that, as his family inched their way along the Thruway to get to the exit ramp, a vehicle went scooting by on the right of their car. Just as the exit ramp left the Thruway, there was a police car and alongside the car stood a state trooper.

He was waving that car to stop and the trooper did not look too happy. One OF mentioned that rarely does anyone get to see that happen. Generally the guy with the guts to pull a stunt like that gets away with it.

The state fair or the Eastern States Exposition are not venues that (to some of the OFs) can be seen in one day. When we were younger, it was a camping trip; today it may be necessary to rent a room, motel, or B&B.

Trips like this, one OF commented, really make a dent in the ole pocketbook.

“So does a day at the track; rarely do I win,” the OF said. “But I am sure to bring a cooler. Grabbing a bite at the track is expensive.”

Just living today is expensive. A cemetery raises its costs and blames it on the cost of living. Indeed a grave situation.

Those OFs who were at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown regardless of today’s prices were: Roger Shafer, Rich LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Jake Lederman, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Marty Herzog, Monty Hounshell, Pete Whitbeck, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Herb Bahrmann, Rich Vanderbilt, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Paul Whitbeck, Mark Traver, John Dabrvalskes, and me.

What happened in history on Aug. 17? Not much except for those born on Aug. 17, but on Augu. 17, 2021, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie; that does make that date a momentous occasion.

After the normal greetings, the OFs began talking about the problems in Afghanistan, which shows they do keep up with current events. After much talk, the chit-chat faded out and resolved nothing.

In some major developments, there are as many opinions as there are OMOTM. Sometimes the rights and wrongs are so obvious that most of the OFs are in agreement; however, there are a few times (whether right or wrong) these debates follow basically along political lines.

This Afghanistan issue is just sad; it has been going on for centuries with elected leaders, or believers of Muhammad, or anyone who wants his name in the news. What a mess.

 

Cracking up

Quite often, in normal conversation, people make a statement that either breaks everyone up, or causes a collective moan. The people making the statements have no idea what they have said that caused such a reaction and they have a perplexed look on their faces, expressing complete lack of understanding of what just happened.

Sometimes, amid all the chatter going on at a table with about 18 guys sitting to eat, those speaking wonder if anybody is listening or are they just uttering sounds into the mix of words already mouthed across the table.

This will show that, while speaking, the OFs are listening as well, a trait that comes with raising kids in large families and getting old. Males and females have this ability when they hit their sixties or so.

So the story now is that one OF was on vacation and had shut his shop down for the month and was planning on taking his boat and having a few days cruising on the beautiful waters of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River.

He was telling the OFs about his pending trip and that now, after hearing the weather report for the week, he was not going to take his boat.

Then a discussion followed on how beautiful that area was and how clear the river was. The OFs started getting a history lesson on the region, with the naming of towns in that area, and how the water for the St. Lawrence comes from the Great Lakes.

One OF said that, when a drop of water falls in the Great Lakes, it takes 500 years for that drop of water to reach the river. A few other OFs said the river at one point is five miles wide, and mentioned information about Indian outposts, and the waterfalls.

The OF with the boat said he was friends with the people at the boat museum on the river and even docks his boat there.

After all this discussion on the Thousand Islands, and all that can be done there, the OF making the trip said, “I don’t care. I still don’t like getting my boat wet!”

At which point the whole restaurant broke up, because not many of them heard the discussion about the weather about a half-hour earlier.

 

Easy rider?

Then another OMOTM used his cell phone for show and tell. This scribe saw the picture as the OF was passing it around and commented that he saw that on television.

The OF said that the American Legion Riders in Altamont were asked if they could scrounge up 11 motorcycles to ferry the cheerleaders for the 2021 champions of the National Arena League, the Albany Empire indoor football team, around the field.

They managed to obtain the required motorcycles and drivers to do this ugly (?) chore, and the OF was one of these drivers. The picture was of the OMOTM with the very pretty cheerleader on the back of his machine.

The OF said this was not as easy as it looked like on his cell phone. Of course many of the OFs said there was a distraction on the back of the bike that might have had something to do with it, but the OF insisted the artificial turf was very slippery for the bikes to drive on.

Many of the drivers, when they first approached the turf, almost had the bikes slip out from under them so they drove very slowly.

The scribe noticed on television some of the drivers had their feet down, and the OF said, “Yes, it was not the easiest ride going around the arena.”

Not only did they have the distraction on the back of the bike, but one underneath as well. It was a very nice picture though; the scribe also noticed that some of the OFs hung onto the phone longer than others.

The Old Men of the Mountain who showed up at the Your Way Café in Schoharie (some came on their bikes and it rained a tad while the OMOTM were in the café) were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Miner Stevens, Rick LaGrange, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Marty Herzog, Pete Whitbeck, Jake Herzog, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.

It is something to develop any system and have it last since around 50 B.C., and the Old Men of the Mountain, along with many others, are using this system right now because on Tuesday, Aug. 10, the OMOTM met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. (This system is the calendar.)

It was a nice day, uneventful, no floods or natural disasters to contend with as the OFs made it to Mrs. K’s.

It is strange how the weather can have such an effect on the best-laid plans. The OMOTM in the last two years have planned one gathering a year and both times the weather has been very nice.

The OMOTM were discussing how weather can cause a planned event to fail or succeed.

The OFs were talking about the Middleburgh days, and now that the Sunshine Fair is going on in Cobleskill, and the Altamont Fair is coming up, and the upcoming Schoharie Village garage sale, one OF said, “Of these towns, or villages, whoever is planning such an event has to consider how much the weather will affect them.”

Many of the OFs have been on the planning end of such events, or are part of an event planned by others, like fire departments, churches, and schools. Then, on the day of the event, it pours! How discouraging.

As one OF commented, “The next day the sun shines bright.”

Then another OF said, “You guys are all talking about fun things to do. What about listening to the weather report and it sounds so good and some farmer cuts down 100 acres of hay, and it rains all night, and until noon the next day! Happy farming!”

 

Sandman fails

Another topic that came up and was talked about on Tuesday was somewhat unusual because this topic has never been discussed. The scribe can’t remember any discussion on this subject at our breakfasts. The topic: sleeping.

One OF, almost immediately upon sitting down, leaned back in his chair with a long stretch and deep yawn and then announced he did not sleep well last night. The OFs to his right and left said the same thing; they did not sleep well and were tired.

A few others in that area of the table said the same thing. It was a hard night to sleep, and they, too, were tired.

A couple of OFs also said they were tired when they went to bed so they should have fallen right to sleep. What was in the air, Monday night and early Tuesday morning? Did the sandman fail to get up?

It is not that all the OMOTM don’t have air-conditioners, and have to put up with fans, but was Monday night that bad? It is a good thing most, if not all, of the OFs are retired. Suppose they were all truck drivers and the regular drivers met this crowd on the road.

 

Sticky wicket

Ah, sooner or later the discussion would get around to Governor Andrew Cuomo and his resignation. Most of the OGs thought his handling of COVID-19 was pretty good except for that nursing home situation.

Within this group, we are all eligible for that trip. The statement, “Be good to your kids because they get to choose your nursing home” is worth mentioning. The OFs supposed, “Well, maybe they do.”

Anyway, most of the OFs thought we should let the governor finish out his term, but there should always be three or four other people in the room regardless of what Governor Cuomo says.

Another OF said, “This circumstance is a trait of overseas behavior. Look at the French, the Italians (especially the Italians) and those in the Mideast — they are huggers and kissers, right down to their goats.”

What a sticky wicket we have now. COVID is kicking in again. What a mess. This scribe hoped the chatter didn’t get too far into politics and it didn’t; however, it did get into a little of the social side of it and then faded out.

 

Pondering prices

Then the OFs started talking about the price of everything. The OFs thought some of it was price-gouging because the suppliers can get away with it, and other price hikes were just supply and demand.

One OF asked, “Where did all the workers go?”

Another OF replied, “Why work when the government pays you pretty well to stay home?”

A couple of OFs were car shopping; talk about aggressive! One OF said they wanted to take his truck right out from under him, making all kinds of offers.

Another OF said they did take his vehicle in their clutches, and brought around a used one that looked and drove like brand new. The OF said he couldn’t pass that one up.

One OF said he gets many phone calls to trade his vehicle in or outright sell the thing. This OF is beginning to be on a first-name basis with the dealers.

It is changing so fast that some of the OFs said they don’t believe it is all due to the pandemic. The OFs are confused. How can a piece of plywood go from $10 to $13 a sheet just a few months ago to $80 or $90 for that same sheet of plywood today?

The grumbling Old Men of the Mountain grumbled about a lot of things at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh from hugging, to masks, to prices skyrocketing, and those OMOTM who will keep their hands in their pockets to stay out of trouble, were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rick LaGrange, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Ken Parks, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Ed Goff, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Jake Herzog, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, and me.

The Old Men of the Mountain have been meeting. However, this scribe picked up some bug that hit like a ton of bricks.

What it is (or was) is unknown. As the doctor said, “You are weird, John.”

This scribe was hit with such pain that, if a jealous lover shot the scribe, the scribe would have replied, “Thank you.”

July 31 is the first day that the scribe has felt like doing anything, and that is not much. (Enough of that.)

The Old Men of the Mountain met on Tuesday, July 20, at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. There is a hint the OMOTM are the OMOTM: Most of what is discussed is old or, if it is current, it is the health of each OF or the health of those the OFs know, but then there is the unusual event of health that happens.

One of the OFs going through a tough time is having chemo treatments. At his last treatment (and the day the Your Way Café was scheduled for the OMOTM breakfast), who was sitting in the chair next to the OF? None other than the owner of the Your Way Café, also having a chemo treatment.

This cancer thing is getting to be a regular club because there seems to be so much of it around. Age does not even seem to matter.

 

Stubborn eagle

One OF called this scribe to report an event that happened to a carload of OFs on their way to the July 20 breakfast at the Your Way Café. This group of OFs travels Route 443 to get to the restaurant and on this route there are some bridges along the way.

The OF who called reported that, as they exited a turn and approached one of the bridges, there in the middle of the bridge “sat” a full-grown eagle. It just sat there and looked at the car approaching.

The driver assumed that it would take off so it wouldn’t get hit, but it didn’t. The eagle just sat there.

The driver said he had to swerve into the oncoming lane to avoid hitting the eagle. Still, the eagle did not move.

The OFs said it did not appear to be hurt or anything like that, nor could the OF see if it was protecting a kill. The driver said he wasn’t going that fast (that can be attested to because he is not that type of driver) but he was going fast enough so that the whole scene could not be absorbed by those in the car.

The driver also commented that, as in military training, if a vehicle were coming, there would have been a cloud of feathers flying around not attached to a bird because he would have hit the eagle instead of having a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle.

In our area, eagles are becoming more common than hawks, or at least appear to be. Reports of OFs spotting these kestrels flying around and paying them a visit right in many of the OFs backyards is becoming routine.

 

Moving mosaic

The OFs look at each other many times a day and see a person but really not a face. In groups such as the OMOTM, it is a phenomenon that faces disappear and it becomes just words and conversations, fingers pointing along at times with show and tell.

Nothing noticeable, only when the OF first appears, and then when the OF leaves. This scribe has noticed this even in large family gatherings.

This scribe is beginning to understand now why some people wear such garish outfits and makeup, particularly the distaff side so they will stand out and be noticed. Soon enough though those dressed lavishly will just become part of the moving mosaic, filling up space in the room.

One time, the OFs discussed this odd topic. As the breakfast goes on, it is just a melting pot of flesh-colored faces with words coming out of the hole in the center.

One OF carried it a step further when he thought even what the OFs are wearing seems to melt into some kind of crazy quilt. This happens even if it is a $2,000 dress, or a $50 pair of bibs.

So it is not what the OFs look like or how they are dressed but what the OFs say that is important.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who were able to make the breakfasts at the restaurants have whereabouts that can be accounted for (if any misbehaving went on, it wasn’t these OFs, at least not on Tuesday mornings the 20th and the 27th of July).

On the July 20, the OFs were at the Your Way Café and they were: Robie Osterman, Mark Traver, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Roger Schafer, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Bob Fink with guest Josh Hundley, Pete Whitbeck, Joe Rack, Duncan Bellinger, Rick LaGrange, Jake Herzog, and not me.

The OFs accounted for on Tuesday morning, July 27, were at the Chuck Wagon Diner; the rest of the time they are fair game for the police, bill collectors, ex-wives, kids returning home, or whoever is after them, and they were:  Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Roger Schafer, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Paul Whitbeck, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Pete Whitbeck, Joe Rack, Rick LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Dave Hodgetts, and again not me.

On July 13, 2021, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh. The OMOTM thought “here we go again” as the streets of Middleburgh were cleared from the latest go-round with high water.

If anyone has dealt with the mud after a flood, they know how slippery it is. The OFs who helped with the clean-up after Tropical Storm Irene are familiar with this slippery condition; the mud is more slippery than wet ice.

Fortunately, Mrs. K’s was open and the OFs who showed up tread very carefully getting out of their vehicles on the street side; otherwise the other OFs would be dragging the OFs from under the car after they slipped on the mud.

Once the OFs were inside the restaurant, guess what they talked about? You are right: It was the weather!

In this discussion, the OFs at this scribe’s end of the table shared a lot of their experiences of living on the Hill and in the valleys of either side of the mountain. Together the OFs arrived at a good reason for the weather in our area, quite often defeating the weather people.

The hills! Therein lies the problem. Many times, the hills change the direction of the low winds and alter the directions of many storms. This latest storm was one of those storms. One OF said a lot has to do with the altitude and the winds bumping into these hills that makes a big difference.

 

Fulminating over phones

The OFs then started talking about these new phones. To the young people, even though these phones are new they can understand them, while to us OFs much of the phone technology is a mystery.

The OFs don’t have a clue as to what is going on. All the OFs want it to do is have it ring and the OFs answer, dial a number, and someone on the other end answers. That is all a phone has to do.

It does not have to deliver our kids, shine our shoes, start our cars, wash our faces, or pick our noses! Just ring and be answered

The OFs say they have complained about this before, but the problem is getting worse. It is like carrying a TV in the OF’s pocket.

As one OF put it, “The next thing you know these phones will come with a lanyard so they can be carried around our necks.”

 

Canes are no joke

This Tuesday, we almost had the battle of the canes. The OFs were in a quandary of where to put their canes when they sat down.

These assisted walking devices can be a nuisance at times when trying to park them. Such was the case on Tuesday morning.

The challenge: Finding a place where the canes could be placed and not fall to the floor, causing the waitress to trip over them, or worse yet, the OF would have to bend over and pick it up. At a certain age, bending over is not the easiest maneuver the OFs can make.

These assistants to walking are not really a joke; they are very necessary for some of the OFs to get around and not be a burden to anybody. They take some time to get used to for those who wield these walking sticks, and they have to be rugged.

Some OFs (and also other people) require the cane to support all their weight at times and that cane had better not snap or fold or it will take 10 OFs to pick the one OF up from the ground and get his legs under him.

 

Belly of the beast

We all think we have belly buttons and for some reason that bit of information was discussed at the breakfast table, eh-wot?

(The scribe did not make this term up; it was checked out on Google (phew). This term was typically uttered by pompous, posh men; “eh, wot?” was the Regency-era equivalent to “you know” or “right?")

One OF commented that all the paintings of Adam and Eve are wrong because they show Adam and Eve with belly buttons. Of course why would they? Adam and Eve did not need belly buttons, but the rest of us do.

Except one OF piped up, “I don’t have a belly button.”

That got a lot of attention. Come to find out, the OF doesn’t have a belly button. So the conversation continued.

One OF said his belly button is so large, it is possible to park a Mack truck in there. The question arose: What kind of tube must that have been?

Another OF commented that his belly button is shaped like a question mark. Goodness

It is a good thing the OFs were not talking about noses or ears; the column would fill up a whole page.

One OF muttered, “Boy, we are sure made up from a lot of parts.”

 

Lazy lakeside picnic

An OF offered the use of his place for a picnic on July 15, and this OF will provide the hot dogs, hamburgers, rolls, and that type of extras so the OFs could have a summer gathering with their better halves (and that’s not hard to do). Originally the date was July 14 but that date was changed to the following day due to the weather reports.

Smart move! The weather was perfect and there was a good crowd of OFs with their wives and lady friends. The OFs all sat around under a big cedar tree, had musical interludes, laughed, ate, and talked. A breeze came in off the lake, and the host took those who wanted out for a ride around the lake in his pontoon boat.

It did not seem like a Thursday afternoon. Then again most were old (a word not an age) and retired so every day can be a Sunday afternoon.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it through the mud and mire to Mrs. K’s Restaurant and were lucky enough not to need a boat were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Kenny Parks, Rich LaGrange, Jake Lederman, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Otis Lawyer, Jake Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Marty Herzog, John Dabravalskas, Duncan Bellinger, and me.

The summer (to the OFs) just goes by, and this summer seems to have the pedal to the metal. This week, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in, of course, Middleburgh, New York.

This breakfast had a very young server, serving the coffee. It is interesting to observe the customers who frequent these local restaurants. Most are of the silver-hair varieties who are up and about at that time of day. However, the young ones are probably on the job already. The OFs guess that, in the long run, this doesn’t mean much.

Getting up early and getting out of the house brought up an interesting point. This scribe has always maintained the making up of the bed may make the bedroom look pretty, but it is not good science.

The scribe this a.m. asked the question of the OFs. Making the bed is a morning ritual.

This scribe argues that making up the bed traps all the night’s body smells, skin scales, mites, and night farts underneath a layer of sheets, blankets, and quilts. There they lie in wait for the coming night’s collection of the same things, only to be trapped in the dark and damp of the coverings along with the others.

This scribe mentioned to the OFs that the covers should not be returned to covering the bed but left at the foot of the bed. The science does not match the action. Looking nice and proper seems to better the practical.

Doing this would allow the bed to air out (so to speak) and the sunlight would do in some of the little buggers. One OF mentioned, if we are going this far, the foot of the bed should be made like a long clothes rack so the bed covers could also be aired out so those who sleep on the tummy could have their night farts aired out also. Not to mention the new industry that would be created in manufacturing the new type of beds.

How about those people who pile pillow on top of pillow on the bed? “Yeah,” an OF commented, “there are more pillows than bed. I think I would be more comfortable sleeping on the pillows.”

My wife (who makes the bed every day) insists I inject her thoughts on this subject for the ladies.

She asked me, “What does it mean when a man is in your bed, calling your name and gasping for breath?”

The answer: “You didn’t hold down the pillow long enough.”

She thinks she’s funny.

 

Inflation

The OFs started talking about inflation and, for lack of a better word, deflation. Most of the time, either one of these economic situations crept up on us, but now, as one OF put it, it is darn easy to spend money.

The OFs have complained about this before, but, as another OF put it, in the recent past, our wallets are either much thicker to carry around so much more cash, or we are carrying larger denomination bills. One OG said some of these ATMs now let us draw out 50-dollar bills. Is this a sign of the times or what?

The OFs remember when it was a big deal to have a fifty in the wallet. Now it is possible to have a fifty in the wallet just to pay for a meal in a restaurant, and that fifty won’t even be enough to cover paying for a pair of jeans. One fellow suggested hundred-dollar bills will have to make a comeback.

 

Fashion or common sense?

After last week’s gathering at the Chuck Wagon, a few of the OFs were planning on leaving the restaurant and taking one of the OF’s boats out on the Hudson and going for a boat ride. This sounds like fun and, according to the OFs who went for the ride, they had a good time, but finding a place to pull in and have something to eat was a chore.

Apparently, they did not plan this trip for very long — it was more a spur-of-the-moment trip. If those who still have memories that can remember last Tuesday, it was sunny and hot, so these were courageous OGs to be out on the open water with conditions like that.

Sunscreen must have been at a premium or at least wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves. The skin on the ages of OFs is prime for skin cancers of all sorts.

Remembering back when the OFs were throwing hay, no matter how hot it was, is not like what it is today when the OFs are in their late seventies or eighties, and have lots to drink. Around 1960 is when sunscreen was beginning to be used regularly; before that, in the fifties, it was suntan lotion used by lifeguards with white noses.

It is OFs like us keeping dermatologists busy with skin cancer today because the OFs really didn’t know the sun was so harmful. The OFs actually thought that sun was good for us; only our parents somehow knew it wasn’t. The OFs noticed but paid no attention to their parents in long sleeves and wide-brimmed hats when they were out in the summer.

Look at old pictures: All the men had on hats, and so did the ladies. Was it a fashion statement, or common sense?

Those Old Men of the Mountain who were at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh didn’t just wander in; they were there by design, and they were: Miner Stevens, and guest Bradley McLaughlin, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Jake Herzog, Rev. Jay Francis, Russ Pokorny, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Gerry Chartier, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, and me.

Well, we tumbled outta bed and stumbled to the Your Way Café in Schoharie to get a cup of ambition along with a bunch of other Old Men of the Mountain on June 22. Ole Dolly wasn’t there to sing to us, just a group of OMOTMs gathering to discuss their aches and pains as a greeting.

However, misery enjoys company, and for some reason the talk seems to lessen the aches and pains. Nothing like sharing misery, 9 to 5. Great movie, by the way.

Young people at some time have to admit that they will grow old. Right now, as that happens, many parts of the body have a tendency to let us down as we become OFs.

The OFs discussed at breakfast how it now takes two people to make one. Just going for a ride, it is a good idea to have two people in the front seat, not as radical as Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet, from the British sitcom, “Keeping Up Appearances”) but similar. We need someone to advise when traffic is ready on the right, even though both the driver and the passenger looked that way.

Someone to spot deer, or pedestrians, always helps too. Even at a party, four sets of eyes are better than two.

Going to the doctor is another good example of two going in for one ailment. This time it is for the ears.

The OFs talked about how much help it is to have that extra pair of ears when the doctor is talking. The doctors at times will explain how to take certain meds. Quite often, to the OF with the affliction, it sounds like so much gobbledygook.

Even though the patient hears the words, the words don’t seem to make sense. The person going in with the OF hears the same words and part of the conversation sounds the same to her, but in a different way, so when the couple get home the two of them can make sense about the outcome of the visit.

“Still,” one OF said, “they might call the pharmacist and the little girl at the pharmacy makes more sense about what the meds do, and how to take them, than the physician.”

Names! The OFs commented on what appears to be a common occurrence as the OF gets older and older. The OF bumps into old people the OF used to know 40 or 50 years ago but circumstances caused these friends to leave the area.

For some reason, they have returned and for the life of the OF he knows the face and can’t remember the name. This will especially happen at reunions, weddings, or funerals; that is when it is best to have the better half close at hand.

Quite often though, that does not help because both minds might draw a blank. The worst part is when the party you are trying to identify has called you by name from behind your back.

One OF suggested that he thinks that, at some reunions, the ones who pull this stunt have taken the yearbook and studied it so that they would be able to recall everyone’s name.

It is fun to watch OFs in a gathering like this breakfast with the OMOTM and one OF is trying to remember a name from some chance meeting or tad of gossip and is unable to put a name with a face that they all know. The wrinkled brow and smell of acrid smoke as OFs’ brains try to work to come up with someone we should all know.

The OFs have been told over and over not to worry about this lack of memory because it is quite common. The reasoning is: As we get older, our brains store up a lot more information, so it takes longer to retrieve it because it has more to sort through.

One OF said that is not the case with him. This OF claims his brain is, and he always had, what is now called a “trash” section. And, if he thinks something is a bunch of bologna, it goes into the trash section and every now and then he dumps it.

Another OF doesn’t have that trash section, but he always has been told he uses “selective hearing.” He said, “My wife tells me I have that turned on every time she speaks.”

All this talk never solved the problem of the guy’s name we were previously mentioning, or who he was married to.

As Will Rogers once said, “When you are dissatisfied and want to go back to your youth, think of algebra.”

 

Knock on wood

Like most conversations among the OFs at this time of year, we hear dialogue like: “How is your garden coming, is it all in, or are you taking any trips this year?” This is typical banter heard at any gathering, like the Legion, or church, or the local book club.

At the OMOTM breakfasts, there is one topic that crops up this time of year that may be a little different. We say things like, “Have you got all your wood cut or in for next year?”

And in Tuesday morning’s conversation on having wood in, for some reason, the north side of the hill came up. One OF came up with a piece of useless information that pertained to nothing at all.

That was, “Did you guys know wood for wooden ladders is harvested only on the north side of the hill”?

Whatever that had to do with anything made no sense at all to the conversation.

Those Old Men of the Mountain (who could remember each other) met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and they were, as the scribe can remember: Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Otis Lawyer, Russ Pokorny, Jake Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, Rich LaGrange, and me.

Tuesday, June 15, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. The OMOTM start arriving early enough in the morning to wake the chickens, because some OFs still wake up for milking although they haven’t washed an udder in years. This causes one to think, what time do those who work in the restaurant get up to be ready for these OFs?

If it weren’t for the weather, how would the OFs start a conversation? With the OMOTM, the weather requires somewhat of an honest answer.

“How ya doin’?” doesn’t cut it because most of the OFs lie to that one with the answer, “Hey, I’m doin’ great; how you doin’?” Then comes another fib.

On Tuesday morning, many of the OFs listened to the radio, or TV, or read news reports on their phones about how some really wicked storms were coming through. These reports mentioned towns they lived in — including the times these storms were expected to arrive.

The OFs talked about how they prepared for the storms, by moving outdoor furniture, turning outdoor tables over and anchoring them in place — all this stuff. What did the OFs get for all this effort? Sunshine — not a lick of a storm. Where did it go?

One OF complained he dumped a good set of hot charcoal just ready for the hot dogs and burgers. Well, at least the OFs had the weather to talk about (or lack of it) as promised.

Speaking about the weather, the next OMOTM’s breakfast will be a couple of days after the longest day of the year. Father’s Day, and the Gas Up will be on the longest day.

That longest day, Sunday, should not be here already, according to the OFs. It is too soon. The scribe thinks somehow we should be able to put an anchor on time and slow it down some, or at least stop it for a while.

 

Old times

Get a group of old farmers together and, just like a group of old soldiers, they talk about old times; old farmers talk about old farms and what it was like in the “good old days.” Those who keep up add current information to the old talk, and there seems to be a common thread.

Though most of those in the group do not participate in farming anymore, the OFs claim they miss it. The smell of the barn when sliding back the manger door and stepping inside on an early brisk fall morning — there’s nothing like it.

Hearing the cows stir, the cats getting down from their favorite cow and scurrying to the old milk can lid, waiting for their first batch of warm milk and all the activity of the early morning. Going to the milk house to get the cans ready, and feeding grain to the cows — all this is missed and the barn smelled so great.

The Chanticleer (John Charles Stevenson) was on the radio, and at that moment everything was at peace. Such was the typical small farm from the early 1900s until the state mandated bulk tanks in the 1950s. Many of the small farms could not afford these tanks, causing the small dairy farms to fold.

Of course now, as the OFs reminisced and talked about dairy farming, they are of an age that their kids (or grandkids) would be doing it because the OFs have too many aches and pains to continue. One OF added that, the way things are now, the kids have too much else going on to be interested, or even consider a 365-day-a-year job.

 

Best Gas Up

To go along with the farming conversation, the Gas Up came up, which might have prompted the above conversation in the first place. The Gas Up (located on Route 443 just north of Gallupville) is a collection of hit-and-miss engines that are still running (just like the OMOTM) and old trucks, tractors, cars, farm equipment, homemade ice cream, and lots more.

This new topic was history, and how historical events that happened and were recorded are now trying to be changed. Some of the OFs were uttering, “Say what?”

The OFs think that history, good or bad, happened. Those facts cannot be denied. To try and sweep the bad under the rug does not make sense to the OFs. That conversation was getting a little too deep, and didn’t last long before it returned to the Gas Up.

The OFs at the table of the scribe thought this year’s show was one of the best they have seen, and along with that, the crowd was one of the largest the OFs have noticed at the event.

A couple of the OFs had pieces of equipment at the Gas Up, which always makes something like the Gas Up more interesting when a little piece of personal attention is there. This is similar to something like personally knowing a race car driver, or owner, or some particular athlete or musician.

The personal touch really adds to the fan base. Speaking about a personal touch, my friend’s girlfriend left him for a tractor salesman. She sent him a John Deere letter.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh in modern conveniences and not by horseback, were: Rich LaGrange, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Duncan Bellinger, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Ken Parkes, Pete Whitbeck, Jake Herzog, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Russ Pokorny, Wayne Gaul, Otis Lawyer, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Bob Donnelly, Warren Willsey, and me.

On June 8, the Old Men of the Mountain woke up to a hot and humid day, but according to the weather people on TV it is not unusual to have such a day on June 8.

The body sure changes as people age. The OMOTM said, when they were 19, they would be out in the fields haying in this heat and think nothing of it. Now, at 80, it is a different story.

The weather on this day, however, did not keep the Old Men of the Mountain from meeting at the Middleburgh Diner, in Middleburgh.

During this time of COVID, many of the OMOTM are becoming accustomed to wearing masks. Not only does this help in preventing the spread of the disease, but on the old folks the mask hides a lot of facial blemishes. If an OF loses a tooth in front, the mask can hide it until it is fixed.

One OF said, “I kinda like this thing; people don’t know if I am smiling or sticking my tongue out at them.”

Another OF said he doesn’t like masks at all.

“They are a pain in the butt,” the OF complained.

This OF wears hearing aids (as many of the OFs do) and most of these OFs say, when taking the mask off, either the hearing aids go flying, or they dangle from the OF’s ears like earrings.

The OF who started the complaining said that one time, when he took the mask off, a hearing aid went flying and broke in two pieces. That is an expensive mask removal.

Another OF said, “Try wearing hearing aids, mask, and glasses.”

This OF is afraid eventually his ears will look like Dumbo’s. The OF said his ears are big enough already; they don’t need any help.

 

Why are prices up?

The OFs keep bringing up how much prices on everything have jumped. Not only food, but lumber, nails, gas — everything. The OFs cannot understand why.

Did all of a sudden the trees stop growing so there isn’t as much lumber? The OFs don’t think so.

One OF said he thinks that the big lumber companies pulled the same stunt the coffee companies did. They create their own shortage (or at least make believe there is one) and then jack up the prices, but lower the increased prices somewhat (at least back maybe one half) and their profits will still be greater than before.

One OF asked, “Isn’t that what is taught to the number crunchers at Harvard Business School?”

 

Purchasing practices

A week or so ago, the OGs were discussing buying habits of the sexes. This week, the purchasing of the OFs was not so much about habits, but opportunities, and quirks.

One OF mentioned he had, in the past, made quite a purchase of shirts. This OF claimed he had a ton of shirts and when he spotted a shirt he liked he bought it. The OF didn’t know why, but he said he was happy it wasn’t shoes.

To which another OF said he could relate to that because his wife has more shoes than a shoe store. This OF claims his wife still has shoes (never worn) in their boxes.

One OF questioned the OG with the shirts if he had pants to match the shirts. The OF claimed he didn’t — most of his pants were jeans for work, and he would wear one of the shirts with the jeans. The OFs thought that was cool.

Another OMOTM said he purchased mostly on opportunity. One such purchase was when a friend of his passed away and this friend had a good supply of shirts with logos on them. The OF had such a shirt on at Tuesday morning’s breakfast, and one OF commented that he was familiar with the area shown on the logos.

The OF said he had nothing to do with the logo, but the friend did and the OF purchased a complete box of them. The shirts were a perfect fit, and the OFs must say the shirts looked good on the OF and fit him well.

The OFs continued in this vein with yet another OF saying he had the same opportunity with neckties. He received a complete box of ties, all different, and if anyone has priced halfway decent ties lately, they would know this was quite a find for two bucks.

Now that the OF is not working, the OF does not need ties, so he is in the process of giving them away. Ties are something that rarely require a fit, unless the wearer needs one as a bib, like the Donald.

 

Mystifying meds

Medicine, aches, and pains are common among the OFs; sometimes the OFs have trouble understanding how and when to take certain medicines.

There are many examples: One is a pill that says, “Take with food,” and another pill says, “Take on an empty stomach.” How empty, and how much food comes into play.

Other instructions are, “Take twice a day, once with breakfast and once with dinner.” Whoops, now how is the one to be taken on an empty stomach work?

If breakfast is at 7 a.m., the medicine is taken. The no-food advice at 6 a.m. is OK, for one hour before eating. Now is two slices of toast and a banana enough food? This goes on and on.

Just think of all the combinations with such brief instructions. How much food is enough, how empty should the stomach be, no dairy (how long “no dairy” after the pill is taken)?

Just like instruction on many items, the manufacturers assume everybody knows how the medicine was made and should know how it works. It seems laughter is the best medicine — except for treating diarrhea.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Middleburgh Diner and all the world’s problems, if not solved, were at least discussed and the OFs ironing out most of the creases were: Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Roger Chapman, Jake Herzog, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Russ Pokorny, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Chartier, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.

The Old Men of the Mountain met at the “Your Way Café” on Tuesday  morning, June 2, and the OMOTM are still glad to be out doing a few things more on the normal side.

The question comes up, “What is normal?”

Normal is such an ambiguous word, like sane. Who is really sane? And who decides what is normal, and who is sane? It sure tain’t this scribe. Someone once said it’s the guy with the biggest or most guns who decides.

As the farmers cut hay and the grass grows taller, the OFs are saying summer goes fast, and it isn’t even here yet.

Some of the radio and TV stations offer an allergy report, and they are correct, but the OFs say you can tell it is allergy season by the number and loudness of the sneezes. Some of the OFs complain about being continually stuffed up, and others can attest to that for they are just as stuffed up.

The pine trees are generating their pollen so there can be more pine trees — especially the white and red pines. When leaving the car to go for a walk in the woods, you find, upon returning, that you have to look all over the parking lot for your car because all the vehicles are yellow. They are now covered with pine pollen, and this pollen does not dust off easily.

The OFs were again talking about traveling but there was quite a conversation on streams and waterways. The OGs wonder where some of the local streams start and what some of these streams eventually run into or become.

One creek or (crick, as some people call it), is listed as being completely not where it actually is, according to Google maps. According to these maps, the Cobleskill Creek is running from West Berne, through Gallupville, and Google names the same creek (Cobleskill) as going from Richmondville through Cobleskill and Central Bridge.

What just happened to Fox Creek? Both creeks run into the Schoharie Creek only miles apart but there is no Fox Creek listed in Berne. There is a Fox Creek Market, but it is on the Cobleskill Creek. (Say what!) The OFs were quite intrigued with that bit of information; no wonder trucks get caught under bridges.

Relating to the area around Richmondville, the OFs asked each other if they ever noticed, when driving down the hill on Route 88, heading west, it is necessary to continually keep depressing the accelerator to maintain speed even though it looks and feels like the highway is going downhill. The OFs commented that this phenomenon is very strange to them because the traveler is actually going uphill.

 

Trees down

This is a “not so funny Magee” event. Two of the OMOTM have had large trees blow over on their homes; one is an actual OF and the other is the mother-in-law of another one of the OFs.

The OF had the tree blow over in the very high winds of late winter. The OF said the weather people were saying how the gusts in places were 60 to 70 miles per hour. It was during this time that a perfectly good poplar uprooted and blew out of the ground (the ground, of course, was quite wet) right into the back of the OF’s home.

The other OF said it was a willow that blew over on top of his mother-in-law’s home. Both OFs said it was something to watch the professional tree people work, how they had chainsaws that were sharp; the saws didn’t ever seem to bind up, and the saws started on one pull.

How anyone started in this business is hard to tell. No fear of heights must be at the top of the list, and not being afraid of birds that are ticked off because their nests are now gone. Cardinals are one thing, but condors would give this scribe time to pause and think about it.

 

The good die young

One other procedure that has come up recently is needles in the eyes for macular degeneration. This scribe cannot remember this as a subject for discussion in all the years of attending these breakfasts.

Now all of a sudden here are a bunch of OFs shuddering just to hear the process of needles in the eyes, but some of the OFs, themselves, or their wives are going through the process just like going to the doctor’s for a flu shot.

Like the OFs keep saying: It is tough to get old, yet it is necessary to be tough to get old. The other saying about age is: The good die young; that may be a blessing to keep them from putting up with getting old.

 

Warranty warning

The OFs are beginning to wonder a lot about warranties, or guarantees. The OFs say they can remember when the best guarantee was a good, firm, handshake.

Now they are given a folder of paper weighing about five pounds, stipulating the guarantee; how good it is and long it is etc., isn’t worth all that paper it is written on. One OF said for each paragraph that explains what the guarantee grants, there are 10 just below it that explains how the company or companies can get out of it.

In other words, most are not worth the paper they are written on. On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call. Moments later, he learned his auto warranty had expired.

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Your Way Café in Schoharie, and can guarantee that, for them, old age is better than viewing grass from the roots, were: Robie Osterman, Rick LaGrange, Roger Chapman, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Russ Pokerny, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Jake Herzog, Peter Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Henry Whipple, Otis Lawyer, Dave Hodgetts, Bob Donnelly, and me.

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