— Photo from John R. Williams

A sing-along for The Old Men of the Mountain: Roger Shafer plays guitar and Gerry Irwin plays the bass as their friends breakfast at Mrs. K’s.

Christmas carols are in the air, and many of the Old Men of the Mountain start singing along when they hear them. The breakfast Tuesday morning again was when the Hilltown roads were like skating rinks. Most of the OFs came to the Mrs. K’s on the flats; a few came over Cotton Hill — that was a mistake.

However, no matter the conditions of the roads, Mrs. K’s was full of OMOTM, and Patty had quite a spread laid out for the OFs as they arrived for their 2018 Christmas party.

The conversations Tuesday morning were quite mixed. Much was material covered many times; some the conversations were on family traditions at Christmas time.

Most OFs related that, when the OFs were young, the most common gift was clothes and a present. That was it — a present, not a whole store full.

One OF said that he would get more than one present but it was from each of the relatives. Sometimes the OF thought the aunt or uncle would contact the family to see what the OF needed in the line of clothes. The OFs said when they were kids they were more than happy to receive anything.

During World War II, there was not much to buy even though at that time most parents had money, a least those who were not on the farm. One OF said that kids get so much today, it is what keeps the economy going.

Another OF added that today even kids 8 or 9 years old want gifts that cost hundreds of dollars. It is a different time.

An OF chimed in that he thought kids today are not kids; they are young adults. The OFs said, think back to when we were kids. We were kids! We had fun doing kid things.

Today they start teaching kids math, and reading skills when they are only 2 years old. Kids today are forced to be adults before they are ready to be adults; the OF stated that as a fact and not his opinion.

While the OFs were talking about Christmas and Christmas giving, we found out that one OF has 18 grandkids, and four great-grandkids, and another one has 19 grandkids and two great-grandkids. Between those two OFs, there are 86 feet trotting this planet, and that is from only two of us.

What does Christmas mean to those guys? The other OFs bet Christmas was a ball at their homes when the majority of them were growing up. The OFs couldn’t imagine the family tree on either family when considering all the in-laws required in generating 43 grandkids. These two OFs should get together and write a book, along with their wives of course, on parenting. (By the way, the scribe adds neither one is Catholic.)

The Old Men make their own music

The diversity of the Old Men of the Mountain has been brought up many times but even at our own party, we bring our own entertainment. We had two OMOTM up playing Christmas-type songs, and not-so-Christmas-type songs.

The OFs could be heard joining in with the more familiar songs. The OFs even had one with musical talents at the table taking in festivities. If you follow the names along with the police you will find the names of Roger Shafer, and Gerry Irwin — Roger on the guitar and Gerry on the bass.

Holiday hiatus

For the first time in 30-some years, the Old Men of the Mountain are not going to go to breakfast on Tuesday. Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday this year, and so does New Year’s Day so the OFs decided not to gather on those days. This means there will be a two-week hiatus for the column.

The OMOTM have never done this. In the years 1984, 1990, 2001, 2007, and 2012, the OMOTM met on Monday. This year, by not meeting at all, it means there will be an 11-year gap until this happens again in 2029.

At that time will come the major decision again: Do we meet on a Monday or skip it? But this year it means, by the time the group gets together again, it will be Jan. 8 and there will be many stories to tell because, in all the time that has gone by, even if it is only two weeks since getting together, interesting events are bound to happen to the OMOTM.

Those OFs who in a way slid their way to the party at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh for the last gathering of year, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Otis Lawyer, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Kenny Parks, Jim Heiser, Rev. Jay Francis, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, John Gab, Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Amy Willsey, and me.

Location:

For once, we had a beautiful ride to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh on Tuesday Dec. 11. The sun was not yet up, the sky was dark and clear, and there was one bright star or planet in the heavens that was very visible.  The weather was much different than most of the recent mornings the Old Men of the Mountain have been used to driving in on these early morning restaurant trips.

The OFs started a conversation that was somewhat different on Tuesday morning. This conversation was on recyclables.

Generally the first chatter of the group is quite redundant (like most meetings) and with the OFs it is quite a comedy show until someone brings up an unusual topic. This particular OF recollected how (just a few years back) we had to separate everything going to the transfer station.

Glass had to be separated by color, green with green, brown with brown, etc., and no caps were to be on bottles. The metal and aluminum were to be separated. No aluminum pie plates were to go in the trash. Power cords were to be removed from appliances.

It was a real chore at home to do all this, but we did. We even had a separate bucket or bin at home to hold the different recyclables.

This has changed now. We can’t get anybody to buy the recyclables from the towns. What has happened? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Some OFs think it is still a good idea and we should still use items made from recycled paper, glass, aluminum, metal, and plastic.

One OF said, “Like many products and even problems we rarely go back to the source. We don’t need plastic bags — paper bags are fine and come from a renewable material source, the tree.”

“However,” another OF said, “the current way I discard my trash is to chuck the bottles with tin, separate the plastic, paper, and cardboard and that is what I’ll do.”

Rambunctious robo-vacuum

Somehow the OFs continued on with the cleaning theme.  It wasn’t exactly like the garbage theme but it was about vacuuming. This time. the subject was the new high tech robo-vacuums.

One of the OFs was telling how the one his kids have works. The OF said, “He (son) likes it; it is a lot of fun to watch.”

The OFs asked him, “How much can it vacuum? They look rather small.”

Another OF asked, “Don’t they have to keep dumping it out all the time?”

The OF said he didn’t know about this because he never asked.

The OF told of an experience his kids had with this robo vacuum. “One of the kids kept hearing this thump, then another thump.” The OF said the kids told him there was no rhythm to the thumps.

“Sometimes there would be four or five minutes between the thumps, and sometimes it was thump, thump, and thump in quick succession,” he said. “The kids finally tracked it down to one of the bathrooms.”

The vacuum had apparently hit the bathroom door and the door closed. The thump was the vacuum trying to get out of the bathroom, finish the vacuuming, and get to the docking station. The OFs got quite a chuckle out of that little story.

To this scribe, unfortunately, it indicates the scary part of AI (artificial intelligence). This little vacuum cleaner was given a job to do and that was to complete its mission of vacuuming, and returning to the docking station to revitalize itself.

That was its job; AI will do anything to complete its assigned task and revitalize itself.  The next robo-whatever may not be assigned to just do vacuuming, mowing the lawn, or plowing the driveway, but it could be something much more sinister, and the AI will complete the task and return to its revitalizing station.

Climate change?

The OMOTM talked about all the nasty weather this week that brought havoc to the Carolinas and Virginia in the form of snow. The pictures were just like here when we have a nasty storm only they are not ready for it.

One OF who has relatives in Virginia said they missed it. There again it is like some of those storms that nail us. Where these storms hit, they hit!

Sometimes the area is not too wide, and at other times, as one OF said, “Our storms cover from Canada to Pennsylvania and the whole East Coast.” Another OF has relatives in the Carolinas and they reported, “This storm was just like the ones we used to have when we lived in Plattsburgh.”

Yet another OF said, “Maybe there is something to this climate change or global warming.” That brought the swift answer that the world has been through all this before but there were fewer people around for the storms to directly impact them.

Now the population has increased and people get really disturbed because they plopped their fancy homes directly in disaster areas and some have encountered tragic situations as a result.

One OF said, “That is kind of tough talk, but I have to agree it’s true.”

Another OF thought that even applies to some of the OFs, which took the OFs back to “when we were young.”  (Oh dear, here we go again to “when I was your age,” but this is always fun).

“You can’t stop progress”

This time, the OFs talked about how far it was from farm to farm, and how even going to town for supplies took planning. One OF said that he purchased a home on a dirt road; the home was not quite finished. Just beyond his place, the road was shut down during the winter months because it was too dangerous to drive.

This home was purchased so the OF would have privacy and be alone, but not hiding. The OF said he likes and enjoys people but doesn’t want them living on top of him. The OF said now there are 40 houses around him.

“You can’t stop progress — just like the robo-machines that do the work so we don’t have to.” an OF said.

The OFs who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and want to stop the world so they can get off, were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Kenny Parks, Rev. Jay Francis, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazzo, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

The Old Men of the Mountain met on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow. The OMOTM had a first-hand look at the damage done to Pop’s Place by the idiots that used the restaurant for target practice.

This incident was of course the major topic of conversation as all the OFs arrived in the morning. None of the OFs could understand why anyone would do something like this. They must have been high on alcohol or drugs, and to think these people that do such stupid things can legally carry guns. That is scary. One OF mentioned it is the occasional nut case that makes it hard for the rest of us that enjoy hunting, or sport shooting.

One OF said, “A lot of people do not think shooting is a sport. Boy, would I like to challenge them to a taste of sport shooting. It is the same as golf except in golf you are trying to hit a little white ball in a cup.  The goal in sport shooting is to send a bullet through a bullseye, or hit a flying object with shot or a slug instead of a bat.”

Further research shows that the clay pigeon is traveling around 60 miles per hour, a shotgun slug is traveling about 1,100 miles per hour, and birdshot travels about 800 miles per hour. Everything starts in an instant so try making the projectile and the clay pigeon meet.

The sport is no different than any other sport; it requires skill, concentration, effort, and practice. The OMOTM did not have any turkey which they personally shot.

9/11 changed travel

With Thanksgiving behind us and the “holidays” coming up, the OF talked about families getting together and traveling to get there, or here, whichever the case may be, by air. The OFs compared pre-9/11 to post-9/11 travel and how much flying has changed.

One OF said it used to fun to plan and go to the airport and just breeze through and sometimes running to catch a plane. Now it is really, really different, and it isn’t fun anymore. Another OF said he feels like he is some sort of criminal, and would much rather drive than fly.

Still another OF said that he was on a business trip to Michigan years ago when metal detectors were first introduced at airports. The OF said he had on his safety shoes. Safety shoes had a metal cup over the toes that would protect a worker’s feet from industrial accidents.

At this time, it was not necessary to remove your shoes when you were flying somewhere. To compound the issue, the OF and his boss were making a connection at O’Hare in Chicago and were late for the connection.

The metal detector kept dinging, and the OF kept going through.  Finally the guard (at that time because there was no TSA) said, “To H--- with it, go on.”  Ah, it was a different time.

A Kodak moment

As we have mentioned the OMOTM is loaded with OM. Tuesday morning, the oldest OMOTM (in his nineties) showed up at the door of Pop’s Place and was struggling with the door.

In the restaurant already seated was the second oldest OMOTM and he was facing the door and saw the oldest one struggle to get in with his cane, so the second oldest got up, went and helped the oldest through the door. A Kodak moment but it happened in just a few seconds; no time to retrieve the camera and take a shot.

Stents galore

There was a discussion that is frequent among the OFs and that is on medicine and the newer medical procedures. The OF who made this report was a recipient of this new technology.

The OF has had leg problems for a while and the pain in one leg was becoming very bad. The doctors did some tests and found that the blood was not flowing through the leg. They did some more tests and located where the blood was being stopped.

They then inserted a stent into where the stricture was and the OF said he watched the whole thing. The OF claimed he was in and out the same day, and the leg is fine — no pain.

The OFs seemed to agree the doctors are sticking these stents in all over the place. One OF said, “The doctors can stick one in my brain if it would make me any smarter.”

To which another OF said, “To make you any smarter they would have to stick it in your butt.”

OFs can run but can’t hide

One of the OFs who is in frequent contract with an OF who winters in the South reported that this OF woke up one morning and had a six- or seven-foot alligator on his back porch. Then another OF mentioned that recently in the news there was a report on how one guy (with help) got away from an alligator but not before the alligator grabbed him by the leg.

So another OF said, “Is that any different than finding a bear on your back porch up here, or finding one prowling around the backyard?

To this OF it is the same situation only a different critter. The OF said he wouldn’t want to mess with either one of them.

Take snakes. We have our copperheads, and rattlers; they have their coral and boas, and a few others.  The OF said again, let those suckers be — whether here or there.

The Old Men of the Mountain have the following as part of their philosophy — they can run but can’t hide. There is something out there that’ll getcha no matter where you are — animal, bug, or the weather.

The OMOTM who espouse this philosophy and were at Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow were: Roger Chapman, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

My goodness, this is getting ridiculous! This past Tuesday morning, Nov. 27, the Old Men of the Mountain had to drive through inches of wet snow, and very slippery roads to get to the Home Front Café in Altamont.

For those going over the Hill, and those who live on the Hill, it was not pleasant. The OFs know the sun is up there but the OFs haven’t seen it in so long that, when it does show up, the OFs’ old eyes won’t be able to take it.

The OFs discussed how many new homes pop up. The comment is that the OFs will drive down the road one day, and 10 days later the OF is driving down the same road and there is a brand-new home, with a car in the garage and lights on.

One OF said these are not the typical box houses we used to see go up quickly but these are good-sized and with character. Technology is even helping the ready-made home industry build a better product, faster.

This scribe, as usual, checked some of these homes out on the net and found that there are a lot out there and they are really nice homes. What this scribe checked were all to code, and nice upgrades. With some, a lot of decisions are left to the owners/builders if they want special items in the kitchen, and garage, stuff like that.

Hoarding or keepsake saving?

Some of the OFs began to think they have developed into hoarders as they get older because they seem to have accrued many items that the OFs don’t know why they have them, where they came from, and now they have no use for them.

One OF mentioned we should consider how old we are and how much time we have had to collect this stuff. Another OF said much of their accumulation of what is now clutter are gifts from their kids and friends and they hate to part with them. The OF added that some possessions go as far back as when the kids were in the first grade and now we just can’t bring ourselves to take this special artwork to the dump.

Another OF said it isn’t hoarding — it is keepsake saving.

So a second OG said, “What will your kids do with these so-called mementos when you kick the bucket? Ha! They will haul them to the dump.

Another OF said he doesn’t think so. The OF said his kids are into the DNA ancestry craze and they will probably frame some of the inherited “stuff.”

Still another OF suggested that the OFs who get calls and gifts from their kids, no matter how odd, should be delighted because there are OFs who have kids that take off as soon as they can and the OFs rarely hear from them. This is another way to look at the hoarding situation, so the OFs should hold on to the mementos from friends and their kids.

“What the heck,” the OF said. “Let them deal with it in the end.”

Some laws are just pet peeves

The OFs got a lesson on boat-building at this morning’s breakfast. This came about by the recent article in the Albany Times Union comparing the limo accident in Schoharie in October with the tour-boat accident on Lake George two years ago.

One OF who knows a little bit about boat-building said the alterations that had been made on that boat were so bad the boat was just looking for an accident to happen. “Number one,” the OF said, “was the raising of the seats above the waterline which immediately made the boat unstable and was against code.”

None of the OFs knew exactly what he was talking about (and still don’t) but the way the OF described it, it sure made a lot of sense. An OF suggested that many people try to cheat the system with most getting away with it.

Then one OF said some of the rules and regulations make no sense at all; some of them even sound like one or two people had a pet peeve about something in particular, and they have enough pull to have a law passed just to satisfy their pet peeve.

“Yeah,” another OF said, “then the poor cops have to enforce some of the rinky-dink laws that they know make no sense, or are just there to line the pockets of a particular manufacturer that managed to have a law passed that satisfies only them.”

Honest OFs

This was an unusual breakfast with some of the conversations that came up. These conversations included honesty in the workplace while the OFs were working, especially those OFs who traveled for the companies they worked for.

This excluded some of the OFs because they were self-employed, or were farmers, but they had to deal with hay dealers, horse and cow traders, and these people at times had some tough reputations.

The OFs who traveled on expense accounts found that many of the people that they were traveling with knew how to manage an expense account to their advantage. According to the OFs, the OMOTM returned money on the account because there was no way the OFs could use it all. The OFs talking about this said it took awhile for them to figure out that might be the reason they were sent to all these training sessions, conferences, and conventions.

Those OFs who made it to the Home Front Café In Altamont but were definitely not on expense accounts were: Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

It was Nov. 20, 2018, when the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, and the weather did it to the OMOTM again! It was miserable.

Six to six-thirty in the morning, snowing, roads slushy and slick, a thin mist in the air and the OFs are out in this wretched chaos. Like one OMOTM said when he showed up, “You know we are Northeasterners and tough because we keep showing up for breakfast just to be with you guys after driving 23 miles in this stuff.”

(This reminds the scribe of something his 92-year-old mother told him, “You gotta be tough to get old!”) This is true.

Hair-raising talk

How this next banter started, this scribe does not know, but the OFs spent considerable time speaking about (this is true) hair. Their own hair (who had it and who didn’t), who cared about their hair, and who could care less if they had hair or not.

One OF (who still has hair to make some envious) said he was about due for a haircut, and he was. His hair was growing down around his ears, and this OF wears hearing aids, which doesn’t mean much because most of the OFs also wear hearing aids, but some of the OFs thought that hair over the ears, would seem to negate the hearing aids. (This outfit is beginning to sound like ladies at the local beauty parlor.)

Hear! Hear!

That prompted the discussion to jump to the wearing of hearing aids by so many of the OFs. Now this has been covered many times, but this time one OF said, “We all wear these darn things, and we are still hard of hearing.” (Basically, he was right.)

Instead of the “Amen”s that a few would utter after a profound statement, or sometimes the chorus would be huzzah, huzzah, the ending of this conversation was Hear! Hear!

Excess of exes

Then a new subject arose from nowhere again, or maybe this scribe missed what the intro was, but the new subject was on ex-wives.

The OFs started telling stories on how ex-wives (according to these OFs) took them to the cleaners. It seems that the OFs didn’t care; the OFs were glad to get rid of them.

These stories led to other stories of others that were in the same boat, and the OFs started naming names. Just listening to these reports this scribe said to himself, “Hey there has to be good book here someplace.”

This scribe also thinks these stories, though funny now, were not so funny at the time, and the stories will be placed into the file of stories for the OMOTM’s ears only and that file is quite thick, almost ready for another folder.

Pop’s Place shot up

On the news Monday night and Tuesday morning was the shooting up of one of the restaurants the OMOTM have in the wheel of restaurants they frequent. This is Pop’s Place in Preston Hollow.

The OFs only know what they hear on the news and read in the paper of what happened. The OFs can’t understand why anyone would do this. What for, what purpose does it serve?

“Now to shoot up a restaurant,” the OFs said, “what if it were a Tuesday morning and we were all in the place?”

The OFs don’t know if the police will catch these idiots or not but we hope they do. “Then take their guns and hunting licenses from them — if they even have licenses,” one OF added.

“Nah,” another OF said, “Whoever did this was just being stupid.” This OF thought that the ones that committed this offense should pay for the repairs, and be required to eat at the restaurant twice a week for a year, even if they live a hundred miles away. Then they would realize how much work the small entrepreneurs put into their businesses for darn little money.

Many ways to celebrate Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, the OFs discussed this time of family and food but the discussion of thanks never entered into the conversation. We did, however, discuss the ways many of the OFs celebrate the holiday.

Some will go out and eat at a nice restaurant, especially those who have family spread all over the country. Some have all their family gather at their home, and that has now become a tradition.

Like most families that become large, the young ones run the family like a committee and each family is assigned what to bring to these events, just like a church supper. Mom and Dad, Grandpa, and Grandma have to make sure the house is clean, and the spare bedrooms are ready.

Then there are a few OFs whose tradition it is to go and volunteer at the big meals prepared for the less fortunate. There are also the OFs who at their ages now travel to whoever is having the family — these OFs are beyond all the work that is involved.

They will bring their assigned dish or dishes but, as one OF put it, “We even have someone come and chauffeur us which is great.”

However it is done, the microcosm which is the Old Men of the Mountain covers how most people spend the holidays. There may be some Humbugs out there but the OMOTM say let them Humbug all they want — the OFs don’t care.

This scribe, as he finished this little report, said to himself that, though thanks was never mentioned, it sure was expressed by actions and unspoken thoughts, of these Old Men of the Mountain who were at the Chuck Wagon in Princetown, and who did a lot of thinking were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Rev. Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

When the Old Men of the Mountain arrived at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, it was wet snow and fog on Tuesday, Nov. 13. This caused some of the OFs to ask if this scribe has kept track of the weather on Tuesdays, and how many have been miserable.

In fact, this scribe does keep a sloppy journal and the first note in the journal is the morning weather. When the scribe arrives in the kitchen and looks out the kitchen window, the scribe makes a note, then the scribe looks at the weather on the atomic clock and notes both in the journal. Upon hearing the OFs comment of the weather on Tuesday mornings, it prompted this scribe to go back and check.

What this scribe found out going back just seven weeks in his journal there was only one Tuesday out of the seven that the weather was a limited OK; for all the others, “completely miserable” is the best term for early in the morning.

This Tuesday morning, one OF mentioned how he drove Route 88 behind a tractor trailer because the road was slushy snow and the truck’s wide tires were clearing it down to the pavement so there the OMOTM stayed, driving on just wet pavement.

The OF said the truck was also cruising right along at about 65 to 68 miles per hour, and still in the fog and slush vehicles were passing them like they were standing still but at least on Route 88 the driver does not have to worry about oncoming traffic.

Food lures help?

One OF said he had some work to do and was looking for some help. It was not difficult work; it was just stacking wood. (Here we go with the wood thing again.)

The OF he couldn’t get anyone to come help. One OF said the way to do that is to offer free food. That way, the OF said, he would have tons of help.

The OF said he tried that and quite a few guys did show up and he had coffee and doughnuts ready for them. He said they hung around, shot the bull, ate all his doughnuts, drank all the coffee, and went home.

Not a stick of wood was chucked. So that idea doesn’t work. Then one OF said the only thing left is to add beer to list and don’t bring that out until all the wood is stacked. All you did was take a good idea and poorly implement it; try again.

Go-to guys

The OMOTM have a lot of go-to guys if you have a problem with this or that. One of these guys has acquired a rather large piece of equipment to go with his other pieces of equipment.

One OF said he had use for something like what the OF had just obtained. The OF said he would show him how to run it but he wasn’t about to do the work.

Then the OF at that end of the table thought this OF should have an excavating school. This way, the OFs could rent, or borrow the equipment (borrow here is a term for barter) and know how to run it to get the job done.

The OFs with all these special talents and tools could make a rate schedule of their talents to pass around. Then one OF said the first price should be zero; the OF would just pay for fuel when it is a piece of equipment and take the owner out to dinner, and not Burger King.

Lawn art to teach a lesson

An OF took the suggestion of lawn art one step further and is planning such a piece of sculptor with a car and a pickup truck, but he is going to take old clothes and stuff them with hay, and put a cap on a soccer ball for one of them and hang the hay figures out some of the windows on the vehicles.

He is going to title it “Don’t Drink and Drive.” Cool idea, some of the other OFs thought.

Drone discourse

The OFs talked about the recent passing of the Google plane to record the topography of at least the Capital District. They mentioned how the graphics are so much better.

The plane must have been covering the area around August 2018 by what the OFs noticed. This led to a discussion on drones and how sophisticated they have become with cameras attached and how cheap the drones are now.

One OF said he was sitting at his kitchen table and this thing went flying by his window and he had no idea what it was. Then it came back and went by again.

He said he was ready to get the shotgun and blast it out of the sky. He did go outside to see what was going on and it was his grandson playing with a new toy.

They are quite the thing, but one OF said, once it is flown 10 times, won’t the novelty wear off and it is just another thing to take up space in the closet.

A few of the OFs said they thought drones were great for businesses like surveyors, real-estate people, contractors, people like that, and law enforcement.

Again, we heard stories that raise the eyebrows. One OF said that a group was flying a drone over at Warners Lake, and one of the eagles over there came down and grabbed that thing out of the air and took it someplace — maybe to its nest; the OF didn’t know.

Maybe the eagle thought it was something invading its territory. Could be but it is a, hmmmm.

Those OFs who made it through the slush, fog, drizzle, and darkness to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg just to have bacon and eggs were: Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Shafer, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Rev. Jay Francis, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Guest, and me.

Location:

This little report of the Old Men of the Mountain has been hitting the printed page for about 23 or so years, and every Tuesday of those 23 or so years the Old Men of the Mountain have met at one restaurant or another. This Tuesday was no different; so on Tuesday, Nov. 6, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie.

This scribe does not know about other hearing-aid wearers (or should that be other people who wear hearing aids) but this scribe and other OMOTM who wear them say the same thing: Hearing aids do not work well in a crowded or noisy restaurant.

This Tuesday, the scribe forgot his and actually heard better than if he had worn them. This scribe thinks leaving them on the kitchen table may become a routine because, when they are in the ears, while driving to the eating place, all the scribe hears is the car engine and road noise, and very little conversation going on in the vehicle.

With them out of the ears, the scribe hears more of the conversation and says “what” when he can’t make it out and it is repeated more loudly. This works well.

Wood talk rekindled

Separated by a week, the wood conversation continued, only this time it was on pellet stoves, how they work, and what they cost, and deals that are out there. In essence, with these stoves, the OFs are still burning wood.

It is like a printer who gets ink in his veins, as does a writer who gets words in his brains. Wood-burners get wood in their veins, and smoke in their nostrils. If the house catches on fire, does a wood-burning aficionado think it is a natural smell and pays no attention to it? Hmm.

Cash conundrum

Next the OFs started talking about money, and who has it. The OFs looked up and down the table and arrived at the conclusion that none of them have any.

Then they started talking about 1,000-dollar bills, and one OF said you can’t get one anymore. That OF is right. The government stopped printing any bills higher than $100 in 1969. If you are lucky enough to have a few 1,000-dollar bills hanging around they will still be honored by the bank.

One OF who is in business for himself required a good sum of money to make a purchase on a large piece of equipment in a cash-only deal at an auction. This OF went to the bank and the OF said the request was for 10 grand in cash.

The OF claimed the bank could only scrape up 54 hundred bucks. The OFs all looked at the OF, telling the story like this is a bunch of hooey, but the OF insisted it was factual.

The grass is greener

Now that it is early November and the grass in the geography the OFs travel is greener than springtime, the OFs started talking about still having to mow the lawn, even though many have winterized their mowers. However, some of the OFs say, to heck with it.

One stated, “I am not mowing the lawn while everything is so wet; let it grow!”

Another added he doesn’t want to mow the lawn in a mackinaw and mukluks. “Amen to that one,” was the general reply.

This brought up (for some reason) lawn tractors that die in the middle of a mow. The OFs say they go by many homes where the old lawn mower sits in the yard right where it quit and grass is growing up around it. The owner has purchased a new one and just mows around the old one and there it sits.

Ah! Lawn Art!

One OF said, “Hey it is Lawn Art. Stick a potted plant on the seat and give it a title and there you go.  Heck, we have lots of OFs that have good examples of Lawn Art. Some by accident, and some by design. If you get a couple of junk cars, put some flowers on the roof, and vines around the bumper — bingo! There’s your Lawn Art.”

The OF continued, “If you have to replace the john, take the old one and put it alongside the driveway, stick a pole in the tank, and a sign on it with your name and house number — voila!  There it sits, a clever icon for your home that is not going to blow over.”

The OF continued with lots of what we consider junk and how he could turn it into Lawn Art with just a little imagination, time, and very little money.

If you have two junk cars, put them on the front lawn, front end to front end, and jack up the back a couple of feet. Then hide some speakers inside one or the other vehicle, go purchase a sound-effect CD of crashes and explosion and have a ball — Ah! Lawn Art!

“With Christmas coming up,” this OF said, “look at the possibilities with the lights or old Christmas trees.”

The OF thought maybe we could use an old top-loading washer. Take a motor, some plywood, and any cheap thing to use as a couple of rods. Put a two-foot lighted tree in it and have the lid push up, and have the tree rise up at the same time and then go back down like a jack-in-the-box.

Of course, it would need Christmas music coming out of it. The OF thought that would be slick. Ah, Lawn Art.

Another OF came up with having two johns do the same thing with Santa hats on the tops, the lids going up and down with music playing. Why, three in a row could be choir. Ah, Lawn Art.

Those OFs who made it to the Your Way Café in Schoharie, and are going home to search for Lawn Art were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Rev, Jay Francis, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mine Willsey, Winnie Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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The breakfast was on Tuesday, Oct. 30, one week before Election Day. Thank goodness! Election Day can’t come soon enough.

Those OMOTM who watch the news are so sick of the political ads they are ready to shoot the TV, or just give up watching it altogether until the election is over. Many of the OFs who have digital video recorders have recorded the shows they like and they will watch them later and skip the ads.

One OF said he thought it was a concentrated effort from all parties to keep the vote down so they can control the voting. This way, only the party faithful will go to the polls.

The OF is so disgusted by all of these ads he said, “How can we trust any of them?”

This OF said he just can’t vote for any of the people running for office because these ads are so intruding, unnecessary, and vulgar. How can their family and friends put up with these ads? Why would any decent person want to run for office?

After the venting settled down, at least we can report that Tuesday morning all who showed up at the Country Café in Schoharie (the waitress was nice enough to open up before the opening time and at least get the coffee going) did so without getting lost by road closures, or fog.

Christmas catalogs cause confusion

This time of year, the OFs are getting tons of catalogs that have (most of the time) mostly useless items in them and all the items seems to be priced at $14.99. Every now and then, one of the items will have a different or cute twist to it that just fills the bill for someone on the Christmas list and orders are made. This is all it takes to continue the flow of these catalogs.

A few of the OFs had the same experience and got snookered into a legitimate scheme used by the catalog companies to get the unsuspecting OF ordering into a “Free Shipping” program. Most of the time (this scribe heard), it was the wife doing the ordering. The OFs themselves think that these catalogs are comic books and they just look at them and emit the occasional chuckle from time to time.

Almost all these catalogs have a shipping trap in their order form and some of the OFs have been caught in that. One form to order so much in dollars, and that dollar amount is not much, so it is easy to get to it, then they will ship free when the box for free shipping is checked. That is a big whoop.

The OF found a charge on his credit card from a certain company and he had no idea what it was for. In checking with his credit-card company they researched it and found it was a shipping company from a catalog and the OF had signed up for that company to pay the shipping.

The charge would come every month and the shipping from that catalog would be free. “Say what!” That offer was killed in a hurry by the OF.

The other OF had his problem hidden in the order form (off in a corner space) and it offered basically the same thing. If you order so many dollars in merchandise, you receive free shipping.

However, this form said, if you do not want the free shipping, check the box. That is clever. Sure you want the free shipping — so the OF said to himself, why check the box? Then the same thing happened.  

The OF had this charge from some company he did not know, but the charge was small and he thought his wife bought something, so he paid it. The next month, the same company and the same charge so then the OF called the credit-card company.

Same scenario as above and, as the conversation went on, the OFs found out the amount being charged was the same in all cases. As one OF said, “It is always buyer beware.’”

Ahoy!

The Pirate Ship was again a short topic of discussion as it is now in the water. The OF has the ship decorated for Halloween with life-sized skeletons waving to the passers-by with knives and swords in their hands.

This thing is getting to look more like the Flying Dutchman from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Best of times

The OFs — at one section of the table — jumped off the Hill for awhile and talked about what the small towns of Central Bridge and Howes Cave in Schoharie County were like in the late forties to the early seventies. They were much different than they are now.

North American Cement was thriving big-time, and supporting smaller little businesses that were around the area from Cobleskill to Schoharie and Middleburgh. Even Albany and Schenectady shared in what was required to keep the plant running.

Central Bridge had tons of businesses: a hardware store, a lumber and coal yard, a good-size grain mill, a hardware and fuel-oil company, a car dealership, an engine-reconditioning plant, and assorted stores. Since the demise of the cement plant, most all is gone now.

The OFs still think they lived in the best of times; however, these OFs will pass on and other OFs will take over and those OFs will think they lived in the best of times.

The OFs who think they lived in the best of times may be right as they are still able to make it to the Country Café in Schoharie and some were waiting at the door like cows waiting at the gate to go to the barn. Finally, the farmer’s daughter came and let them through, and these OFs were: Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Wayne Gaul, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Kenny Parks, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Tuesday — and the month of October is almost gone because it was the 23rd of the month when the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Family Restaurant in the center of the town of Middleburgh.

It is fun and encouraging to see the OMOTM filter into each restaurant and see they are still OK and ambulatory. The early morning chatter was on the subject of the morning entrances because we have a couple of OFs who are not able to make it. Concerns for these regulars who are having a tough time was deep and heartfelt.

Here it is October, and the OFs haven’t even had a chance to go trick-or-treating (using their own ugly faces as masks) nor have they even had a chance to put out the Thanksgiving decorations and they were talking about Christmas. This scribe feels it is Madison Avenue brainwashing and what brains the OFs have left fall right into it, including this scribe’s.

Many of the OFs are giving up traditions that used to be looked forward to with happy anticipation. Now it all seems like work.

One of these “traditions” was burning wood. Some of the OFs are chucking it in and are not going to burn wood any more. A few of the “younger OFs” who have wood lots are still going to heat with this renewable fuel source.

Of course they would; except for the time, fuel, and equipment, it is free. (English: a simple, but confusing language. For instance “Would wood be the answer to build those shelves?” is just one such English example.) The cost of a cord of wood today is another reason the OFs named for giving up heating with wood.

According to the OFs in this discussion, a cord of wood is about the equivalent of 100 gallons of fuel oil. A cord of wood today, according again to the OFs, is from $300 a full cord to $240 or $270 a full cord.

Now, one OF said, it is approaching, and in some cases exceeding, the price of fuel oil and with fuel oil the supplier pumps it in the tank, and the furnace burns it. All the OF has to do is change the filter every now and then.

“Look at what I have to do to burn wood,” the OF continued. “I have to stack it, store it, haul it in, put it in the stove, burn it, haul out ashes, make sure they are dumped in a safe place, and clean the chimney every now and then. The glamour is gone,” the OF said.

Trees fade away

Now comes Christmas and the Christmas tree! Here too, the OFs said, the kids are gone, and there are still the grandkids, but with many of the OFs, the grandkids are ready to be parents themselves, and some are.

This leads to the demise of going out and getting a tree. Taking the kids out in the snow to cut a live tree was an integral part of Christmas.

Later on, putting up the big seven-foot artificial tree (after the kids left home) was the next step. That, too, became a lot of work, and just finding a place to store the big tree was another hassle.

Some missed the nostalgic feeling of the tree, real or not, and hanging all the ornaments, but it finally broke down to all the work involved in hauling all these ornaments out of the attic or basement, and putting them away.

One OF thought this was part of the fun and they really decorated the tree and the house for Christmas. Then, the OF said, after the kids moved all over the country, they cut way back on their decorating.

However, the OFs said, they still get the urge, and still have most of the stuff. But this OF said he is ready to join the others with the three- to four-foot table trees. Only a few of the OFs said they have no tree at all now. It is quite a tradition, and business, too, for that matter, that the Germans started years ago.

Winning ways

The huge lotteries out there right now were a lively topic the OFs discussed. “What would you do?” the OFs asked each other, “if you won all that money?”

The OFs basically had no idea. Most said they would spread it around the family, and donate it to their favorite charities, or church.

Some of the OFs had their own lottery-winning stories. One OF said that a friend of theirs from high school days moved away and became quite wealthy on their own. They won a big lottery, in the millions, and, before even accepting it when, the taxes could be taken out, winnings were immediately donated —  half to a hospital where they worked, and half to some charity (the OF forgot which one).

Because they never accepted the winnings and all the money went to charities, the state was not able to tax it, the friend said. This OF doesn’t know if it was maintained or not, or if the state was able to wrangle their paws around what they say is their share.

The OF said he never followed up on that point. It would be interesting, now that the OFs were talking about lotteries, to see how that would work in New York, or if any state would have in place a sneaky little law or rule just to cover this to make sure the state got its chunk of the pie.

Of all the OFs at one end of the table who discussed the lottery, none of them said they would share it with the Old Men of the Mountain, and all OMOTM who attended the breakfast at Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Roger Shafer, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Duncan Bellinger, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazzo, Harold Grippen, and me.

By the way, this year, everyone is the same age. Take the year you were born, add your age and the answer is 2018. Try it with any age 75, 25, or 5 years old. 1932 plus 86 = 2018.

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A beautifully restored 1933 M.G., like this one, was a standout at a huge car show recently attended by some of The Old Men of the Mountain.

Finally! A Tuesday when it wasn’t foggy, with rain or drizzle, hampering the drive to whatever restaurant was on the list for Tuesday.

This past Tuesday, it happened to be the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and still a couple of carloads of Old Men of the Mountain were left wandering around the hills because of unexpected detours, twisting the OMOTM around. As one OF put it, it is election time and some the roads are being fixed or at least patched.

At Tuesday morning’s breakfast, some of the OFs reported on a boat trip they made up the Hudson River from Coxsackie to Albany on one of the OF’s boats. From their report, the weather was perfect and a great day for boating.

This was rare; the OFs said we have not had many of these lately. The captain of this crew said one of the OFs took the trip for just what it was supposed to be. He sprawled out on the back seat and took the whole seat up for the entire trip.

He did perk up when they were passing a huge beautiful yacht. The OFs had quite a time reporting on how large this yacht was; the OFs said it was painted gold.

It was also, according to these OFs, decorated in the Art Deco style, and was being piloted by a couple who apparently considered clothes optional. It was that aspect that perked up the old gent in the back seat.

The captain reported he was unable to partake in this short show because at the time they were passing the yacht there was a tug boat approaching and he had to navigate the waters with the swells from these larger boats, and he was trying hard not to run into either one of them.

When cars and phones were simpler

This gets so redundant but, with a bunch of OFs, it is to be expected. Again, some of the OFs attended a huge car show in Pennsylvania.

And to these OFs the hit of the show was a 1933 M.G. This was beautifully a restored vehicle. To the OFs, one would think it would be something more upscale that caught their eye.

One OF said that when he was younger — much younger — sports cars were his thing, The OF said that he went through the ranks and graduated to a Jaguar XK 120 CM (coupe modified), which is a vehicle he should have kept, but being young, “What did I know?” the OF asked. That car could be his retirement today.

Another OF said we all have cars we would like to get back. The new ones may be nice, but they don’t seem to have any character. Another OF brought up that he thinks that goes for just plain older folks — not only for vehicles but other items also.

Then one old goat said, “Don’t go into the past” because he likes things the way they are now.

Some thought the OG may be right in a way because, when we were in our forties, we would always show up at the dealerships and see what the newest vehicles were and what they could do differently, etc. However, somewhere along the line things changed and the new didn’t seem that new or interesting. Then it got out of hand and we wanted the vehicle we had in the 1950s.

Another example cited was the old-fashioned rotary phone. They were easy to understand. Just insert your index finger in the hole on the dial and twist — that was it. It wasn’t necessary to go to school to learn how to use your phone.

Dealing with critters and crickets

The OFs began talking about the amount of small critters we have this fall like field mice, chipmunks, squirrels, and assorted other beetles and bugs that want to get into the house to keep warm this time of year.

One OF told of a nest of chipmunks he had in his place and, after a little patience and pest-detective work, he found where they were getting in and he plugged up the hole with a piece of tin. That, the OF said, worked for a little while, then he heard them again in the same spot where they must have returned to the nest.

This time, through the same detective work, he found they worked their way up through the cellar. It was suggested he get some live traps and haul those suckers away.

One OF suggested rat traps. Another, who spoke from experience, said the chipmunks just haul those things away and then they die someplace and smell like a dead rat.

A second OF said, “What do you do with them after you trap them in a live trap?”

The other retorted, “I’ll haul them to your place — you have 20 acres.”

“Yeah right,” the second OF said. “You start pulling that stunt and I’ll trap skunks and bring them to you.”

Oh, the comradery of this group called the OMOTM.

It went from this to trying to locate a cricket in the house, and the OFs mentioned how much damage those bugs can do once they get in. A couple of OFs agreed, but this is one of the insects the OFs said they have not seen much of lately.

A cricket in the house can be a tough one to locate even though they advertise quite loudly where they are. One OF thought they were ventriloquists, because when they announce where they are, they show up someplace else.

Grasshoppers were another creepy-crawly that an OF said he thinks are on the decline because he has not noticed many.

Those OFs who are planning on being the mighty great hunters of mice, chipmunks, and crickets and who made it to the Middleburgh Diner were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Rev. Jay Francis, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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