A few days of summer so far, and on Tuesday, July 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont.

Tuesday morning, the OFs had the honor to break in a new waitress (new at least to the OMOTM) under fire. When the early birds arrived, the waitress was pretty as a picture; however, midway through taking care of all these OFs, her hair was soon disheveled and the poor girl looked harried.

She probably was thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Though harried, she kept her composure throughout. Good job. After the OFs clear out, it is time for the mirror and a re-do.

The OMOTM are not hicks

The Helderberg Hilltowns are not the biggest towns in the world but that does not mean the city people can come up and stomp all over us, and it is not all city people, but enough to generate a stereotype.

Conversely, there are enough of the people from the hills that don’t understand the rules of the cities and earn the stereotype of “hicks from the hills.” The city folk are stereotyped as the “bullies and know-it-alls from the city.”

When, in fact, neither stereotype is true. We are defending the OMOTM from falling into the stereotypical category of being from the hills. Many OFs are from the hills, but the OFs are definitely not hicks.

Constant care required

An OF inquired of the OFs from the Berne area about the bridge repair in that village. They all agreed it was necessary and has to be done, along with repairing the road through the village.

The OFs were of the opinion that the bridge should be done by late August, and the road is to be repaired to the county line. The OFs who are familiar with construction said, while under construction, there are inconveniences, but people have to work around this while the construction is going on.

If there weren’t any maintenance on our highways and byways, they would become so dangerous that no one would use that particular stretch of road that is falling apart, and, if they did, they would be taking their life in their own hands. The same thing holds true with buildings as small as a tent and up to the size of the largest skyscraper — all of them require constant care.

The OFs from the Berne area said that the state has gone one step beyond because on the signs stating that the bridge is out and detours are in place, there is a notice that the “Berne Store Is Open.”  It is rare for the state to do something like this to facilitate one business.

The Berne OFs said the state sends travelers on basically state roads so their directions are sometimes quite convoluted.  Case in point is heading east on Route 443. The state, the OFs think, is required to use state highways.

In this case the state takes the traveler on Route 1 (Switzkill Road) to Cole Hill Road and back down to Route 443. This is a hike. The “locals” find Irish Hill to Cole Hill, to Route 443 much shorter.

Getting to events going on in Berne is not that much of a hassle using the local connections. If coming into town, particularly east on Route 443, just keep going until you get to where the event is; for instance, if it is at the school or even a garage sale.

Coming from the  west on Route 443, it is necessary to head north on Route 156 at the bridge to Rock Road and loop around to Route 443 and go east back into town.  This is about a four-mile trip from the bridge, and a three-mile trip cutting over Rock Road if approaching Berne going south on Route 156 from Knox.

There!  The OFs hope this helps.

Inventions to come

The OFs were wishing someone would develop a grass for lawns that grows to the height of about 3 inches and no taller. It also would have to be inexpensive, impervious to weeds, and survive during hot, dry spells.

Those who think everything that can be invented has been invented are off the mark. The OFs believe that the kids today have a whole field of inventions to come up with that the OFs haven’t even thought about, and the grass is one of them, only the OFs have thought of that one. 

The OFs included in this part of the conversation the trip to Pluto, and what other plans are in the works. One OF mentioned that the trip to Pluto was done with technology that is nine years old.

Look how far we have come in those nine years. What a time to be six years old — space travel is within their grasp. Beam me up, Scotty!

Those OFs who made it to the breakfast at the Home Front and some brought their space suits, were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichlater, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Grippen, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Jay Taylor, Roger Fairchild, Bob Benac (with his brother, Joe Ketzeko), Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Roger Shafer (with his son Michael, and grandkids),  Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Joe Loubier, and me.


Tuesday, July 7, was almost a summer morning when the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. It is fun to watch the OFs pile into the restaurant of the week.

For once, this scribe was early enough to see most of the OFs arrive; when the OFs entered the diner, they were greeted by name with the typical, rhetorical comments along with the, “Good Mornings,” and the “Heys.” Faces light up with the well wishes of the morning.

The OFs who garden were in full bloom Tuesday morning — the basic conversation was on how well their gardens are doing. One topic, though, was a little different and that was how the gardeners are now keeping the deer from using their gardens as smorgasbords.

The new way (and the gardeners claim this works) is special lights. One gardener mentioned that his lights are continually changing colors, and another gardener said his lights were flashing lights set at the height that the average deer’s eyes would be.

This noiseless and no-chemical new gardening gizmo sounds like an effective and harmless way to control the problem. Now all the OF gardeners have to do is discourage the rabbits, mice, voles, and moles.

Beef beefs

The OFs segued from gardens and pesticides to organically grown products, especially beef. The OFs said this (organic beef) is very hard to do unless whoever is growing the beef makes their own grain from their own corn, wheat, and other grains that are also organically grown.

One OF said, “Go ahead and eat the chemicals.  How else are we going to supply food for the world without bumper crops? Eating the chemicals will develop a strain of people resistant to the chemical and become stronger because of it. We can’t be afraid of progress.”

“The people of the world are growing exponentially,” another OF said, “And therefore food has to keep pace. More people, less land, means the world is going to have to go up, not spread out. Organic is not going to cut it. Right now, organic is only for the higher income people because it does cost more.”

Boy, there are arguments on both sides!   

Hot potato

The OFs discussed (and to some it is their home away from home) the new location of the Schoharie County jail. All the OFs can agree with the locals that the location currently under discussion gives no consideration to those who will live in the proximity of the jail, and, as one OF said, it is not just a few, but this particular location will affect many homes and people.

There is much vacant land in Schoharie that is out of the floodplain, and there is no rule that says the jail has to be in town or anywhere near it, just someplace in the county. This is a political hot potato according to the OFs, and that potato just came out of the oven.

One OF ventured money and politics will win out over common sense and the will of the people — it always does.

Stable staffers

The OFs noticed that, at most of the restaurants the OFs visit, the staff remains the same year after year. Either the owners are good to work for, or the pay is good. A few of the restaurants do seem to have a rapid turnover, so the OFs think there is a hitch in the git-along at the establishments with the quick turnovers.

The OFs who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and ate their sausage, bacon, home fries, and eggs with no concern about being organic, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Joe Loubier, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Joe Ketzeo, Roger Fairchild, Herb Sawotka, Duncan Bellinger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.


On Tuesday, June 30, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the “Your Way Café” in Schoharie with 42 OFs at the breakfast.  It was one of the largest groups of OFs to date.                          

When at church or at a meeting at the Lodge, or Legion, the chatter of friends greeting each other as they gather for the meeting is what it is like at the breakfast. There is one exception, though; no one has to shut up because church is going to start, or the meeting is going to get underway.

The OFs can chatter about this or that until each group decides they have had enough, their bellies are full, and it is time for them to go. There are a few OFs who hang around until it is time for lunch. No one is hollered at, chastised, or criticized; they all have had their say, and everybody is caught up, and they are ready for the day.

Now take 42 OFs chattering away with many of then requiring hearing aids but not wearing them, and it becomes a lot of fun with a lot of laughs because many think they hear what is going on but only get half of it and then they pretend they got it all.

No pity party

Anyone who wants to become encouraged about their physical condition or the problems they are having health-wise should come and watch the OFs enter the restaurants and then try and listen in on their conversation.

Yeah, many are with canes and have their problems, but the OMOTM are not a group of pity partiers. One OF came in chipper and ready to talk and, when entering the restaurant, just mentioned, “Oh, I had a heart attack last week, and was in the hospital, for something else and didn’t even notice that I had one.”

The OFs have many credos — one of which is: If you are lame but can move, get up and get out.

Like on June 30, the OFs talked about the two fellows who escaped from the prison in Dannemora. The OFs are glad that both were not shot.

With at least one able to talk, there will be many holes filled in about how they made their escape and who helped and who didn’t. One OF mentioned that, with this type of information, the book and the movie will be much better.

Another OF said, if the movie is made with a high quality director and actors, he would go to see it, especially if it is shot on location like the movie “Iron Weed.” Many of the OFs have been in that part of the North Country and in the small towns up where it is really upstate.

The OFs were hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, climbing the peaks, bac packing, and especially canoeing the lakes and streams. These are big draws to the North Country. One OF mentioned there are some great places to eat in that part of the state also — nothing fancy, just real food, OMOTM food.

When junk becomes collectible

The OFs who go to flea markets often go not for the fleas but to see how much the junk, i.e., collectibles, they have in their barns is now worth. Some of the OFs go to auctions and antique stores for the same reason.

Much of what the OFs purchased to use years ago is now in antique shops. From lamps, to dishes, to picks and shovels, just about any toy and appliance they bought and kept 60 to 65 years ago is showing up in these places.

One OF said he has seen some of the stuff he has in his shed that he bought for one or two bucks is now worth one- or two-hundred bucks if in good shape.

We have mentioned before that, what some consider junk, someone else may consider collectibles. More than one OF comes home with more items from going to the transfer station (i.e. dump) than what he took from home.

One OF came home with a lawn mower that a guy was throwing away and this OF happened to be there and he asked the owner what was the matter with the mower, since it looked brand new.

The owner said, “Nothing is wrong but it mows too high and won’t go any lower.”

The OF looked at it and saw that the mower deck was as high up as it would go. The OF put it on the trailer and brought it home from the “transfer station” along with some other items he picked up there.  He adjusted the mower down, pulled the rope and away it went.

Hmmmm. What you can find at the dump — er –—transfer station, is all a matter of timing.        

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and are each thankful that the wife has not put him in an antique store with a for-sale sign on his forehead, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Bartholomew, David Williams, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aelesio, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Bob Snyder, Alvin Latham, Jim Heiser, Roger Shafer, Duncan Bellinger, Steve Kelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Herb Sawotka,  Joe Ketzko, Gerry Chartier, Don Wood, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Henry Whipple, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Bill Krause, Gerry Irwin, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, and me.

On Tuesday, June 23, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. The days are now getting shorter and many of the OFs have not really cleaned up from last winter, and supposedly summer is just getting is getting started.

The OFs think it is a lot more fun knowing each day is a day the sun is around a little longer than thinking each day the sun hides a little earlier.

Some of the OFs say it is because we are in the Northeast and right now we are the cool spot in the United States. A few OFs who have friends and relatives around the country are getting reports that it is hot: Florida, 103 degrees; Arizona, 110 degrees.

They can have it, a couple of OFs said, I will take my few days of 20 below, and the occasional blizzard rather than all that heat. So much for the weekly weather discussion.

The OFs gather around the table each Tuesday; on occasion the topic is food. Why not?

Tuesday morning, it was on veal and how some people enjoy that meat, while others consider the source of that meat and don’t understand how it is possible to eat meat of a calf. German Wiener Schnitzel is from the same meat, a calf.

Some thought that just knowing what it was those OFs are eating almost makes other OFs consider becoming a vegetarian. None went as far as a vegan.

Even those who thought eating veal was disgusting still enjoy a nice juicy steak. Then one OF brought up what is the big deal; in some countries, they eat cats and dogs.

Driving in the dark

The OFs brought up what they did when they were “teenagers” again. (This topic that its head out of the din on numerous occasions and it is these discussions that make most of the OFs wonder why they are still here.) This time, the tales were how the OFs drove on moonlit nights with their lights out.

The OFs like to couple no-headlight trips with how fast they could go in the dark and not hit anything. To the recollection of this scribe and the OFs, none of the OFs did hit anything.

The favorite places for these runs was the flats between Middleburgh and Schoharie; the other was the flats between Central Bridge and Sloansville. Just farm boys out having a little fun.

Farm boys of the 1940s and ’50s had lots of practice doing this on the farm, and it started at a real early age, like 10 or 11 years old, bringing in the last load of hay with an old Fordson tractor and that machine did not have lights. The YFs were only doing the same thing they did quite often just by working the farm only a little faster and, instead of the field road, the highway.

Actually, tractors had electric headlights before cars, and the tractors had radios before cars, too.

What if the power goes out?

The OFs regularly bring up the question: What will happen if there is a major power interruption and the power is off for many days? Those in the country could manage but what about all the people in the large cities?

The OFs say many city folks don’t know how to change a light bulb, and have no idea where water comes from; some think it miraculously flows from the tap. The question would be, if there were some kind of holocaust and this was not going to be just a short-time event, what do these people do?

Food, sanitation, water, medical services, transportation, the OFs wonder if there is any type of survival plan in effect to handle the situation if it ever came about. Like the OFs say: Just wondering.

Bumpkins rule

Even though, in the country, the OFs don’t make a ton of money, and quite often the work is hard and the people in the cities with their noses in the air have a tendency to look down on those who live above Route 84 as country bumpkins, the OFs say they don’t mind.

The OFs would rather be country bumpkins, than city slickers. As one OF said: It is the city slickers who want to take our guns away, and make all the rules that shut the farmers down.

One OF suggested that they are going the wrong way with guns. He thinks it should be a law everyone has to carry a gun, and it does not have to be concealed.

That way, if a robber or mugger tries anything, he should know the victim can shoot back.  Another OF said, if they are able to eliminate all guns, and even the police could not carry a weapon, the wackos would still find a way to commit mayhem.

Many people do not realize how easy it is to make a gun and a projectile, or Molotov cocktails, or pipe bombs. A complete wacko could charge into a public place with a machete.

How are you going to stop the attacker if no one has a weapon of some sort? The world has gone crazy, one OF said, and the wackos are winning. 

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Country Café in Schoharie and were eating regular food, like eggs and bacon, or pancakes, or French toast, and letting the strange stuff remain in the country of origin, were: Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, George Washburn, Bill Bartholomew, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Frank Pauli, Jim Heiser, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Ken Parks, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Herb Sawobota, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Duncan Bellinger, Mike Willsey (who turned 89 on June 24, making him the oldest OF at the breakfast), Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.      


Tuesday, June 12, The Old Men of the Mountain met with a classmate of some of the OMOTM for breakfast.  This classmate is Loretta of Mrs. K’s restaurant.  We met with her for breakfast and Loretta is still waiting on these old goats.

It is about time she took a break, but the lady still insists this is what she wants to do. This is her retirement. That was the restaurant of the day for the OFs.

When many of the OFs were younger (and then again not so young), square dancing started at an early age among the farmers of the group, and continued until it became too difficult to raise the arms and keep up. Square dancing, the OFs learned later on, is a good form of exercise; if the OFs knew then that it was exercise, maybe they would not have been so anxious to go dancing.

Some of the OFs still have their square-dance clothes taking up space in the closets, while others unloaded them after they realized they would not be physically able to handle the “sport.”

As the OFs continued with their dancing, they began to realize it started to become quite a fashion show with the ladies. Then, without the OFs knowing it, they became part of the show with matching outfits.

One OF mentioned they found themselves dancing at least three nights a week and maybe more, and some other OFs joined the chorus with a couple saying they traveled all over, dancing on square-dance retreats.  At these retreats, it was dancing morning, noon, and night.

One OF said it must have been fun or we would not have done it. The OFs were wondering how many of the clubs that were around when the OFs were into square dancing are still active.

When plows were horse-drawn

For some reason the OFs started talking about farming with horses again.  It seems to this scribe that we just covered this topic, but what the OFs were talking about is the size of the equipment today and the large farms with the GPS systems on the tractors. These systems actually guide the tractor in making straight rows of whatever is being planted, or harvested like planting large acres of wheat and then harvesting that wheat.

One OF repeated an oft-used phrase by the OFs that we have lived in the best of times. To some of the OFs, that is debatable. Naturally this led to horses and most of the OFs who farmed with horses said how they buddied up with these animals.

They asked the rhetorical question, “How do you buddy up with a tractor?”

One OF said he didn’t really buddy up to his tractors but he did have his favorites, and he did cuss at some of these tractors when they refused to start, or when he would snap his thumb when he hit a woodchuck hole.

The other OFs said they would talk to the horses as they leathered them up for the day, or took the harness off at night. With the tractor, all you had to do was turn the key on or off and the OF was ready to roll.

Gone was the pleasant smell of the horse, and the conversations back and forth with the animal, that was replaced by a nauseating whirr, and clanking of an engine, and the smell of gasoline, and ozone. No comparison.

Cinematic jailbreak

The OF discussed the topic of local and national news and that was the escapees from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannamora. Along with everyone else, the OFs had opinions on where these characters could be.

The thoughts of the OFs ranged from hiding in the woods, to being in Vermont, or Canada, or even Mexico by now. One OF even ventured that the smart thing to do would be to double back and hide in the prison until everything cools down.  One of them could shave, the other grow a well maintained beard, and, because they are so average looking, they could dress up casually and walk out when the timing was right.

Some of the OFs said they know this is going to be a movie; it has all the makings. The planning, the love affair, the execution, the manhunt with the end still to be written.

The OFs said that, if these guys weren’t such bad people and their crimes weren’t so hideous, it would almost be possible to root for them but, because of what they did, the OFs want these guys rounded up in a hurry and placed in a prison where the light does not shine.

If they had committed an innocuous crime that did not include violence and knocked off some casino where their business is robbing people anyway, the OFs would be cheering them on, but not these guys.

Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and glad they are not part of the group hunting for the escapees, were: Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Chuck Aleseio, Don Wood, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Bill Krause, Jay Taylor, Herb Swabota, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Carl Walls, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.


Labor of love: Volunteers, including some from the Old Men of the Mountain, construct a bridge at Mine Kill State Park in Schoharie county. The new bridge is wide enough to accommodate ATVs and foot traffic, too.

On Tuesday, June 9, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and did they meet! There were 35 OFs there and still some others did not attend because they had more pressing plans than gathering at the Middleburgh Diner.

It is a good thing that this group is totally ad hoc, and the organization plan and bylaws were scrapped long ago. Those were an unwieldy set of rules anyway, especially the rules that showed how the OFs were to deal as a body when problems with the wife and the police came up. However, when it is deemed necessary, that five-pound rule book is hauled out, dusted off, and used.

The OFs were glad to see the rain, but not all the damage that came with it. Of course, the OFs discussed the weather — it is a good conversation starter.

Along with the weekly weather reports, some of the OFs reported frost on June 7. The OFs who said they had frost, said it was not a killing frost and it came early in the morning. The ones concerned about the frost are the gardeners, and all reported that the tomato plants and pepper plants made it through.

The bridge-building OFs were at it again, building quite a span at Mine Kill State Park for hikers of the Long Path and others. This bridge is 40 feet long and 8 feet wide.

An OF who is a planner for some of these bridges had to build the bridge for ATVs. The OF said he constructed it wide enough so a 60-inch wide machine would make it across while the driver could still have a hand to handle his beer and there would still be plenty of room to navigate across the bridge. These people are all volunteers who maintain the path and repair the bridges.

Many organizations exist on the goodness of scores of people who volunteer for what interests them. These good people fall into groups that have similar likes, hobbies, or crafts. One OF thought that, if someone were to calculate all the hours good people put into volunteering, it would total more than work hours. This OF may be right.


Proud of their product: Nine bridge-builders pose for a portrait when their work is done.


Kidney stones no fun

Interspersed with the bridge discussion (and photographs of the progress of the work being done while it was under construction) was a discussion on kidney stones. Those OFs who have produced these nasty things are more than this scribe thought, and this scribe is one of those OFs who has manufactured these pointy rocks on more than one occasion.

This experience is not what anyone would place in the fun category.

An OF related a story of a kidney stone he had that was 3-1/2 inches long. The doctors had to remove two of his ribs, take the kidney out, and then cut the kidney in half to retrieve the stone.

They then stitched everything back together and returned the kidney to where it came from. This OF sent this scribe photographs of some of his stones. These photos will not be shared.

Lamenting rhubarb prohibition

The OFs found a common vegetable that they were told not to eat, and it was rhubarb. One OF explained that it was the oxalates in the rhubarb that was the culprit.

The OFs who had rhubarb taken off their foods to eat were disappointed because they all like rhubarb. Rhubarb-strawberry pie, or rhubarb-peach pie with vanilla ice cream — gone; no longer can this group of OFs enjoy these culinary delicacies.

One of the OGs mused, “Why is all the good stuff bad for you?”

This was just a rhetorical question — no one has the answer. One OF thought that is what Hell would be like for him — passing one kidney stone after another for eternity.

Shades of honey

Our honey expert brought in two jars of honey for show and tell. Tuesday’s breakfast was a good morning for interesting show and tell — one topic was the bridge, and the other was the honey.

What the honey OF had in one jar was honey the bees produce from May flowers, and then honey from later on in the season in the second jar. This is raw, unadulterated honey.

The May flower honey was almost clear while the late-season honey was much darker. The late-season jar appeared like honey on the shelf in the store, while May flower honey was almost like water.

The OFs thought that, if they saw the May flower honey on the shelf, they would leave it there because it appeared to be watered-down honey.

Some mornings with the OFs it is like going back to school as the OFs who have expertise in a particular matter give a little talk on what they do. These are not stand-up lectures but just discussions with the people who are within earshot of their table.

Those OFs who ambled into the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and there were many, so that you know who they were, they were: Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Bill Bartholomew, George Washburn, Don Wood, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Roger Chapman, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Herb Swabota, Duncan Bellinger, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher,  Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gill Zabel, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Warren Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.


On Tuesday, June 2, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville; we’re wondering who the wise guy is that took summer! The OFs know we went from winter into August with cracked clay and all, but on Monday, June 1, and Tuesday, June 2, the OFs had to retreat to the plastic bins (where the winter clothes have been stored away for the summer) to get something to wear.

The OFs are just commenting not complaining.

The OFs have mentioned many times about what happened to them while in the service. When these experiences are enumerated back and forth, it indicates how many OFs are veterans of different branches of the service and many different campaigns.

One OF veteran mentioned that he was selling poppies in Cobleskill (by the Stewart’s store across the street from the college) when a mother with two little girls about 6 years old said the girls wanted to know if they could hug a veteran. This blew the OF away and the OF said sure, if the mother would, too.

You can’t beat an OF, especially the ones who are veterans, in taking advantage of every opportunity.  The OFs learned that in the military.

Domesticated cats and wild birds

The OFs talked about how we really do not domesticate animals; it is the animals that take a shine to us, and we cater to them. Who is the domesticated one, the cat or the person?

The cat gives nothing except an occasional purr and catches the occasional mouse. For that, the cat gets a roof over its head, groomed, fed, vet services, and pampered no end. The cat’s claw marks are even tolerated.

That discussion brought up the topic of wild birds that just fly in and take up residence with whomever. How does the bird know he is not going to wind up on the dining-room table surrounded by carrots, and potatoes?

But on occasion they do drop in, from crows, to wild geese, to ducks, and even wild turkeys. The OFs were talking of ducks and a duck that followed one particular OG around and pecked at his shoes for food; another OF said a clutch of turkeys kept coming to his back yard and he would have to chase them away by going right into them and jostling them to the woods with a little switch.            

One OF had a Canada goose just drop in and hang around and come right up to the family members and rub against their legs for attention, and it even made attempts to follow them into the house.

It must be these birds and even some so-called “wild” animals have a sense we OFs don’t know about.  They have learned early on how to pick on certain people who are not going to hurt them and they seem to be able to follow this instinct.

Mystified by Jenner’s transformation

The OFs touched a little bit on real current events, one of which was the Bruce Jenner transformation. The OFs are OFs and do not quite understand this.

The OFs remember him/her when he was a he and a great athlete in the Olympics. The OFs just can’t get a handle on this.

The younger generation might understand this better just because of the numbers of people around now. The percentage may be the same as it was in “our” day but the numbers will be greater in 2015 than 1940 or so. Then there is the advent of so much information now being in real time makes what was once hidden now out in the open with little chance to manipulate it.

OFs march on

When many of the OFs were YFs, marching in parades was something many of them did. Some OFs marched because they had to — there was some burly sergeant making sure they did.

But many of the OFs were in their school bands, or they were Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, or some were even in the Grange. Now many of the OFs have to think about putting one foot ahead of the other without the added thinking of which one it was supposed to be, right foot or left foot.

Some of the OFs would still go by hay foot, straw foot marchers.  (A note from American Heritage magazine:  In the mid-19th Century, the drill sergeants repeatedly found that among the raw recruits, there were men so abysmally untaught that they did not know left from right, and hence could not step off on the left foot as all soldiers should. To teach these lads how to march, the sergeants would tie a wisp of hay to the left foot and a wisp of straw to the right; then, setting the men to march, they would chant, “Hay-foot, straw-foot, hay-foot, straw-foot” — and so on, until everybody had caught on. A common name for a green recruit in those days was “strawfoot.”)

However, there are still a few OFs who do get dressed up and march in parades and for these  few this marching happens quite often. Marching is better than going to a gym to keep the OFs in shape. At least in marching there is a change of scenery, plus bringing a certain kind of joy to people the OFs don’t even know, especially the kids.

Gardening on high

The OFs who garden are slimming down. This scribe thinks he knows why; this is called “old backs.”

That may be why those who still get out and plant gardens are doing their gardens in raised beds. One OF said that he has gone to raised beds but not for the entire garden. Then another OF said that all his garden is now in raised beds.

One OF said that he made a series of stepped beds for his wife’s herb garden but the rest of it is still, till the ground, plant the seed, weed the garden when the plants begin to sprout, and then, at harvest time, the garden can feed the deer, rabbits, and mice and what is left over they can put on the table around one of the turkeys that wandered in.

One of the gardeners also made a brief comment on the watering of gardens, saying that rain is better than watering a garden with a hose. The OFs who garden said there are different kinds of “wet water.” Rainwater is better water, and is wetter than water from the sprinklers or the hose. Hmmmm.

Those OFs who made it to the top of hill and the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and are all talk (because at their ages the testosterone level has dwindled to almost a negative number) were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Bob Snyder, Al Latham, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Jay Taylor, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.


This scribe wonders what life was like when there were no days of the week, months of the year, or even time. We would not know if it was Tuesday or not.

Well, on Tuesday, May 26, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café, where the breakfast hors d’oeuvres were served up by Jack.  Now that is an interesting touch but, if there were no indications of days, weeks, months or years, how would we even record that such a miraculous event ever occurred?

The early arrivers talked about the unusual rainbow that was in the southwest sky at about 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. There had to be a shower someplace but where most of the OFs were it was not raining. So many of the OFs observed this rainbow that it let the OFs who had seen it alone early in the morning know they were not crazy and seeing things.

Another OF mentioned seeing on Channel 6 News a story about a girl wrestler from Gallupville who was wrestling in Madison Square Garden. This OF asked the OFs who lived anywhere near the Gallupville area if any of them knew of a girl wrestler (who had a reputation of being a rather good wrestler) living in the Gallupville area.

None of the OFs knew of such a person. Well, there is such a person and she is from Gallupville; her match was with a wrestler from Cuba, and she won. So that is another not crazy OF. Yet.

Lawnmower cowboys

Then the OFs spent quite a bit of time talking about riding lawnmowers. From this discussion, it was a good thing the OFs are country folk and keeping up with Joneses is not a priority, because most of the lawnmowers used by the OFs are so old and beat up they would be right at home in Bedrock. (Think Flintstones, Yabba dabba do).

One OF said he went to call on a fellow many of the OFs know who repairs small engines and fixes lawn mowers — riding or not. This OF purchased two basically identical riding lawnmowers for a hundred bucks each from him.

He uses the best mower to mow the lawn and the other mower for parts as the mower the OF selected as best starts to fall apart. Keeping these old things running becomes a challenge, and it’s fun to see how long they can keep these old mowers going.

The OF who has to go shopping for another mower because his mower is 17 years old, with so many cobbled up parts nobody could drive it except the OF, not unless they had a complete checkout on the mower’s idiosyncrasies.

No matter how the mower looks, if the blades go around, it will cut the grass just as well as any new, fancy, green and yellow tractor.

One OF reported that he had one of these green and yellow machines and was out mowing the lawn when his wife called. With the ear protectors on and the tractor running with the mowing deck spinning, it is tough to hear anything. The OF turned to holler, “What?” and ran full tilt into a tree.

That did a number on the plastic engine shroud of the tractor and a few other things like lights, and being able to close the hood — just little things. The OF said now the engine is really air cooled because the shroud is somewhere other than on the tractor. The OF did not say whether it was behind the shed or in the dump.

Somehow this drifted into a conversation about how much the riding mowers with the front engine have gone up in price, but the newer zero-turn machines have gone down in price. Then one OF questioned why is he able to get a riding lawn mower with all the attachments for less money than a mattress.

One OF said, “Now we know who is making all the money — the amount of profit in a mattress has to be ridiculous; just look at what goes into making a tractor and the amount of people required to do it. Now look at a mattress, one great big wooden pallet, with a bunch of springs attached to it and fabric, then on top of that is a fabric box stuffed with cotton and maybe some coil of wire or whatever inside that and it is done.”

“Big whoop,” the OF said, “If I had a heavy-duty sewing machine, I could make a mattress in my shop in two or three hours.”

Made in the USA

This led to a brief discussion on merchandise made in the United States of America, and products made elsewhere. These types of conversations can get to be a little political so the points made are short, and don’t go too deep. In this case though, consider that many of the common items most of us use, the average person could not afford if they were made in the USA. This is a sad but true commentary.

This led to another brief discussion, which is common knowledge (at least to the OFs).  They feel that New York State is killing off small industries, and the OFs are beginning to think it is intentional. Both of these are debatable.

Those OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont and most being wide awake after a good night’s sleep on a mattress of their choice, but not the few who were kicked out of the house and had to sleep in the barn, were: Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Henry Witt, Dave Williams, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Jack Norray, Gerry Erwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Andy Tinning, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, Allen Befazio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Henry Whipple, (Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Daniele Willsey, Ted Willsey, Emily Meduna, and Gerry Chartier, a small part of the Willsey clan; one of the distaff side was a chauffer for one of the Willseys who had recent shoulder surgery; the OFs are tough old goats), and me.


Well, the Old Men of the Mountain made it through another week and were able to make it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown on Tuesday, May 19.   The OMOTM reported coming through fog on their way off the Hill.

This scribe does not know how many, if any, of the OFs stopped to vote on a school’s budget on their way to the Chuck Wagon. Generally, unless there is some radical proposal, the school budget and school board members’ election is light, so the OFs would not be bothered by lines no matter what time the OFs stopped anyway.

Some of the OFs were talking about farming equipment that was used when they were young, and what the equipment is like today. The operations are basically the same, mow the hay (i.e., cut the hay), bale the hay, chop the hay, mow the hay away in the barn, (i.e., place the hay in a mow). Mow, and mow, two completely different operations on the farm, yet spelled the same. That’s the English language for you.

Farmers plant the corn, plant the grains, and milk the cows — how that work is done stays pretty much the same, but the way it is done now is where the “wow” shows up.

The OFs started talking about the same story that happened to three of them. In olden days (“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, but now, heaven knows, anything goes” — thanks to Cole Porter).  Anyway, in olden days, with a Case baler it took three people to bale the hay.

One person was on the tractor, and two people were on the baler. On the baler, one person poked the wires through the bale, and the one on the other side twisted them together.

Two OFs reported the same type of story. One OF had a neighbor farmer who had a daughter who would come and help with the fieldwork at times, and the farmer’s sons would also go along and help them. One day, the farmer’s daughter was on the baler twisting the wires, the son’s father was driving the tractor, and one son was pushing the wires through the bales. Just a routine summer’s workday on the farm in olden days, only on this particular day the farmer’s daughter suddenly took off running and screaming across the field.

The OF said his dad stopped the tractor and ran after the girl to see what had happened.  The OF said he ran around to the other side to see what had happened there, fully expecting to see a hand cut off or something like that. What he saw was about six inches of a large live snake sticking out from the bale, frantically, flaying back and forth with its forked tongue darting in an out and the rest of the snake in the bale. This reptile was in a ton of hurt and not a happy camper.

The OF said, if he had been on the side of the baler, twisting the wires, and he saw that snake coming at him with each lunge of the plunger, he would have been gone too.

The other OF said they had the same exact experience of baling up a snake with parts of that reptile protruding from the bale, again flaying back and forth. This OF did not mention if it was a wire baler, or a string baler but that part is irrelevant — it was the exact same occurrence.

What other critters have had the unfortunate experience to become baled up inside hay bales, or for that matter caught up in the corn chopper and blown into a silo, we don’t know for sure.

However, one OF mentioned, “Well, it is a good source of protein for the cows.”

The OFs looked at this one OG and wondered what kind of farm he had where cows ate meat. The protein for cows comes from grain.

Another OF said that, while they were baling (this again was a normal afternoon of putting in hay) his dad was on the tractor and all of a sudden he noticed a doe charging in front of the baler. The OF said his dad stopped immediately and shut the baler down.

When his father went to see what was going on, he found that there was a little newborn fawn on the apron of the baler just ready to go into the plunger. The OF said his father picked up the fawn and went to put it in the grass and there in the grass was another fawn.

The OF said they stopped baling in that area, and the next day when they went to the field to finish up, there was the deer with the two fawns; it appeared like she was saying thank-you to his father for saving her baby. Farming is hard, dangerous, work but at times can be very interesting. 

More buzz on bees and blossoms

The OFs were on a brief nature kick, and, although the OFs have mentioned a couple of these items before, at this breakfast, they were discussing them again as if they were new.

The apple trees, along with other flowering trees and shrubs are loaded with blossoms, and the OFs noticed the lilacs have more flowers than leaves, but there are no bees. One OF said a bee here and there is nothing like it used to be when the apple trees at his place would have so many bees in it that the tree sounded like a factory humming.

Some of the OFs have noticed the absence of woodchucks. One OF who does brushhogging says he hasn’t run into a woodchuck hole in about the same period of time.

“There are a few woodchucks around,” another OF said. “But not many.”

On the other hand, the OFs noticed how many wild strawberry blossoms are around. This is a year for wild strawberries like in the past. The OFs reminisced about how, when they were younger, being sent out by their parents to go and pick them. The OFs said the berries have disappeared for some time but now they seem to be back; however, now the OFs don’t have parents around to send them out to break their backs picking them.  

Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, and who are not about to go out and pick wild strawberries, were: Henry Witt, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Andy Tinning, Harold Guest, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Bill Krause, Duncan Bellinger, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Gil Zabel, and me.


In the merry, merry month of May, the Old Men of the Mountain met on Tuesday, May 12, at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg.

The Duanesburg Diner has a neat way of keeping track of who has regular, or who has decaf, coffee. This restaurant does it with black and white mugs, black for regular, and white for decaf.

This way, the waitress, or waitresses, do not have to keep asking who has the decaf, and, with 20 to 25 guys, that is a lot of coffee to keep track of. Then there is always the orange juice or water guys thrown in to mess things up.

 It was a great summer-type morning on Tuesday, and the OF weathermen did not complain about our, so far, two-season weather pattern for 2014-2015 of just a nasty winter, right into 80- to 90-degree summer-type days. The OFs commented but did not complain — yet.

The OFs mentioned all the weather that is going on in the central part of the country. One OF said, “No matter what, weather is going on all over the world.  It has to.” What the OF was referring to is the bad weather and tornadoes.

Another OF said, “These things have been going on for years, only now we have instant information in real time brought right into our living rooms, and that seems to make it different. Also, there are more people now than 70 years ago to get in the way of these weather systems. The world stays the same; it is the numbers that change and they change the world just so this old planet has a hard job keeping up.”

All that dialogue sent this scribe to check a few things out and, as usual, the OFs are right. When the OFs were YFs (1940), there were 132 million people in the United States.  Today there are 320 million.

The average water usage per person is 80 to 100 gallons a day: 320 X 80/100 is considerably larger than 132 X 80/100. Now we are talking big numbers.

Then there is the irrigation to grow food for 320 million when, in 1940, that was not even necessary. The OF was right — it is the numbers.

China will scare the pants off you when looking at its numbers. The paper wouldn’t be long enough to support all the zeros behind the initial number.

Time jumping

The OFs did their usual time jumping from 20 to 30 years ago, and on occasion dipped into more recent history and coupled that with current times in quite often the same sentence. The subject of this conversation was businesses and farms that are gone from our area and have not been replaced.

The areas included were basically the Johnstown-Gloversville area, and the cities of Amsterdam and Schenectady.  The OFs were talking and reminiscing about the places that are no longer here — places and businesses like Coleco, Mohawk Carpets, all the glove factories, and tanneries, and the small knitting mills.  Most of them have vanished into our memories.

One OF said that these businesses are gone but a few others have replaced them; however, even some of the replacements of those businesses are gone now, too.

“Times change,” one OF said, “but many times the changing of time is not good.”

Then one OF opined, “Life is cyclical; small towns are all painted up and look good, then for some reason many seem to fall into a slump.” Then the OF continued, “As long as it keeps a viable core and property becomes cheap it has a resurgence. The problem with us is we are too darn old to see the plus side return to some of the small towns we are talking about.”

Tattoo craze

The OFs mentioned the tattoo craze that is going on right now, and we mentioned how those things fade as people age, and the only color left in the tat is black. Some of the OFs who were in the military, especially the Navy, got tattoos way back when, and some woke up in the morning and there was “Mom” tattooed on their shoulder and they didn’t know how it got there.

Today it is hardly legible and is just a black blob. One OF mentioned it was the stuff they drank from those dark blue tin cups. Not only did the stuff send smoke out of the OF’s ears, it also melted the bottom out of the tin cup.

“Whatever it was,” the OF said, “You could cut off my arm and I would have said thank you.”

Duct tape

From this small talk, we again turned to duct tape. The OFs are beginning to think that the whole world is held together with duct tape, or is it now duct tape because the word “duct” has become so common place for industrial tape that it is now a generic term like aspirin.

Every car, wagon, and tractor should come with its own small roll of 2-inch-wide duct tape — just in case. It is used to hold race cars together at 200 miles per hour, temporarily patch leaks in just about anything, wrap heating ducts, and repair vacuum-cleaner hoses.

Why, some people have even been known to repair a favorite pair of slippers with it. If it breaks, tape it with duct tape.

“There are a few things duct tape doesn’t work on,” one OF said, “and one of those is carpenter bees.”

This OF reported that he has tried taping their holes at night and in the morning there is a bee that has chewed his way through the tape and died, but he had cleared the way for the others.

The other problem?  Duct tape does not take to heat very well. One OF said, “Don’t try taping a muffler with it.”

Those OFs who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and missing Red Green (a long-ago TV personality who used to duct tape anything and everything), were: Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Ted Willsey (sling and all), Jim Rissacher, Bill Krause, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Duncan Bellinger, and me.

On May 5, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the “Your Way Café” in Schoharie.  Years ago, there was a “My Way Café” on Route 9 around Clifton Park. This particular café was all done up with Frank Sinatra paraphernalia; however, the one in Schoharie has no such motif.

It is a clever name implying how you might want your food prepared, but, on the other hand, this may lead to some discussion between patron and cook.  There was none of that discussed with the OFs; everything came in large portions, and just as ordered.

The OFs for the most part are grandparents, and a few are great-grandparents, so, when the OFs start talking about their own grandparents, the conversation is going back a ways. That is what some of the OFs were doing Tuesday morning.

They were remembering what they did with their grandparents, and what type of people they were and what they talked about.  For instance, say the OF is 80, and the grandparent of the OF was 80, and the OF is remembering when he was 7 to 10 years old, and the grandparent was remembered when they were 25 to 30 years old. Now the OFs are talking of events around 128 to 130 years ago. That is getting back there.

Even though this has been mentioned many times before, we spoke again of how the parents of the OFs went from horse and buggy to men on the moon. Some OFs’ parents went from the Great Depression, to the Regan era.

Most all of the OFs’ parents went from farming with horses to tractors that drive themselves. One OF mentioned that we could see the progression of time then, and even when the OF was in the work force. This OF continued ruminating that now the progression of time is so fast that what is new today is obsolete tomorrow.

One OF said, “I love it.  I would like to be 6 or 7 years old now and just see what the world will be like in another 60 to 70 years.”

Another OF chimed in, “Yeah, if this old planet is still here and we haven’t blown it up by then.”

New cars for old hands

How the OFs segued into new cars from this previous conversation is almost understandable, because one OF just purchased a new vehicle for his wife (yeah, right).  This might have been the reason for the discussion that followed.

It was brought up that some of the new cars do not supply even a “doughnut” for a spare tire. The vehicle comes with a can of “Fix-a-Flat.”

“That stuff does work,” one OF said. “But it’s a mess, and what if you sliced your tire on a piece of angle iron, how is ‘Fix-a-Flat’ going to fix that flat?”

The OFs remember when cars came with two spare tires, one in each front fender. A couple of the OFs noted cars came with a parts book, and even tools for the parts that required specialty tools.

Along with that, the cars had lines; each make and model was different, and it was possible to tell which model was which. One OF said, when a bank robber was making his getaway years ago, the witnesses could say the car was a 1935, black, four-door Buick custom sedan, and the police would know what they were looking for.

Today, all they can say is, “It was a gray car, Officer, or maybe it was a pickup truck.”

The witness might be able to identify a red SUV. That’s about it. If it was a Honda, or Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Chevy, hey, they all look alike!            

When the OFs were YFs, they used to play a game on trips called “name that car.” When a car was spotted coming at them, they would start calling out the name and make of the car when it was just a dot on the horizon.

“Plymouth Coupe,” someone would shout, and everyone else would say, “Oh nuts,” because the friend or sibling spotted it first. It would be rare that somebody else would call a different car.

Plastic tractors

After reminiscing about cars, the OFs talked about tractors, especially lawn tractors, and mentioned the new ads they have seen from Cub Cadet. There was a time when International made the Cub Cadet and it was made like a tractor, now it is made by MTD, and just as tinny.

Only it’s really not “tinny” and an OF implied the tractors are all plastic and that stuff doesn’t last five or six years before it starts to crack, and things loosen up.

Another OF said, “You can’t hammer dents out of plastic, and you can’t weld a stiffer piece onto where you have a problem.”

“Not made to last, like lots of other equipment,” one OF opined. “We are a throw-away society, planned obsolescence, tough and long lasting is a joke.”

Another OF asked, “Have you ever tried to get a part for something older than five years?”  This OF said, “If an OF buys something they really like, they should buy two of these products. That way, you can start up the second one when the first one goes bad, and then the first one can become a parts machine.”

“Not a bad idea,” one OF replied.

The frog that got away

Now for a completely unrelated story (and it’s too bad the OF did not have a camera for this one). The OF said that he was out getting the garden ready and he saw a snake trying to eat a frog.

The snake had half the frog in his mouth and the half of the frog that wasn’t in the snake’s mouth was holding on a stick trying not to go down the snake’s throat. The OF relating this tale said that he did not know how a snake could eat something that large.

He also said he got a stick and struck the snake so the frog got away. The OF did not elaborate on how long this took, or how it happened, but that is what he said anyway.

Those OFs who made their way to the “Your Way Café” in Schoharie and inaugurated their first breakfast in a familiar building with the new name were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Dave Williams, Dick Ogsbury, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Karl Remmers, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Don Wood, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Bill Krause, and me.