This should be an interesting week for the Old Men of the Mountain. On May 3, 2003, the iconic rock ledge near Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, fondly known as the Old Man of the Mountain, crumbled and tumbled down to the base of the mountain. This rock face was used to promote New Hampshire from as early as 1850. This scribe and his wife, on one of their many trips to the coast of New England, made the journey to see this out cropping and it was impressive and very well defined.

When New Hampshire used the image of the Old Man of the Mountain as its choice to put on the ninth state quarter in the 50 State Quarters program in September 2000, one of our OMOTM, Mike Willsey, purchased enough of those quarters for all the OMOTM and then some.

Mike soldered or glued pins (used for jewelry) on the back of each quarter (the back being the side of the quarter that did not have the image of the Old Man of the Mountain on it) and gave one to each OF. Most of the OMOTM pinned Mike’s gift to their OMOTM caps and wore them proudly.

The Old Man of the Mountain is now just a pile of rubble at the base of the mountain. The Old Men of the Mountain hope they wind up more than that, but that pile of rubble has had quite a history, and even a short story written about it by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

This scribe, because he was reminiscing on the quarter handouts by Mike, brought on by the anniversary of the collapse of the Old Man of the Mountain 17 years ago in May, called a very good friend of his that was brought up in New Hampshire, just about at the base of this ledge formation.

This fellow said that even the Indians had legends of the outcrop. He also said that his brother worked for the state and with the crew that maintained this rock feature in the summertime. One of the problems they had was with the people themselves that came to view the profile.

To maintain the Old Man the workers had a path, which they made on a back road, to get to the top of the mountain in which they hauled themselves and equipment up to do the work. The visitors eventually found this path and would go up there and party and leave all their trash behind. It was not a park but the people made a mess and left it, and the state had to go and clean it almost daily.

The scribe’s friend also said that at the base of the mountain was a lake called Profile Lake, and people were allowed to fly fish in this lake, and the lake was stocked.

This is the same problem the OMOTM that work on the Long Path have with Vroman’s nose in Middleburgh. Vroman’s Nose is a prominent geological feature in the town of Fulton (near Middleburgh), in Schoharie County. People climb to the top and leave their rubbish.

The plateau on the top of Vroman’s Nose is kind of a park and when college is in session in Cobleskill the trash is substantial. Sometimes the benches even get thrown over the cliff, and there has been evidence of some pretty good-sized fires started on this highland. The OMOTM go up there and clean it up.

No worst food

The reminiscing continues on another subject. At one time, the OFs began a conversation of foods they did not like. This was a selective category with no real winner.

Beets were mentioned but quickly voted down by other OFs who like their beets, cooked or not, pickled or not, soaked in vinegar with onions or not, tossed in with cucumbers and onions or not. Cukes themselves were mentioned, but they too lost out; so did broccoli. One OF mentioned pineapple, but this OF was told that was a fruit and didn’t count.

Another OF said he didn’t like cheese sauces thrown on everything. “If I order string beans, I want string beans, not string beans covered in some awful tasting, rich cheese sauce dribbled all over the beans so there is no taste resembling string beans,” he said.

The OF continued, “As a matter of fact, when the dang cheese is dribbled on the beans it spreads on everything on the plate. The whole plate tastes like the sauce, so why order the food, just order the sauce!”

One OF brought up rutabagas and that was shot down also. Surprisingly, more than one OF had rutabagas and potatoes mixed together by their moms, and they all said they miss that dish. Slosh some real butter over and chow down, was the universal decision. One other OF said that he sprinkled brown sugar along with the butter and it was almost like dessert.

It is a good thing that people have different palates or eating would be quite boring. I need to practice social distancing from — the refrigerator. Half of us are going to come out of this quarantine as amazing cooks. The other half will come out with a drinking problem.

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As usual, these are a few notes from the Old Men of the Mountain who email or who this scribe speaks to over the phone. From those spoken to, they are beyond bored. The lack of socializing is getting to all of them.

There is some “social distancing” but the freedom of going to anyplace at anytime is a freedom that is not allowed now. Even the routine of grocery shopping is now a planned event.

The OMOTM miss the weekly breakfast, they miss church and the events the churches hold, lodge gatherings and all their events, seniors lunches with bus trips and their other experiences. The OFs with their hobbies and outside interests that hold weekly or monthly meetings and again have planned events, like car clubs, antique clubs, vegetable and flower gardening clubs, and military associations are sorely missed. The list goes on and on.

Then there is just going out to eat, meeting friends at the restaurants, and being unable to do that now because most restaurants are closed. The OGs miss traveling to family and friends that may be just a couple of hundred miles away and seeing the grandkids, or just plain old socializing.

The OFs spoken to are tired of regular TV, but there is a resurgence of the old cartoons and to the OFs it is like seeing them for the first time. Bugs Bunny is the new superstar.

The OMOTM have a problem adjusting to, and don’t think they ever will, these “shows?” called virtual TV, and communications, and they can’t quite dig fan-less sports. One OF complained he is too old to fiddle with this; however, maybe it will become normal for the younger crowd.

This scribe has a narrow selection of OFs to base opinions on but when a call comes in from a different OF, that OF seems to reiterate what the others have said.

Nursing homes

The ones who call say they hope they have been nice enough to their kids because a common remark is to be nice to them since they are going to pick out your nursing home. The OFs say this is one place no one wants to be, and they ask how the virus knows to go where it is full of easy pickings.

If the nursing homes are using disinfectants to clean with and watching the food coming in and checking each employee, how is the virus getting through the defenses?

This scribe thinks this virus needs a unified worldwide three-pronged approach. One for a cure, two for a vaccine so we don’t get it, and three to find out where the heck it came from and destroy it.

If this virus comes from where this scribe’s wife says it comes from, destroying it will be kind of tough. She thinks it comes from extraterrestrial life, which the dictionary says is of or from outside the Earth or its atmosphere.

Grooming

Back to the self-style quarantine type of living and how beauty salons, or barber shops still have to remain closed. As the OFs have mentioned before, their hair is really getting long and scraggly. If it gets much worse, one OF and this scribe began a scenario conversation on grooming.

The OF and this scribe do not have much hair on top but still enough to grow; the edges are over our ears, and the back is down our necks. Pretty soon the OFs will fit the characters of the Hatfields and the McCoys, or Li’l Abner, who are all like real OFs.

All the OFs will need to do is put on their bibs (OF-speak for their bib overalls), take the musket off the wall, go and sit in the chair on the porch with the dawg, and wait for them revenuers. That is about all we can do. The OFs can’t go down to the store and whittle — tain’t allowed no more.

Home brew

Speaking of revenuers, the scribe can remember way back when in the hills of Schoharie County (and a couple in the hills of Albany) there were stills cranking out home brew. A few may have been for profit but most just for kicks and giggles.

Traveling the short distance on Route 443 from Berne to Schoharie, it was common to see smoke from the stills drifting into the air. But then it wasn’t bibs and bandanas, it was tight jeans neatly folded at the shoe tops, with T-shirts and a pack of Camels or Pall Malls rolled up in the shirt sleeves, and duck-tail haircuts.

That was the dress for the still runners in the OFs’ younger days. On Saturday nights, they would grab their instruments and lightbulbs and head to Lasalle Park in Schoharie. There they would play, dance, sing, and check out who had the best ’shine. Oddly enough, the most drinking was store-bought beer.

At that time, the jail and the sheriff’s office were in back of the Parrott House, and Lasalle Park was further up the hill in back of the jail and sheriff’s office. When the weather was right, these places were within shouting distance of each other.

This scribe cannot remember a fight breaking out, but there were some pretty loud arguments, and most of those were about cars and women.

 In preparation for, and trying for, inspiration to write this column, this scribe was wondering why music was coming from his printer. Apparently the paper was jamming.

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“The Two Rogers Solving the World’s Problems in Front of Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow” was painted by John R. Williams, and features Roger Shafer on the left, and Roger Chapman on the right. “Kim’s place is no longer in business and the OFs almost had a wake when we heard that news,” says Williams.

The week that this retroactive OMOTM report is being worked on has not been an April month. Those cooped up with quarantines have not had much good weather to even open the windows and listen to the birds and peepers, or let fresh air in.

This COVID-19 is as nasty as are most viruses that get going. It seems they have a natural instinct like most newborns. They search out host-to-host and, once one is gone, the virus hunts down another, just like it knows what it is doing.

The virus has a general behind it, conducting the battle in an attempt to take over. The president calling it a war is correct — that is just what it is. Right now, we are in a retreat mode until our new generals and their troops come up with something to stop its progression. We need a new weapon, or maybe an old one modified.

The OFs did mention how blessed those of us on the Hill are. None of them, this scribe included, can understand how a person under full quarantine, living in a 900-square foot apartment on the 14th floor, is handling the situation.

This scribe thinks the most effective weapon we have in this battle is prayer — prayer that the researchers find a way to defeat the virus soon.

This scribe still receives phone calls and messages to hear how the OFs are coping with the stay-safe, stay-at-home attack on the virus.

Swallows confound

One OF had a different problem than the others in a way, and sent an email to describe his problems with barn swallows.

This scribe thinks we have covered this before but the scribe can’t remember when it was. The writer of the email answered his own question and this scribe thinks the OFs came to the same conclusion.

It was how to control those darn barn swallows. The bird makes mud nests all over. This scribe has never seen a barn swallow nest in a tree; it always seems to be in some shed we have made and the nest is under the eves.

This scribe does not know about the other OFs but some kind of swallow takes over this scribe’s bluebird houses. These swallows, too, have the pointy wings and dart around snapping up bugs.

The writer also commented that after complaining about all the fertilizer they leave around (and they do) the bird must eat well because they are really prolific in their droppings. The OF said the bird does eat its share of bugs.

Beyond the to-do list

A couple of other OFs said they are catching up on so much they left undone because it was not critical at the time. Now the OFs are getting things done that were not even on the to-do list.

Some said that, when the weather is decent, they are spending their time clearing brush around the pond, or working on lawn mowers and equipment that were just stuck in the barn when they became problematic.

One OF mentioned he has four old cars that just pooped out so he purchased another used car to carry on. Now he is fussing with those things and, if this virus goes on much longer, he may have four working vehicles.

Another OF mentioned his hair, and also his wife’s hair. They both need to be taken care of; however, his wife offered to cut his hair. That offer was not accepted. As soon as the re-opening of businesses is announced, barber shops and beauty parlors are going to be inundated.

Old days

The OFs who were farmers continue to go back in time and then jump to now and think of major earth-shattering events to change the lifestyle of everyone on the planet and not all of the troubles were of a medical nature.

They are able to remember the Great Depression of the 1930s, the dust bowl, and World War I and World War II — problems like that.

Some of these OFs remember back when they were younger and they went with their dad to purchase a horse. Their father would teach the OF the way horse dealers would sometimes try to pull a fast one before the deal was concluded.

The father would go all over the horse and even look at the horse’s teeth. The last thing his dad would do would take his knee and punch the horse in the stomach.

Now, if the horse passed gas, the longer and louder the better, his father would say, “Good horse.” Then using the name the Old Men of the Mountain are so fondly called (OFs) he would tell his son: 

A farting horse is the horse to hire

For a farting horse will never tire.

Deal made.

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What now? This scribe and his wife have been in the house for a few weeks; the column and my painting has kept me busy, and actually this scribe has bit off more than he can chew.

I’ve been reading backwards in the little black book, which is filled with notes from the OMOTM’s breakfasts, and now it is interesting to try to conjure up what in the world the OMOTM were talking about when this scribe made one-word notes. Also, there are some notes that are not for the paper.

It is almost like going through old photographs and finding pictures that bring up the question, “Who the heck is that and what are they doing in our photograph album?” The same with these notes.

From Nov. 26, there is a note “Witch Hazel,” which this scribe remembers some of. But the major problems that the OFs were talking about that day were hemorrhoids. This remedy is not used by many, and even the term “witch hazel” is not used often.

One OF told the other OF (who had the problem) he wouldn’t know if witch hazel would help but the OF said change of diet might. Hemorrhoids are a malady that is mighty uncomfortable and if witch hazel would help, then use it; however, as some other OFs mentioned, there are plenty of creams on the market that are made just for this problem.

One OF said his parents always had a bottle of witch hazel in the medicine chest.

Another note on the same page that this scribe is sure he did not use is “teeth duct tape.” This scribe has no idea what that means. The OFs must have talked about it, or it meant something that would tie into a conversation — but what?

A few pages past that is the word “cloning.” This scribe remembers that topic a little bit and that chatter was: Would the OFs want to be cloned?

“Not now,” one OF said. “Why would I want to be cloned at 80 years old? If I could be cloned without  aches and pains, plus know what I know now about life, and my mind went with it, why not?”

A certain OF said the other OF missed the conception of cloning. His thought was, “If you are cloned, the other you starts out as a baby, so you would have to live 160 years to see yourself at 80.”

 “To heck with it,” the first OF said. This scribe thinks the whole concept of cloning is missed by these old goats.

The scribe found a note on a page going back to May 1, 2019 that fits right in with the project at hand. This bit of information is the making of a note that is OK for the immediate future like the one-word note but probably not good enough for tomorrow.

Things like phone numbers without names or comments on why these notes were written down, it is just the number. Directions to some place, and again, that is all it is — directions. No mention of who, or what, or where it is, just directions that could be to someplace important, or nowhere at all.

A note to look something up and when it is found wondering why it was there to be looked up because now it has no meaning. Why was it done? Just like this scribe’s book — why was that note there?

A one-word note on Jan. 7, 2020 was the word “names.” Now this scribe does remember what that was about. As we age and get to be OFs, many of the OFs see a person that they have not seen in awhile. The OF knows who they are but can’t put a name with the face.

The name is on the “tip of the OF’s tongue” yet it won’t come out. The OFs say they are stumbling to say something and all they do is make noises that sound like words. One OF said he reminds himself that he is like his grandmother who would run through the whole litany of grandkids’ names until she hit on the right one.

Then the reverse is true. Someone will mention Uncle Charlie, and the OFs know the name but can’t come up with the likeness, and the rest of the OFs could sympathize with that dilemma too.

One OF commented that we all have that problem. This particular OF said it is because the older we get, the more rubbish we have in our brains. In order to get information out, what we want to say has to sift its way through all that extraneous junk to find its way out and that takes time.

This OF said, “Sometimes days.”

This scribe might find more notes to share with you next week. In the meantime, there is this breaking news: Wearing a mask inside your home is now highly recommended. Not so much to prevent COVID19 but to stop eating.

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The Old Men of the Mountain did not meet again this week — only in thought.

When they do get together (after being cooped up for weeks), this scribe feels there won’t be many stories to tell, only how or if they went out for groceries, or how many trips they made to the bathroom, and how their snacks have increased in size and quantity.

A few who commented they used to watch very little TV, now seemed to be planted in front of it.

Also, a few of the few said how hard it is to find anything to watch on TV and they are tired of seeing nothing but the virus, and how many TV stations seem to be wallowing in how many are sick and how many died.

One OF said it is almost like keeping score in a ball game. 

Another OF has gotten so tired of this baloney he does not watch the news; he watches cartoons, and the old good sitcoms, or maybe a good old movie on TCM.

TV mores

Speaking about TV, this scribe found an article in the old notes that he hadn’t written about. This was an item about kids on TV.

The OFs remembered back when they were kids, 9 to 16 years old or thereabout, and the fact that they would never-ever sass back to their parents the way that kids are portrayed in the sitcoms of today. Even their language would not be tolerated.

The kids portrayed today show very little respect to their parents, and seem to be complete wiseguys/girls. One OF mentioned that the kids on TV are more on a par with their (TV) parents even when these kids seem to be very young.

To this OF, the TV show-parents seem to encourage this type of encounter. This OF said, in our day the kids did not seem to open up with the parents on their feelings — they went to other kids. Many were actually afraid of their parents.

This OF thought there were two ways to look at this change in today’s attitudes. This OF added that, with his kids today, and his grandkids who are not kids anymore, he really doesn’t know which way is best.

For instance, he feels that the portrayal on TV today might be a good thing because his grandkids, even when they were young, could carry on a conversation with adults and were not afraid of them. However, the lack of respect for adults, and the appalling language is very concerning to him.

COVID diet

A current event, which a few OFs mentioned, is on the self-quarantine that is recommended during this run of the COVID-19 virus. This virus has had some real side effects, other than a touch of boredom, and that is some are putting on weight.

No getting out and about — walking up and down the driveway doesn’t seem to be cutting the mustard. This scribe thinks the few are speaking for many of the OFs in their eighties and beyond.

Some of the readers and some of the OFs might have seen this recommended diet that may or may not help. Here goes:

— Breakfast: 1/2 grapefruit, 1 slice whole-wheat toast, 8 oz. of 2-percent milk;

— Lunch: 4 oz. lean broiled chicken breast, 1 cup steamed zucchini, 1 Oreo cookie, herbal tea;

— Mid-afternoon snack: Rest of the package of Oreos, I quart Rocky Road ice cream, 1 jar hot fudge;

— Dinner: 2 loaves of garlic bread, large pepperoni-and-mushroom pizza,1 large pitcher of Pepsi, 2 Milky Way candy bars — and, to finish it off, entire frozen cheesecake eaten directly from the freezer.

There, that should do it!

Now the scribe thinks he will go and get something to eat.

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This report will have just a few current comments and there are only a couple of email communiqués. The conversation would be on what the old men are doing to amuse themselves during the virus situation.

The OMOTM are not much different than the rest of the country with what they can do, and right now that is not much. At our ages, not much is the norm.

Reading the comments, this scribe thought now is the time for the hind-sighters to come out of the woodwork, along with the I-would-a’s. They don’t know (using the hard-to-pin-down “they” here) they don’t even have a clue, and if they had to handle the situation at hand would probably pull the covers over their heads and stay in bed.

The OFs at one time talked about how much has changed in the years that the OFs could remember well until now — from farming with horses to men on the moon. One OF commented it is quite a lifetime we OGs are having and it is not over yet.

One of the notes not used in my little notebook is the word “driving.” This was a conversation that this scribe does remember (quite a bit of) because driving years ago is nothing like it is now.

Most of the OF farmers were driving from the time they were 9 or 10 years old, and one OF said even younger. By the time the OFs were 11 years old, they could back a four-wheeled wagon loaded with hay over a barn bridge and into the bay to be unloaded, and this feat was achieved with a steel-wheeled tractor and the only power assist on those things were the muscles in your arms.

The farmer OFs went all over when they were in school and truly could use the sentence, “License? I ain’t got no license.” The reason for this was because they weren’t old enough to apply for one.

One OF remembered making a stand for a rooster to fit behind the steering wheel of a car and taking Mr. Noise (a pet rooster) and tying him to this stand. This rooster looked exactly like he was driving the car.

Then another YF would get down under the dash and in front of the rider’s seat he would work the pedals with his hands. Another YF would get in the back seat and give directions and through town they would go.

The car looked just like it was being driven by a chicken. The problem is that, in the town of Gallupville, there were not that many people out and about to impress with their efforts but, according to the OF, they had fun anyway.

Now, though it may seem stupid, this exhibit showed off the driving skills acquired by being on the farm. None of these OFs had a license.

And, another thing!  Not only driving — but living 70 years ago. Life truly was much simpler and certainly more civil.

It was necessary to drive these old vehicles — they did not drive themselves. We had hurts and some diseases that eventually were cured and the dentist was not fun, but times were simpler.

Because of the simple times, the police were much different. However, they did not have the pressures of today with all its violent behavior.

More than one OF reported on being stopped by the police for some erratic driving maneuver and more than once no one in the car had a license yet the officer would more than likely say, “You boys get that thing home right now, and don’t let me catch you driving like that again.”

Nothing was said at home beyond, “Don’t drive again tomorrow and just don’t do whatever made the officer stop you for doing.”

The OFs did some brainless things, but they did not destroy or vandalize. Boy! It is different today!

But that was 70 years ago.

These are but a few of our catch-up notes from the scribe on behalf of the Old Men of the Mountain.

Closing from the internet:  

I was so bored last night I called Jake from State Farm just to talk to somebody. He wanted to know what I was wearing.

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Number one, this is not a report on a breakfast gathering. As most know, the restaurants are closed except for those that can do takeouts. The Old Men of the Mountain by definition are in the category, “You better watch your tush, fellow, because the nasty germ let loose in China is hunting you down.”

This scribe can fill pages of the OMOTM’s discussions from weeks’ gone by with notes (that have not been used) in the weekly reports from the scribe’s little notebook.  When the scribe gets home and goes to use this notebook, half of the scribble the scribe can’t read.

It is just like trying to decipher a prescription written by the doctor. Part of the medical studies a doctor should go through is a 10-week course on penmanship run by a parochial-school nun.

This scribe has received a few calls from the OMOTM to see how we are going to continue after this is over. What this scribe assumes is that the OMOTM should start where we left off (that is, if the restaurant is still in business) and that would be the “Your Way Café.”

None of us being fortune tellers can tell, but this scribe thinks that would be a good plan. Those spoken to thought so too.

The few OMOTM talked to thought this virus is similar to other events the OFs have been through. A few mentioned the Great Depression, then World War II, the big Recession, scarlet fever, polio, and AIDs.

One member of our group carries the scars of this now-eliminated disease: polio. These were also some scary times, similar to this virus.

One OMOTM asked, “Why in the world didn’t Eve leave that apple on the tree?”

Those members of the OMOTM whom this scribe spoke to are going to hunker down, and the OFs are good at hunkering.

This is going to be tough for a while but hunkering down, and people-to-people contact kept to a minimum is the best protection available.

Remember, conversations are not canceled. There is always the phone, the internet for those who have it, and some have these really new-fangled things called Alexa or Echo.

This scribe has Alexa (which we have to call Karen), which clicks on whenever its name is said, and quite often wherever it is said, and starts spying on us.

No names to report and right now that is a good thing.

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The Old Men of the Mountain met Tuesday, March 10, at the Country Café in Schoharie. The OMOTM were a grumbling group Tuesday morning because of the time change.

Some of the OFs are still using 2019 half the time; now we have the time change to Daylight Savings Time which makes us drive in the dark again. Now there are two things to get used to.

Then, in the fall, the time will change again; then, in January, the date will change again. The year-change, the OFs say, we can do nothing about, but at least leave the time-change alone.

The main topic of conversation was about the coronavirus. Like most conversations in large groups, the talk was varied and this time 90 percent of it seemed to be conjecture, personal opinions, and rumors.

Many agreed the press was on the verge of causing panic. From the time the breakfast was held on Tuesday, and this column is in the paper, much more dialogue will have transpired.

Suffice it to say, the situation was discussed but no conclusion was reached. But at our ages, to err on the side of caution, as they say, is the best course of action.

Lilacs alive

To quote Monty Python: “Now for something completely different.” This scribe’s next note is about blossoms on the trees, especially in the valley. The shrubs that really show signs of life are the lilacs — some even have a green cast, and it is only mid-March.

A few of the OFs think winter is on its way out, while a few others think we are in for some surprises, maybe not bitter cold but snow. The waiting game for the other shoe to drop is not fun when it comes to the winter weather.

As the discussion on the weather continued, it drifted into a discussion on our locales versus that of moving or being a snowbird in warmer climates, or leaving and staying. This led to what creeps and crawls in the south and the west.

The OFs did not want to encounter alligators in their backyards, or some of the nasty snakes that creep hither and yon in either direction, south or west. One OF said he is not a fan of scorpions either; just the word makes him uneasy.

Another OF said he heard of snakes falling out of trees. Most of the OFs have heard stories like that but some are not too sure about the facts in these tales.

One OF said we have our share of snakes up here that are not so nice.

“Yeah,” another OF said, “but at least up here you can see them and hear them; down there, (meaning southern states) these snakes are small as well as nasty. And there are the spiders — those black widows.” 

The other OF said, “We have our nasty spiders here too!”

So the OFs started swapping stories about alligators, snakes, and spiders and this scribe could fill up the whole paper on spiders and snakes, and the virus. One OF said, if taxes get any higher in this state, he will put up with the spiders, snakes, scorpions, and alligators, just to get someplace where he can keep at least some of his money for himself.

One thing these few really warm days (in the waning days of winter) prompted was a few of the OFs who have motorcycles got them out, polished them up, and got ready for the season. A few even got the lawn tractors out and started them up, changed the oil, and they, too, got ready for the season.

Then going back to the earlier discussion on the weather, a few of the realists commented again that winter isn’t over, but one OF said at least we are ready when it is over.

Celebrity turtle

Then the OFs mixed conversations together, talking about critters again, only this time it was about a local snapping turtle that is huge and is old. The OFs said he hasn’t been around lately.

Those OFs who knew this reptile said they haven’t seen him or her around either. This turtle has been watched for at least 15 years or so about the same place and about the same time twice a year.

The turtle is not hard to spot because of its size and the OFs say it also has moss growing on the top of its shell. One OF said, “I hope no one has messed with him because the turtle is kind of a celebrity.”

Feeling of home

There is a phrase “ontogeny-recapitulates-phylogeny” and the OFs discuss this quite often, without even knowing it. Well, so thinks this scribe anyhow, by traveling back to when they were really young, and then fairly young, and then family guys, into what they are now.

The OFs, and this scribe included, discuss what they did when they were traveling through time to where they are now. They muse over how the past shaped their future and how what they did then will probably wind up on their tombstone instead of what they do now. (This does not always happen but most of the time it does.)

Tuesday morning, some of that was mixed in with the spiders and snakes, and old friends. These were good friends. However, once the OFs reached 80 years, many were gone.

One OF said all his good friends are gone and he did not really cultivate new ones while the old ones were still around. Now that they are all gone, he has friends, but not like those who have passed away. What keeps him here now is the feeling of home, because most of his family is spread not only all over the country, but the world, so spiders and snakes will not keep him here, but home does.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Country Café in Schoharie to be with friends and have a cup of coffee and a breakfast, shoot the breeze for a little while, and even make plans for the rest of the day, or in the future, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Rich LaGrange, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, John Rossmann, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Jake Herzog, Karl Remmers, Rev. Jay Francis, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jamey Dairah, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Bob Donnelly, Harold Grippen, and me.

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At breakfast this past Wednesday morning, this scribe, just in conversation, said to his wife, “I guess I’d better go up and write the Old Men Column.”

The wife said, with an exclamatory voice, “Is it Wednesday already? Wasn’t it just Wednesday? Where did a whole week go?”

This scribe just shrugged his shoulders and said, “You are right because I haven’t a clue where it went — the week just seems to be gone.” Anyway —

On Tuesday, March 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. Mrs. K’s is in the middle of town and, at the time the OMOTM show up, parking is not a problem this time of year. 

When the OMOTM arrive, the sun is just coming up. But when the OMOTM leave, there are cars whizzing all over the place and it is a good idea to be careful when pulling out from the curb onto the street from their parking spots.

A couple of the OFs were talking about cats, not just cats, but cats and mice. According to these OFs, it seems most cats are like Garfield when it comes to mice. The cats and mice seem to get along.

As far as the cats are concerned, mice are tolerated. To the cat, it isn’t worth the effort to even catch them. One OF said his cat is named Nuisance, but it should have been named Useless.

The other OF said he is considering getting a few snakes to take care of his mice problem. He opined that, as far as his cat is concerned, snakes would be a lot better. The snake is quiet, clean, and effective.

Snakes would be much better if it weren’t for their reputation. The OF said he never heard of a litter box for a snake.

Another discussion was on snakes and this time an OF said that he and his wife took a little excursion on the “Old Erie Canal.” This trip was on a canal boat pulled by two mules.

The OF said that, as the boat was pulled along, oftentimes the rope would become slack and drag through the grass along the banks and snakes would “hop” to use his expression, over the rope as it pulled the boat. This scribe did not know snakes hopped, but this scribe could imagine them slithering over the rope.

This OF said they were not the black snake or garter snake that anyone would have around to catch mice but the nasty kind. The OF mentioned diamondbacks, and water moccasins and another nasty one common to the area.

The scribe does not know if the tour guide mentioned what type of snakes they were or if the OF was able to spot them. This scribe might be able to spot moccasins because they are not that long, and they are big around and ugly.

The others from a distance would be tough to identify. It would be an interesting scenario if one of those things latched onto the rope and crawled its way to the boat.The OF who was relating this incident told an interesting and riveting story of their trip to Rome, New York.

Sign of spring?

Each year, the OFs mention the red-winged blackbird and this year it is no different. At least three of the OGs said they have seen the bird. A couple of OFs said the flocks they saw were small while one OF said he saw a large flock.

In our area, the return of the red-winged blackbird is considered a good sign of spring. However, the bird does not go that far away from us in the winter. Some make a short trip only to Pennsylvania or Ohio but it is encouraging to see them in the spring. But this is early.

“Alligator Alley”

Tuesday seemed to be a morning to talk about nature. Many of the OFs have been to the state of Florida, and some have traveled the old “Alligator Alley” when it was only two lanes. The OFs talked about the speeds traveled on that perfectly straight highway.

There are signs posted on the road about alligators crossing and the big cats that roam the Everglades that also cross the road, especially at night. The OFs said hitting one of these animals at high speed can cause the driver to lose all control of the car.

The OFs talked about driving accidents and hitting animals in this area, especially deer and raccoons. One OF said he hit a large raccoon and it was like hitting a wall, and he did lose control of the car, then he somehow managed to regain control, but not until after serious damage was done.

One OF commented on how he is able to tell if a driver is from the Hilltowns or not. If a guy is going 50 or 60 miles an hour and it is dusk, in the spring, he has no clue about what can jump out in front of him in the Hilltowns.

The OF went on, “If the car is going 45 or so on the secondary roads up ‘here’ it is a good guess he is familiar with what can happen and he is ready for whatever decides to cross the road. At rut time, the deer are not thinking about looking out for traffic.”

The OFs had some advice for each other and this came from experience: If anyone is planning a trip they should do it when they are young because when age creeps up on you and walking becomes an effort, all that can be done is to think about it.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh, and to some that is a trip, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, Paul Whitbeck, Rick LaGrange, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Ken Parks, Elwood Vanderbilt, Fred Crounse, Ed Tiaeger, Bob Donnelly, Allen DeFazzo,  Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, John Dabrvalskes, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Tuesday, Feb. 25, and already we can see the days getting longer, and the sun coming up a little earlier. This makes it easier to drive without those awful white lights in oncoming traffic making cars slow down, or even at times pull over.

An OF mentioned, “One of these mornings, I am going to run right into the back of one of these cars that slow down because they pull the maneuver so quickly.”

Even so, a whole gaggle of The Old Men of the Mountain (plus J.J., our favorite waitress’s helper) made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh for an informative gathering over breakfast.

One of the first topics of conversation was the coronavirus disease. The strange part was not how it is spreading so fast, or the quarantines, or how hidden the disease is, but how it has affected the stock market.

Those in the market, according to the OFs, are taking a serious hit. One OF said he has been through so many of these unsettling events in his 58 years in the stock market, somehow things always seem to work out, and if you can hang in there you will come out on top.

Another OF claimed he does not like the “air” money; he wants to see it and touch it so he plays with gold, and another OF said he was always broke so he doesn’t give a hoot, because he doesn’t understand it anyway.

“When I was in school,” the OF said, “no one taught us about money. We learned we should work hard and be honest and life would treat you well. The closest we came to money management was through the FFA [Future Farmers of America], and how to manage the farm.”

The problem with this disease is not just about money but how about getting sick? The OFs didn’t talk much about that before they jumped to something else.

Lots of stink bugs

The something else was bugs and insects coming out as soon as the temperature rises a tad. Some OFs have had spring flies in the windows already; others have had stink bugs. These pests are like when the OFs went through the period of earwigs all over the place; now it is rare for the OFs to see an earwig.

Where did these stink bugs come from? One OF said, when he saw his first one, he had no idea what it was, so he squashed it!

That was a mistake! Now he knows why it has the name it does, and like the rest of us he gently catches them in a tissue and flushes them down the john.

The question still remains: Two years ago, there were none around; now they are all over the place like the earwig. A little research showed that the stink bug was introduced to the United States from Eastern Asia in the mid-1990s. 

Also, you can reduce the number of these pests by spraying entry points with essential oil. Peppermint oil (smells nice to humans) or garlic oil (rumored to also keep out vampires) are two oils that will work.

Eye for eagles

To follow along with that, the OFs started talking about birds and animals we have not seen in awhile but which seem to have returned. Bobcats are one, foxes are another, and one OF mentioned just yesterday seeing two bald eagles flying circles around each other in the sky over his house.

As we have mentioned before, the OFs are seeing eagles, and now it seems they are almost as prolific as vultures (one OF said turkeys) but the eagles still have a way to go before they match how many vultures are around.

This brought up another story by an OF. The OF said he and his wife along with two other couples were in a restaurant (Maple on The Lake) when they noticed an eagle flying low to the water at Warners Lake. The OF saw the eagle drop his leg and extend his talons, make a sharp right turn, and just in front of the restaurant’s dock scoop up a fish and fly back the same way it came, staying low to the water.

The OFs wondered how the eagle spotted the fish, adjusted for angle of reflection, and nailed that sucker on the fly. All those calculations had to be made in an instant.

Then one OF asked, “How do they do that from 200 hundred feet up or even higher? They come down at 100 miles an hour at the right angle and grab a fish swimming close enough to the surface that the bird doesn’t even get wet. It is amazing.”

Animal compassion

This brought up some stories firsthand of animals showing a lot of compassion to their fellow species. One OF said that, during the winter, some geese boarded down in front of his place on Warners Lake on open water, but during the night it became bitterly cold and the lake froze over with a skim of ice. (This happened in the same area of the lake as the eagle story.)

Most of the geese were in water that did not freeze completely and took off. However, one goose’s feet were frozen in the ice and it could not free itself.

The OF said the goose flapped its wings and honked and honked. Then he said two geese came back and started pecking the ice all around the goose frozen in the ice.

Finally, the OF said, the goose was able to break free of the ice and took off with the other two. The OFs were wondering how did they know to do that? How many times have the geese been in the same situation?

The animal world is funny in a way; some eat their own, while others will die to protect their young. Go figure.

The OFs who were wondering all this were still glad they walk upright, and use their opposable thumbs. That way, they could eat a nice breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and enjoy the rest of the day, and those Old Men of the Mountain were: Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, George Washburn, special guest JJ, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, Rick LaGrange, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Marty Herzog, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Jake Herzog, Ken Parks, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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