The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont on Jan. 28, and the OFs are becoming a little bit tired of this cold. Thank goodness we are almost through January and, when The Enterprise hits the newsstands, it will be February. The OGs are just about ready to start complaining.

The OFs had a discussion Tuesday morning on something they are quite familiar with since some (not all) of the OFs were around when there were dinosaurs. Some of the OFs were on a personal basis with these creatures; many of the OFs were here to show God how to make dirt.

Quite a few of the OFs were farmers and had firsthand knowledge of how to make good dirt because to feed those dinosaurs was going to take some fast-growing plants, and plants like this need good dirt.

This scribe made a note on the dinosaurs and is scratching his head to try and remember how the OFs started talking about these ancient animals, amphibians, and birds in the first place. Of course, the more well known beasts of these periods came up. T-Rex came up, so did the Pterodactyl, and, of course, the long-neck Barosaurus.

The OFs wondered how many bales of hay it would take to feed one of those long-neck monsters if these creatures were around today and if it would take a whole cow to feed a T-Rex. One OG thought that, if a Pterodactyl flew over and pooped on your shoulder, like a seagull, it would probably knock you to the ground.

It is hard for the OFs to conceive how Adam was able to name all the animals, and did he speak Latin? Were there even cows, as we know them, in the Triassic or Jurassic periods?

Who called the first cow a cow, and a dog a dog, and why aren’t dogs still called wolves, and then there is the whole cat enigma, and did Adam’s descendants speak Latin.

It seems the OFs should know these facts because, of course, they were there. The OFs are getting in rather deep here.

On Jan. 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner, and it was another cold Tuesday morning. Most of the OFs left home and found zero, or a tad below, was the morning temperature — not a good way to start the day.

As this scribe renders this report to the computer screen, it is not any warmer. This scribe also wonders what the future generations will do to keep warm in the cold climates when the fossil fuels run out. They are not infinite, you know.

Speaking of the future generations, the OFs began talking about making plans from when they exit this world and go to the next. One OF said he wonders how many times we have done that.

Another OF said he may have been walking this planet as a cow, and, when that cow died, he came back as a fly, and, when the fly died, he came back as this OF. Whoops! The OMOTM’s first whacko.

In reality, the OFs were talking about how they will leave their personal information like wills, or no wills, things that they would like to see passed on, and to whom.  They need to have the next of kin know where they have their personal papers in case the wife has already passed on, or they should both be killed when their motorcycle went off the road.

Some of the OFs haven’t done a thing because it is too scary to think about and these OFs don’t want to do it.

Others have everything organized and explained to the kids so there will be as little of a hassle as possible for them when the OF kicks the bucket and his toe doesn’t hurt. A couple of the OFs have their plots and headstones bought and paid for.

One OF had the kids come and put stickers on what they want, and let them hassle it out now before the OF is gone, and what they don’t want can be auctioned off, or sold at a garage sale, or hauled to the dump.

The OF said, “I’m dead so how can I care?  I won’t even know if they speak good or bad, for crying out loud, I am dead, no skin off my bones what they say.”

Another OF said, “I can add to that, my kids can’t even get along while they are alive; their squabbles are a pain in the butt. I am going to leave everything so screwed up that it will take those two years of hassle just to straighten it out. And I don’t care if they wrap me in a sheet, put me on the manure spreader, and spread me over the field.  Like you say, I’m dead — I won’t know.”

Knox, RIP

Talk about dead — that is what the town of Knox is. What it was just a few short years ago, and what it is like today; there is a big difference.

The OFs from the Hill all remembered Si (Stevens) and the gas station, the country store, and going to the post office, all gone now, and so far replaced by nothing. One OF commented the only thing in the town of Knox now is the church.

 “But,” said one OF, “There is still the town park, the fire department, and the Taj Mahal-Town Hall.”

The OFs were remembering Si and the gas station, and the people visiting on the porch covering the day’s events and some of the OFs joining in. They mentioned Si and the penny candy and how she scooped out the ice cream and hand-packed it.

One OF mentioned how Si went to the garage to get kerosene for them and you couldn’t help her with it even if you wanted to. “Don’t you touch it,” she would say, “I will do it.”

What happened?  Did it all just find a sinkhole and disappear?

The OFs said what they have said many times: “We think we have lived through the best of times.”

One OF said that what the town of Knox needs is four large tombstones with “RIP town of Knox.  Beware of the Ghost of Years Gone By.”

One OF said, “Don’t be too hasty.  Towns and cities have ways of coming back, just like the movie The Lion King where the moral of the movie is the circle of life.  Again we can’t improve anything by being negative.”

“Spoil sport,” was the retort.           

Wish on STAR

The OFs had some conversation on the STAR [School TAx Relief] program, and in this group almost all are qualified for this program. The forms, though they are short and do not ask for much information, are quite confusing to the OFs.

There is one rule in the third paragraph of the Renewal Application which states:  “All owners, including nonresident owners, must attach a copy of either their 2012 federal or state income tax returns (if filed). (Tax schedules and tax form attachments are not routinely required.)”  Duh. Which is it? Must attach, or not routinely required? Another duh. There appears to be something left out here. Or maybe the OFs are old and have lost the art of reading between the lines.

This scribe checked, and the answer is, yes, send a copy. The second part about “not routinely required” is for all the extra stuff that goes with many tax forms; all they want is the front page. They are just looking for proof that whoever is applying made under 80-some thousand dollars. Not to worry for most or all of the OFs.

Some of the OFs who watch the news remembered hearing discussions about people taking advantage of the STAR program and were wondering if the new forms were an attempt to plug some of the holes. The OFs just didn’t know and there wasn’t any cover letter explaining the forms.

The forms looked the same, but to some of the OFs read differently.

One OF remembered his brother-in-law telling him at one time that, when people did not understand his directions, or instructions, it was not their ability about understanding — it was his inability to communicate the instructions or directions sufficiently enough so there would be no misunderstanding. It is not the hearer’s or reader’s fault; it is the communicator’s fault for not being clear.

“Amen to that,” the OFs said.

Those attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, and getting out on another cold day were: Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aleseio, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Krause, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Andy Tinning, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.

On Jan. 14, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie. The contingent of Old Men that attacked the Blue Star was large in number.

The OFs thought it was the good weather that brought so many to the breakfast, or maybe it was just timing. One OF started counting backwards the last three or four Tuesdays, and recounted the temperature for those Tuesdays, and it was zero or below.

Tuesday was 40 degrees when most of the OFs started out. This OF, too, may be right — it could be the weather.

The OFs started talking about how the concern for our country’s past is quickly being lost by many of our young people because of the desire for the dollar.

So much of the country is being bought up and torn down to build this mall or that mall, or this housing development or that development, or this parking lot or that parking lot; soon all the young people will have to remind them of their heritage will be photographs.

The OFs said that many developers will destroy a historic building to build a mall when two miles down the road is a mall that has been abandoned. The OFs can’t understand this, and the thinking of the town fathers that let it happen.

“It all comes down to greed, and greased palms,” one OF said.

“And who owns what,” another added.

The OFs mentioned two barns that are in good shape coming down. The key word here is “good” shape. The OFs agreed that, if something is ready to come down around its ears, tear it down before someone gets hurt and replace it with something useful. So often that does not seem to be the case.

Maybe it is because the OFs are antiques themselves that they are concerned with preserving antiquity. It is thought that thousands of people travel thousands of miles to countries abroad to see, touch, and feel buildings, streets, and communities of old, and here, in many cases, we bulldoze the same things down.

Moldy material

The OFs discussed the newer composite decking material that was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. Some of the OFs who have used the material say there is, in a short period of time (depending on location), mold that appears quite quickly on this material.

These OFs said that, once the mold does occur, the material becomes very slippery. One OF went so far as to purchase a pretty good-sized pressure washer to wash the mold off.

One OF also said, the older the material is, the quicker the mold reappears. None of the OFs knew why this happens or if it is something they missed in the instructions.

For instance, should their deck be located where it receives a lot of sunshine?  One OG said the stuff is expensive, and he is stuck with it now.

“Oh well, live and learn,” one OF pined.

 Better doesn’t always win

One OF mentioned that his kids gave him a new iPod. (This scribe thinks this is right.) And, if this scribe understood the OG right, this new piece of technology does not work with the other computer equipment he has, like printers and scanners.

Kodak found that having a proprietary product does not work, and so did Beta way back when. Beta had the better product but it only worked with Beta.

The OFs think that there should be ways that, if some company comes up with a great product, that company should allow for connections to all the other products that pertain to that product instead of making it so the purchaser of that product has to go and buy another printer, scanner, or whatever to work with that product. This would make the connections and compatibility universal.

“Nah, too simple,” one OF said.

Eventually, in many cases, the better product will go the way of the Dodo bird just like Beta.

Tapped out

Most of the OFs have received their power bills and were ready to take what muscles they have left and attack the power company.  Of course, this would not be a fair fight because the power company employees wear hard hats.

Then the bills came from the fuel oil companies with their outrageous price for home heating oil.

“No wonder,” one OF said, “couple these charges with the taxes and anyone can see why so many are leaving the state.”

One OF said, “When the last one leaves, will they please close the door and turn out the light?”

One OF commented he hears one legislator wants two billon dollars for this, and another wants a billion for that, and yet another wants a billon so his yacht club can have another ramp.

The OF chuckled and said, “I just made that last part up.”

But, by golly, the scribe bets it is true and this money could be hidden somewhere in all these billons of dollars.

The same OF said he remembers when a hundred bucks was a lot of money. The OF continued with the key issue, “Where in h--- (fill in the blanks with letters of your choosing) do they think the money is coming from?  I am already tapped out just from paying those ridiculous power, heating, and gas bills, let alone my meds. And I am getting tired of eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with a cup of soup day in and day out; there is nothing left in my pockets but lint!”

(What is a billion?  This number gets thrown around like chump change.  A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive and the Roman Empire was in full swing.  A billion hours ago, we were in the Stone Age.)

Those attending the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie and becoming really concerned about the health of some of the OFs and their wives were: Kenneth Parks, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Andy Tinning, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Dick Ogsbury, Roger Chapman, Chuck Aleseio, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Bill Rice, Don Moser, Don Wood, Henry Whipple, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.

On Jan. 7, the Old Men of the Mountain’s first breakfast of 2014 was at the Country Café in Schoharie, and it was cold. The OFs were talking about how cold it was and that most of the OFs have experienced colder weather than this but, for some reason the air on Tuesday, was cold.

One OF remembered the real temperature, not this wind-chill thing, on the Hill was about 20 or maybe even 30 below. This, the OF thought, was in the mid 1980s to early ’90s. (With the OFs, time is so irrelevant that they may say something happened a couple of years ago when, in fact, it would by more like 10 years ago. So the ’80s or ’90s could be a tad off. )

Back to the conversation.

“At that time,” the OF said, “the coldest temperature in the nation was announced on the radio to be in Canajoharie, N.Y.”

This OF said, on that particular day, he was supposed to go to Utica, N.Y. and, as he drove up the Thruway towards Utica, the OF noticed the highway was like a tractor-trailer parking lot.  All along the Thruway, the big rigs were brought to a standstill by the fuel gelling, even with additives.

This OF said he got off at Canajoharie just to see what the coldest temperature in the nation would be like. The OF reported it was no different than the 20 to 30 below on the Hill.

When it gets that cold, cold is cold!

However, this same OF said that the cold walking up the sidewalk in Schoharie to the Country Café, was cold and he noticed it. Some OFs wondered if it was because back then the OF was about 45 years old, and now he is 80.

“Well,” the OF said.

Then another OF said, “We are not used to it; we have not had a real cold snap like this in years.”

“Whatever…” the OF was sure glad to close the door behind him as he went into Country Café.

News stays the same

This scribe is reviewing his notes taken at the breakfast, and the list runs from bottom to top, cars, kids, stories, pigs, cows, health, who you know better than what you know, and reporting the news. Much of that is redundant like cars, kids, pigs, cows, and especially health, which leaves the talk of who you know better than what you know, and reporting the news.

A little clarifier here, many of the OFs do not watch the news, but, when they do, they find that the news doesn’t change. One OF mentioned that, if he catches the news one day, and then does not watch it for a couple of weeks, and happens to catch it again, it is the same news; just the names and locations are different.

Another OF said, if something really spikes his attention, he will become interested and watch it until that event plays out. This OF mentioned the 911 attack on our country, and another news episode was the landing of the plane in the Hudson River.

One a disaster, the other a miracle, and that is about it.

One OF said that he gets really ticked when he does catch the news and can understand why people who watch it on a regular basis are so stressed out.

Another OF made only one brief comment.  He claimed that so much of the news is slanted one way or the other and the newscasters act like they are holy. Whichever way the station is bent, they think they have the solution to the problem, when, in his opinion, they are the problem.

“Conversely,” an OF commented, “I watch the news all the time. How do you guys know what’s going on? How do you know what the weather is going be?”

“You believe those guys; I just look out the window,” said another OF.

Give me a newspaper any day, get one paper leaning one way and another paper leaning the other and somewhere in the middle they just may be right and there is always the funnies to balance it out. Any way the paper bends the news, “Pickles,” “Pearls,” and “Speed Bump” are great stress relievers.

Getting somewhere

Many of the OFs think this is too true. You might have the solution to solving the most demanding problem going, like curing cancer, or a propulsion system that does not require fossil fuels, and, if you do not know the right people, it goes nowhere.

One OF asked the rhetorical question: How many of the OFs got their first job from someone they knew, or someone told you that so-and-so was looking for somebody to do a certain job?

It was interesting how many wound up working at a job that, in their formative years, the OF was not even trained to do.  Because someone recommended the OF and the someone the OF was recommended to had a matching karma, that OF turned out doing really well at whatever it was.

In college, it is quite often said, the contacts made are better than the education.

“Yeah,” an OF said, “but, even then if you are a wise guy and a slacker, that trait will come through and the contacts will not be worth anything because that is how you will be remembered.”

“You’re right,” a second OF said. “I guess the real approach is to try and do your best all the time.”

This OF said he wound up working at a position that was nothing like what he studied for and did very well. One thing the OF did in college was learn to adapt, and to study, and to retain what he studied. Life is funny that way.
Those gathering at the Country Café in Schoharie and having the Hungry Man Special, which should hold anyone for a week, were: Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.                                  

On New Year’s Eve 2013, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.  Winnie, one of the waitresses at the Middleburgh Diner who has been waiting on the OFs for many years, decided she had had enough of us and thought now would be a good time to retire, and she did.

Now the OFs at the Middleburgh Diner have to break in another waitress — or in some cases breakdown. The OFs wish Winnie well in her retirement and hope she enjoys it as much as most of the OFs enjoy theirs.

In the town of Berne, a new sewer system is being installed, and, in the village of Cobleskill, the sewer and water is being extended along Route 7 towards Central Bridge. One thing these contractors are running into in both cases is rock — deep, solid rock.

The OFs talked about the machines that are used to break up this rock so the pipes can be buried. In the town of Berne, it is this solid rock that many of the homes are built on. The pounding by these machines actually follows the rock and vibrates the homes.

The OFs think, by the time this is done, these same homes will have doors that don’t shut and windows that won’t open, and these windows will leak air. One OF thinks that the dust in their attics is now in their cellars.

So the conversation continued along the rock line, and how the hills of the Helderbergs are basically rocks. The most miserable spring farm job, for many of the then-YFs was using the stone-boat and picking rocks.

Before quick disconnects on plows were invented, plowing back then and snagging a large rock would bring the front of the tractor right up in the air.

“When the OFs were YFs,” one OF explained, “we learned quickly to hold on the wheel of the tractor with both hands so, when this happened, we were not tossed off the tractor.”

It was like riding a bucking bronco, plowing with a two-bottom plow, an old (back then not-so-old) steel-wheeled Fordson tractor. When the OFs plowed with horses before they got tractors, they would just plow around the big rock.

Then the “young-uns” on the farm would get bars and roll the rock to the top of the ground and this rock would eventually be rolled on a stone-boat (whether it was brought up with horse or tractor) and hauled off the field to the rock pile, or stone fence, along with the rest of the picked rocks.

The OFs continued to talk about rocks and stone-wall fences. Not only in the Hilltowns of the Helderbergs but in many farming communities in the Northeast stone-wall fences can be seen running through the woods. The OFs said that, at one time, these stone fences were an indication that on one side or the other — or maybe both sides — of the fence there must have been fields.

Think of the work. The trees had to be cleared, the land had to be worked, the stones picked, the fence built, and then the land could finally be used for crops or pasture.

One OF wondered how many pinched fingers and sore backs were encountered by our founding fathers after all this work. Now these fields have long been abandoned and nature has taken over with more trees, brush and vegetation, but the stone fence is still there, meandering through the woods to nowhere.

Nature prevails

The same vein of conversation prevailed with the OFs saying it will not be long before all the hard work we do as humans (if left unattended) is quickly taken over — grabbed back by nature.

One OF said, “Just look at your own driveway; how soon the ants have worked their way through four inches of blacktop, or how soon weeds starts showing up in a parking lot that has not been used for a little while. It doesn’t take long for the larger brush and trees to take over after that.”

A second OF opined, “There is a lot of power in one little acorn.”

Another OF said, “That is the case in many areas of the world where there is plenty of moisture.  This causes the plant life to get started.  However, in other areas, where it is dry, the process doesn’t start and that is why archeologists can find dinosaur bones, and remnants of ancient civilizations.”

What makes the floor move?

Many times, the OFs talk about how they worked when they were younger and why the OFs are even here. Some OFs maintain we all should have been dead long ago.

This time they were talking about how they used to climb on ladders and scaffolds, and go 40 to 50 feet in the air and think nothing about it. Building chimneys, working with hot tar on roofs, the OFs doing their own roofing on barns and sheds and their own homes was normal. So was climbing up the slippery ladder of the silage chute to get to the top of a freshly filled silo and throw down the ensilage and then climb back down.

“Not now,” one OF said. “I think twice before stepping on a stool. It must be the inner ear that let us do all that climbing without even thinking.”

A second OF said, “I have such trouble hearing I think that is what makes me think that sometimes the floor is moving.”

“Nah,” another OF said. “It has nothing to do with your ears, the floor wouldn’t move so much if you spent more time being sober.”

The OFs never attempted to sing “Auld Lang Syne” and that was a good thing. The Old Men of the Mountain wish all a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

The OFs who braved the cold and made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and started breaking in a new waitress were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Harold Guest, Steve Kelly, Mace Porter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Don Wood, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

— By John R. Williams

On Christmas Eve, many of the Old Men of the Mountain, served on a Santa-strewn tablecloth, were dressed in red and green or wore Santa hats for the occasion.

 

On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh for their traditional Christmas Party. Again, the staff of the restaurant out- did themselves with the hors d’oeuvres on the tables.

There was enough there to feed all the OFs without ordering breakfast. Of course, the OFs did order their normal breakfast plus they cleaned up a lot that was placed on the table, especially the hot meatballs. The OFs would like to thank Loretta, Patty, and their team for having such a scrumptious holiday spread for the Old Men of the Mountain.

Some of the OFs came all decked out for the occasion — some in Santa hats; and others with Christmas sweaters; some wearing red and green; and there was one fellow there with a battery-operated Christmas-tree-bulb necktie, which was all lit up. 

A couple of the OFs who are musically inclined brought their instruments and the restaurant had a small area set up for them to play Christmas music.  The OFs joined in on the tunes they knew.

Of course, Gene Autry was doing a couple of flips in his grave, and maybe even holding his ears as the OFs attempted to sing “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” 

This year, on the “eves,” the Old Men of the Mountain will stay in Middleburgh because, on New Year’s Eve, the OFs will be at the Middleburgh Diner. This makes two attacks (in Middleburgh) by the OFs to end the year 2013.

Can that little town take it? The town fathers might think about reactivating the Schoharie County Militia, muskets at the ready with fixed bayonets, prepared to run the OFs out of town if they even attempt to sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

Tractor origins

This scribe had to raise his eyebrows as some of the OGs’ next conversations and observations did not seem correct. However, there is always the chance the OGs might be right, so it was off to the Internet to check them out. (The Internet is always right, you know).

The flat statement made by a couple of OFs was that “no” tractors were made in this country, that “all” tractors were made elsewhere. The words “no” and “all” are what drew attention to the conversation.

In checking, this scribe found a real mixed bag, so, using John Deere as one example, it was found that Deere manufactures tractors in many countries throughout the world. 

Most of these factories make farming equipment, lawn and garden equipment, harvesting equipment, heavy constructing equipment, among a slew of other products, including toys and clothing, which are done on a leasing basis. Depending on the size of tractor the OFs want, it can come from the United States, India, or wherever. 

McCormack International, though, is quite convoluted.  Sales to companies and different conglomerate organizations are now in business from Italy.  Another company is currently buying the rights as this scribe understands the dealings. This scribe can’t follow all this high-end business intrigue, so it is suggested, if you are interested, go check it out on the net.  

Kubota Tractors were originally built, starting in 1890 in Osaka, Japan; however, in 1988, Kubota opened a huge plant in Gainesville, Georgia, where it produces the tractors for the U.S. 

So, in two of the examples, John Deere started here and built plants all over; Kubota started there, and built plants all over. The answer is: “Yes,” many tractors are still built in the U.S. and are competitive.  Smart moves by both companies.

Why leave NY?

Now that New York is the fourth most populous state, behind Florida, the OFs jumped on the bandwagon, asking why people are leaving New York.

It came down to two explanations with two side bets thrown in: One, taxes (politics); two, weather.

The two side bets were, cost of maintaining a building, and the cost of doing business.

The OFs said even farming, which was shielded from much of this, is beginning to feel the pinch of being over-regulated by a select group of do-gooders in New York City making rules and regulations for farmers, and this group doesn’t know the difference between a rabbit and a cow.

One OF threw in the ringer of New York being known as the welfare state.  The reason this state’s population is where it is, is because other states ship the ne’er-do-wells to New York where the state will take care of them.

“Then,” an OF added, “we have a juxtaposition here, this OF thinks the state of New York has one of the highest educated populations in the country and that is why we have as many people here as we do.”

This OF said, “Companies are after the brains of New York.”

And so it goes. ’Tain’t this fun?  It is.

The OFs get their points across either way; no one changes anyone else’s mind because that is what we are — OFs!  Our minds were made up years ago, so the OFs laugh or grunt and go on to something different.  

Those OFs who gathered at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and absorbed what holiday spirit they could were: Elf one Harold Guest, Elf two Mark Traver, Elf three Glenn Patterson, Elf four Roger Shafer, Elf five George Washburn, Elf six Roger Chapman, Elf seven John Rossmann, Elf eight Jim Heiser, Elf nine Otis Lawyer, Elf ten Steve Kelly, Elf eleven Robie Osterman, Elf twelve Mace Porter, Elf thirteen Gary Porter, Elf fourteen Ken  Hughes, Elf fifteen Jack Norray, Elf sixteen Lou Schenck, Elf seventeen Don Wood, Elf eighteen Ted Willsey, Elf nineteen Jim Rissacher, Elf twenty Bill Krause, Elf twenty-one Mike Willsey, Elf twenty-two Elwood Vanderbilt, Elf twenty-three Gilbert Zabel, Elf twenty-four Harold Grippen, Elf twenty-five Gerry Chartier, Elf twenty-six Todd Wright, and Elf twenty-seven, the littlest Elf, me.

Location:

On Dec. 17, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. On such a cold day, the restaurant was inviting.

The OFs agreed that the ride to Rensselaerville was like driving through a Christmas card or a winter photo on a calendar; then they were all rewarded by a warm start-to-the-day breakfast.

The riders in one car reported that on the trip up to Rensselaerville — and Rensselaerville is up — the temperature changes in just the few miles to get there. The outside temperature gauge showed one degree when starting out, the OF said, and, as they approached the dip between Thompson’s Lake, and Cole Hill Road, the temperature dropped to 13 below zero.

As they made the turn on Cole Hill, the temperature was up to seven below, and, by the time they were on the top of the hill, the temperature had risen to 2 degrees above zero. That change is in the mere distance of approximately four or five miles and an elevation change of about 400-plus feet (that is only a guess).

Many years ago, there was a ski area on Cole Hill with a rope tow to the top. The OFs thought it was a Farmall H, jacked up a tad and it had a rope around the rear tire that was the drive for the rope tow.

Old wooden skis, rubber boots (i.e., barn boots for many of the OFs, with felt liners) and leather buckled bindings on the skis buckled around the boot.  Then the OFs tightened them up and down the hill the OFs went.

The OFs did not have ski outfits; the only cost was a pair of wooden skis, and the rest is what the OFs had in their closets. Today, to be fashionable on the slopes costs as much as a good used car, and, as one OF said, he bets we had more fun.

The OFs wondered if there were any vestiges of that little ski trail left. Those who travel the hill say they don't think so because they are pretty sure where the trail used to be is overgrown into trees now. Times change and sometimes, time change is not for the better.

“Unteaching” the old dog

The OFs are having as much trouble keeping up with the technology advances as everybody else.

One OF said he has the newest gadget going and says it is great.  It is some kind of tablet that takes pictures, answers the phone, makes apple pies, and scrubs your back all at the same time.

One OF said, “Yeah, that is for today; tomorrow, it will be something else.”

The OFs thought that the end of the telephone party line was the ultimate in technological advancement.

The familiar ding of the typewriter as it reached the end of a line alerting the typist he had to slide the lever over to go to the next line, then along came IBM’s Selectric typewriter and the lines changed by themselves.  The world was going crazy, the OFs thought.

The OFs thought for years there were just 72 elements in the periodic table and that was it; now look, they (whoever they are) say there are 118 elements. The OFs say, if you change the 72 to 118, why not change it to 218.

One OF said it is not the teaching the old dog, it is the “unteaching” that is so hard.

Getting there

The OFs were contemplating outer space and getting there and the OFs had a hard time comprehending that latitude and longitude, as the OFs once learned, is not right for space travel, and NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, uses something else.

One OF said he has enough trouble heading to Aunt Tillie’s house and arriving there and she is only one hundred miles away. It is amazing to him that the astronauts can go to the moon and land right back where they started from.

“Yeah,” one OF mentioned, “and, if they can't make the initial starting point, they just recalculate and proceed to site number two.”

Those OFs who did not study navigation are envious of those that know how to navigate by the stars, or how to navigate with maps using the latitude and longitude that the OFs know. The OFs who can't read music are in the same mode, envious of those that can.

Road trip

down Memory Lane

Most of the OFs have new or newer models cars, trucks, and vans. A conversation started on how the newer cars drive themselves, and this scribe noted we have been down this road before. (No pun intended.)

The OFs have driven cars and trucks in their early years where it was necessary to place your feet in the right place when the OF entered the vehicle because the road was visible through the rotted out floor board. Fumes from the engine wafted in underneath the vehicle, but not to worry — there were so many other holes in the older vehicles that the fumes did not cause any harm. The fumes just found another hole to go out of the car or truck.

In these vehicles, the engine sounds were right in the car with you. The OFs could tell how ole Betsy was running just by these sounds.

Today, the cars run as quiet as the morgue. The engine runs effortlessly and the next thing the OF knows he is going 70 miles an hour when, in his youth, 50 miles per hour was exciting.  Today, 70 is like having coffee in the living room.

One OF asked the question that is quite often asked when the OFs travel back in time:  “So, do you want to go back to these old vehicles, with heaters that didn't work well, no air-conditioning, mechanical brakes that could freeze, no power steering, having to carry a spare tire or two, and rides that were like wooden wagon wheels going over farm roads?”

“Not really,” one OF said, “but back then at least I was able to fix the car on the side of the road. Cars came with tool kits, remember.”

One OF remembered his brother and he going someplace, and they had the family vehicle, which happened to be a Ford sedan.  Back then, Fords had only one spring in back that went side to side.

“This is an important point,” the OF said.

The OFs picked up their girlfriends and started out. On Route 443, between Gallupville and Schoharie, the rear spring broke. Not far from where it broke was a small junkyard-type repair shop. The OFs pulled in there and explained their problem to the proprietor.

“Yep,” he said, “I have a spring.”

The OFs said, “Great, we can fix it right here.”

The proprietor said, if they could do that, he would give them the spring. The OF had a rather strong brother, who actually was able to lift the car. The OF said they had the old spring out and the new one in less than half an hour.

The proprietor was true to his word and gave them the spring, and he said, “If I didn't see that I wouldn't believe it!”

“Try doing that with one of these new cars,” the OF said.

The OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and who found that Amanda was the only one there (she waited tables, prepared the food, bussed the tables, and kept the coffee cups filled) were: Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ken Hughes, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Gilbert Zabel (Elwood's grandson), and me, happy.

Tuesday, Dec. 10, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont. This scribe showed up around 7:30 a.m., and there were already a group of OFs at the Home Front.

These OFs must have busy days planned (at least some do) because they left after a normal time for breakfast, while some of the OFs that were the first ones there were still there when this scribe left, and the scribe remains until the late-comers show up.

Those OFs are having a lot more than a leisurely breakfast; they appear to be hanging around until lunch time. This scribe is beginning to wonder if the wives have told them to get the heck out of the house and not come back.

We continued with one of the favorite pastimes of the OFs — going to the doctor.

One OG mentioned that he is having eye problems and the ophthalmologist’s assistant (whatever they are called) was checking the OG’s eyes. The OG said he has a problem with one eye and the problem is, when light hits it, the OG has to blink quite often. So this assistant is pointing a bright light into the bad eye and telling him not to blink.

Duh, that is part of the problem, and the assistant became irritated because the OG was continually blinking.

The OG said, “What did she think?  I was doing it on purpose?  I can understand English, and was trying like heck not to blink.”

Then an additional OG said, “Didn't she put one of those clamps on your eyelid to keep it open because the blinking is involuntary?”

“Nope,” the other OG said.

This is the same thing as going to a doctor with a sore back and the doctor tells you to stand up straight. This is another “Duh.”

“If I could,” the OF said, “I would.  That is why I am here.  I can't stand up straight.”

One OF then opined that there should be some kind of drug that can be administered that would relax the patient so the doctor would be able to push and pull without causing pain that raises the OF’s body off the doctor's table.

“Yeah,” one other OF said of doctors’ tables, “those things should be heated, too. They are so darn cold that, whenever I lie down on one, everything shrivels up to nothing and sometimes I even start to shiver.”

One OF thought the doctors do all this pushing and twisting to see how bad the problem really is, because, if they really wanted us relaxed when we went into the examining room, all they would have to do is give us a joint to smoke in the waiting room before we went in.

Then we would be so relaxed they could twist anything they wanted and we would think it was just a handshake.

“After puffing on one of those,” another OF mused, “when they say, ‘Stand up straight,’ you would snap to attention just like a Marine in basic training.”

Replaced joints don’t dance well

The OFs don't know how many out there are square dancers, but many of the OFs were. The Hay Shakers, The Silver Bullets, The Altamont Station Squares, and The Foot and Fiddle were a few of the clubs that the OFs belonged to.

Before that, when the OFs were YFs and were real stomping square dancers (i.e., eastern style) many OFs/YFs went all around the area to square dances.  Popular places were Pat’s Ranch and The Grange Hall in Gallupville, and there was also a site in Clarksville that held dances.

Many fire halls would hold dances and put on buffets to go along with the dance. Good, clean, wild (sometimes a tad more wild than necessary) fun.

The OFs would gather up their girls and a bunch (bunch is used literally here) of YFs would climb in with anyone who had a car that ran and head off to a dance. Sometimes the guys would head out alone, and hook up with someone there and fill in a square.

Farm boys having fun. When the OFs were YFs the music was live — Perley Brand and Bill Chapman had bands, to name a couple of them.

Today, many of the OFs said they would still square dance only their bodies won't let them.  Too many hips, knees, and shoulders replaced both on the OFs and on the spouses of the OFs.

That really puts a crimp in square dancing when it is impossible for the OFs to raise their arms or stomp their feet. Tough to "duck for the oyster, dive for the clam.” or "swing that girl,” or "form a star,” or "allemande left, back to your partner, right and left grand."

Try doing these when the OFs’ shoulders are fake, hips are fake, and knees are fake, and all these maneuvers are done at a slow jogging pace.

Cooking connoisseurs

This brought up another strange phenomenon — cooking. Many of the OFs are connoisseurs of cooking, someone else’s that is.

Many have trouble boiling water. Most of the time, the OFs find that others’ cooking is pretty darn good. But there are times when an OF will run across some cooking that puckers the mouth, and causes an immediate gag reflex.

One OF related a story of such an occasion. This OF said that he used to love rhubarb, and strawberry-rhubarb pie until one day he bought one from a church sale. (Said church will remain nameless although mentioned in the dissertation by the OF.)

The OF said one bite brought tears to his eyes; it was the most horrid taste he ever had. He thought it might have been him so he gave a bite to his wife, who had the same reaction.

That pie was immediately designated for disposal in the nearest trash bin. The OF mused that he didn't even think the rats would eat it.

The OF also added that, when this particular church has a bake sale, he still won't purchase anything there because he is afraid he would get something baked by the same person.

Another OF related a similar experience at a square dance (strange connection here with the segment a few paragraphs above) and the club had its pie night. At the break, a group that came together took a pie and, as each one in the square took a bite, they walked in unison to the trashcan and scraped the pieces of pie into it. It was another mouth-puckerer. Almost like a get even thing. (Ask me to bake a pie for your stupid dance, will ya; I'll fix ya, and I will leave out the sugar.)  Could be.

Those attending the breakfast at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and not one complaint on the food, or the amount, were: Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, Steve Kelly, George Washburn, Frank Pauli, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Andy Tinning, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, George Christian, and me.

Today’s report will be a bonus report — two weeks for one. The scribe was traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday and unfortunately missed Tuesday, Nov. 25; however, braving mighty obstacles, the scribe was able to make Tuesday, Dec. 2. (Boy oh boy, Christmas is right around the corner, so much to do, so little time.)

On Nov. 25, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner, in Duanesburg, and on Dec. 2, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon in Princetown.

A topic from the Nov. 18 gathering is now quite topical. What do the OFs want, or need for Christmas?  For many of the OFs and because the OFs are just that (Old F’s) the giving part was easy — money or gift cards. Most of the OFs’ kids are approaching the point of being OFs themselves and have their own ideas of what they need so give them a few bucks to either get it, or help them out.

Some of the kids say, "Gee Dad, we don't need anything"; that is no fun and many times rings quite hollow.

When the OF says he doesn't need anything, it is generally true. What in the world is the OF going to with more stuff? Ah! But with a few of the OFs “stuff” is their middle name.

However, a gift card to a grocery store is a good thing. The problem here is that the OF will give the kids gift cards to grocery stores, and kids will give the OF a gift card to grocery stores. That is like one log truck going east on the road passing another log truck going west. Duh.

Old stuff

Now, what do the OFs do for fun? The options are as varied as there are OFs.

Some are boat enthusiasts, while others belong to civic organizations; some work at very fine crafts, and others collect stuff.

The stuff collectors have a problem and this has been mentioned before: They are OFs, and the stuff they collect is not dolls, or marbles.  This stuff is big like cars, trucks, and tractors (especially tractors) and along with that — old farm equipment.

These antiques are intended by the OFs to be restored and run but now the OFs are running out of time to get them in shape. The OFs are now antiques themselves and they need some tender loving care, and new parts like the equipment they are trying to restore, to get the OF into some kind of workable, running shape.

The conversations of many of the OFs on old antiquities show a knowledge that many museums might wish they had, and, with the OFs at the breakfast tables, this knowledge is just normal talk.

This goes along with their "collections,” much of which are museum pieces. What the OFs need are some young volunteers to work on this "stuff" with the OFs as mentors.

Though, as one OF put it, this is a hands-on, get-dirty, lift-and-lug type of endeavor, not staring at some three-by-four screen while the only muscles used are the ones that control the thumbs, and no real mental skills are involved, just reaction time to something someone else has already done.

One OF just mentioned that he was looking for an old corn sheller, and another OF responded, “What kind?” because he had one.

The first OF said, “One with a cast iron frame,” and the other OF said his was a wood frame.

It wasn't long before a deal was made and the corn sheller might change hands. What kind of group would have that type of machine just lying around and another person looking for one? What type of group (other than the OFs) would even know the difference between a sheller and a husker?

There were no questions asked like, “Why do you want a corn sheller?” Inquiring about a corn sheller is just the OFs’ normal conversations.

Geographic bonding

There are some newer members of the OFs who have been rattling around the Hilltowns for quite some time.  Now they are seeing new faces for the first time and trying to connect these faces with where they might know them from, and then they try to relate them to certain pieces of property.

Here begins the lineage of, “Ya know the old Perkins place?”

“Ah yes, that used to be the Moore place.”

“Nah, the old Moore place used to be by the Jacobs place at the corner of Blah and Jump roads.”

“Are you sure?  I thought that was the Adams house.”

“No, the Adams house was around the corner where the two big oaks are.”

On and on until the real place of where they knew each other link up. Makes no difference who lives there now, the OFs go back to who built the place during or just after the Revolutionary War.

Then comes the connecting of the friends or relatives of forty, fifty, or sixty years ago. It is surprising to many of the OFs how a little bit of geography is a bonding agent.

Sympathy extended

The Old Men of the Mountain offer their deepest sympathies to the family of Carl Slater, a long-standing and loyal member of the OMOTM for many years, who passed away at the age of 84. He will be greatly missed.

The Old Men of the Mountain also offer their sympathies to Miner Stevens whose brother-in-law passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 2. The OMOTM condolences go to Miner and his family also.

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner and probably spoke freely because the scribe wasn't there to tattle on them, were: Duncan Bellinger, Harold Guest, Andy Tinning, Frank Pauli, Steve Kelly, Roger Schafer, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Garry Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and not me.

Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon in Princetown and solved most of the nation’s problems by going back in time when the nation was number one in many things and now seems to be leading in not much, were: Karl Remmers, Roger Schafer, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, Dick Ogsbury, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Ken Hughes, Jack Norray, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Henry Whipple, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Harold Guest, and me.

On Tuesday, Nov. 19, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie.

It was noted that there was a big change in the weather from the 18th of November to the 19th, but what the people in the Midwest and the people in the Philippines are going through right now (and who knows how many more people are) a few-degrees drop in temperature is nothing we have to worry about.  We only know that it is time to put another log on the fire.

The OFs sat in the comfort of the Blue Star and had breakfast, and this old sphere just keeps spinning around and around; the OFs just sit there and talk about the flood in another building close by that just a short time ago was full of water.

The people who have such great events enter into their lives will relate time from then on to these events. The OFs are still talking about the flood (from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011) and it came up again Tuesday morning along with dialogue concerning recent tornadoes and the typhoon.

This talk was about something that not too many have even considered, i.e., paperwork that is kept at lawyers’ offices for safekeeping, and safe-deposit boxes at banks for the same reason.

One OF said the safe-deposit box situation hit home with him because his deposit box was in a bank vault that filled with water; however, his box was on the top shelf and the water stopped just a few inches below it. The boxes below were under water and these boxes are not waterproof.

The OF said, “You think you have all your bases covered and  Mother Nature has a subtle way of saying, ‘Hold on a second. I have something to say about that.’”

The OFs wonder if those who say time heals all wounds — well, does it really?

As one OF put it, “That statement probably emanates from someone who has not experienced whatever tragedy is the point of conversation. ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ is a better quote and, after that mile, see if ‘time heals’ still fits.”

Wither the Monarchs?

One OF posed the question, “How many of you OFs have seen the Monarch butterfly this year?”

You know, no one within earshot of the OF who asked the question could remember seeing one. This OF said that a fungus, similar to the White Nose syndrome of bats, brought on by the strange weather early in the year, did a real number on the Monarch.

This OF said that he had read that they might not make a comeback because they were so badly affected. Well, that was said about the bats and the bald eagle and they are making remarkable comebacks.

Let’s hope that the Monarch rebounds quickly because they are great pollinators. 

Along with this came a few comments on the number of deer, which seems to be less, along with squirrels and rabbits, at least in the areas the OFs are from. This may not be true elsewhere. There may be places where the deer are taking over; the same with squirrels and rabbits.

Have a plan

One OF brought up a problem that is not too uncommon. This OF has a friend with whom he normally converses by phone at least once a week.  This friend lives alone and he does not live that close by.

The OF said he has been unable to reach him in the last two weeks and was wondering if he should call the authorities to go and check on him. The OFs think that it is a good thing to have a plan in case this should happen to one of us.

At the ages of some of the OFs, this is a possibility.

One OF suggested that this is why people should be part of something like seniors, or a church, or the American Legion, or Veterans of Foreign Wars — some organization that would be concerned if your habits changed.

In this case, there might be someone to check on you and see if you are OK.

Know-how in demand

Another topic came up that was not specific to an OF problem, and that is, when someone has a particular talent, or expertise, and belongs to an organization that takes advantage of that talent or expertise.  In this case, it was running sound equipment that one OF seems to know what he is doing.

To this particular OF, it is a simple job. But, and this is a big but, this OF is not always around when the equipment is being run.

Another OF mentioned that an organization he belongs to has the same problem and the guy who knows how to run the equipment is not around much of the time either. The OF said that he has everything color coded — the white wire to the white receptacle etc., etc.

And the OF said he has given instructions more than once on how to shut it down and start it up. Ditto with the other OF; however, these instructions seem to fall on deaf ears. Not really deaf ears: The people being trained know what to do at the time and maybe a month or so later but that information eventually becomes lost in the six inches of gray matter between the ears because it is not used and so enters the nether land of the brain.

 One OF came to the defense of those who are not familiar with using sound equipment. The OF who has the know-how uses his knowledge quite frequently, where the others might only have to use it once a year, and the OF relating this mentioned he is quite familiar with the short-term memory loss in this type of surrounding.

Things start making noises that the untrained OF is not familiar with and he goes a little berserk thinking the whole thing is falling apart and he does not want to be responsible for pushing the wrong button and blowing the whole business up. All this OF can think of is to pull the plug and wait for the OF who knows what he is doing to come and fix it.

The reader can insert appliance or whatever into the slot where sound system is mentioned. Wait for someone who knows what to do to show up. That is the best answer!

Those OFs who showed up at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie on that rather blustery Tuesday morning and were glad nothing needed fixing before they came, were: Roger Chapman, Mark Traver, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Andy Tinning, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Miner Stevens, Duncan Bellinger, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Bill Keale, Lou Schenck, Don Moser, Jack Norray, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, Gerry Chartier, Don Wood, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.

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