The Erie Canal in historic autumnal splendor was captured by John R. Williams in a painting commissioned by Ruth Easton. “Her husband says that every morning she has a cup of coffee and sits and shares time with the painting for about an hour and then starts her day. It hangs over their fireplace,” said Williams.

On a really miserable early Tuesday morning, Oct. 26,  with rain, fog, wind, blowing leaves, puddled roads, and truck spray, the Old Men of the Mountain managed to make it safely to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown for their Tuesday morning repast. To some of the OMOTM, it was comforting to spot the warm, greeting lights of the diner from the gloom of the morning’s weather.

Of course, because of the trip and the awful weather, the weather was an opening topic. The concern of the OMOTM was flooding and, if the rain keeps coming as it has, the Schoharie Creek, and the Mohawk River were concerns of the OFs. It was more the creek and, if it should overflow its banks again, one OF mentioned the valley of Schoharie would start to get a bad reputation for those thinking about moving there.

Another OF thought that, of all the planning that people do to try to outwit Mother Nature, they are up against a vulnerable foe. One OF said it looks like both coasts are being hammered by the ole gal just to show us who is in charge. Seems rain doesn’t fall. Raindrops.

One OF who was not a farmer asked what happens to all the corn that has turned brown and maybe soaked by the creek on the flats around Middleburgh, Schoharie, and up Route 30 towards Gilboa? A farmer told him that the value of the corn is in the kernel; the brown stalks are good for decoration.

If it is going to be silage corn, that is a different story. Silage corn was done long ago.

A completely unrelated-to-anything question was asked. What happens to emails that say they are sent, the computer says they are sent, and everything looks normal, but the recipient does not receive them?

Where do they go? Are they out there in electronic space looking for a home? Do they just go nowhere and disappear? The OFs are wondering.

Also, at the table Tuesday morning, the OFs discussed the Erie Canal. The OFs briefly mentioned a little history of the canal, which in the early 1800s took about 28 years to complete and was mostly dug by hand.

One OF said much of it was made deeper and wider during its lifetime. Another OF said that also over the years it was not quite as romantic as it now sounds. Little towns sprang up all along the canal and the canal in many sections was like a sewer.

Some of the OMOTM have taken trips on the canal. One OF mentioned he took a trip on the canal that was horse-drawn, as were the original barges on the canal.

This OF mentioned that, at the end where they turned to go back, the tow rope sagged and dragged along the grass, and snakes by the dozen slithered out of the grass and into the canal. The OF said after they turned around (which took a while) and started back, the rope did the same thing in the same place and then the snakes slithered back into the water.

The OFs wondered why the snakes did this. These snakes knew the barge was going to turn around and come back. Why not just hang around in the water for a bit, wait for the boat to go back, and then climb back in the grass?

The scribe says thank goodness the OFs don’t think like snakes. The OFs also assumed these were common black snakes, and according to their size the OF said he was pretty sure they were.

Another very interesting comment came from one of the OFs. He said that one of the OFs lives in a house that was built of stones that were rejected for use in the canal.

One OF knew that the Onesquethaw Reformed Church, on Tarrytown Road, was built from stones rejected for use in the canal. To check this information out, this scribe called the OF in question.

The OF confirmed that his house was, in fact, built of rejected stones from the canal, and so was the farmhouse across the street, and the houses around the corner just a bit down from him. The houses and the church can be seen from Clarksville, or off Route 32.

Make a turn on Tarrytown Road and there is a small cluster of these rejected-canal-stone structures not too far down or in from either direction.

One OF mentioned doing a commissioned painting for a couple who had shown a long-time interest in the Erie Canal. They sent definite instructions of when, where, and what was to be in the painting.

The painting was for the lady of the house, and she wanted the locale at Big Nose, and Little Nose.  This is where the ancient Mohawk River and the glacier cut a pass through a granite spur of the Adirondacks, just west of Schenectady.

Thank goodness the artist knew where this was; it was to be painted as if it was fall and also be colorful with a horse-drawn barge with people. That is being very specific.

With all the talk about rocks, and rejected rocks, at one time for the lock at Sprakers, New York, there is part of that lock wall that is still remaining. A ride along the canal is interesting, fun, and educational.

The Old Men of the Mountain who were at the Chuck Wagon Diner were looking out the window at the unending change in the weather were: Rich LaGrange, Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Paul Nelson, Marty Herzog, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Jake Herzog, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Paul Whitbeck, Rev. Jay Francis, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, and me.

At Tuesday’s breakfast on Oct. 19, when the Old Men of the Mountain gathered at the Country Café in Schoharie, the OMOTM found out that the report on the goodness of the OMOTM who brought the raspberries to last week’s breakfast has an interesting ending.

It is now necessary to revisit the raspberry saga. The OMOTM who brought the raspberries also brought bags to put them in so the OFs could carry them home.

This scribe has noted on various occasions that many of the OFs carpool to the breakfast. Last Tuesday was no different. One carload left as usual after the breakfast and headed home.

One OF placed his raspberries in the bag supplied so that he could easily carry his berries. The OMOTM who was driving said that he would put his berries in the same bag because he would be dropping him off last and they both could use the same bag.

The driver did his normal thing and drove up to the last rider’s home and dropped him off. The last rider took his raspberries out of the bag and went into the house. The driver continued home and took the remaining bag of berries into his home and put them into the refrigerator.

The OF’s wife went to get the raspberries at supper time to use them and said to the OF, “What’s this? All we have is a couple cartons of some kind of animal food, not raspberries!”

The OF said (whatever you think) and related the story to the wife. Whether they thought it was funny is again (whatever you think).

Remember when leaving the restaurant the driver put his raspberries on top of those already in the bag? When dropping the rider off the rider took the berries on top. Guess who should have gotten the dog food. You are right.


Vacation treasure

There is an OMOTM who is taking off to his winter home in Florida on Monday. The OF mentioned that they have rented an Airbnb on the east coast in Key West, or Sebastian, Florida and they are going to scan for gold and collectibles from the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which went down not far from Key West.

There is a museum in Key West, the Fisher Museum, which holds many artifacts from that wreck. Another OF mentioned that he has been to that museum and it is fascinating. According to both OFs, after a storm there is still gold and silver washed up on shore from these wrecks. Wrecks (plural) because the OF renting the Airbnb said the Atocha had a sister ship that many surmise went down in the same storm. 

One OF said this particular OF is going to be there with everybody else and their Geiger counters. Then another OF questioned if the workings of these things have changed because he understood the Geiger counters or metal detectors only detected ferrous items and gold and silver are non-ferrous.

The OFs thought the OF leaving would not be alone; it might be just like those who go to Herkimer and the Herkimer diamond mines hoping to find a Herkimer diamond, or those who travel out west, or up in the Adirondacks and go panning for gold.

The OFs thought it sounds like fun though and could be profitable; at least he will be doing it in jeans and T-shirt instead of a mackinaw, and mukluks.


Dearth of drivers

The OFs talked about their ages and jobs since it seems so many companies are looking for workers. “Hey, how about us?”

“Yeah,” one OF said, “we are willing to work but not really able.”

Truck drivers and school bus drivers seem to be desperately needed. Many of the OFs can and do still drive, but one OF mentioned that some OFs really don’t trust themselves in an emergency response to a busload of kids. For instance, what if one student gets sick while on the bus, or maybe the bus gets behind the wheel of a jack- knifing tractor trailer.

One OF carried the conversation a few steps further and commented that he thought, with such a demand for drivers, the employers are going to be taking the bottom of the barrel. They have already snatched onto what was left from before the pandemic and have taken the best of the worst.

This OF fears that there are going to be many drivers behind the wheel of these trucks that don’t even belong on the road with reins in their hands, let alone driving a truck of any kind. A good slogan for OFs or anyone with a driver’s license would be: Drive carefully. Ninety percent of all people are caused by accidents.


Dangers with birdseed

Again, the OFs talked about birds and animals that the OFs used to see, but lately are finding scarce, or not at all. That brought up a brief discussion on birds, and many birders and ornithologists say: Don’t feed the birds because they are finding much of the seed has chemicals on them that are harming the birds and their eggs.

One OF said, “This sounds like we are going back to the days of DDT. That stuff really worked on bugs, but was causing problems with the birds.”

The OFs wondered if the same type of problem was beginning to show itself.

“Strange things,” one OF mused. “Insects are very important to our ecology, but can carry some wicked diseases.”

Those OFs who accepted the invitation of the Country Café in Schoharie to have breakfast with them were: Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Marty Herzog, Paul Nelson, Jake Lederman, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Jake Herzog, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Rev. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, John Dabravalskas, and me.


On Oct. 12, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. Most know of the fire that happened last week in the village in which a lady died in the blaze. The house is just kitty-corner of the Your Way Café and this prompted conversation on the fire. The lady that was a victim of the fire was known by many of the OMOTM, as was the family.

A lot of the OMOTM were volunteer firemen and the burned-out pile of rubble brought to mind the fire and how it was fought. This scribe is not sure how much of this is true but the OFs seemed to know what happened.

What the OFs were wondering is why was Middleburgh the first fire company there, when the Schoharie fire department is only about 2,000 feet away? Westmere, why were they there? That fire department is quite a ways away.

One OF expressed the thought that maybe towns should do away with volunteer fire companies, and have paid, professional fire departments instead, but he added, he also thought it should be a combination of paid and volunteer.

Another OF claimed he did not know how this would work. The first OF also agreed it would get the equipment to the fire much faster but then what?  

This scribe assumes this isn’t the first time this conversation has come up with volunteer fire companies. It sounds like there are passionate, devoted people in the mix here, because the next place to go up may be theirs.

There was much debate as to answers but they were not all in agreement so much of the discussion has to be left out. The OMOTM offer their condolences to the families involved with the fire in Schoharie with the loss of their loved one.


Touch a Truck

Speaking of fire trucks, one OF said there is going to be an event in the Berne town park for basically kids (and maybe a few adults who still are kids in some respect) called “Touch a Truck” where the kids will be able to sit in and pretend to drive all sorts of trucks.

The OFs hope all the keys are out of these things and in a safe place). This sounds like fun for “kids.”


THE bridge

One OMOTM told a story when he was asked, “What are you doing since you retired?” Well, he is still driving truck and making deliveries apparently on his own terms.

One of his deliveries took him downstate to “THE” bridge. The OF could not get the new name out. The OF knew it but couldn’t say it and finally, with help from the OFs around him, announced you mean the Tappan Zee bridge, and this scribe must report there was much laughter and snickers.

No one was going to call it the “Governor Mario M. Cuomo” bridge no matter how many or how large the signs are — it is still the Tappan Zee.

One OF gave a brief history of the original name of the bridge: Tappan, for the Native Indians that lived in the area, and Zee, the Dutch word for sea, which was for the Dutch that settled in the area including Albany. Now you know the rest of the story.


Disappearing toll booths

To go along with the bridge and the toll just to use it to cross the river, the OFs talked about these no-toll booths on some interstates. The OFs don’t trust these booths at all.

One OF said he was headed up the Northway and the vehicle ahead of him was hauling a boat. This vehicle was also used for plowing snow.

As the OF passed said vehicle, he noted it still had the frame for attaching the plow to the vehicle, and from behind the OF said he could not see a license plate at all because of the boat. Even after passing it, he could only see the edge of a plate. The OF wondered, if this vehicle was on the Thruway, how would a camera get a picture to send a bill?

Many questioned this arrangement, again when the driver gets on and off quickly (especially downstate where the exits come up fast) the state is doing all this for perhaps 20 cents. The OFs don’t quite understand it.

One OF thought there must be some kind of special camera equipment involved. Say, for instance, the first vehicle through is a tractor trailer hauling doubles, then the next one is a Volkswagen beetle, and the one after that is a pickup truck hauling a camper, and they all leave the Thruway at different exits.

To do this, the OF opined, it must take quite a sophisticated piece of camera equipment to sort all this out and send the bills to the right people.   

However, some of this new technology takes a while to sink in, in the older brain cells, not that it won’t ever sink in; it just takes longer. We OFs remember that Moses had the first tablet that could connect to the cloud.

The Old Men of the Mountain made it to the Your Way Café, and helped them open the doors for the day. Those OMOTM with their hands on the key were: Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Rick LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Miner Stevens, Paul Nelson, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Jake Lederman, Gerry Chartier, Russ Pokorny, Pete Whitbeck, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Duncan Bellinger, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, and me.

The sun is rising later and later, daylight is beginning to peek through around 7 a.m. now. Charging off to breakfast for the early birds is going to require headlights, and headlights were necessary for these Old Men of the Mountain on this Tuesday, Oct. 5, as the OMOTM that either can’t sleep, or are still waking up to go get the cows, were off to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh for breakfast.

Some of the OFs were mentioning relatives and OMOTM who were no longer with us, and in some cases what caused their demise. Habits, lifestyle, and smoking were mentioned ,which caused much of what was the reason for an earlier-than-should-be departure.

Smoking was a topic of how so many OFs picked up the habit. In the late forties, and early fifties, when many of the OFs at the tables were still in their formative years, smoking was not a problem.

One OF mentioned that he does not remember his first cigarette. Another OF commented that he was putting in hay with a few guys and he was (the OF thinks) just a junior in high school, and the workers stopped for a break.

One of the men took out a pack of cigarettes and offered the other two and him a cigarette from the pack. The OF said he just took one, and the conversation never stopped. He did what the others did.

He had the cigarette, took the light, and he was on his way like he was 20 years old. He doesn’t remember anything being said. It was just a matter of fact that now he was a member of the group.

That is how common smoking was in those days. Now we know so much more and how bad smoking is, and it is one of the most dangerous health hazards on the planet.

The OF remembered in the military when things were getting tough it was “smoke ’em if you got ’em,” which was to help you relax, and maybe it did. Now they have pot to do the same thing and that stuff is just as bad.

Give it fifty years. “Yeah, but something else will come to take its place!”


King of spices

An unusual topic for discussion was the use of pepper. Somehow this came up, only briefly, but everyone seemed to know what was being discussed.

It is odd how people talk about other people’s eating habits. Some think it is weird how and what other people eat, yet those “other” people think you eat weird and have strange eating habits.

Some OFs like a lot of pepper and, as one OF put it, they even take the top off the pepper shaker and just dump the pepper out on whatever is on the plate. Others say just a little pepper cleans out the nostrils.



It has been said before: It is fun to watch how and what the OMOTM eat for breakfast. Every breakfast, I think I’ll order pancakes, but I keep waffling.


As most people know, there was a problem with Facebook a little while ago, just after last week’s breakfast. The column speaks about the OMOTM talking a lot about the past, and that is true; however, many are as up-to-date as anybody much younger.

At the breakfast, the OFs began talking about the Facebook problem and the OFs started hauling out their smartphones, and checking out the Facebook situation. These OFs were wondering how these problems were similar and different, and who had what apps, especially Google.

These phones can cost a few bucks, but in many cases the smart phone and its connections seems to be the individual’s life blood. Take that phone away and these particular individuals are lost.


Income dilemma

Senior housing was another topic that came up. This subject is near and dear to many of the OFs’ hearts. The OFs harkened back to their first jobs if not on the farm.

At times, the OFs thought, if they were making a hundred bucks a week, they would soon be millionaires. For some, one hundred dollars every two weeks was good money.

Of course, as one OF put it, our wages grew and prices went up and it was relatively easy to keep up, but then things somehow seemed to have gotten way out of hand. Young people are getting starting wages per week more than the OFs made in a year.

The OFs complain that senior housing is so expensive they can’t afford it on their fixed incomes. That leaves many of the OFs with low-income housing and some never thought they had what is called low income.

The OMOTM quite often delve into deep, and sometimes, emotional discussions. Regardless of what is touted so often of how badly we eat, and occasionally behave, people are living longer.

Yaay for processed foods and ready-made meals. There, that’s one vote for the other side.

This scribe wonders, does pepper have anything to do with it? The OMOTM pepper eater will be 90 shortly, and still is a good driver, works in his garage, mows his own lawn, and has a good time.

The Old Men of the Mountain who, in the mist of the early morning, managed to make it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and they were in goodly number: Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Bob Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Allen DeFazio, Rev. Jay Francis, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Duncan Bellinger, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Pete Whitbeck, Rick LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Jake Lederman, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Paul Whitbeck, Ken Parks, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Wally Guest, and me.

On Sept. 28, this scribe was not in attendance at the weekly Tuesday breakfast. A more important task was in order and this scribe had an official excuse.

Fortunately, there were some of the OFs who would take names and advise this scribe if anything interesting went on. It was reported some stories were different and topical. This saved research into notes not used from previous gatherings.

On Tuesday, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. One of the OMOTM is a gardener of sorts like some of the others, but this OF’s specialty is raspberries. This OF’s raspberry patch is substantial and he has friends (and strangers) come and pick the berries.

Raspberries have a taste all their own, and are used in many dishes, mostly desserts. Is there a raspberry ice cream, or a raspberry cookie? The OMOTM who grows the raspberries never heard of any. However, just a quick check on Google gave many cookie recipes and suppliers of ice cream.

The raspberry-growing OF (on the Tuesday this scribe wasn’t there) decided to bring to the breakfast cups of raspberries for all the OFs in attendance and pass them out. Which he did; however, there is going to be surprise for one of the recipients.

After the breakfast, the generous OF with the raspberries hopped on his motorcycle and headed home.

When he arrived home and went into the house, the OF’s wife greeted him with, “Hi honey, where is the dog food? I went to the fridge and all I found for the dog was a cup of raspberries. I don’t think the puppies will be too happy with that.”

Oooops — the generous OF grabbed the cups of raspberries for the OFs from the refrigerator and took them to the breakfast. Some OF is going to get home, open his cup of raspberries and find — guess what? This scribe hopes the OF knows how to bark.


Search for the S.S. Minnow

The alternate scribe also reported that one of the OFs continued his tales of boating on Lake Anna in Virginia so once again the report goes back to last week. The location and cast of characters are the same.

This particular story of the lake had the same OF with four friends in the boat and this OF was taking them for a ride to show them the lake. Apparently, the OF thought it would be cool if he showed them the S.S. Minnow (which was reported he “discovered” last week). However, he entered what he thought was the right river (numerous rivers drained into this lake) but it wasn’t right.

The OF said he went up the river, found no Minnow and the water started getting shallower; now it was about four to five feet deep. The OF said he knew this was wrong, so he turned around and went back to the channel.

He turned right and proceeded up and spotted another river and thought that was the right way and he went up this river about two or three miles and the water started getting shallower. Again, the sonar showed only four to five feet of water. Wrong way for a second time so the OF went back; by now the friends were getting a little anxious.

The OF again headed up and spotted another river and it sure looked like where they came in — same thing though, three to four miles up, shallow water, wrong again, back again.

Another turn, found another river, same thing, kept going up this river, after traveling for a while the water became shallow, another wrong choice. By now, the OF knew he was lost.

The OF decided to go back to the channel, which he knew was 15 feet deep, and he would head back down instead of up and keep maintaining 15 feet by checking the sonar.

This he did and, after some time of riding back, one of his guests in the boat said, “Hey, I recognize that brush. Didn’t we come through some brush to get in this channel?

 The OF turned and went through the brush, traveled a little ways and there was the lake.

As an OF was relating this story that the other OG had told at the breakfast to the OMOTM, this scribe thought, “Now do we not only have the S.S. Minnow, but we are on the African Queen going through the brush to get to the channel, only the boat is without Katharine Hepburn.”

It seems the OMOTM who were at the Middleburgh Diner have two choices. Be sure to check the containers of raspberries you may be given, and be careful about getting on an OF’s boat, or you may be in for an adventure, and these forewarned OFs were: Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Jake Herzog, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Russ Pokorny, Jack Norray, and not me.

— Painting by John R. Williams

John R. Williams painted this scene of the now-gone shipyard where he and his wife waited for a whale-watch boat and he painted the name on a newly repaired lobster boat. “The boat that I lettered was right by those rocks,” Williams recalled. “The lobster man asked if I lived around there and I told him no, we were just visitors from the hills around Albany. He said I should move to the area and I would live very well just lettering boats and be much in demand after the other lobster guys saw his boat.”

This scribe is royally ticked off at this scribe. To explain that sentence, this is the second time I have typed this. The column was all finished; however, there was a lack of concentration and, just like in bowling and missing your spot (and you know you missed and want the ball back), this scribe put the cursor on the wrong dot and clicked.

As soon as the finger hit “click” on the mouse, this scribe wanted it back but it was too late. The ball was already in the gutter. All was lost. Now trying to remember what was in the original is a stretch. Oh well, here goes.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, those OMOTM who were not on vacation, or -n late summer visits, met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. It is somewhat of a misnomer to equate a retired OF with being on vacation.

They are retired, where do they have to go? It sure isn’t work for most of them; they are on constant vacation, but it is nice to get away to different scenery, or visit friends that live a distance away. In a sense, these may be considered vacations.

The night before the breakfast was the Harvest Moon, and many OFs thought they were the only ones going out and taking a look in the late evening (some even with binoculars) but they found out there were others, this scribe being one of those. Most of the viewers on the Hill did not have to deal with artificial light and had good views.

Around seven o’clock, as the moon just came up, this scribe thought the Earth and the moon were going to collide. Other OGs agreed and commented it looked darn close.

On the way to the Chuck Wagon, early Tuesday morning, the moon was still up in the west. The OFs had the sun and moon at the same time. “Shine on, Harvest Moon” — that is a tune for the old folks.

One OG returned from vacation close to where he was brought up. This OF took his boat with him and traveled to Lake Anna in Virginia. The OF said it has 275 miles of shore line made up from navigable rivers, creeks, and coves all around the lake. The OF told everyone it is in the middle of nowhere, and Culpepper, Virginia is the closest town anyone knows of.

While riding in his boat on the lake one day, the OF decided to travel up one of the tributaries. After traveling for a while up this river, he saw on the bank an old, pretty good-sized hulk of a cabin cruiser with “USS Minnow” painted on the stern in large letters. The OF said he could almost see the captain chasing Gilligan around the shore.

Another OF just returned from Maine. This is a state where many OFs go, to be by the ocean. The OF said that a lobster meal was on the menu — of course there would be that.

The OF said they went to the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine. This place is like the Chuck Wagon (or really any diner) only it was extremely busy with generally a waiting line to get in.

The OF said the lobsters cost him $70, and he felt ripped off because these lobsters were so small. “Seventy bucks!” the OF said again, but then he said the prices on the coast are getting out of hand for those on a fixed budget. That sure fits the OMOTM.

The OF said the next day he went to a lobster pound and ordered two lobsters — one three pounds and one two pounds so he could have some real lobster. The OF did not say how much they cost.

One OF said he could understand the price of lobsters going up and maybe some other things; just look at the price of gas or diesel fuel. The OF bet it cost quite a few bucks just to put fuel in one of those lobster boats.

Speaking of lobster boats, this scribe, who is also an OF, has to sneak in a story on lobster boats. This scribe and his wife were in Kennebunkport, Maine early in the morning, waiting for the boat, which takes people on a whale watch, to arrive.

This was at the Arundel Shipyard in Kennebunkport. While meandering around the boat yard, the scribe spotted a lobster boat with just-completed repairs and an older gentleman attempting to letter the stern.

At the rate the fellow was going, it would take him at least a couple of days to do it. This scribe watched him for a short while with his shaky hands and the scribe was getting antsy watching him.

Finally, this scribe told his wife he was going to go over and do the lettering. The scribe’s wife said, “John, don’t interfere; besides, our whale-watching boat may come before you finish.”

This scribe didn’t listen and went over to the man painting and asked, “Who owns this boat?” The man said “I do.”

This scribe said, “Give those brushes!” and took the brushes out of the guy’s hands. In 20 minutes, the job was done and looked sharp. This scribe went on to paint lobsters at each end of the lettering and they looked real, from a distance anyway.

The gentleman must have thought it was going to cost a fortune and said, “How much is this going to cost?”

This scribe said, “It’s on the house” gave the brushes back and went to watch whales.

One definition of an OF is that he’s a person who has had many interesting experiences, some of them true.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, while enjoying the show in the sky on the way in, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Duncan Bellinger, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Jake Herzog, Pete Whitbeck, Marty Herzog, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, John D, and me — and rest in peace, Roger Chapman; enjoy your breakfast on the cloud along with all the other OMOTM there waiting for you.

— Photo by Irving Rusinow, National Archives and Records Administration

John R. Williams’s mother cooked on a stove similar to this one. “If I remember right, my mother had two cans of grease, one was just bacon, and the other had different kinds of grease and fat in it,” he said.

The Old Men of the Mountain are still hanging around the Schoharie Valley and on Tuesday, Sept. 14th, they met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. A couple of the OMOTM decided to save room in the parking lot and showed up on their motorcycles. The next thing you know, some of the OFs will be showing up on their horses.

One OF reported that, on the way to the restaurant on Route 145, a short way past Knox Cave Road, he had to slow down to let a black bear cross the road. The bear just took his time as he crossed and then disappeared into the woods headed in the direction of Middle Road.

This started a conversation about recent spotting of bears in the area. The chat included Altamont and Guilderland, Old Stage Road above Altamont, and more sightings over in the valley. There could be three bears or more or just one bear that likes to go for walks.

Again, the talk continued on big cats spotted in the same area, and of course, deer. One OF mentioned the weather has produced an abundance of food for all the critters that roam the fields and woods. It was expressed that all the animals did not have to search for water at least in the Northeast this year.

It might be the reverse. Actually, there was too much water and the creatures large and small have had enough — even the animals with opposing thumbs think there has been too much heavenly water so far this year.

One OF said currently the Gulf at the Mexico arch (also known as Land’s End at the extreme southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula) has seen enough rain. “If only we could catch it some way and send it to the West Coast, it would be great,” an OF mused.


Bacon grease

The scribe was doing his duty, reporting on the doings of the OMOTM basically to supply alibis. Over his morning coffee, he read in the food section of the Times Union on Sept. 16 a section on keeping bacon grease. At last week’s breakfast, there was quite a discussion on how our (the OFs’) mothers kept a can of bacon grease on the top shelf of the stove. This grease was basically bacon but sometimes there was other grease dumped into the can.

The discussion was on how the grease was used and how good that grease made a lot of food taste. One OF mentioned how the smell of eggs and bacon, as he opened the woodshed door to go through to get to the kitchen when he came in from milking, was great. The OF said he wished he could capture all that again. This keeping of (especially) the bacon grease must be making a comeback.

Another OF said that, on one of his trips to Maine, he found a restaurant that had a bacon-grease-and-lettuce sandwich. The OF was questioned if it was just bacon and lettuce, without the tomato, and the OF said, “No, it was just bacon grease and lettuce.”

Sounded weird, but worth a try, probably cheaper than bacon and lettuce, and just about the same thing — the flavor without the bacon.

One OF said, if you haven’t had pancakes cooked on a cast-iron skillet, coated with bacon grease, smeared with butter, and real maple syrup, two or three eggs and a cold glass of raw milk, you haven’t had pancakes, or even a whopping breakfast.

This scribe notices at the breakfast some of the OFs try to emulate these early farm breakfasts, by ordering pancakes with a couple of eggs on top, toast and coffee, and the OFs stow all this away each Tuesday morning.

All of the talk about eating brings to mind a small witticism. Bread is like the sun: It rises in the yeast and sets in the waist.

After eating like this on a regular basis, some of the OFs who are in their seventies and eighties were planning to take some people on a hike. Maybe it is because the OFs ate like this when they were young, worked hard outdoors, and the food had only the chemicals in them that came from basically natural sources that they had a good start.

None of this food was processed; a lot of it came from the backyard. The OFs threw in how they were out digging up dandelions for salads, and whatever grasses and weeds that were edible.

These were much different times, and there was space to hunt for wild greens suitable for eating. Today, with a couple million people living in a few square miles, this is a little hard to do.

Jumping back to Tuesday morning’s previous exchanges, the OFs started talking about hunting large animals — especially with bow and arrow. Those OFs who were talking about this made it sound like quite a challenge and apparently not one for those weary of heart, or muscle.

These OFs discussed eating the venison which is a good thing; after all, we started out as hunter-gathers.

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and not out scurrying about taking advantage of the early days of fall, and the late days of summer, were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rich LaGrange, Miner Stevens, Jake Lederman, Robie Osterman, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Pete Whitbeck, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Bob Donnelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, John Dabrvalskes, and me.

The Old Men of the Mountain met again in Middleburgh, this time at Mrs. K’s Restaurant on Sept. 7. At Mrs. K’s there is generally a lively crowd and Tuesday was no different.  

Topics were many, from local Indians, to upcoming trips to Maine. A tad of time-jumping here.

The art of keeping pets was mentioned and then confined to one OF who has three dogs. This OF claims that he has taught these dogs to drive. He also claims that this wasn’t hard to do.

He feels that the reason most dogs have their heads out the car window, with their ears flapping in the breeze, is so that they can learn how to operate that vehicle. So the OF thought, “Why not let them try?”

The OF said it takes quite a bit of strain off him, but their eyesight is much better than his. Also it takes more than one dog to attempt this. When anyone meets this OF on the highway, they will see what this scribe means. It is very hard to tell who is behind the wheel.


School is back, so are packs

The breakfast is on Tuesdays and some of the schools were open. This was evidenced by kids along the road waiting for the yellow conveyance to pick them up.

One OF wondered what was in all the backpacks every one of the kids had slung over his or her shoulders. Some of the packs were larger than the little kids hauling them.

The OFs remembered when they were in school and school work was done in school. There was darn little homework because on the Hill and in the valley the teachers knew, when the kids arrived home, for most of them there was work to be done, and it wasn’t schoolwork.

One OF said books are heavy, but a 6-year-old might weigh 45 to 55 pounds, and it looks like these backpacks are heavier than that. But the backpacks might have other things than books because many of these kids have computers and they don’t weigh that much.


Fair memories

The OFs talked about flies again, and fairs.

The OFs remember at least the Altamont Fair being on when they were in school, and all the kids wanted to go to the fair. That would put the fair around Labor Day, and still the flies came out.

One OF mentioned he particularly liked Kids Day at the fair. Boy, this exchange went back quite away because another OF mentioned the fair had a really cool aroma, and he still remembers that. Another OF said this OF was still smelling the barn on the farm.



It was found that some of the OMOTM travel to Maine and more than was first mentioned in last week’s column. Tourism, according to the politicos, is a big money-maker for that state.

It must be for other states too. The OFs travel all over, and many people must travel to New York. But this scribe finds that many OFs travel right here in New York and this must lump them with tourists.

In listening to the OFs chatter about their travels, Maine and Florida appear to be the two at the top of the list. Florida must be the big draw in the colder months because the OFs mention making friends with people from Michigan and Canada while they are in Florida.

Snow may call some, but the sun seems to be number one, especially with the OFs and their creaky bones.


Back In Time

The Times Union has recently copied what The Enterprise has been running as long as this scribe can remember, and that is an informative small section on 100 Years Ago Today. These are very interesting to the OFs.

So much of their conversation of “when we were young” is beginning to border on these little snippets of 100 years ago today. If the report was 80 years ago today some of the OFs would be 8 or 9 years old and able to remember it firsthand.

This is getting scary. As one OF put it, “You would think a lot has changed but it hasn’t; all they have done is covered the same old stuff with plastic, and called it ‘new’.”

Some of the OFs didn’t know about that.

As Benjamin Franklin noted, aging folks really need only three faithful friends: an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and would like to be the age of kids in junior high, or high school, but not have to learn all this new stuff were: Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Ken Parkes, Glenn Patterson, Paul Nelson, Jake Lederman, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Rich LaGrange, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Pete Whitbeck, Duncan Bellinger, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, John Dabrvalskes, Jake Herzog, Marty Herzog, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, and me.

Every day should be different, yet most of the time every day seems to be the same. For instance, Tuesdays, for the Old Men of the Mountain, are different. Tuesday, Aug. 31, was different. It was the last day of the month and this is true for all those in our time zone, and using the calendar as most do.       

For the OMOTM that is the same, but who was going to be at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh? What would the sunrise be like? What would the weather be like? Is all that routine stuff, which seems to be the same, going to be different?

Who might show up at the breakfast? Will that be different? What will the OFs wear? That should be different. There is so much difference going on and the OFs haven’t even had their first cup of coffee yet.

The OFs, being the people they are, can remember the past firsthand and the more breakfasts the OFs put under their belts, the deeper the past becomes.

At one point in time, there was a really productive cement plant in Howes Cave, New york. Howes Cave is a very small hamlet in Schoharie County.

At one time, a few people from the Hilltowns worked at that plant. Though the work was hard and dusty it was one of the better-0paying jobs in the valley. It was one of the first cement plants in the country, and the stone was mined before it was quarried.

The OFs were telling stories of people who worked there in the plant’s “heyday” in the late forties and through the fifties. At times, the OFs struggled to remember names of people they worked with, though eventually the names came through.

What did come with ease were the events and stories and who was involved. Being 70 and 80 years old (and some approaching 90) digging back that far to relate a story and be reasonably accurate is pretty good.

Once the door of the brain is open to that time, the stories come more fluently, the stammering stops, and the hesitation lessens, as the mental images of what happened become sharper. This conversation was only between a couple of OFs who knew people who worked at the plant or they worked there themselves. The stories were just that to the others. Stories.


Ocean attracts

Some of the OFs travel to the coast of Maine whenever they get a chance. It must be the draw of the ocean, the waves rolling in with routine laps, or crashing roars. Some go to Cape Cod for basically the same reason.

One of the OFs just returned from Old Orchard Beach in Maine and the discussion centered on lobsters. Eating lobsters. To think they used clams and lobsters for driveways in colonial times, and lobsters were fed to their workers just to get rid of these crustaceans.

As one OF put it, “Now look at what a lobster meal costs!”

Catching lobsters is now highly regulated in order to perpetuate the species, and the same with clams. How times have changed. A good lobster meal for four can set you back a house payment.

The retired can go to the coast after school starts when the crowds are gone. The Old Orchard Beach OF said the crowds were horrendous and we are supposed to be in a pandemic.

But “in the good ole summer time” the crowds along the waterways are like that. Young and old people go, and it is getting to be really expensive, especially the gas to get who knows where. One OF piped up, “or work.”


A bummer

It is fair time and as mentioned before some of the OFs went to the state fair and they came back quite disappointed.

These OFs said, “There was not an animal there. No cows, horses, pigs, sheep — nothing. The only animals there were not remarkable animals at all — there were just a few ducks and chickens.”

“What a bummer,” one OF said.

The OFs can remember it was a big deal to have your cow win at the local fair and then take it to the state fair. The same feeling went for horses and other animals.

Fair time always means fly time especially on the Hill. Come the fair, comes the black cluster flies, and the green buzzy ones.

One OF said they got prepared by purchasing two rolls of fly paper, the sticky kind that pulls down from a little tube with a tack in it to fasten the fly paper to molding or whatever. The OF said they hung the two strips of fly paper and it hung for a couple of days and did not catch a fly.

Lots of flies but none on the paper. Either the flies are more educated or the manufacturers are not using, or are not allowed to use, the bait that entices the fly to the sticky part.

Generally those things work, not only with flies but other flying pests, but the OFs have never seen a bee stuck on one, which is a good thing.

One OF said he doesn’t know where the flies come from, but he does know they want to be outside. This OF said, just open the window and most of the flies will fly outdoors.

Then another OF said, “Yeah, the flies just fly around to the back door and wait for that to open and fly right back in.”

His advice? Swat the buggers.



The Old Men of the Mountain would like to offer their condolences and sympathies to the family of a loyal old man of the mountain, Roger Chapman, who passed away at St. Peter’s Hospital last week.

The Old Men of the Mountain who met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh on what felt like an early fall day, were: Wally Guest, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Jake Lederman, Marty Herzog, Pete Whitbeck, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Duncan Bellinger, Rev. Jay Francis, Russ Pokorny, Jake Herzog, Gerry Chartier, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, and me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Stringing phone lines

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

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

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

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


Fair talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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