The scribe has mentioned this many times because it is true: This is the Old Men of the Mountain because most of the group is old — that is, if you call those in their eighties and nineties old. The OFs in this group don’t want to be called that, but let’s face it, those are old numbers.

The OF’s minds may think they can still do things they did in their sixties but their bodies say, “Not today, fellas; you are old.”

The points that point this up are not the quantity of grandkids the OF has, but the great-grandkids. In the discussions on the phone calls this week, the grandkids kept coming up, and your own kids are now retired, and have been for sometime.

The OFs remember when they retired they considered it a major milestone, like when they were married. Now they can talk to their kids on their retirement, and they do. Talk about equals, yet most of the OFs still call them their kids.

Last week (or maybe the week before) the age was 90; this week the age is 93 of one spoken to. Having minds and desires sharp as tacks and bodies that won’t let the OF fulfill those thoughts is oftentimes frustrating.

Getting dressed, which at one time was not even thought about, the OF would be carrying on a conversation with a brother or buddy and all of sudden, and in short order, the OF was tying his shoes without even knowing he had just showered, shaved, and gotten dressed with only a few minutes gone by on the clock. Well, that has sure changed.

The first part has to be thought out; the bathroom has to be 80-degrees plus, the water hot with everything in order. Then there is putting on the clothes; a lot of that procedure has to be sitting down because the OFs can’t stand on one leg anymore to get the other foot through their shorts.

Those of us who wear compression socks (and these socks work) need help getting them on, but at least no help is required to get them off. The OFs discussed an ad on TV for compression socks that go on easy. It doesn’t look that easy to us OFs.

 

A love-hate relationship

Some of the OFs have homes in Florida, North and South Carolina, Arizona, and Texas. Several of these OFs report how much lower their taxes are in these states than their home in New York, and not by just a few bucks.

These OFs pay taxes in both places and, though they complain about New York, these OF like the change of weather, have family in New York, and like it here for many other reasons. The scribe thinks the older we get the more family means to us. New York does have a lot to offer even though it is expensive to live here.

Quite often, the OMOTM discussed the trials and tribulations of New York but for some reason do hang on. The attraction has many OFs somewhat confused. They have the means to leave but don’t.

The OFs will just grumble along with most everyone else. One OF said, as he gets older it becomes cheaper for him to live and, like the OF on the phone who has family taking care of him, that is a big help.

Most of the time it comes down to family, and a little side note: The Helderbergs are noted for how long people live here up on this mountain.

 

Saving money

The older we get, and when we have our health, it becomes cheaper to live. That is not true if the OF winds up in a nursing home.

It takes a lot of planning to get into your late eighties and nineties but the car sits in the garage, so there is less money on gas. The older we get the less we eat, and eating out at fancy restaurants is not required because the old gut can’t hold that much, or all the fancy creams and spices don’t seem to agree with us, so that is a waste of money.

Shoes last for years, and we seem to be in the same type of clothes day after day if the OF even bothers to get dressed. All this saves money.

As was said in the beginning, the mind says to the OF, we are going to do this or that, and we don’t do this or that. It might be we just run out of time because after the OF gets dressed there isn’t any time left in the day, and the OF just is worn out and not ready for any challenges.

 

Worries

The few phone calls made confirm the OFs are worried about two things.

Number one is how and when they are going to get their vaccination shots. To an OF they knew this confusion was how it was going to wind up anyway. No matter who was in charge, the numbers are too big for things to run smoothly.

The second item the OFs are worried about is the inauguration, which will be over when this Enterprise is on the streets, but the OFs are still concerned.

This scribe visited his old friend Maxine (who lives on the internet) for some words of wisdom concerning the aging process.

Maxine said, “Getting older is like visiting an all-you-can-eat buffet. What should be hot, is cold; what should be firm is limp; and the buns are bigger than anything else on the menu.”

It is obvious this is the first column of 2021 so, as always, time marches on. With the march of time come many changes and new experiences; none of us really know what they will be, and neither do the Old Men of the Mountain.

Every OMOTM spoken to misses the Tuesday morning gatherings and can’t wait for this virus thing to be over. Sometime (hopefully sooner rather than later) it will be over, and that way we can get ready for the next disaster and that one might be so the group will be able to get together again sans the worries of catching something that may eventually cause the OF’s demise, maybe just warts.

Time marching on brought up two conversations. One was that, during a phone call, the chime of a clock signaling the time sounded and the OF on the other end of the phone heard it. The clock played a little tune and then sounded the time with chimes.

The OF must have been paying little attention to the words of the conversation because he questioned the correctness of the clock’s chimes. After all, it was definitely 10 a.m. but the OF on the other end of the phone distinctly heard 11 ding-dongs.

The OF commented to this scribe that the clock had the wrong time because he heard 11 ding-dongs and the OF knew it was 10 a.m. This scribe said the OF was correct on both counts. It was 10 a.m. and the OF did hear 11 ding-dongs.

While the OF was resetting the clock after changing the batteries, he held the button down too long and went past the correct time by one ding-dong and it was a real pain in the butt to go back and change the time. Now everybody in the house when hearing these chimes subtracts the number by one and the clock is right on the money for telling the time with the ding-dongs.

This brought up another story for the OF about a cuckoo clock. The cuckoo clock was given to his in-laws by this OF way back when. The in-laws hung the clock on the wall in the living room where, when properly wound, it performed its cuckcooing duties right on time.

One time, when the OF’s brother-in-law was quite little, he became quite ill. This illness caused the little one to become very fussy and the only time he really stopped was when he was able to get to sleep, but for some reason the sleep never lasted very long.

The reason for this happening, the father-in-law deduced, was because of that infernal cuckoo clock. Every time it cuckooed the little brother-in-law would wake up and start hollering. The father-in-law at times had a short fuse, and at other times was as calm as could be with all cane breaking around him. 

This was not one of those times. The clock came off the wall and was hurled against the other wall, and smashed. That ended the little cuckoo’s role of announcing time to the world. It cuckooed no more, and the young brother-in-law found longer times of restful sleep. 

This scribe found out what happened when he went to gather up the pieces of the broken cuckoo clock, put them in a brown paper bag (no plastic in those days) and brought it home.

With some string, rubber bands, and carpenter’s glue, the decorative case was back together, but the little bird came out very limp, and when he finished announcing the time his little head was looking at the floor, then it would spring back and retreat behind his crooked little door until the next time.

This scribe thinks that clock is still around some place waiting to cuckoo once more.

 

Life saver

Another thing about time and the phone calls. When speaking to one of the OFs the OF let the scribe know that 2021 put him one year closer to 100 years old.

Except for driving, the OF is as alert as ever and a good conversationalist. Just to remember that fact is interesting in itself. This OF saved the life of this scribe way back when we were a lot younger. This was in the middle forties and the scribe was about 12 years old or so.

We were working filling a silo with the corn being pulled automatically from the wagon. It was getting close to the end of this load and this scribe had a pitchfork and was raking the tailings onto the table that carried the corn to the chopper.

Unexpectedly his sweatshirt became caught in the chain and was pulling him onto the table to the chopper. This scribe could not pull back hard enough nor could this scribe reach anything to shut it down. Just then, the OF that is close to 100 came around from the side of the wagon and saw the situation.

This OF grabbed the scribe, pulled him back, and shut down the equipment seconds before the scribe was on his way to the chopper. Ah, the fun of farming.

 

Good kisser

Soon after the original three OFs that started this group, the OF approaching 100 and this scribe joined the three of them for breakfast and the OMOTM was underway.

As this phone conversation was ending, the OF told the scribe, “Give your wife a kiss from me.”

Locating the wife in her most un-favorite spot near the laundry room this scribe complied with that request. When the startled wife asked why she was the recipient of the kiss, the scribe related the phone call, to which she replied, “Wow, Mike is sure a good kisser.”

You may not know this about me, but years ago I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder and was prescribed sleep equipment. Sound familiar? In talking to a few of the Old Men of the Mountain, I learned a good night’s sleep is very important as to how you are going to feel the next day.

As the OFs got (and are getting) older, a good night’s sleep is hard to find. (Aches and pains, dreams, night sweats, seem to keep us awake).

The topic of sleep not only came up in a couple of phone calls, but this time it was on naps and the night’s sleep put together. Naps, when the OFs were younger, were something taken when on vacation, and a nap would be snuck in here and there.

As the YFs are now OFs, naps are part of the required daily regime. The scribe has notes on sleep in his little notebook so the OFs must have spoken about this when they were still meeting together.

Sleep must be important or it would not be brought up among the group so often. The term the OFs are looking for is a “good” nap in the afternoon, and as the scribe has written before, a “good” pre-sleep in the evening, and then a restful night’s sleep. That would be great according to the OFs, but unfortunately, does not happen that often.

In the Bible, Acts 2-17 says basically, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God …. your old men shall dream, dreams.” Well, the last days must have started long ago, because old men have been dreaming dreams for quite a while.

About 1800 B.C., Joseph interpreted Egypt’s Pharaoh Necho’s II bad dreams, so that makes the last days coming in from at least 3,800 years, and way before that.

The OFs of 2020 have some whoppers they could lay on you. Dreams go way back to Abraham, and what about dreams of the season like we are in right now with another Joseph, the step-dad to Jesus, and the dreams the Wise Men had that sent them home another way so they wouldn’t have to mess with Herod? All important dreams to the Christmas season.

Some of the OFs claim at times they are afraid to go to sleep because their dreams are so bad. One OF decided to check with his doctor because bad dreams could be caused by a medication the OF was taking.

The scribe, on this conversation way back when, said he wondered what dogs and cats dream, or even what the Neanderthal’s dreamt (those must have been some whoppers) or what do lions, tigers, and bears, Oh my, dream? Elephants, whales, and snakes must have some screwy dreams.

Sleeping was the topic of the day and sleeping seems to be important to the OFs. However, it’s not only the OFs; sleeping is important to all of us. One OF said he was checked for sleep apnea and couldn’t take it since he had to be hooked up to equipment that measures your heart, lung, and brain activity plus blood-oxygen levels, etc.

The OF said he took all that “junk” off and told them he was going home and did. The OF never finished the test.

This scribe was tested for sleep apnea with all the attachments, but the scribe was shown how to put them on and did the test at home. It wasn’t too bad, but it was necessary to pay attention and follow the instructions and do it right for the test to have any value.

The OFs said that having arthritis has quite an effect on getting to sleep, and staying asleep. One OF mentioned this must be a common problem because of all the sleep aids out there. Not only nightmares give him a problem but so does pain.

Again, we hear the adage, “Ya gotta be tough to get old.”

An OG added to that: “When I was young, I never saw it coming” because his parents never complained — they just put up with it. “Now I recognize, to some extent, this situation, also I only complain to you guys because you understand.” What a therapy group this group is.

 

Out with 2020

In phone calls, the year 2020 comes up most of the time and the OFs will be glad to see this year go. The OFs spoken to will be glad to see 2021 come in, and hope it is different than 2020.

One OF mentioned that, with the advent of vaccines, he thinks, once they get spread around, 2021 will be different in many ways.

This OF mentioned his kids working from home and if that becomes normal they will designate a room just for that, and use this room as a tax deduction. (“Hopefully,” the OF added to the sentence, “because the government will find a way to eliminate that perceived benefit” — of that the OF is sure).

The OF said his kids are used to the world changing every week or so, but the OF can’t get used to it. Right up to a few years ago, the OF said it took quite a while for changes to occur and he was able to see them coming and adjust and he really didn’t know exactly when it happened but he was ready for it.

Now, the OF said, he goes to bed at 9 and wakes up at 6 the next morning and everything has changed. The OF said, “I am there at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, scratching my head and muttering what the h--- just happened?”

What did?

As the scribe called around this week, he found three of the OFs really sick. These guys are not sick with COVID-19, but ill with problems they would have had whether there was a virus or not.

Our prayers go out to all the OFs on a routine basis, but these will be isolated out for special request along with many others on that list. This scribe doesn’t have a clue how do to this right and is sure there must be a way because priests, rabbis, and ministers do it all the time.

There is one topic that came up this weekend and guess what that was. Tropical islands?

Nope — wrong — it was snow. This scribe wonders why the OFs would be talking about snow.

Those spoken to in the first part of the conversation was how long it took them to shovel or get plowed out, and how much snow was left. This must apply to all on the Hill and in the valley; no one in our area escaped this snowfall.

On the Hill, each OF spoken to in person or on the phone mentioned the depth to be about 30 inches plus, maybe a tick less but 30 inches seemed to be the figure. Not all of the OFs spoken to have attached garages and some had to wade through 30 inches of snow just to get to a shovel. No matter who the scribe spoke to, clearing away the snow just to get anywhere was the job of the day.

This scribe hopes the OFs only thought about shoveling, because at the ages of most of the OFs, shoveling snow is not a good idea, and neither is going to the hospital a good idea; either one could lead to the other.

Many of the OFs have good neighbors who come and help the old folks in all kinds of situations. These types of neighbors would offer the helping hand, whether their neighbors were old or not; they just want to help.

One OF mentioned that he had the opportunity to go South for six weeks this winter and declined because of the COVID; the OF did not want to go where this virus was more prevalent than in New York. Now he is beginning to have second thoughts about turning it down, because the offer of the place was given to someone else.

“Then again,” the OF said, “With snow what you have is what you have; however, with this stupid virus it is all questionable.”

The few spoken to had basically the same feelings on the holidays this year, but with the snow the OFs seemed to have perked up. This has to be a form of conditioning for a Northeasterner.

The people in the South and the people in Hawaii do not have snow to help them along, yet they decorate and celebrate and have the holiday spirit without snow. Some have never even seen snow.

But to a Northeasterner snow seems to be necessary. The OFs feel more like Christmas with white on the ground or in the air.

When the OFs were younger, Christmas meant material gifts; even when the OFs were really young and Santa brought only one thing. Boy! Has that gone by the wayside for most people!

When the YFs became the OFs, some of them want only one thing again, but this time it is not materialistic. They want not to hurt, and to have good health. Some OFs want to be able to wish that for friends and relatives even if they can’t have it themselves.

One OF made the comment, “Wouldn’t it be great if Santa was able to leave a get-well pill. Little Mary and Brother Tim would get their presents, Mom and Dad would get theirs, and Grandma and Grandpa would get a get-well pill on a little silver plate.”

All the OFs, whether they a part of the OMOTM or not, would think this would be a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Speaking of Merry Christmas and all that on behalf of the Old Men of the Mountain this scribe would like to wish all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Right now, Christmas has me feeling extra Santa-mental.

This scribe was a little under the weather this week but is fine now so did not contact any of the OFs. This scribe did call a couple just to see how they were doing and only got to talk to a machine.

The machine on the OFs’ behalf advised they would return the call as soon as they returned. These calls did not come.

So, as of right now, there is nothing to report that would be new; however, there is always the old notebooks where the scribe can research if anything happened a few years ago. Well, here it is and it was when times were more normal, if anything can be called normal.

We have one OF who maintains we can’t call anyone crazy; this OF thinks the ones we call crazy may be the sane ones. This OF would counter anyone mentioning the strange behavior of someone with the comment that maybe running around naked is the sane thing to do and wearing clothes in the insane thing to do.

This OF would always respond, “Who determines what is sane and what is not?” That is always a good question to get any conversation started.

Many a psychologist’s and psychiatrist’s job would depend on the answer to that question.

This brings the scribe to relate that, for some years in his art class, there were at one time four or five members in the field of mental behavior, or teaching the “unteachable.” A variation of this topic would occasionally pop up as they just routinely talked as they were painting.

One thing the scribe noticed was that never once did the professionals mention cases or people — it was all so general. Just like stories and topics of conversations that a group of mechanics, or electricians, or plumbers would have if there were a group of them talking in a hobby group outside of their trade situation, say a book club, or writers’ class, or a local band, or orchestra, or for that matter a meeting of “old men.”

 

Weather redux

One of the notes this scribe ran across was for December 2010. It was a carbon copy of this exact time of the weather in 2020. The OFs in 2010 were complaining how cold it was on Tuesday, compared to the days before when it was in the forties and fifties.

As time goes by, nothing seems to change — not even the weather. The OFs then were 10 years younger and more of them went out hunting, and 10 years ago they were talking about how nice it was to be out in the woods even if they did not get a chance to shoot anything.

That would be true today with the same words, only adding 10 years to many of the OFs and getting the gun out of the case would be more of an effort than going out. Also, there is the matter of getting dressed, and by the time all that was done it would be almost time to come home.

If the OF now didn’t have a YF with him to haul back whatever he bagged, the OF would be almost dead by the time he got whatever it was to the truck or car.

The sport of hunting is not every OF’s cup of tea. One OF at one time said he would really be leery going into the woods with these OFs and a loaded gun. One would have a cane in one hand, and the gun slung over the shoulder of the other arm.

His partner OF wouldn’t be any better. He would be carrying a gun but only one eye worked, and that one was not that good. Who knows what ailments would beset the others.

One, because of arthritis, would have to drag a leg. The OF thought, with a hunting party like this, the deer and turkey are pretty safe but the hunters would be the ones in peril.

Also in the archives of this scribe’s notebooks is a notation of the OFs commenting more than once on the beauty of the outdoors in the Northeast during hunting season and the fall with one OF observing: Why do we appreciate it so much more as we get older — and by older, the OF meant older.

The OF said, when they were younger, the seasons were the seasons and just another part of the year. But, in their sixties, the OFs began to notice the beauty of winter, the smells of spring, the sounds of summer, and the whole pot of senses in the fall.

The scribe did notice a note from the OMOTM discussing what it would be like with a year of constant weather, and the word “boring” in parentheses. The scribe seems to remember most of the OFs saying they would be bored out of their skulls if the seasons did not change.

Even as challenging as that can be, with heat in the one-hundreds or snow up to the OFs’ eyeballs, the OFs would rather put up with this than have it 72 degrees and sunny every day.

One OF commented he had constant temperatures like this for over a year when he was stationed on Guam. For a while, it was nice but then it got just too darn hot, and he longed for a snowflake.

Soon the OFs will have to start singing their theme song: 

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,

And our joints are not delightful,

Since it’s got so dang cold, 

We feel old, we feel old, we feel old!

When this scribe phones the Old Men of the Mountain, most of the time the call is made from a regular phone number. Then there are a few with “cell phones” and most of the time this scribe is able to tell that by the area code.

Numbers which are familiar are 872, 861, 827, 295, and 868. When this scribe bumps into a number like 314, or 212, the scribe knows it is a cell-phone number.

The purpose for starting like this is that many, if not most, businesses, doctors’ offices, and the like assume everyone has a computer and knows how to use it, or a cell phone and knows how to use it, or any other of these electronic communicating devices and knows how to use them.

Well, they don’t. The assumptions are so strong that seniors can do either (the computer or the cell) but, in actuality, many seniors don’t have either one. Their kids may have given them one but they don’t understand how to use it. To arthritic hands, and senior minds, these devices are just paper weights.

One OF said, “What is so d--- important that it can’t wait?” His granddaughter’s cell phone rings all times of the day, even during meal time.

The OF claims it is rude. The call breaks up conversations around the table, and the family comes second to her. One time her mom said she speaks so seldom to them they don’t even know what her voice sounds like. 

“Her little brother was smarter than his parents,” the OF said. “If you want to talk to her call her on her phone.” 

 

Doctor-speak

The OFs spoken to did not understand the medical portals; one OF could get into it but then it became so confusing the OF was unable to go on, so he does not bother with it.

The OF also said, while at the doctor’s office, he thinks he understands what the doctor said in doctor-speak, but once out of the office the OF forgets half of what the doctor told him.

One OF said he was in the hospital with quite a problem and doctors kept coming in and doing different things and scratching their heads. The OF said the only one that could explain things to the OF and seemed to know more than the doctors, or at least spoke in real-speak was a young, male nurse.

The OF said, “He was the only one that put me at ease.”

 

Are girls turning into boys?

The other conversation morphed into when the OFs were young and times were different, and again it centered around young people today as opposed to the OFs when they were young, and this was gender inclusive.

This scribe thinks the OF was talking about chivalry without using the word. This OF did not understand the young ladies of today. To him, they don’t want to be ladies; they want to be boys.

The OF grumbled that girls want to be on the baseball, football, and basketball teams. They want to wrestle in the boys’ weight class.

What set him back a little was not too long ago his son and daughter-in-law were taking him to his doctor’s appointment and his granddaughter was coming along. He opened the car door for her and she told him, “Grandpa, I can open the door myself; I don’t need any help.”

The OF said he is beginning to have trouble distinguishing the girls from the boys. They dress alike, in jeans, plaid shirts, sneakers, and hats. The OF also claimed he wouldn’t be surprised if the girls are growing bigger with a different bone structure.

It almost seems the girls are becoming broad-shouldered and narrow at the hips. He isn’t sure but their voices seem to be coming deeper too.

Unfortunately, this is a one-on-one conversation. This scribe is sure, if the same conversation were carried on in the group, there would be much talk and opinions on this one, and some of the OGs might think this particular OF is becoming a little paranoid.

This scribe thinks: Wait until the granddaughter is 18 or 19 and things will be different.

This scribe said think back to when we were young on the farm. All the kids pitched in to help with the farm work, even the milking, and many a young lady could pitch hay as well as any boy her age, or handle the horses, drive the tractor, milk and feed the cows, and it was expected and not considered different at all.

All the jokes about the farmer’s daughter were probably made up by city slickers who didn’t know what farmer’s daughters were really like. If boys messed with those young ladies, and they didn’t want to be messed with, the boys would be decked quicker than you could say Jack Robinson.

 

Heaven and hell

Another week has passed and this column did not have to mention the pandemic once. Until now. This scribe received this note from another OF who obviously knows how to access his computer.

It seems that people keep asking if COVID-19 is really that serious. Listen up: Casinos and churches are closed. When heaven and hell agree on the same thing, it’s probably pretty serious.

Thanksgiving is over and the few calls to and from the OMOTM revealed that — to a phone call — the gatherings of relatives and friends were going to be greatly reduced. One OMOTM was going from the normal 20 to 24 people down to three.

That was the largest drop reported. The others were generally the same down to nine or 10, with one who has family close by and even though the countdown was at 12 there was a sentry at the end of the road to watch for turkey cops.

Today with cell phones it is not necessary to have walkie-talkies or a two-way radio to communicate back and forth. The above-mentioned OF had one of the attendees leave their cell phone on, and that was the number for the sentry to call if a turkey cop was spotted.

Two attendees who drew the short straws were assigned to scurry to the root cellar if a call came in. A few cars were in the driveway, but some were in the barn with the doors closed to cut down on suspicion of possibly too many at a particular domicile by car counters as they drove by.

The OFs really didn’t worry that anything would happen but part of the conversation at a couple of the meals was what would the police do if they spotted 11 at one of the meals? What would their options be?

Would they cuff one and take him or her to the station with the rest, or hand out an appearance ticket to whoever was hosting the dinner? What would the penalty be?

This made for some interesting chats around the table at a couple of the OFs’ dinners. However, only one had anything to worry about, and this scribe does not think they worried much, if at all.

In these well-wishing calls, the Thanksgiving wishes were given by all to all, and the theme was that, in the way things are going now, we still have much to be thankful for. In one call, the scribe and one OF hit on the same theme.

That theme was: With all that is going on — this matters, and that matters or nothing matters. The discussion finally came down to this: Enjoy yourself. These are the good old days you’re going to miss in the years ahead.

One OF said that, because the group is so small, instead of turkey this year they purchased a big chicken and were going to cook it turkey-style. The same OF said that, with some of the side dishes they usually make, they had trouble figuring out how to scale the quantity of ingredients down, because they are only feeding three instead of 23. The OF said, if they use the original recipes, they would have leftovers all the way to the Christmas dinner.

 

Christmas is coming

That is right. Christmas is only a few days away. No wonder we all put on pounds during this time of year.

One OF asked the scribe if he has done any Christmas shopping yet. The scribe gave a truthful answer and said he really only shops for one person and that is his wife, and he does a miserable job at that. The scribe said his wife does the Christmas shopping and she does a bang-up job at that chore.

All the scribe does, he told the OF, is the Christmas cards, but again the scribe’s wife goes over the list, makes out the labels, removes those who have passed on, changes the address of those who have moved, etc., etc. And the older we become, the more names are taken off the list because they have joined the passed-on group. 

The OF said there is a heck of a lot that goes on with the holiday season, including the decorations, super-cleaning the house, keeping the cat-box empty and the cat full. Then the OF added maybe this year it will all be for naught because this OF said he thinks they won’t be getting visitors like they used to in past years, at least for the remainder of 2020, and maybe part of 2021.

Along with this time of year, with Thanksgiving over and Christmas coming, two of the OFs mentioned how (at their places) the lilacs are budding out, and so are the wild apple trees, and this is in the Hilltowns. One OF mentioned he has not been to the flatlands in a while but he bets the trees and shrubs are further along than at his place.

When the scribe mentioned this to one of the OFs, this OF said he winterized all his lawn equipment and the lawn could be mowed again for winter but he is not going to do it now; he will just let it grow. The OF said he will cut the lawn in the spring because he is not going to run his mowers just for one shot and then have to go through all the winterizing again.

With all that is going on, it sure is a different year.

During this trying time, I noticed my wife was a little upset with some things that had gone wrong. I told her she should embrace her mistakes. She gave me a big hug!

The Old Men of the Mountain, when spoken to, generally start with the pandemic, then the how-are-you’s, then the weather. These are normal opening greetings when the get-together does not have a specific purpose.

When it is the pandemic, the OFs generally complain that it is a pain in the butt, but really wish it would be over. The how-are-you’s usually are full of fibs because every one of the OFs seem to be great. The weather, if it is seasonal, there are just a few comments; if it is bad either way then “I remember what the weather was like in …” begins.

That takes up some time in the conversation. This week, however, somehow a few comments and remembrances were on basic training in the military, and being called up to serve. This scribe remembers one OF early on telling how the seniors at Berne-Knox-Westerlo all went to Schenectady to answer a draft call.

 

Snowed under

One of the OFs related a story of his coming home after reporting and going through all the rigmarole at the draft center. It was in the dead of winter and it was snowing.

At the top of the hill, just about at Highland Farms, or not too far from where routes 156 and 157 (Thompsons Lake Road) meet, the group buried the car in a snowbank and they decided to walk home and get a tractor to pull the car out.

However, the OFs did not realize how bad it was snowing, (they were just kids at that time anyway) and by the time they made it to a house at the end of Witter road and Route 156 they had had it. The YFs stopped in and asked if they could get some help from the old goat who lived there and he refused.

The (now) OFs remembered how he said he wouldn’t even let them in to warm up. Thank goodness the people on the Hill are not like that now, or least the OFs hope so.

So the group trudged on, but did split up some, because a couple of them took off up Pleasant Valley Road. The OF telling the story had to hike all the way to Line Road, and that is a hike in the winter, in the snow. The OF said, after all this, the draft board wouldn’t take him because he was a farmer and farmers were deferred.

 

An older recruit

Another OF told of how he knew his number was becoming close to being called and the OF said he did not want to go in the Army, so he enlisted in the Air Force. The OF said he was not that young and had two college degrees under his belt. This scribe forgets what he turned down because of his education but he did go into the regular air service.

Some of his buddies tell the stories of what the OF did in basic training and afterwards these buddies say it is a wonder he was not put in the stockade. None of the shenanigans he is alleged to have done were bad; most had to do with authority and common sense.

One story was about day one and they were still in their civilian clothes. The first uniformed airman they met was their drill sergeant and, after initial greetings, they were told in no uncertain terms to go to their barracks and he wanted all of them in the barracks in two minutes. Which was impossible, but was to apparently give them the idea this guy wanted it done right away and fast.

The buddy telling the story continued that the first in line ran and all tried to go through a simple door at once, which really did not work. When the OF in this story got to the door, he walked instead of running, but the walk was at a good clip, and he put his arms across the door and told everyone to stop and he started letting them through quickly — one at a time.

The OF again telling the story said everyone paid attention to this OF and he thinks it was because he was so much older and made sense. He also said the sergeant pulled him aside and started hollering at him. He doesn’t know what was said but he noticed the OF just listened with his arms folded.

The OF kept on with telling some of the stories and he feels that the other OF early on got something on the sergeant that was important, because nothing happened to the older fellow all the while he was there and he did other things similar to this — not many but enough to be noticed.

He does recall that the captain one time came to this particular OF and the two of them went to see the colonel. The report was, in essence, the colonel told the OF that, since he was older, and not much younger than the colonel, and the colonel knew that the men respected him, but the job of the sergeant was to teach that following orders, no matter what, and would he please help.

Later on, the OF said, the Air Force was aware of his education and wanted to make use of it. The OF never left the states and was in a pretty important position though he never took a test or desired to go any higher in the military. He just put his “time in to get out” which was his motto. Just like the doctors in M.A.S.H. 

A soldier finds

a scorpion in his tent

In the Marines, he kills the scorpion.

In the Army, he calls his CO and reports the presence of the scorpion.

In the Air Force, he calls the front desk and asks why there’s a tent in his room.

To begin with — the title of these reports is The Old Men of the Mountain. Old is the predominant word, but so is Mountain. In quite a few discussions with the Old Men of the Mountain, many times “Mountain” has nothing to do with it. It is the word Old.

With Old comes how things were years ago and how these things were simpler. Loyalty to your employer, and the employer to the employee, was common. Younger people might not understand this. It is involved and the Harvard bean counters have taken over and people are now collateral and the OFs hate it.

Another aspect of “back then” was that doctors were doctors. The OFs make sure in most of their discussions that doctors today have more to deal with and it may be necessary for them to operate the way they do.

The OFs generally start the conversation when the topic comes up “Ole Doc (enter name) would have treated that right in his office,” and then they would go on with the story. The essence of the story would be an aliment the OF had that the “old family doctor” would treat right in his office and not send the OF off to some specialist that treats only warts.

Many stories crop up that fit the criteria of then and now, some of which definitely point up this fact. A few such stories follow.

An OF accompanied a friend of his to the doctor because that friend was breaking out in boils. These boils were mostly small, yet some were pretty good-sized.

The friend went to the school nurse in Schoharie Central School who sent him to the school doctor. When he arrived at the doctor’s office, the doctor looked at the friend’s arms where the majority of boils were. 

After looking at the boils for a while, the doctor said, “OK boys, come in the back and we will take care of those right away.”

There were no questions about insurance, or family history, or had the kid recently come in contact with some animal, or the manure pile. No questions. The OF said they just went in the back.

The OF said the doctor had the kid with the boils hold out his arm and the OF was to take hold of his hand and hold his friend’s arm stiff. The doctor then took what looked like a rolling pin and rolled down his arm and the boils popped like bubble wrap.

Blood and pus ran down his arm and the friend tried to tough it out but couldn’t and yelling became quite loud until the doctor was done. The doctor cleaned up both arms and put a black-looking salve on them and wrapped them in gauze.

That was it! There was no going anywhere else because the doctor took care of the whole thing.

The doctor told him to increase his hygiene and to get some Fels Naptha soap and use that. Problem ended!

Another OF said he woke up one morning and could not move his head in any direction and when he did the pain in his neck was excruciating. The OF said he was very young at the time (it was the early fifties) and his wife took him to the doctor in Esperance and she did not even have her driving license yet (did this scribe mention they were young OFs?). The OF said it was panic time.

When he reached the doctor’s office, the doctor took them in right away. The OF said he barely made it in because not only could he not move his head, but his legs did not want to cooperate either.

The doctor said, “Well, what do we have here?” and took the OF into the office.

The OF said the doctor checked him over and then the doctor went into his inner office and brought out a large-sized book and started reading. The doctor then said to the OFs wife, “I think I got it.”

Then he disappeared again and came back with a needle as long as a yardstick and the OF said the doctor told him to put his head down. The OF said he did and the doctor stuck that needle right into the left side of his neck from the back. (As the OF gets older, the needle gets longer.)

“Whatever he had in that needle he pushed into my neck and it was hot,” the OF said.

Within seconds, the OG was better. He had no more pain and everything worked.

“Plus,” he said, “I am 80 years old now and I’ve never had that problem again. Whatever the doctor found in that book and whatever he pumped into my neck did the trick. We never asked what it was, and the doctor never said. We just thanked him profusely, paid our 10 bucks and went home.” 

Would that happen today? “Nah,” the OF said. “I would probably see two or three specialists, and wind up in the hospital and it would cost the insurance company thousands.”

There were quite a few of these early-doctor stories that were rather intriguing but if this scribe can remember them we can use them at a later date. This is not the horse-and-buggy days but simpler days.

This scribe poses the question: Are the OFs, “old” because of the doctors we went to when we were young, or is it the young doctors of the OFs’ old age that are keeping us here, and up and about?

By the way, did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

Occasionally, the Old Men of the Mountain consider the weather and right now, as the scribe squints his tired old eyes at the machine that types on glass, it is Nov. 8 and it is beautiful outside. Not only that but the TV will, or should, be rid of all those political ads. OF course, one OF mentioned the broadcast stations will be missing a source of easy revenue.

The roving reporter reported that there were even fewer at the restaurant than previously. All the OMOTM can’t wait for this “pandemic” to be (more quotes) “over” or a workable “vaccine” found and the group can get back together again, this scribe included. This scribe hopes there is not another “plague” waiting in the wings to come on stage.

During this time of limited travel many of the OMOTM are fixing up their domiciles, or, as some are doing, playing with wild animals. Some have said they are training chipmunks to eat out of their hands, but many of the OMOTM say these things are nothing but rodents and are worse than mice.

However, don’t tell the chipmunks that because, according to the OMOTM, they think the chipmunk enjoys the camaraderie and the free food. On the other hand, one OF is taming a mink. He has a video of the furry critter cavorting on the deck of his pond in back of the OMOTM’s home.

This scribe does not think the mink will ever be tamed but he thinks it is just hanging around for a handout. It must be fun to see such an elusive wild animal behave like this.

One OF years ago told the story of having a skunk adopt his home. The OF said he did not know it was around because there was no odor until one day, when he was getting the tractor out from the garage, a little black nose poked out from behind a piece of plywood leaning against the wall. The OF said he didn’t do anything but back the tractor out.

This procedure went on for about a week. One day the OF said he summed up a little nerve and reached over with his hand out and the skunk approached his hand and took a sniff. From then on, the OF and the skunk were friends.

One day, the OF and his wife were going square dancing and were waiting for the rest of the square to come and pick them up. The other couples seemed to be a little late so the OF went out to see if for some reason they were there waiting for the OF and his wife to come out. And they were, but their concern was the skunk in front of the garage door.

The OF said, as he approached the car after calling to his wife that they were there waiting, the driver lowered his window and said, “Go back! Skunk, skunk! There is a skunk in front of your garage door.”

The OF said, “Oh that! Hang on! I will let it in,” and the OF opened the garage door and the skunk waddled in.

The OF commented that the skunk hung around for about three years and finally just disappeared — one day it was just gone. The OF said it was like losing a cat or a dog — just gone.

The other odd thing is there never was an odor. It is an example, this scribe thinks, that animals adopt us, not the other way around. When anyone gets a cat or a dog, or even a canary, these animals usually just put up with you. We never own them; we just think we do, no matter what they cost.

 

Gust throws tree into OF’s house

There was some excitement at one of the OMOTM’s home on Monday, Nov. 2, when the winds were so high. At this OMOTM’s place, a gust of wind came through around 12:15 p.m. that drew the attention of the OF and his wife.

The OF said he heard the roar for about an instant (however long that is) then the house shook, and there was a huge crash. The OMOTM’s wife said excitedly, “Look out the bathroom window.”

The OF quickly went to the bathroom window and all the OF said he saw was branches. A huge tree in back of the house blew over and crashed against the house.

What a mess — there was a branch through the roof of a room in back of the house; part of the ceiling was down. The OF went outside and what clutter was seen then. The tree lay on the roof of the 3-season room and up against the main part of the house.

The OF said that he told his wife, “This is not going to be a good day.”

The OF said he then called Pridemark Tree Service, which is owned by the son of one of the OMOTMs and does a lot of work here in the Hilltowns. They were at the OFs home in short order, checked the situation out, and showed up the next day with enough equipment to build the Grand Coulee Dam, and in about four hours had the situation cleared up to the point where everything was safe.

Now comes the cleanup. The OF said that tree appeared healthy and was the air-conditioner for the house in the summer.

At this point in the month, the OFs have made it through the pandemic, political elections, animal activities, uncertain weather, and there is still a lot more to come. Being an adult is like folding a fitted sheet.

“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone,” said Andy Rooney.

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