On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the Old Men of the Mountain left the comfort of their homes and took off on another wild adventure; this time, it was to the Home Front Café in Altamont.

For those not familiar with the Home Front Café, it is like eating in a museum. Tuesday morning, an OMOTM brought an artifact for the café to add to its collection.

It was a sextant (all it is is a device that measures the angle between objects) used for sighting a canon. This sextant would have been used in early battles; however, the café is dedicated to United States veterans of all conflicts.

Tuesday morning, with all that was going on at the restaurant the waitress gets three atta-boys for handling all the OFs.

Final flight

The OFs at our end of the table discussed the mechanic who stole the short-hop commercial turboprop airplane in Seattle.

As one OF put it, “He went out in style, and put on quite a show beforehand.”

Another OF commented that the airlines had him in the wrong job; if he could handle a plane of that size like he did, he should have been a pilot instead of a mechanic.

Then one OF said, “What if he was and then went nuts with a plane full of passengers? If he decided to do loops and rolls (as he really did) and crash the plane that would have been a real disaster.”

Yet another OF mentioned something more scary: “What if his actions have triggered a series of copy cats that will attempt the same thing for the notoriety? Now we will have a genuine mess.”

Cycling safety

The OFs then talked a while about riding bikes; one OF mentioned they are the scariest things on the road. The OFs have covered this before, about how dangerous bikes can be.

One OF had a great suggestion this time. He felt that there should be designated bike paths on certain roads that are wide enough to support both the sport and vehicles.

One OF mentioned about riding bikes when we were kids and thought nothing of it. Then an OF suggested that, when he was a kid, the only thing he had to worry about when he was on his bike was a galloping horse not with a car going 50 to 55 miles an hour at the crest of a blind hill. That’s where a driver may come upon one bicyclist, or maybe more than one, in the road a hundred feet in front of him.

Then a smart OF said the bicyclist and in-line skaters have the right-of-way on most public roadways so, he said, “It is up to you guys to be alert.”

“If that is the case,” it was suggested, “then all roads that bicycles travel on (if they have the right-o- way) should have the speed limit lowered to basically what a bike can do; then there wouldn’t be all these scares.”

“Are you serious?” came a reply.  

One other OF offered an applicable observation. This OF thought that, with all the miles police officers travel in their patrol cars, they come upon the same situations we do and may have the same feelings.

“The officer also knows the law better than we do and sucks it up, but I bet they have some heart-stopping instances too,” he said.

Few go to the fair

Not many of the OFs are going to the Altamont Fair this year, and have not gone in the past couple of years.

The OFs are waiting for some of the family to come and tell them the fair is like they remembered years ago. Some OFs mentioned like before the grandstand fire.

Another OF said they were going too far back, using the fire as a starting point. The basic problem this scribe seemed to sort out is the OFs are too darn old and their legs won’t take them around the fair.

This was because a couple of the OFs mentioned walking and stopping to sit awhile, then walking some more and sitting some more. A sit for a long time was in store before starting the trek to the car.

The OFs who did go said it is not for farmers and workers much anymore — it is for the younger adults from about age 14 to 21. An OF came up with a reasonable summation: The farms are few and far between!

The big garden growers like LaVie farms and others are gone; the young are not into chickens, rabbits, and farm young stock as pets.  Now it seems to be all electronic games, and not much teaching the youngsters how to knit, sow, or create.

This is not to knock all kids because the electronic skills they are developing now they will need later on — we are just out of the loop. Is it for better or worse?

This OF didn’t know but it just isn’t our kind of fair anymore. We all want the fair to be like when we were kids; that is not going to happen. The kids 50 years from now will be complaining the fair is not like when we were kids; let the younger kids and adults support the fair so the fair will still be here.

Warm and wet

We all know that this summer has been on the warm and wet side so far, at least on the East Coast. A couple of the OFs brought relatives who have been staying with them to the breakfast Tuesday morning.

The OFs had to shake these visitors out of bed rather early in the morning to make it to the breakfast.  That might have been a shock to some.

One of the visitors was from Austin, Texas and he said that the temperature in Austin was 100 degrees in early May and has not been below 100 degrees since. The OFs will take what we have, thank you very much!

However, the OFs say that for this late in the season it is the trees and grass, in fact the whole surrounding area is the most lush they have seen since they can remember. (Hey! The OMOTM are OMOTM and the memory may be a little short) but it has been green and the foliage has been full.

One OF mentioned the trees have to be done for the season; fall colors may be early this year. But he concluded, “Then again, what do I know?”

The OFs who hacked their way through the jungle to get to the Home Front Café in Altamont for breakfast with Tarzan and Jane as the cook and waitress were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter and guest Josh Buck, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Rich Donnelly, Art Frament, Karl Remmers and grandsons Nolan Debar, Kaleb Debar, Herb Sawotka, Pete Whitbeck, Rich Vanderbilt, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Café in Princetown. Most of the OMOTM that had to travel to the Chuck Wagon had to head east at one point, some for quite a distance. Those early birds were greeted with a sunrise that indicated it was going to be one hot day.

One OF has had extensive dental work done and the OF was pleased and said the surgery went well. The OFs began to discuss pain pills, and pain, and blood.

This OF said he was told to take Tylenol for four hours, then Advil for four hours, than back to Tylenol for four hours, and back to Advil for four hours. The OF claimed he had no pain and very little swelling.

Although the Tylenol-Advil cycle was recommended to this patient, the OMOTM do not recommend anyone try this without talking to his doctor. One OF said he can’t do this because Advil is out. The OF said he takes some heart meds that makes ibuprofen a no-no.

The conversation turned to, as usual, old-fashioned ways of taking care of pain, and controlling blood.

One method for controlling blood flow was using tea bags as a compress. One OF mentioned how his mother (now we are really going back) used boiling water and tea leaves for serious cuts. She would take a clean sock, place tea leaves in it and make her own tea bag. The OF claimed that process worked.

Odd, sodden summer

Another OF took a week off and proceeded to go to Virginia to visit friends. Bad idea, but the arrangements were made some time back.

The OF said he was going to bring his boat but, after watching the weather to where he was going, he figured that was not a good idea. The OF said the weather was awful — it rained all the time; he felt the whole state was going to wash away.

The OF said, in hindsight, he should have brought his boat; he could have used it to tow the truck in places the water in the roadways was so deep.

So far, the OFs say it has been an odd summer. The west and southwest is burning up, and in the southeast and east the people here are going to require flippers and gills. One OF commented that, though this weather is unusual, it is not rare.

Weather watchers

This led to a talk on where the OFs get their weather information from. The sampling was small.

This scribe should come up with a survey of the OFs on their weather-watching habits. One OF suggested the scribe should include a column for “out the window.”

When we were on the farm, the weather came from two places, observance of what was happening in the morning in the atmosphere and the color of the hills to the southwest, looking toward Schoharie and Middleburgh from the Helderbergs. If those hills were purple to almost black and the sun was shining, we prepared for a rain and a blow.

The other area we placed our faith in was “The Chanticleer” with Earl Pudney, and John Charles Stevenson. One OF said their cows were brought up by these two. We received the news, the weather, and the farm report every morning listening to those two broadcasters on WGY in the early morning.

Purpose of tipping

The OMOTM were having breakfast in a restaurant and what else came up was tipping. This has been in the news lately and one OF said he was at a restaurant where the tip was included on the bill.

A unified “Say what?” was uttered.

One OF explained the purpose of tipping and what the word means. The word is an acronym, he said, for “To Insure Prompt Service,” i.e. TIPS. If the customer is not happy with the service, the customer does not have to leave a tip.

Generally, the reason for not leaving a tip and indicating why, the leaving of a penny is the norm. This is just like turning a fork over at the end of the table to signal the waiter/waitress you are finished with the meal and table can be cleared.

For a restaurant to automatically charge you for its service (especially when it has been very bad) is ludicrous. That way, the restaurant will never improve, or be able to find out what employee is causing the problem.

Sunshine for old timers

The Cobleskill Sunshine Fair was to be held on the week this breakfast was in progress and the OFs were checking to make sure that this was Old Timers’ Day. Most of the OFs assured those asking that it was this week and this was the day, so some were making arrangements to go to the fair and take advantage of the savings. If anything, these OFs are Old Timers and there should be no license check at the gate.

After this wisecrack, an OF said just a while back he was at the Wal-Mart in Cobleskill, purchasing bullets. When he went to pay at the register, the clerk asked the OF with a straight face, “Sir, are you over 21?”

That brought chuckles to customers in line in back of the OF. The customer directly in back of the OF (the OF had no idea who he was) said, “I’ll vouch for him.”

The OF said he thinks there is a camera at each checkout and, as soon as those bullets ran through the scanner, the clerk’s asking was mandatory, and pictures were taken. This is just conjecture on the OF’s part and may not be the case at all.

Maybe to the clerk the OF did look under 21. Boy! Wouldn’t that be great?

The Old Men of the Mountain who are managing the heat and still being able to find their way to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Art Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Ted Willsey, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Pete Whitbeck, Ray Gaul, Rich Donnelly, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen and me.

Location:

This scribe has a little book that he brings to the Old Men of the Mountain’s breakfast where the scribe writes little notes of what was discussed by the Old Men of the Mountain. This is a good thing to have because. in starting this column. the restaurant the scribe wrote for the opening paragraph for the OMOTM was not the restaurant the OMOTM were at; it was listed as the Your Way Café.

It is a good thing this little book had the restaurant the OMOTM were really at and the date listed. So it is now safe to say that on Tuesday the Old Men of the Mountain made it all the way to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg on the last day of July, which was Tuesday. the 31st, and that is the truth!

At the Duanesburg Diner, the OFs take up the whole room in the back and half of the booths out front. This past Tuesday morning, there was a regular customer in the room in the back as the OFs began to filter in. This gentleman finished his breakfast while OFs sat down.

While the gentleman was sitting, he heard some of the conversation of the OFs and this conversation was on eating, and the OFs were commenting on whether the sausage gravy was from a can or homemade — conversations like that.

When the gentlemen left, he stopped at the head of the table and told a story about his grandfather who lived to be 99 years old. According to this fella, his grandfather’s meals each day consisted of one sandwich and a fifth of cheap whiskey, and that was it. Well maybe. However, the OFs do know some that there are functioning alcoholics and they have similar stories like this.

That brought up the question of people who keep telling us OFs (which is another term for seniors) what to eat. One OF said he was tired of young whipper-snappers telling him just that, what to eat.

He said, “I am over 80 years old, and work most every day in my garden, drive my tractor, and do brush-hogging for customers and I am not going to change my diet because at this moment sugar is bad. I will wait a day and sugar will be good.”

The OG talking was raised on a farm, as many of the older OFs were. When the OMOTM were young and on the farm, they received the best start for growing old and being reasonably healthy. The OFs drank whole milk, not pasteurized (just as all the barn cats drank). The table food went from vegetables to meats and had no growth hormones.

Soft drinks were not around that much; Madison Avenue marketing was not yet underway for all this processed stuff we eat now. Breakfast was eggs, bacon, sausage or ham, potatoes, fruit; sometimes even pie, homemade bread toasted by holding it with a fork over the woodstove and real butter or jam, flapjacks with fruit in the batter and real maple syrup.

The OFs had none of the wimpy stuff like snap, crackle, and pop around to spoil a good breakfast. The OG was right because the YFs on the farm had a great start and their eating habits began on the right path.

Cleaning up at track and casino

Some of the OFs make a few trips to Saratoga during the August meet. For most of the OFs, it is just for the experience of being able to say they were there. None of them win big, or even win small.

Some have different approaches to betting when they go. One throws all his loose change in a coffee can, takes it with him, and when that is gone he claims he is done. This OF says that lately he has come home with more in the can than when he went to the track.

The OFs were pretty sure this “taking the can” is a metaphor. The OFs are convinced he doesn’t show up at Saratoga with a can full of small money and change. The OFs can’t see this OF at the two-dollar window with eight quarters; then again, knowing this OF, it might be just what he would do.

Occasionally some of the OFs trot off to Turning Stone Casino and they have with them the “bet fund.” When the bet fund is depleted, they stop betting.

Some of the OFs say that their bet fund generally does not get depleted; they win a little and come home happy. Others say that more often than not they do come home with less then what they started with, but they’re not completely broke. That is like having a couple of great golf shots out of 90 bringing the golfer back for more golf.

Cleaning out a gas tank

The OFs went from this discussion to how to clean a gas tank!

One OF inadvertently added diesel fuel to his tractor that runs on gas and he didn’t realize it. The OF said, when he went to start the tractor, it started hard but it did run.

The OF said it smoked like a son of a gun and it was then that the OF realized what he had done. This OF took the tractor to another OF who is in the business of fixing mistakes and he cleaned the tank for him. This is nothing a neophyte wants to do on his own.

Then the OFs who had some knowledge of how to handle these kinds of problems began telling their ways of cleaning a gas tank.

One OF said that he didn’t do this, but a friend of his in the business would take a paper towel and tear it up. Then he would throw that in the gas tank, and get a high pressure hose and blow it into the tank.

The shredded towel would swirl around and soak up the remaining gas that wasn’t siphoned out. Then he would use a vacuum and vacuum out the paper towel. Bingo! Clean tank.  Kids — don’t try this at home!

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and hopefully had the correct fuel in their vehicles were: Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Art Frament, Rich Donnelly, Herb Sawotka, Bob Benac, and grandson Ace Roy, Harold Guest, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Pete Whitbeck, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.

Location:

With ominous skies on Tuesday, July 24, the Old Men of the Mountain headed out to the Your Way Café in Schoharie. Fortunately, the OMOTM met no rain on the way to the café.

Most people have heard that the Thruway is going to go without toll takers, so the OFs started asking a lot of “what ifs.” Some thought that the state of Massachusetts had it under control. This did not satisfy most of the OFs.

One OF brought up this cool scenario: What if someone took pictures of out-of-state license plates in a parking lot like Colonie Center? This entrepreneurial fellow took the pictures and printed them out on either high-grade cardboard, or even on metal.

Now he gives them to his friends, and uses one himself and places it on his vehicle. Now when the pictures of the plate taken at the toll scanner shows a car from Texas and some poor guy in Texas receives a bill from the New York State Thruway Authority saying he owes a buck-eighty to New York, how long do you think anyone would have to wait before that piece of paper hits the trash can?

Now the state has a bill not paid and they start proceedings. However, this guy can prove he was taking his kids to school, and had never even left his hometown, let alone traveled to New York. It is possible to see the state losing big bucks if this would be repeated over and over.

One OF came up with a clever idea that some college kids could use as a math study. Print out 20 artificial plates all alike. Then place them on 20 cars, and the plan would be to place all 20 cars at different booths along the Thruway.

Then have all the cars positioned to enter the booth at approximately the same time and mathematically using speed and distance have them exit the Thruway at the same time. They would do this in short time and use a short distance as they mathematically could. After the prank is done, they would put their own plates back on the vehicle.

What would this do to the computer that would receive identical information up and down the Thruway at the same time? The OF added, “Gee, I wish I was young again.”

Then one killjoy OF said, “If you guys can think this, I am sure it’s already been thought about and the state surely has thought about it and they have ways to detect and correct, so who would do this just to save a few bucks? Makes no sense to me.”

Another OF said, “Let’s go back to Texas and say a guy from Texas did use the Thruway to go from Albany to Schenectady and the toll is 30 cents. The guy returns to Texas and receives a bill for 30 cents from New York. Does this make any sense?”

Years ago in business an average cost to send out an invoice was about $25. This cost might have gone down some with most businesses using computers, but the OF’s guess was, not much.

“The envelope, and paper, the personal time, the postage, let alone part of a tree that was cut down to make the paper,” the OF added. “You can see where this is going.”

An OF piped up, “I thought the Thruway was supposed to be free in the ’70s; at least that is what those lying ‘Bs’ in Albany told us when they went after the money to build it.”

To which a second OF responded, “Whoever told you it was possible to trust anyone from that brood of crooks in Albany?”

Helping a bobcat baby

An OF told a cute story that happened to him between breakfasts. He did relate the time and day but this scribe did not catch that information, but it doesn’t make any difference to the story.

When this OF pulled into his driveway, he noticed a small cat with a trap attached to its paw. The cat turned out to be a bobcat kitten.

The OF said he was a little leery of approaching the kitten but it didn’t react violently when he did. The OF said he still was not going to handle that cat without some protection so he went to the garage and came back with a fish net and put it over the kitten, which he said made no attempt to run away.

The OF said he let the paw with the trap on it stick out from the rim of the net and he pushed the trap open then pulled the cat’s paw away from the trap.

The OF then carefully lifted the net and the little thing scurried off into the woods by his home, apparently none the worse for wear. The OF said all the time he was doing this he was looking around for mama cat to come bounding out of the woods but that never happened.

Country roads

The roads in the Hilltowns are not super highways — they are country roads whether they are state, county, or town roads. These roads in the Hilltowns are full of surprises. Unexpected sharp turns, very short sight distances on hills, and some of these same turns along with some really bad intersections.

One in particular is where County Route 1 (Switzkill Road ) crosses State Route 443 just west of Berne.  The OMOTM will not use this intersection. They drive all around Cock Robin’s barn to avoid it.

The OFs talked about another serious motorcycle accident in the Hilltowns and it was at this intersection.

One OF said, “Going onto country roads is not the place to say, ‘We are in the country, we can throw out our trash, and go like the devil, no one is around.’ Big whoop, there are lots of things around other than sharp turns and blind intersections. There are deer, horses, cows, turkeys, the occasional pig, and sheep. These animals all think the road is theirs.”

The Old Men of the Mountain who know the country roads and made it to the Your Way Café in Schoharie safely, were: Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Shaver, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Ray Donnelly, Herb Sawotka, Bob Benac, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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— Photo from John R. Williams

Bob Giebitz, at 94, cuts a birthday cake that looks like his garden.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Mike Willsey celebrates his 92nd birthday.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Ted Willsey looks thoughtful at his 90th birthday party.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Ted Willsey smiles at his 90th birthday party.

The Tuesday morning of July 17 was a wet one. While the Old Men of the Mountain were in the Country Café in Schoharie having a great breakfast of one kind or another, outside it started to pour.

The irony of this is, when the early birds of the OMOTM arrived, they encountered a workman for the village with his tractor and wagon, watering all the flowers along Main Street. The OFs think that, with the amount of plants he has to maintain, the workman never made it to the end before the rains came, although looking at the tank in the wagon, the village was using fertilized water to keep the plants looking as fresh as they do so maybe he kept going.

July 14 was International Nude Day. This was the day Howe Caverns was having its Naked in the Cave party. None of the OFs had the courage to participate and most thought that they would be turned away even if the OFs applied for reservations.

Just because the cave is dark, slippery, cold, and damp, the OFs thought their rejection would be considered by the planners that to view any of the OFs naked would frighten away all the participants younger than 60.

They would look at the naked OFs and wonder to themselves: “Is that what I am going to look like in another 20 years?”

The OFs would have to reply, “Yep.”

The OFs understood that the event was a huge success, and the caverns had to turn people away. One OF commented that he wouldn’t go because he couldn’t imagine sitting in the boat to cruise the underground lake with a bare bottom on that cold, damp seat.

Naked in the Cave brought more stories about the North American Cement plant that used to be the entrance to the cave. Across the railroad tracks, and the street in Howe Cave, there was a restaurant.

The OFs are talking back in the mid-1950s at this time. The OFs’ resident historian actually could remember the name of the restaurant and it was Tillison’s Restaurant; one OF had a relative who was a waitress there. Just down from the restaurant, on the other side of the street, was the D&H railroad dispatcher’s building for the plant.

According to an OF who used to work at the cement plant, this dispatcher was the cheapest guy on two feet. The dispatcher would take the tape from the machine that recorded railroad cars in and out, and he also maintained information on demurrage (a charge for detaining a ship, freight car, or truck) for railroad cars on plant tracks.

This tape would drop into a bucket, and, instead of getting a new tape when the tape was full, this dispatcher would wind the tape back on the roll and use the back of the tape until that was full.

This same skinflint would go over to Tillison’s, order a glass of hot water, take a ketchup bottle from one of the tables, pour it into the glass of hot water, shake a little pepper on the top, order a cheap peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and have soup and a sandwich for lunch and leave. This guy was a piece of work.

Birthday boys

The month of November is a month with nothing much going on. Maybe because there’s nothing to do is what causes July — which is nine months later — to be such an active birthday month. The OMOTM are kept busy with birthday parties during July.

The weekend of the 14th there were three that affected the OFs, two of which the OFs en masse were invited to. On one day, there was one where all OFs were invited and one was a family event on the same day.

When the OFs have birthday parties, they are “bring yourself and nothing else” parties because what does an OF need or want?

One OF said, “What the OFs should do is always invite all the OFs with the proviso that they all take something when they leave.”

The OFs are trying to downsize. One OF said, if he did it that way, he would have a top-prize gift, and that would be take the wife. He would have everything packed for her, and a $50 bill pinned to a ribbon in her hair.

Birthdays for the OMOTM require large cakes just to hold the candles. The smart way would be to have one candle for each decade with the last decade the number of years. Another OF said he wouldn’t be able to blow out even that many.

One OF mentioned that, when we were in our forties and fifties, we were contemplating retirement and how so many of our friends retired and in a few years we were going to their funerals. Today, the OFs said, look up and down the table, these guys have been retired for 20 and 25 years, and some are mad because it is raining and they can’t go out and play golf.

Back in our working years, we never even would have thought of it.  “Yeah,” one OF said, “Rocking chair sales are way down.”

Those OFs who were spry enough to make it to the Country Café in Schoharie, and that of course is all in attendance, and they were: Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Wally Guest, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Roger Schafer, Harold Guest, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Bob Benac, Ray Kennedy, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Wayne Gaul, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Ted Willsey with son Jerry Willsey from Arkansas, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Harold Grippen, and me.

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