The Enterprise — John Williams

Savoring the seasons: The Old Men of the Mountain enjoyed listening to music played by Roger Shafer, Gerry Irwin, Tom White, and Debbie Fish while they ate their breakfast on Dec. 20,  Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh.

On Dec. 20,  Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh welcomed the Old Men of the Mountain for their annual Christmas Party. The restaurant always puts on a great spread for the OFs as they get ready to celebrate the Christmas season. Usually there is live music (as opposed to dead music) for occasional sing-alongs if the OFs know the tune and stop talking long enough to give the musicians some attention.

The chatter at the breakfast is similar to the chatter that proceeds church as people come in, or any meeting where people who see each other once a week or so get together. In some cases, the persons at these meetings have just visited with each other the day before, but that does not deter them from conversing before the service or meeting starts.

The OMOTM breakfast does not have a beginning or end, no one bangs a gavel, or rings a bell, or comes down the aisle with lit candles to indicate that whatever is going to happen, is going to happen, so the chatter continues until the last OF pays his bill and goes home. This is what the musicians have to contend with as they continue to play through the breakfast with the noise and chatter, and they appear to have a good time doing it.

Much of the conversation among the OFs consists of bringing people up to date on each other’s activities during the week, and some is a continuation of conversations of last week. However, this week we had one OF bring us up to date on his travels to South Africa.

The OF was asked many questions and the OF related tales to us about what life was like during his stay in that country. One thing he mentioned more than once was that the water in the South Atlantic was very, very, cold. The OF said it turned one’s legs red. He thought it was colder than the ocean in Maine and most OFs could relate to that.

Home repair project goes out of control

Another thing the OFs could relate to is, when starting a home-repair project how many times the OFs have to go to the hardware store to purchase additional parts so they can repair parts on something that broke along the way. Fixing one simple thing leads to either breaking something further down the line, or a part is rusted solid and adding a pipe to the wrench is generally not a good idea.

Then the OF finds that he can’t get the part because the guy behind the counter says “How the h--- old is that thing?  They haven’t made parts for that in years.”

Now the OF is stuck paying a couple hundred bucks for a complete new whatchamacallit instead of the two bucks he thought the part would be. Then the OF says he gets home and the new part doesn’t fit because it is different in length and width and none of connections join up.

Back to the store, and by now the OF mentioned he was really ticked off, and didn’t know how much more would break somewhere down the line, so he buys more parts than he needs just to be sure.

One OF piped up, “Why didn’t you just call a plumber?”

“What,” the other OF says, “and admit defeat!  Never, even if cost me a grand.”

Another situation the OFs could relate to. Many of the OFs have started to repair something and chased it to the end after all the trips to the store, and days later to find they have replaced the whole thing, which they should have done in the first place.

Key West is now costly

The OFs went from South Africa, to right here at home, to the Florida Keys. Now that is a lot of geography. When the OFs were at the Keys (especially Longboat Key, Marathon, and Key West the first time and they were younger) prices were cheap, and Key West was, in their opinion, sort of dumpy, but even at the way money was then, it was a cheap vacation.

Today, what a difference! Key West has been spruced up, and the OFs say it is necessary to have a real pocket full of change, just to eat. The OFs said that, when they were younger, it was possible to take the family on vacations and it wouldn’t break the bank.

As one OF put it, the really upper middle-class and the rich can travel there now, but as it stands currently these type of trips are out of reach for the OFs and many of their kids.

Out-of-touch government

One OF added he does not know what planet the government is from because there was no increase in Social Security, and some OFs even took a loss after the increase in Medicare hit their Social Security checks — the reason given by our wise politicians that there was no rise in the cost of living.

The OFs say, “Say what!”

As one OF commented, “The CIA should look around and find out where the officials who came up with that information parked their space ship!”

Those OFs who enjoyed the music, supplied by Roger Shafer (OF), Gerry Irwin (OF), Tom White, and Debbie Fish, with the hors d’oeuvres (almost a meal, supplied by Mrs. K’s Restaurant) at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh were: Marty Herzog, Jim Rissacher, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson  (at the table, exactly one week from being under the knife with a complete hip replacement ─ the wonders of modern medicine), Mark Traver, Bill Dergosits, Ted Willsey, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.


Christmas is getting closer.  On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie.

A couple of OFs mentioned that, if they had a million dollars they didn’t know what to do with, they would use some of it to purchase the Parrott House and fix it up.The OFs mentioned, with the lights and decorations of the Country Café, to see the Parrott House all lit up too would be great. Done right, the OFs thought it could be like the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, only a tad smaller.

The weather guys were at it again by making all the OFs believe that we were in for some snowfall and really bad weather. Some of the OFs did get some snow but nothing to write home about — most OFs just received a dusting. This dusting covered a considerable amount of geography and not just a few spots here and there.

“Work” a dirty word?

One OF mentioned to another OF that he thought that this one OF should go back to work. The other OF bristled and told the first OF to wash his mouth out with soap and not use that kind of language around him again.

It seems like the second OF has really latched on to this retirement bit and likes it. Other OFs like to work and keep on doing work of some kind.

The OF who took offense at being told about going back to work, works a ton and doesn’t know it.  He volunteers in the fire department, the ambulance squad, his church, and in many different capacities, so the OF is constantly busy — it just isn’t “work” work.


Most of the OFs shave, although there are a few with beards, and some don’t shave that often. One OF came to breakfast Tuesday morning and announced that he read that vinegar makes a great aftershave, so this morning he tried it. One thing he advised the rest of the OFs was, “Don’t try it because vinegar stings.”

An OF said, “Yes, and you go around all day smelling like a pickle, or a salad.”

“No, you don’t,” the first OF said. “Can you smell it on me now?”

The other OF leaned over and took a whiff of the OF’s cheek and, by golly, the OF could not detect any scent of vinegar.

The other OFs started talking about what they used and it ranged from astringent, to aftershave, to different kinds of lotions. The OFs were wondering when their beards went from hair to wire, and how hard they had to pull down on their cheeks, and stretch their necks out so they can hacksaw off all the hair (also now known as wire) in all those crevices.

The OFs complained that, in the commercials and on the packaging for razors and shaving cream, they show all those young bucks who only need soap to cut off that peach fuzz. How about something for us OFs that will at least straighten out the twisted wires protruding from our faces, so the beards will be soft enough so it is like hair again and the razors will cut it instead of pulling each individual hair out?

Pig: 1 - Car: 0

The next topic was deer (again) so this scribe is not going to touch on that much, but what happens when a car hits a pig? One OF said his brother hit a pig that was in the middle of the road and he did not expect to see it there.

The OF claimed the brother smacked the pig dead on. This was before seat belts and airbags so the impact was felt by the driver who thought he had hit a brick wall. The outcome was the car was totaled, and the pig walked away.

This does not seem correct.  Of course when the car hit the pig, that pig wasn’t fastened to the ground so it moved with the impact.  The result was Pig: 1 - Car: 0 as the pig ran off bruised and disgruntled.

Still shopping

The OFs are still shopping for Christmas and some will be at it until the 24th but the OFs say grandkids or even their kids must have a hard time shopping for them because the OFs claim they really don’t need anything.

Socks and underwear will do, or tickets to a show, or something special to eat, but stuff?  The OFs say they don’t need it. Some of the OFs say they are trying to get rid of stuff, and nobody seems to want it.

Plum Island mystery

A couple of OFs who sat across from this scribe were in the service at about the same time and in the same locale, plus they also lived there for quite awhile. They were talking about an island off Long Island called Plum Island.

According to the OFs, this island is a United States federal research facility dedicated to the study of animal diseases and we really don’t want to know what goes on there.

Under the knife

One OF who should have been at the breakfast but wasn’t had a very good explanation so he would be excused rather easily when the board meets to reprimand those OFs who miss breakfast for no good reason.

This OF was going under the knife to have a hip replaced at the same time the rest of the OFs were putting a fork full of over-easy eggs to their mouths at breakfast in the Country Café.

The thoughts and prayers of the OFs are with this OF and also with the doctors doing the surgery.  We pray that everything turns out OK and he is back at the table soon with the rest of this bionic clan.

Those OFs that made it to the Country Café in Schoharie through the snow (?) were: Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Warren Willsey, Ted Willsey, Marty Herzog, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Russ Pokorny, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.


Tuesday, Dec. 6, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. Rarely does this scribe and his riders arrive at the eating establishments first — there are always a few of the OFs already at the tables. This scribe does not know what time these OFs wake up but it has to be early.

Sometimes the OFs are at the restaurant’s door, waiting for them to open up. The owners are so familiar with the OFs, they should give these early OGs a key to the place so they can open up and get things ready.

Last week, the talk at the table, for the most part, had a general theme. This week, it was all over the place: Truth and trust (the OFs have covered this before but this was a new take); the election; China; the economy; the fires in Tennessee, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Oakland, California; cost of heating (again); ministers; what things are like in different parts of the country, along with same things going on all over the world, the universe, and this was not all of the subjects covered at Tuesday’s morning’s breakfast so there was not much depth in any one topic.

Fires rage and enrage

The OFs talked about the fires that seem to raging all over. Some of the OFs have been to one or more of these localities where the fires were.

Cambridge a classy address in Massachusetts where the OF who was there said he could almost visualize where these buildings were that burned but wasn’t quite sure.

A couple of the OFs have been to the smoky mountains of Tennessee especially Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg — they remembered these places quite vividly. And a few have been to Oakland, California, but had no recollection of the area where this warehouse was.

One OF mentioned how dry it has been in the Northeast and he knows how dry it has been in Tennessee because some friends of his who live there were complaining about the dryness and the concern for wells and ponds, just like here.

Politics conscribed

In the discussion on politics, as far as the OGs are concerned, this was not really politics because in the bylaws of the OMOTM politics and religion are a no-no. However, the OFs do manage to skirt around both of these topics.

On politics Tuesday morning, the OFs talked about how many United States presidents the OFs have lived through; at our end of the table, we came up with 14. The election when most of the OFs first voted was when Truman was elected.

There is no truth to the rumor that our oldest OF (who will remain nameless, but the initials are MW) voted for Millard Fillmore. The point is, the OFs have lived through them all: good or bad, Republican or Democrat. The OFs even lived through the confusing time of trying to find out what the definition of is, is.

The OFs also lived through the time when we had drills in school and were told to duck under our desks in case of a nuclear attack.

Religion evolves

Following the same vein, the OFs discussed ministers they have known or encountered over the years as they grew up. The ministers fell into the same type of categories as the presidents only with different titles to the classifications, i.e. really good, good, not so good, and awful.

The OFs were able to go back further than presidents since some were in school in 1920 to 1930, when they were 6- or 7-years-old and in Sunday school. Some of the OFs had trouble going back that far, trying to reach through the cobwebs of their memory to pull out information.

Religion, like life, has changed and evolved. The OFs wonder if some of the old preachers they had could come back and see how religion is today would they even recognize it.

“Hey,” one OF said, “that goes for a lot of things. I used to think one plus one was two; today I am not too sure of that.”

Not economists

The OFs are not real economists but have just enough knowledge that the OFs could be dangerous to themselves. They are now watching this unexpected growth in the stock market, which has been setting all kinds of records after the election.

The OFs are wondering how long this type of growth can be sustained and if the bubble will burst, or will there be a leveling-out somewhere along the line and the new numbers become the norm. The OFs think there are a lot of crystal balls in use right now on the economy, and, as stated, the OF are not economists.

Elusive deer

It is that time of year again and it not Thanksgiving or Christmas but time to thin out the herd of deer. The OFs were asking each other about seeing any deer their way. Most have seen them in some areas and some say they are all over the place.

According to the OFs, all they have to do is grab the bow or get the gun and the deer are gone. The OFs think deer have the same sense as crows, and they have spies out watching the OFs who are hunters. Once the OF who hunts leaves his home in camouflage and with his weapon of choice, the warning signs go out just like the participants in the Anti-rent Wars with their tin horns and calico.

Those OFs who missed all the deer in the road on their way to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and were wondering where they disappear to when the OFs get home were: Roger Shafer, Dave Williams, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Don Wood, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Sonny Mercer, Ray Kennedy, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and the Willsey’s guest Winnie, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, the Old Men of the Mountain traveled to Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow to have their last breakfast in November.

Now the month of “Hectic” starts — also known as December. Christmas is supposed to be the time of peace, love, and joy but somehow it becomes push, shove, and “that is mine.” Underneath it all though this time of peace, love, and joy does shine through all the hustle and bustle; most of the OMOTM can attest to that.

The OFs who have to travel quite a distance to Kim’s West Wind Diner must get up early in the morning, but most are up anyway so that is not new. On this particular Tuesday, the OFs out on the road while it is still dark had temperatures in the high forties and low fifties, and yet many encountered salt trucks spreading salt. They must have known something the OFs didn’t.

Usually the OFs skip all over in their conversations, and Tuesday morning they did follow the pattern somewhat but most of the conversation was on homes. They spoke of maintenance, the environment’s attack on homes, and how the cost of upkeep is outpacing the OFs’ incomes.

The last part may be because many of the OFs are on fixed incomes and the planned rise of inflation did not match the actual cost of inflation on items that affect many of the OFs such as taxes, medicine, food, and gas. Even the price of paint is way out of proportion to what a gallon of paint cost 20 years ago.

Window worries

Some of the OFs are in the process of replacing the windows in their homes and they discussed the effort in keeping the older windows clean, and how some of the windows failed because of poor construction. Design flaws the manufacturers did not see coming caused windows to leak, sag, and rot.

In a previous time, the old-fashioned double-hung windows with their ropes and weights could be repaired by the homeowner; however, these windows are not very efficient in keeping out the cold and drafts.

The OFs now look to windows that tip in to clean instead of having to leave the outside of the upstairs windows dirty because it takes a 20-foot ladder to reach them. Cleaning becomes a real chore especially if these are six-over-six windows.

Another reason is we do not need any OFs falling off 20-foot ladders. They would make an awful splat on the ground and, with their ancient bones, they would shatter like glass. What a mess!

Tilted but solid

The OFs topics covered painting houses with white lead paint and how long that paint lasted. Some OFs said that houses they painted with white lead 50 years ago are still in good shape, and a properly used pressure washer to clean off the grime makes the house looks like it was just freshly painted.

The OFs also noticed that metal roofs are making a comeback. It used to be that a metal standing-seam roof was the roof of choice and those roofs, if painted every now and then, would last a lifetime and maybe one or two more lifetimes.

One OF wondered if the new houses of today will be around 150 or 200 years from now, like many of the houses in the Northeast and South.  If you drop a marble (in a 200-year-old home) in one end of a room you might see it roll to another corner of the room on its own. Some of the doors might not shut tight, but these homes are still being lived in today. Even though a little tilted, the home is still solid as a rock and will probably outlive a home built in the year 2000.

Home conundrums

On OF mentioned how the wood on his home is aging. This OF thinks it is causing a dust to settle not only on the windows but on other things on the outside of the home.

One OF years ago had a deck painted white on the back of his home facing west-north-west and in a few years the OF noticed a grayish-black coating on the deck, yet the paint was fine. The OF also noticed the same discoloration on the part of the roof that faced in the same direction.

This OF had the problem checked out and was told the discoloration was caused by acid rain. This OF said he has not noticed it in recent years.

The OFs also had experiences with housing mistakes where the manufacturers (on mostly rehab jobs) measured wrong, or sent the wrong materials. In almost all the cases, the manufacturers did not want the mistakes brought back.

Apparently all they would do, if returned, would take up room in their warehouses. What are they going to do with them?

One OF said a friend of his selected a prefab home that was stick-built and it was shipped to him on trucks. When the contractor was putting it together, he found the company shipped halves of two different houses.

The contractor  said the OF’s friend had two choices.  The contractor could jury rig the two-mismatched houses or the friend would have to wait quite awhile for the manufacturer to sort it out. The OFs friend said, “Go ahead, hook ’em up,” and so they did.   

The OFs think at their ages there is a lot to be said for either renting a home, or buying a condo — to heck with this house work, let someone else do it.

Those OFs who made it to Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow after they finished the house work were: Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Roger Chapman, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Don Wood, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Harold Grippen, and me.


Well, we have finally seen winter! The Hill received more snow on Nov. 20 and 21 than the Hill saw all of last year. This correlation may be a little off but the weather surely seemed like it.

Anyway, even with weather like this, we were at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, on Tuesday Nov. 22. The Hilltown Café is the restaurant with the highest elevation (at 1,651 feet) that the OFs frequent. This gave the OFs a good drive to sharpen their winter driving skills.

The OFs talked a lot about energy, and why not with the onset of winter getting such an early start this year. The OFs mentioned how dirty a fuel coal is, and how we should get away from using that. However, that would cost many jobs, and coal is so plentiful.

What can be done is that instead of ignoring coal we add it to the many types of energy that are already being used (wind, solar, nuclear) by using the talents of engineers to develop scrubbers, or ways of cleaning up coal, and throw that into the mix and eliminate the dependency on fuel oil as a source of energy.

This leaves the limited supply of fuel oil to be used for other things like medicine, and macadam, along with all the other products that rely on petroleum as a part of this mix.

The OFs also not only think, but know, the internal combustion engine can be made to develop more power on less fuel but they also think the big oil companies and the automotive manufacturers are in cahoots and won’t let this happen.  It is the view of the OFs that suppression of this technology is a plan the big companies work on together. The OFs are of the opinion that all the technology is already here but being kept under wraps.

One OF reflected, “Could you imagine all the people that would be put out of work if even a portion of this technology was invoked in a year?”

Maybe cooler heads are prevailing here and the plan is to ease into some of these advancements so the populace has a chance to adjust. Especially with the OFs — their heads can only take so much information at one time.

Pondering pickers

A TV show that is mentioned from time to time and one which many of the OFs watch is “American Pickers.” The OFs are amazed at how many places around the country have hoards of just plain old stuff. One OF said these places look just like quite a few of the OFs’ barns and backyards.

It does not take much imagination to see how the OFs would take to too much technology when they are still so concerned about the old stuff. The OFs at times still don’t know what the heck is going on; some are still amazed with how much a 3- or 4-year-old knows.

One OF commented on what some of the old junk the pickers look at and how much it is worth. The OFs say, “We were just ready to take something like that to the dump.”  Now the OFs are leery about throwing anything away.

One OFs said he watches the pickers on occasion where the locality they are picking is in a place where the OF is interested, particularly when the area is local or at least close to local.

Protecting our flag

The OMOTM continued dropping off their flags by giving six flags on small wooden holders to the Hilltown Café. The OFs have no idea how these flags will be used but figure in today’s world the flag is not getting the respect it is due.

For all the work so many have done to keep it flying, our flag deserves more attention than it is getting.  The effort many people have put into protecting the flag so a few have the right to burn it — how sad it is to see it treated this way.

Like drunk cows?

Some of the OFs did brave the winds of Tuesday, Nov. 22, and made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. It is a good thing the OFs travel all the distances to the eating establishments and they are always open. If, for some reason, one was closed without notification, the OFs would be milling around like cows drunk on apples, trying to find their stanchions.

So it was a very good thing that the Hilltown Café was open and able to take care of the OFs who were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.