On Tuesday, May 22, the Old Men of the Mountain met on Main Street in the Village of Schoharie. With their canes and OMOTM banner held high, the OMOTM attacked the Country Café, wedging themselves through the door, shouting their battle cry: “Feed Me! Feed Me!”

Tuesday, there was another discussion by the OFs that has not been broached before and that was about OFs and girlfriends once the OFs became widowers.

The OFs said that, when married for 40 or so years, basically the couple grows old together and becomes one person. When that person departs (and in the case of the OMOTM it would be his wife) and the OMOTM becomes a widower, he is pretty much set in his ways.

There comes a time when the OMOTM desires companionship to help with the lonely times. Most of the ladies are widows and they, too, are set in their ways just like the OMOTM.

One OMOTM mentioned that attractions at our age are not like when we were younger. When the OMOTM meets someone, new magnetism can come out of the blue but the attraction can cross class lines.

The OMOTM could have been a farmer, or machinist, and the one attracted to could have been a doctor or lawyer, yet they get along well and seem to enjoy each other’s company.

The problem is that to go any further than going to the movies, or on trips, or out to eat, the OFs were wondering if that is about it. The OFs were questioning if they went any further in their relationships, would their different ways and social lives spoil a good thing?

Boy! The OFs can dig into some real social problems that consume many people’s thinking time and deep understanding.

Flat-tire saga

When anyone wakes up, young or old, what the day has in store can change in an instant. The phone may ring and the news on the other end is not good, and requires the immediate attention of the person answering the phone. What prompted the phone call has nothing to do with what the person answering the phone had in mind for the day.

One OF ran into this type of situation at Tuesday’s breakfast. This OF showed up as usual, had his breakfast as usual, paid his bill as usual, left the Country Café as usual, then the OF went to enter his car and saw his left rear tire was flat.

It was flat-flat, not low, but flat! With that particular tire being the one that was flat meant the butt of the person fixing the flat was sticking into traffic right in the middle of downtown Schoharie.

In this case, one of the younger people at the breakfast was attempting to take the flat off and put on the doughnut spare so the OF could get to Lenny’s (Tire & Repair shop in Middleburg) to either purchase another tire, or have the flat repaired.

Many of the OFs leaving the Country Café gathered around to watch. Now we had the case of two workers and 12 or more chiefs.

The wheel would not come off. They even removed the jack and had the OF drive his car forward and back to try to break it free.

No dice; did not work. Then one OF brought his battery-operated pump to try to blow the tire up enough to get the OF to Lenny’s. No dice, not half a pound of air entered that tire. What now?

One OF said he would drive the OF with the flat up to Lenny’s and see if they could help him out. That was done, and at Lenny’s the OF said he was treated really great, and they would be down and see what they could do.  

This scribe checked with the OF to see how he made out.

The OF said that, after being brought back to his car by the OF that took him to Lenny’s, the service person was there in half a minute. The service tech came and looked at the tire, gave it a kick, and it fell off.

He put the doughnut tire on and the OF drove to Lenny’s and purchased two new tires, since the ones on the car were shot anyway.

A miracle

At Tuesday’s breakfast, some OFs who are also emergency medical technicians sat across from each other and began discussing, not specific cases, but what they have in their little black boxes when they come upon, or are called to, a particular situation. This scribe thought, from their conversation, that EMTs are well prepared to handle — as one of their titles, first responders, implies — most any situation.

One of the OFs who is an EMT told a story of how a lady was in her bedroom talking on the phone to a relative in New York City when she lapsed into a diabetic coma. The relative in New York City heard a thud and then no one talking to her on the other end of the line and so she knew something had happened.

The relative in the city immediately called the fire department, who in turn immediately contacted the ambulance squad up here in the Hilltowns.

The squad went in a hurry to the address supplied. When the squad members arrived, they were met by a large black Labrador retriever, and a young lady who asked what they were doing there.

The EMTs asked if there was anyone else in the home and were told yes, and they asked where and were told one person was in her bedroom. They ran to the bedroom and found the lady passed out between two beds in the bedroom.

They were there in time to revive the lady, and things worked out well. Nobody else in the house knew that anything had happened to her. Miracles, large and small, for whatever reason, do happen.

Those OFs who made it to the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie and formed an audience for the few who were attempting to change the tire were: Miner Stevens, Bill Bartholomew, Art Williams, Dave Williams, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Duncan Bellinger, Rev. Jay Francis, Bob Donnelly, Allen DeFazio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Another Tuesday, another breakfast, and another restaurant.

On Tuesday, May 15, The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. Mrs. K’s is the only restaurant the OMOTM patronize that costs money to go to.

It is the only restaurant with on-street parking so, if the OMOTM want to park close to the restaurant, it will cost them 25 cents. There are municipal parking lots but they are across the street and the OFs that use this facility have to be quite ambulatory.

Most people in the realm of the OFs know of Howe Cave, or Howe Caverns, which is in the village of Howe Cave — duh. The village of Howe Cave is between the villages of Old Central Bridge and Cobleskill off Route 7.

The OFs discussed the upcoming event to be held at the caverns on July 14, “International Nude Day.” The caverns is going to hold a “Naked in the Cave” party.

As far as this scribe knows, none of the OFs have signed up. If any did and the news got out, that would put the kibosh on the whole event. No one wants to see a group of naked OFs in a group.

Oh dear, that brings tears to the eyes just imagining that sight; however, in the cave, it is not only so dark it is not possible to see your hand in front of your face, but it is also very, very cold 2,000 feet underground. The caverns are a constant 52 degrees no matter what the ambient temperature is.

Another thing to consider is this: If you ever want to get a bearing to stick to an axel, first you heat it and it expands, then it is chilled to shrink it on the shaft. Guess what that cave is going to do to everybody.

One OF said he understands that, as of now, there are over 100 people signed up to take the tour. This scribe does not know if that is right or not but the OFs think these people are not familiar with caving.

Many years ago, an OF worked for the cement plant that operated from a quarry at the original entrance of the cave. The office for the cement plant was in the Howe Caverns hotel. The original entrance to the cave was right along side of the hotel.

This OF said he did double duty and worked as a dispatcher for the cement trucks that hauled the cement under contract to the cement company. This OF worked a day shift for the cement plant, and third and sometimes second shift for the trucking company. At the cement plant, this OF held many supervisory positions basically because he could read and write so the OF could fill out the required forms.

This OF said the chief chemist at the plant was not too well liked, and was an arrogant individual. One day, while working a second shift to fill in for the trucking company, the OF went into the lab where they tested all the cement and opened all the windows in the lab.

In the evening, at dusk, millions of bats would come out of the cave right alongside of the hotel. The air would be black with bats, and the sound was like thunder. This phenomenon lasted less than a minute the OF said.

The lab was on the ground floor right above the cave entrance. On this particular day, the OF said, he took a piece of plywood about 2 feet by 4 feet and stood at the cave entrance and waited for the bats. The OF’s intention was to see if he could get some bats excited enough to go through the open windows into the lab.

Right on time, out the bats came, and the OF stood in the midst of them waving the piece of plywood slowly back and forth. After the bats had all dispersed to search out their bug meals, the OF said he quickly ran back into the lab, shut the windows, and closed the door. The OF said he did not see a bat and thought the whole thing was a waste of time.

This OF said at that time he was stores supervisor, yard foreman, and safety man for the plant. When he went to work at the plant the following morning at 7 a.m., things were just as normal as blueberry pie, but at 8 a.m., when the office help showed up for work, all misery broke loose.

The OF said he heard the siren of an ambulance speeding up the drive to the office. He then received a call from the plant manager to get up to the front office on the double.

The OF said he ran to the front office just as the ambulance people got there and there on the floor in front of the lab door lay the chief chemist out cold. The girls and the lab personnel were all out on the “front porch” milling around.

The OF said he looked into the lab and saw not only a few bats but hundreds, maybe thousands, of bats hanging from the light fixtures, from the back of doors, the tops of the windows, as many as 15 to 25 bats hanging like long black moving ropes all through the lab; bats were everywhere.

The plant manager pulled the OF aside and told him that he didn’t care what projects the OF had planned for the carpenters but to get every carpenter up to the office immediately and plug every hole they could find.

The OF said, “Yes, sir” and did send the carpenters to the office building, knowing they were not going to find any holes.

Those Old Men of the Mountain that were at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and, according to them, not planning on going to the “Naked in the Cave” event at Howe Caverns, were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jim Heiser, and it was great to see Ted Willsey at the breakfast, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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On Tuesday, May 8, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. As usual, the early morning is the best part of the day, and this Tuesday was no exception as most of the OMOTM made their way to the diner.

The OFs at this scribe’s end of the table were on a medical kick because one of the OFs there was to be at the hospital in Cooperstown for a physical and he said that, while there, they were going to repair one of his hearing aids. This started a conversation on blood pressure, heart rates, number of pills taken, creams, lotions, a whole litany on a health-related diet, and the OFs were not talking food.

It was found that the OFs at this end of the table were rather physically fit with the adjustment of pills to the diet of regular food. One OF who is over 80 years old, and like many of the older OFs, can work a much younger mildly OF-ish into the ground.

The OF complained about these younger ones telling him how to exercise and eat. The OF said he will do what his doctor tells him to do and take what the doctor tells him to take and go to the funerals of all these others who tell what he should be doing.

The OFs at this end of the table reported their blood pressure and all were on the money — just what it should be. One OF was wearing one of these new high-tech Fitbits, and it told him everything his body was doing.

The Fitbit gave his blood pressure, heart rate, and an oxygen level in real time as he sat at the table Tuesday morning. He, too, was right on the money.

The OFs at this end of the table reported when they were kids they were forced to take cod-liver oil by their moms. Some remembered (those raised on the farm) their mothers giving them spring tonics.

One remembered an awful mixture of what he thought was three ingredients. Two he remembered quite well — they were kerosene and sugar. The other ingredient, the OF thought, was black strap molasses.

If you took one tablespoon of that stuff in early spring, there would not be a bacteria, germ, mosquito, black fly, or hornet coming anywhere near you all year.

One OF said he left off ticks. Another OF said, when he was young, he noticed big wood ticks but not these nasty ones that are so small.

Adding to the conversation, it was noted that we now see earwigs, stink bugs, box elders, elm beetles, and other bugs with weird names  One more OF added what we did have then were fireflies, honeybees by the gazillion, butterflies, and Baltimore orioles. Now, however, lots of these “good” examples of wildlife seem to be less and less, and replaced by the previously mentioned malicious things.

It used to be, the OFs continued, that there were so many fireflies that on a nice early summer evening, or early nightfall, walking down a path, the fireflies would light the way.

Hilltown road repairs needed

The OFs discussed the Hilltowns and how they seem to be the forgotten people on road repairs. Many of the OFs go way out of their way to drive around the really bad roads and even some of the detours are not that great.

One of the OFs mentioned that it is just a matter of dollars and cents. The OF feels that we are not collectively  important enough to warrant the tax dollars required to repair the roads here on the Hill or even in the low-populated Schoharie County.

The other OFs said Hear! Hear! to that one.

The end of the world

When to be born was another topic.

Some of the OFs are of the age when they say they have had enough — it is time to get off this planet. Others think they would like to be born today, right now.

These OFs think that the future will be fantastic with all the new technology that’s coming along. These OFs would love to get aboard a spaceship and travel through the heavens to another universe and visit another planet.

That would be their way of getting off the planet. Some of the others thought this planet is on its way out and won’t be around much longer anyway.

It is interesting to see both sides, and both have good arguments. This scribe wonders what must the Indians have thought when the Spaniards came with their funny clothes, and weird hats, and what must the Spaniards have thought when they saw the Indians in their weird headdresses and clothes (or lack of). It was the end of the world.

New jobs

The OFs also discussed that many interesting jobs come up seemingly from out of nowhere. The OFs themselves are doing jobs that never existed when they were younger but many jobs have remained the same. One job the OFs mentioned that is unusual to them is a dog walker.

Whoever thought people would be paying other people to walk their dogs? There are many niches that develop that a bright person can latch onto, and, as new ways to do things develop, more specialized niches come up and even the OMOTM could fill some of them.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Middleburgh Diner, and were not too anxious to enter back into the labor pool, were: Bill Lichliter, already in that pool — the rest, not so much, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, David Williams, Ken Polks, Jim Heiser, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Wayne Gaul, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Warren Willsey, Allen Defazio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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On May 1, the Old Men of the Mountain wished they had the opportunity to dance around the May pole but their old bones wouldn’t let them do it. There is plenty of room to dance the pole dance in the parking lot of Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow.

Just for the fun of it, the OFs should have done it and put it on YouTube. So often, the OFs think of what they should’ve or could’ve done when it is too late and not planned for.

Kim’s was a bit unusual because the help that was supposed to be at the diner did not show up. Maybe the last time the waitress waited on the OFs we scared her away. Kim did the whole thing by herself and the OFs never noticed there was only one person running the whole show — a good sign of what experience will do for you.

This column has mentioned before that the diner is right on the banks of the Catskill Creek, and by banks the OFs mean six to eight feet back from the water and only about three feet up. The water was running high, but clear, dark blue-green, and at a pretty good clip, but for the OFs that was it. The creek wasn’t going to rise any more and the day was going to turn out rather nice.

The OFs noticed, as they were coming over the mountain, that there were still some patches of snow from the previous day’s snowfall. Some of the OFs reported that on April 30 the snow plows were out and working. In Huntersland, one OF reported that the road was plowed twice.

Three days later, as this scribe finally found time to sit at the computer and record the ramblings of the OFs, it is 81 degrees. “81!” The OF’s old, thinned-out blood from this winter’s cold doesn’t know what’s going on.

Another topic of the OFs on their way to Kim’s was how many deer they saw in the fields, and how many turkeys. One OF said the whole ride was like driving through a pasture full of deer and, if it wasn’t deer, it was like a free-range chicken farm, only they were turkeys.

Sweet maple

The sugar-maple guy in the group said that this year the sap should be OK. Even though spring has been miserable this year, some good did come out of it with maple-sugar production. The season was long and the sugar guys had to plow through the snow but the trees kept producing so the season will probably turn out to be about average.

This brought up a conversation a couple of the OFs heard on the radio on a call-in program about horticulture. The caller wanted to know how to transplant maple trees and was asking basically simple questions on watering, and how big the trees should be when starting to transplant them.

When was a good time? What should spacing be? Questions like that. The replies were straight forward and some of the answers were: Did the caller have enough land and money to handle the equipment to do what the caller wanted to do because the caller was talking about trees that were six inches in diameter?

Now the caller became a little befuddled. The caller responded with: What about using smaller-sized trees like planting shrubs? The horticulturist responded with about the same advice and said that in the beginning the caller should water the trees well and, depending on the weather, once or twice a week would be good.

Then the caller asked about how big the trees had to be or when could the caller tap them for maple syrup. There was a noticeable long pause before the horticulturist responded with the answer saying, “You can’t get maple syrup out of the tree; you get maple sugar from the tree, and then you have to make the syrup.”

Another pause ensued and the caller replied, “Oh.” End of conversation.

Planned obsolescence

The OFs, being OFs of course, discussed the advantages of old construction over new construction. The OFs agreed that older-built bridges, buildings, highways, and even many homes were constructed to last longer than construction seems to last today.

Today, the OFs maintain, many construction projects have a planned obsolescence built right into them. It seems many appliances, buildings, and even highways are designed to start falling apart after a designated period of time. One OF mentioned that he thinks the planned deterioration time is so preset that, even if maintained to the optimum, it is still going to fail.

One OF thought that, with so many people in the world, in order for them to all have work, it is necessary for stuff to fall apart so the jobs will continue for those that make whatever.

One OF added, “That is fine as long as we can recycle as much as we can; otherwise the world is going to run out of raw material.”

The old material has to be recycled and re-used or we will be back to that old recyclable that grows year by year for building material — wood. This OF maintained that even a penny, no matter what it is made of, uses up a bit of material that can never be replaced; it can be recycled but not replaced.

The Old Men of the Mountain who met at Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow and were there because they were all fresh and not made from recycled material were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Joe Rack, Rev. Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Tuesday, April 24, was a rare day indeed — the sun was shining!

Many of the OFs were confused to what that was and had to be reminded of the general phrase when describing our galaxy, i.e., sun, moon, and stars. That glow in the sky was the sun. (Alas, as this scribe is typing, this we now have dense fog and drizzle, with a stiff wind thrown in for good measure. OK!  We got two days of sun, now what?)

Many OFs say it is the contrails. The OFs watch a perfectly clear blue sky in the morning and by 10 a.m. the contrails distribute a thin haze, and by evening, when more planes fill the sky, we have clouds.

The OFs say check it out for yourself. Count the contrails. Sometimes in the morning there will be as many as a dozen or so, and in the evening it is even worse.

The appointed restaurant for this Tuesday was the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. It was a sad breakfast for the Old Men of the Mountain.

There was a notice that the restaurant was closing in May. The OFs have been going to the Hilltown Café for at least 15 years. The owner was young when she started out. (Weren’t we all 15 years ago?) And we watched as she cooked breakfast for 20 OFs or so holding a baby on her hip with one hand, and flipping flapjacks with the other hand and not missing a beat.

The OFs watched as the kids grew up and reminisced about how these kids, when just out of the toddler stage, would visit each table of OFs and carry on a conversation. So not only was it a rare day but it was a sad day as well.

To go along with this, the waitress we had was new and apparently just there to fill in until the restaurant closed. The OFs being the OFs proceeded to get on the waitress’s case. None of it was mean at all and actually was quite humorous; however, the waitress must have come from a large family because she gave it right back in spades. If anyone was keeping score, it was: Waitress, 10 - OFs, 0.

Now the big quandary for the Old Men of the Mountain is, do we haul out the book of bylaws, dust it off, and see if we select a new eating establishment to attack, or cut the roster back by one? The hard part here is finding a place that will put up with the OFs, and can handle 20 to 25 guys in the winter, and 30 to 35 guys in the summer.

An OF commented that the reason Amanda was calling it quits was because too many of the OFs left only 50 cents for a tip and she couldn’t keep the place open on that.

Habits meld

The OFs discussed household items along with living together and how it changes over the years. When most of the OFs were first married, both individuals had their own way of doing things.

This included many routine practices that both had, from what they ate, how they ate, to their bathroom habits, to furniture and house decorations. Most of these were not picked up on in the courting process.

When the OFs were courting, their minds were on other things and not domestic habits; conversely, so were the ladies. There was quite an adjustment period because some of the habits were objectionable to one or the other or both.

Some OFs mentioned they more or less expected cooking like their mothers used to do, and the new wife cooked like her mother used to do, and one OF added, “If she could cook at all.” Back when the OFs were first joined in holy matrimony, the man worked and the mom stayed home.

Back then, the days for the working man were longer than eight hours and he came home tired. The wife had a job also and that was the kids and the house. This was another learning experience.

Over the years, the OFs (without noticing until this discussion) noted that the ways of doing things was like a metamorphosis and the two habits melded into one. The husband and wife began to be able to anticipate each others desires, wants, and needs and automatically adjusted to each other without even realizing they were doing it.

Seasonal chores loom

With the nice weather, the OFs started talking about summer projects. To some of the OFs, it was just talk because as they get older there is less they can do. Some say their kids are going to come and help and one OF said the kids have yards and houses of their own to keep up let alone fuss with them.

This is another thing that sneaks up on the OFs along with all the aches and pains, bad backs, slow reflexes, poor eyesight, the outside work, and as one OF said, “Why just the outside? It is also washing the windows, painting and inside work too, which arrives at the point where it is more than difficult to keep up with it — it becomes downright impossible.”

Now one OF mentioned he has to hire help to get some of the work done, and the hired help does not do it like the OF would, and then the OF becomes frustrated.

Most of the OFs enjoyed getting out to rake the yard, and said how hauling out the summer furniture was even “fun” (if that is the word to use here), how summer means it is the season for having people over, or having a cup of coffee on the porch alone with the paper.

One of the OFs (and there is one in every group) said, “Yeah, swatting at flies, and mosquitoes, sweeping ladybugs off the outdoor table, dealing with stink bugs, watching out for ticks, spraying bug spray all over me so the black flies won’t bite, oh yeah, tons of fun.”

The OF continued his griping, “Give me snow and a snow shovel any day.” To this OF, summer projects were not tops on his list; he wanted air-conditioning and indoor games. The other OFs thought a job on Mount Washington would suit this OG fine.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who left the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville for the last time and some with a tear in their one good eye were: Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Lou Scheck, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Rev. Jay Francis, Harold Grippen, and me.

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