Tuesday, Jan. 6, the first breakfast of the Old Men of the Mountain of the New Year, was at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. It is now year-wise 2015 (and temperature-wise five to seven degrees) and what does the year hold in store for the OMOTM other than be cold?

By the tone of the chatter Tuesday morning, not much — even the temperature is pretty normal for January.

The OFs have seen so many old years go, and new years come, that, when compared, one to another, nothing much happens. But, when the years are strung together, a lot does change — a whole lot.

This scribe does not want to start listing a multitude of changes here in transportation, communication, medicine, or morality; the readers can do that themselves just by comparing any topic from 1930 to 2015 and noting the changes. From diapers with pins to Pampers, one of the best subjects for changing the scribe can think of.

One sign of progress during that period of time is the small matter of immunization in the medical field. Now the OFs get a shot to ward off this or that.

The OFs were talking about having gotten their flu shot. The media is advising us that the shot we had is not going to handle the type of flu that is out there, but it will lessen the severity of it. Again, every little bit helps.

Polio in our country and throughout much of the world is about obliterated because of a vaccine. The OFs are familiar with this disease because of knowing people who have contracted it.

Tuberculosis is another disease that can be conquered, pneumonia another.  Get a shot and the chances the OFs will come down with these problems are slim. The OFs could go on and on in just this one segment of progress in the 80-plus years they have crawled (then got up and walked) on this sphere.

Decorating minimalists

As the OFs become older, they find they do less and less decorating for the holidays. Holidays here meaning not only Christmas, but Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, or any other holiday the OFs celebrated in the past.

This year, most of the OFs have their decorations down, because not many were put up. When is the appropriate time to put the decorations away until next year?

As far as the OFs go, there isn’t any. Put them up whenever, and take them down whenever, or never take the outside decorations down.

“Why?” the OFs ask. “It just has to be done next year anyway.” 

Over the years, the OFs have accumulated boxes and boxes of ornaments and these boxes are stashed in the attic, barn, or cellars of their homes. Many of the OFs add to their collections just because of good marketing, or because the decorations just look pretty.

Now, instead of one box, many have quite a few boxes and some these boxes now are never opened and never used. One OF said Box Number One, which hasn’t been opened in 20 to 25 years, must have some super collectible ornaments in it by now.

Decorating to one OF is a lot of fun, and the whole family gets into it. This OF has a manger scene he built and painted himself and he still drags it out each Christmas.

OFs’ ingenuity shines

The OFs were wondering why it is that the smaller the tractor, the more the parts cost to fix it when it either breaks or wears out. Some OFs have a small tractor, not a lawn mower-type tractor but a do-it-all small tractor.

It is not only one OF that thinks his tractor is a Cat D7, but most of the OFs fall into this category and they try to pull a two-ton log with a half-ton tractor. That is why things break and the manufacturer is smart enough to realize this is going to happen, so, to make a good profit, it puts a hefty price tag on parts. Or the service shop tacks a good price on the parts that are prone to breakage to increase its margin to pay for parts it has to carry that are probably never going to move off the shelf.

This is where the OFs shine. Over the years, they have developed a little trait called ingenuity.

This becomes obvious when an OF says such-and-such broke and another OF says he had the same problem and fixed it with duct tape and baling wire, and tells how he did it.

If you think this is just a joke, just watch the NASCAR races sometime and see how much duct tape is used after a car has had an altercation with the wall at 190 miles per hour. Sometimes cars finish with two to three rolls of duct tape holding them together. Duct tape is the OFs’ friend. This scribe thinks some of the OFs are held together with duct tape.

Wrong turn

Referring to last week, the OFs who took the wrong turn more than once leaving the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville were followed (unbeknownst to them) by other OFs who left the restaurant but knew where they were going.

This past Tuesday morning, The OFs who knew questioned the other OFs and asked if they got home by noon.

The OFs who knew where they were and saw the other OFs turn right when they should have turned left or gone straight said, “I wonder where those OFs are going; they are going to get lost.”

Yup, they were right.  The right-turning carload of OFs did take quite a circuitous route and wound up about 300 yards from the Hilltown Café after driving for nearly half an hour.

The OFs who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and who did not even worry about the vehicle not starting (that seems to be a thing of the past) were: George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Don Wood, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me. 

Put a nick in the post.  Tuesday, Dec. 30, the sky was actually blue and sun was in the eyes of most of the Old Men of the Mountain on their way to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville.  Nearly all of them were catching the sun as it came up, and for “A” people that is the best part of the day.

This scribe found out later that some of the OFs again got lost, not actually lost, but just twisted around on the way home from the Hilltown Café. Really, the restaurant is easy to find, and it’s just as easy to leave, when people stick to the main roads.

However, when many strangers and even some so-called locals try a road less traveled in the Hilltowns of the Helderbergs, it sometimes becomes time to send out the St. Bernards with the jugs around their necks.

The OFs started talking about some of the OFs who are having tough physical problems and the upbeat attitude they have to whatever their problem is.

The OFs are OFs because it seems that those in the group do not have a “woe is me” attitude. The report on the OFs who are in these situations is that they are positive.

One particular OF who is having a tough time became paralyzed and is in therapy — really intensive therapy. This OF cannot walk “yet.” He is making progress but it is slow; however, he has told the OFs who visit him he is going to “walk” out of this place. By golly, the OFs are sure he will.

This type of attitude applies to the others. The OGs have said this before and will say it again: You have to be tough to get old, and it is the personal approach the OFs have to this getting-old bit that helps them get old with attitude.

Smart birds

Many of the OFs have outdoor-type personalities; they are hikers, kayakers, hunters, fishermen — the type that pull on the boots, pull down the earflaps, and head out.

Tuesday morning, they were talking about fishing spots along the Schoharie Creek and elsewhere. These places range from Burtonsville to beyond Middleburgh. There are others but this group of OFs was talking specifically about the areas on the Schoharie Creek because of the eagles that nest there.

This scribe, who spends a lot of time outdoors (but isn’t one of these outdoorsy type of OFs) surmises that the eagles are as smart as the OFs; these birds know where the fish are.

Rest Seekers legend

Traveling back in time again was brought about by current events and how things have changed. The geography covered was basically Warners Lake.

The OFs discussed the absence of some of the eating establishments on the Hill and how those that are left have taken over. The OFs did take in the old Rest Seekers Inn and what a place that was.

They spoke about the Lake and how Zwick’s was on one end and O’Hanlon’s on the other. Both places had boat launches and places to swim in the lake. It was different then, and the OFs were younger, of course, and might be remembering the times and fun from a different angle.

One OF remembers bringing friends from Long Island to Rest Seekers.  At first, they were hesitant to enter, because, instead of eating in the bar like the OF usually did, they went in through the diner door.

To those not familiar with the Rest Seekers design, this entrance was like going into someone’s basement. It was lit with one 60-watt bare bulb screwed into a pigtail, and wired to a cord hanging from the ceiling.

Inside, the place would be full, and the collection of people would be everyone from farmers still with their boots on, to people in fur coats, suits, and ties. The Long Island people were still uncomfortable because, when they sat down at the tables, the tables were at such an angle it took two cups of coffee to get one.

Usually friends from the Hill would stop by and genuinely ask who they were and say things like, “I hope you are hungry,” or, “Order this or that.” The discomfiture finally left and the Long Island people loosened up and were amazed at the quantity, and quality, of the food.

The real kick in the pants came when one of the Long Island people thought he would have a slice of watermelon with ice cream for dessert, so that was ordered. What was served was half of a large watermelon, and at least a quart of ice cream. The Long Island person just stared and then broke out laughing when he found out it was just for him because that is what he ordered. Ah!

The Rest Seekers is gone but not forgotten.

Foxenkill?  Well, that is another story, and it wasn’t on the Hill anyway.

No doomsday

The OFs at this breakfast wished all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year as they left, as the next breakfast will be in 2015.

It seems to most of the OFs that we just left the millennium breakfast wondering what we were going to do when all the banks failed, and the computers went down, and the stock market crashed because we were going into the 21st Century.

Where did all that time go?  The OFs are still waiting for the electronic disaster. There may be tough times somewhere down the line, but doomsday, the OFs maintain, is just a scare tactic to sell products.

Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and who are ready for 2015 were: Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Chuck Aleseio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.

The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. Ks Restaurant in Middleburgh on Tuesday, Dec. 23, with Christmas just around the corner. This has become an annual event.

Loretta (the proprietor of Mrs. Ks) was a classmate of some of the OFs, so there is no telling this lady any trumped-up stories. Loretta was there and she knows if any of the OFs are blowing smoke.

Not that the OFs do this but, on the rare occasion when they do, Loretta will give them the “look” like, “What kind of far-fetched story are you trying to peddle now!” That puts the brakes on the OFs from stretching a tale too far.

With the spread that Loretta had put out for the OFs it wasn’t necessary to order breakfast, but the OFs did, and then some had the nerve to ask for doggy bags.

There is another side to this that the OFs mention every now and then. How many of us OGs hobble into her establishment and there she is. She has been there since maybe 5 in the morning, ready to wait on us OFs. The OFs wish she would dish up some of her energy on top of the bacon and eggs, or pancakes.

Towns with spirit

The OFs talked about the spirit of certain towns, and how there seems to be a spirit in Middleburgh that is a step above the others. The decorations for Christmas, the candy-cane covers for the parking meters so parking is free during the holidays, the artsy shops, and the plantings around town during the summers are inviting touches — this all makes Middleburgh just seem different.

One OF pointed out that Middleburgh does have the creek running right at the west end of town, and all those beautiful large homes going north along the creek on Route 30, which accounts for a lot of this good feeling.

The OFs are sure the other towns try, but do not have the structure or the landscape to work with. Also, as one OF put it, it is what a town wants and if the town leaders have the finances to work with what the people would like to see.

Some want it quiet and not all gussied up. One OF who used to have a business in a small local town said it is necessary to get people out of their vehicles and to walk the streets and then attract them into your shop.

This OF said that, if there is just a group of destination stores, none of these businesses will make it — his opinion.

Then there is the flood. This unfortunate disaster still raises its ugly head maintained one OF. It isn’t only the flooded towns, said one OG, it is (some) towns in general.  Just ask the OFs.  There is a lot on knowledge in the group — about 1,800 years of it.

“God is in heaven but the devil roams the Earth”

There was a brief discussion on Kenneth White, and the OFs extend their sympathy for everyone involved. Some of the OFs wondered if the situation was the result of being on medication, or the lack of it. The warnings on some medicines heard in ads on TV and radio are enough to scare the living daylights out of anyone.

“We can conjecture all we want but none of us were in that trailer at that time,” said one OF.

A second OF said, “If God is so benevolent and loving, why do things like this happen? Look at all the people’s lives that are screwed up; what is the purpose of it?”

“God is in heaven,” one OG answered, “but the devil roams the earth.”

The OFs were getting a little deep here.

Plucking chickens

The OFs discussed eating and plucking chickens, and the various ways to do both. Some OFs maintain that it is not necessary to dip the bird in hot water to get the feathers off. Some of the OFs said that using a pick and hitting the right spot of the brain the feathers just fall off.

Others said running the chicken through a “defeathering” machine was another way. The machine is just a series of whirling rubber blades that takes the feathers off, explained the OF.

The OFs surmised that there must be some way of removing the feathers other than dunking the bird in hot water because the OFs are pretty sure that Purdue, or Tyson, do not have guys or gals taking chickens and dunking them in hot water tubs then plucking them.

“My goodness, what a smelly job that would be,” said one OF because he couldn’t stand the smell when plucking a chicken. “That smell is worse than cleaning the gutters.”

One OF said, “Think of all the chickens that must be raised on a daily basis just to feed the people that eat them all over this planet. What a number that would be.”

The OFs who came out of the hills to attended the holiday breakfast at Mrs. Ks Restaurant in Middleburgh and enjoy the hors d’oeuvres were: Miner Stevens, Otis Lawyer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Don Wood, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

— Photo by John R. williams

White Christmas: The Hilltowns are blanketed with snow while the towns beneath the Helderberg escarpment haven’t retained the white stuff.

Many of the Old Men of the Mountain left the hills of snow on Tuesday, Dec. 16, and made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont. What a difference a few miles and 1,500 feet make in the type weather that the OFs traverse. Not one of the weather people even mentioned Knox, Berne, (maybe Berne once or twice) South Berne, or East Berne and the last two really got nailed with the amount of snow that was dumped on these localities.

Getting to the Home Front, which is at the foot of Altamont hill in Altamont (duh), the OFs went from 20 to 24 inches of snow to practically nothing in a distance of two miles. The other point is that this snow has hung around, and for days now the trees are still laden with snow — a winter wonderland (yeah right).

The OFs assumed the cameras were clicking especially on Saturday when there were about five hours of sun. These same weather people were showing sun and warmer temps, and the OFs are wondering where did that happen, maybe Hawaii.

The OFs haven’t seen much sun lately, and, without the sun, just like old snapping turtles, the OFs are growing moss on their backs.

Short days

There was a brief discussion on the shortest day between sunrise and sunset

This scribe had to check this one out and found it goes minute by minute and is based from Boston for use in the Farmers’ Almanac and it started on Dec. 17 to 26 the to give 9 hours and 2 minutes of daylight for those days; however, sunrise and sunset times vary a tad.

Anyway, we are in the shortest period of daylight hours for 2014. Whoopee.

Experts on doctors

There also was some talk on the age of your doctor. The OFs are now of an age where they can officially be declared experts on types of doctors.

Some of the information comes from self experience, and some for firsthand experience of friends and relatives. Like all experts who expound on this or that, the one item the OFs agree on is: The only thing the expert is an expert on is saying that he or she is an expert.

Some of the OFs think going to a doctor that has considerable gray in his hair — if it is a she doctor, that is hard to tell because they, like many ladies, die their hair — indicates the doctor has seen many cases and probably has seen before whatever the OF is there with.

Whereas a young doctor has less experience and that wart on your nose may stump him, but the older may have had one himself. But the other OFs maintained that the younger doctor may be more up on the new techniques, procedures, and medications.

One OF said he was a little biased: Give me experience over youth any day.

There was a basic school of thought that was on karma. Some OFs said they didn’t care if the doctor wasn’t old enough to shave, or had hair growing out of his ears like me; as long as the doctor and patient got along and could communicate, that was all that the OFs cared about.

Then there was that OG, again, who wanted to start a collection of the distaff side who commented that, as long as the doctor had a pretty receptionist and good-looking nurses, the doctor was good enough for him even if he was a quack. This OF said at least the doctor had good judgment.

Chat on charity

This is the season that many organizations introduce their campaigns for charitable giving. Most seem needy and worthwhile and the OFs struggle at times because the ads and programs make them want to give to them all.

That is a trick of good marketing, or a good advertising agency. These businesses do well in inducing the OFs at times to purchase things the OFs don’t want, or need, and will probably never use. These people are good at what they do, especially going to college for four or six years to learn how do to it.

Most of the OFs do what they can for the charities they are familiar with — some with animals, some for the heart, some for the Salvation Army, some for kidney, some for the Rescue Mission, and others like the Nature Conservancy, volunteer fire companies, civic organizations that affect the local community.

Not only do the OFs do this with money, but also time.  Even though many well-intentioned charitable organizations tug at the OFs’ purse strings, the OFs say: Pick one and stick with it. They also add that dropping something in the Salvation Army bucket doesn’t hurt, and every little bit helps.

The OFs say: Take a lesson from the cable company — jack the bill up a couple bucks at a time and it is not really noticed, but do that with two million people and it is four million dollars.

One OF say he contributes thousands of dollars a year to quite a group of not-for-profit organizations. They are called New York State, the federal government, the town, and the county — and he has nothing to say about it. After contributing to these charitable organizations, he has nothing left for the others.

The OFs noticed that, as the OFs in this group become older, the OFs are requiring more and more medical care, for themselves and their families. This is to be expected and, as one or more of a family becomes incapacitated, this places a lot of stress on the other members of the family.

The OFs have covered this before and there is tons or stress and anxiety placed on the caregivers and the caregiver needs as much support as the one requiring the care. This is where churches, friends, and groups like the OMOTM can fill a really important niche in people’s lives.  (A scribe comment snuck in here.)

The OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont, which is not a charitable organization, were; Dave Williams, Steve Kelly, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, John Rossmann, Lou Schenck, Chuck Alesio, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Gill Zabel, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bill Krause, and me.

Location:

Tuesday, Dec. 9, was not a nice day. The Old Men of the Mountain on their way to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown kept — slip-sliding away, slip-sliding away/you know the nearer your destination/the more you’re slip-sliding away.

Simon and Garfunkel must have known the Northeast well. That’s what it was like getting to the restaurant Tuesday morning, and getting back home was even worse. However, some hardy OFs made it to the breakfast.

The discussion was mainly kidding back and forth, about family living, and friends.

One of the topics was what to get the wife for Christmas. It seems to the OFs that the ladies have more intuitive sense of what to get as presents then the OFs.

It was found out that many of the OFs agonize over what to get for their wives, and they hope it is the right thing. A vacuum cleaner is not one of them.

Jewelry is pretty safe, but will it be right and will she wear it?  Clothes?  That is another area that should be safe but most of the OFs don’t even know what size shirt their ladies wear, and will it have to be a whole outfit because most (not all) of the OFs don’t have a clue to what is hanging in the wife’s closet so matching something is out.

One OF mentioned that we should come right out and ask what she wants, and go and get it. Another OF said he tried that and she said, “Another husband.”

An OF said, at their ages, there is not much they need or want and, if there is something, they just go and check out the stores and buy it.

Last week, an OF repeated his idea: “Just get anything with the return slip because they are going to return it anyway. It doesn’t even have to fit if it is clothes, or whatever, just as long as you spend enough on it — that is the secret. At least I know what kind of stores my wife likes.”

One OF said, “Just haul them off to Kohl’s.”

Fair talk

The Altamont Fair was discussed a lot at Tuesday morning’s breakfast regarding all the changes that have been made over the years. The OFs also said that the current fair manager is retiring, and heading south.

Pretty soon, this ole globe is going to tip over with all the people headed to where the rays of the sun are longer. (As this scribe is typing this column on Dec. 10 and looking out the window at all the limbs down from about an eighth of an inch of ice and 15 to 18 inches of snow, a trip down south does not look like that bad of an idea.)

Quality show

The OFs discussed the craft show and sale at the “Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center” on Ketchum Road in the town of Knox, and some of the artisans there. They mentioned the lady that makes baskets out of pine needles, only these are not pine needles like our northern pine needles, these are pine needles from the south and are about eight to 10 inches long.

Of course, the OFs would pick up on that, and then they brought up the cookie lady.  Again, the OFs would pick up on that also. The OFs thought this was a good quality show.

Collecting vs. hoarding

Then the OFs talked about collections and discussed what is a collection and what is just hoarding. That is a good question.

As it is often pointed out, a collection is when you have more than three of the same type of thing. It could be thimbles, or pickup trucks. Hoarding, the OFs maintain, is when it is just all kinds of stuff that has no rhyme or reason.

Most of the OFs are collectors, and often times discuss their collections, and even have other OFs spotting items for some other OF’s collection, even to the point of purchasing it if the OF thinks the price is in line for the other OF. The OFs go over this topic a lot.

Twice at this breakfast, the subject of women came up and, in this case, one OF who is not a collector of much did say he would like to start a collection of women.

“Three or more is a collection, right?” the OF inquired.

“Yep,” was the reply. “But it is a selective hobby,” the OF was told. “You can’t have one young one, one old one, one thin one, and one fat one.”

The OF countered, “Why not, if I were collecting thimbles, I could have one old one, one fancy one, one plain one, one for thin hands, and one for fat hands.”

The other OFs had to agree; maybe he could pick and choose.

One OF said that OF would have a tough time with that kind of collection; he had enough trouble just getting one.

“I was broke then,” the OF said. “Now I have money and that is a big chick magnet.”

The other OFs said, “That is a collection I would not want to start; I have enough trouble with one.”

“Me too,” was a quick reply from another OG.

Affairs of the heart

Now it was time to talk about affairs of the heart, and who has what in his heart, and who has had some serious repair jobs to the engine of the body.

Many of the OFs have had that organ worked on. Many of the OFs have had heart catheterizations. All but one have had no problems.

The one with the problem had his procedure performed through his arm, and at first things didn’t go right. However, everything is fine now; it was just the problem of waiting it out until the arm got back to normal.

The OFs think that this practice will soon be a thing of the past and they will be able to check the heart out without any invasive procedure.

Those OFs with enough heart to brave the weather, and make it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, were: Roger Chapman, Andy Tinning, Bill Krause, John Rossmann, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, and me. 

Location:

On Dec. 2, the first Tuesday of the month, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner. The group trickled in slowly, just that it happened that way; there was no particular reason for the trickle.

This was the first gathering after Thanksgiving and the usual questions were asked — and by many: “How was your Thanksgiving?” and, “Do anything special?”

The answers varied from many miles “traveled to be with friends and relatives,” or many “friends and relatives traveled to our place,” or “not much, just a few people came over,” or “nothing special, we had soup and a sandwich; we make it up at Christmas time.”

Then there are always the bah-humbugs. All these holidays are made-up days by the toy manufacturers, the card makers, the costume makers, the flag and bunting makers (an OF interjected: Did you ever notice how many of the American Flags waved on the Fourth of July are made in China?), and whoever else can dupe the public into spending money for things they don’t want or need bandwagon. The next thing you know there will be a bandwagon holiday to celebrate all those who play musical instruments.

Into the future

A subject came up that was a little unusual because usually the OFs go back in time; this time, they wonder what it will be like in the next 50 years. Most of the OFs won’t be around, but the OFs’ grandkids will.

One OF thought that, the way things are going now, in 50 years there won’t be a United States of America as we know it. It is just like someone has let the dogs out, and the barbarians are running amuck, similar to what happened to Rome. This OF feels we are headed for the Dark Ages again.

Yet another OF felt that he would like to be around 50 more years, and see people on Mars, and traveling to other universes. Cancer cured. The common cold beat. No more Third World countries; all countries would be on the same page. This OF thinks the best is yet to come.

Talk about 180 degrees apart. Some OFs conjectured none of us would be around to find out who was right anyway.

Hairy subject

The subject now goes from the sublime to a much lower level, the human hair. An OF wondered why we have hair where we don’t want it and no hair where we need it.

“Yeah,” one OF said, “why does one hair on my eyebrows grow out two to three inches and it has to be cut with a pair of bolt cutters, and all the others grow shaggy and relatively the same length? Where does that one hair get the protein to grow that long?”

“Yes,” another OF chimed in, “I have a mole on my back and it has five or six black hairs growing out of it; how come? They are so tough, those hairs poke through my shirt like pieces of wire.”

One more question an OG asked was, “How come I have never heard of anyone going bald, or even losing hair in their nether regions?”

“Well, who is going to admit to that?” an OF asked.

One more OF said, “People don’t go running around with that region exposed like the top of your head so, unless you have X-ray vision, no one will ever notice.”

“To me,” the original OF said, “it is still a question if hair can continually grow ‘there,’ why can’t doctors take that gene and, through genetic engineering, steer it to your head?”

“Who knows,” an OF answered. “Maybe some bald research doctor is already working on this problem.”

“If he finds the answer,” an OF added, “he will give Bill Gates and that guy from Mexico (billionaire Carlos Slim) a run for their money.”

“What are parades for anyway?”

Some of the OFs are, and were involved in parades, especially those in the military. The OFs began talking about the Shriners and Mummers and how, at many parades, they are a big hit.

The Shriners run around in those little cars, which is quite smart because they don’t have to walk the parade route and don’t have to hire a band. An added bonus to the Shriners’ way of parading is, at the end of the parade, they just hop in their little cars and ride back to where the parade formed up.

The Mummers, on the other hand, have to march the whole distance carrying those elaborate costumes on their shoulders. If it is the Fourth of July parade, they have to be exhausted at the end. 

Some of the OFs march with different fire companies, or civic organizations. An OF wondered, “What are parades for anyway? Who first thought, ‘I guess I will take my horn and walk through the street playing it?’”

One OF thought that, way back in time, it was a way of forming the Army into some kind of organized line to get them to battle.

“Not bad reasoning,” said one OF.

The other OF said, “I still don’t understand parades.”

The wooly bear knows

The OFs have been judging this winter weather, and say that little black and brown caterpillar has been right so far. Those tight black hairs at the beginning of winter indicate we are just in the middle of the beginning. (Whatever that means, but we understood.)

Those attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and some maintaining that it is winter, and not any different than winters in the past, were:  Jim Heiser, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Karl Remmers, Dave Williams, Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mike Willsey, Gerry Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.

Location:

On Nov. 25, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Scho/Co Diner in Schoharie, and as usual discussed many things. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and most of the time it is the good and the bad — the OMOTM leave the ugly to other people.

The banter at the breakfast does, at times, use gossip that has been bounced about, or rumors that are floating around but primarily for clarification to how much of either is fact, or fiction. Somewhere in the group, an OF has clear information that either refutes, or substantiates the rumors.

The OFs discussed Thanksgiving, and in the process wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving that many could have considering their circumstances. The question arose: What is a Happy Thanksgiving, and what is a Merry Christmas? Are the wishes just words or are they heartfelt?

With the honesty that prevails among the OFs, the words do carry the proper caveat that should accompany the statements. One OF said that knowing a person’s circumstances should not stop anyone from wishing him a happy whatever holiday celebration it is, as best as he can apply it to his situation, or from offering the clerk in the store, or the stranger on the street a Happy Thanksgiving, or a Merry Christmas.

This OF thought, “Bah-Humbug only breeds more Bah-Humbugs.”  Amen to that was the comment.

Media spurs controversy

The problems in Ferguson, Missouri were discussed for a little while, and the surprising thing talked about was not who was right or who was wrong, but the media’s portrayal of the whole set of circumstances, and others like it, including the Ebola situation.

An OF said that the media doesn’t care; they want a riot to break out and actually contribute to the fire that brings things like this to a head. The media hyped this like the World Series, and the Super Bowl, with a rehearsed known agenda to the outcome.

The OFs feel the media is nowhere near the solution — they are the problem. Without some kind of turmoil, the same media cannot sell newspapers, or ad space on the radio, or television, so they do whatever they can to agitate until something happens.

It all comes down to money, not people. This went off on different tangents (as many conversations like this do) until the original points are so obscure much of the time they just become rants from different points of view on a subject that barely resembles what started the original conversation.

Hirsute pursuits

Haircuts!  Now there is a topic that the OFs know.

Much of the hair on many of the OFs is either gone, thin, or going. That is not what the conversation was about.

The OFs have long been resigned to the hairless syndrome and do not even worry about it. The problem with the OFs and haircuts is how much they cost

Again, the OFs are not suggesting that barbers should make whatever they want to. The OFs will choose where they get the best haircut for the best deal.

But the OFs maintain it should be on a sliding scale. Many of the OFs get in the chair and it is zip-zip and they are done — but the OF still pays as much for the haircut as the young buck that climbs in the chair with a huge mop of hair, and a complete set of directions on how he wants it cut.

This guy is in the chair for half an hour or more and pays the same price as the OF who was in the chair for no more than five minutes. Not fair, Magee.

Economics of hybrid cars

Electric cars and hybrid vehicles were another topic we chatted about and how more of these vehicles are now being seen on the road. The OFs are still not too enthused about this means of transportation, especially the trade-in value, and/or purchasing a used one.

The OFs wondered how long the batteries would last. This scribe went to where?  The Internet, of course, to check this out since the net can be trusted at all times. (Yeah, right.)  However, in this case, it seemed very plausible.

The Toyota Prius in California is warranted for 10 years or 150,000 miles; in all other states, it is 8 years or 100,000 miles. Currently, the battery is roughly $3,000 plus installation.

The Ford Fusion hybrid has had a few problems (according to the net). However, the warranty is about the same, and currently the battery is roughly $4,400 plus installation.

The net recommended, if purchasing a used hybrid car, to have the battery life checked and negotiate the price down to replace the battery. Otherwise, they are a good buy. The net has spoken.

This scribe could have saved himself all the work of researching the information on hybrids because a couple of the OMOTM have these types of vehicles and this scribe could have gone right to the source.

The OFs know how to drive

The OFs discussed having to take a driver’s test. Some of the OFs who have driven with younger drivers want to get out of the vehicle.

To the OFs, they drive too fast and too close. The OFs said, when riding in a car that is going 70 miles an hour so close to the car ahead, the OFs can count the hairs on the heads of the people in the back seat. That is too fast, too close.

The OFs, after driving many years and running into all kinds of situations, feel they can still handle a vehicle. Many of the OFs have had experience backing up a loaded four-wheel wagon over a barn bridge and that is a trick many young drivers wouldn’t even attempt. And the OFs having been doing that since they were 10 years old.

The OFs think they might have to go and get a new driver’s manual because they keep changing the rules of the road. Many of the new road signs do not mean diddly-dip to the OFs, especially at roundabouts.

For most of the OFs, the ability to drive is not the problem; it is the book-learnin’.   Some of the OFs give up their license after they bump into five or six things and get tired of paying the collision repair guy.

Those OFs who showed up at the Scho/Co diner in Schoharie in their conventional automobiles were: George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Frank Pauli, Harold Grippen, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Karl Remmers, Steve Kelly, Jim Heiser, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Don Wood, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, and me.

Tuesday, Nov. 18, this scribe traveled to the Country Café in Schoharie all alone (boo-hoo) since one of the riders was scheduled for surgery on his elbow. We tried to convince this OF that, because it was elective surgery, it was strictly against the OMOTM bylaws, (Page 6, Article 14, Section E), which specifically states, “Non-emergency surgeries cannot be scheduled on any Tuesday.” The exceptions would be surgeries due to an accident, to repair broken bones, etc.

Page 6, Article 14, Section F also covers funerals. If any OMOTM should pass away, his funeral is not to be scheduled on a Tuesday, with the exception being travel. Relatives that come from considerable distances, and have time restraints, will be taken into consideration and the funeral can take place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Any OF who deviates from these rules without previous permission from the governing board are subject to fines that will be assessed by the same board. Fines will not exceed two weeks’ payments of all OFs in attendance breakfasts’. The scribe was instructed by the sergeant-at-arms to re-emphasize this particular section of the OMOTM bylaws. 

 The other riders were legitimately excused by a rather lengthy section of the OMOTM bylaws that this scribe will not go into at this time.

The OFs looked up and down the table and considered how blessed many of the OFs are just to be able to attend the breakfast. The subject came up because some friends of the OFs are down with this problem or that.\

One OF’s friend just found out he has multiple sclerosis, and he is not that old. Another was developing ulcers on his feet because of not paying enough attention to his diabetes; he will now, the OFs hope.

Even with the OFs’ maladies, the OGs manage to attend the breakfast and do not give in to them. There isn’t an OG at the table who doesn’t hurt in one way or another. 

One OF came to the breakfast all tanned up; he may hurt but it sure didn’t show. This OF just returned from Aruba, just in time for the breakfast and a 20-degree morning greeting.

Old Uhai

The OFs briefly touched on Uhai Mountain in Berne. It was thought that at one time, when the ax factory was going full blast in Berne, that the mountain was denuded of trees. The wood was used for the forges to temper the axes.

According to one OF, the mountain after being clear-cut was farmed. Much of the land around the Bernes and Knox was farmed and planted with grains because of the grain mills in the vicinity of Berne and East Berne.

According to the OFs, the trees were replanted by the Boy Scouts, the OFs thought in the 1930s, and these trees have now all grown to the same basic height so the canopy of the trees appears to have been cut with a lawn mower.

Why not knit instead?

The OFs also briefly discussed the attacks on cigarette smoking and the apparent dangers of puffing on this supposedly ground-up leaf. This was brought up by one community considering banning all smoking.

The OFs do agree that this is a nasty and sometimes deadly habit.  If not putting some six feet under it puts many in the hospital for considerable stays, and is a drain on the family after that.

“However, there are the occasional few,” one OF said, “that puff until they are 100 years old with no consequences. It is a crapshoot.”

“Are you going to be one of the few that can handle it or not?” asked one OF.

The experience of the OFs indicates the odds are definitely against you to be one of the few.

 Now “they” are demonizing tobacco, and replacing it with something just as bad, if not worse: marijuana.

The OFs say we pay high enough medical insurance for taking care of those that smoke and all their lung and heart problems, and now we will have to take care of all those that wind up in mental hospitals, and on harder drugs, which will increase our taxes to pay for the extra police to control that problem.

The OFs feel that the need to do something with our hands is the problem. Hand to mouth with the cigarette, or hand to mouth with the marijuana.

Jingle-belled to death

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. Duh, does anyone need to be reminded about this — especially about Christmas?

The OFs said they are already being jingle-belled to death. The merchants started even before Halloween.

Before you know it, the merchants will start touting their wares on Columbus Day, or even before that. One OG thought that, if merchants start pushing anything electronic that early, by the time Christmas comes around it will old hat, out-dated, and obsolete.

“If I get one,” the OF said of an electronic gadget, “I know I will be stuck with it because they make the new ones so the old one is not compatible.”

“Hey,” another OG said, “they go to school to learn how to do that.”

“Well,” still another OF said, “they can’t outfox me. I do my Christmas shopping on December 24th.”

“Yeah,” was the reply, “we always knew you were cheap; that way, all that is available is leftovers.”

“I don’t care,” the OG said, “because everything I give is always brought back to the store anyway.”

“Ya know, that is not such a bad idea,” an OG chimed in. “Give them some cheap thing you know they won’t like, they take it back and get something they need, or do like, and you are a hero.”

The OF added, “I am going to keep this little trick in mind.”

Show and tell

At this breakfast, we even had show and tell from an OF who brought in items for identification, and the OFs were not faked out this time — many knew what these items were.

This also showed what can be found at rummage sales, and in box lots at the end of auctions. Sometimes there is unknown quality hidden in some of those boxes like what the OF brought to the breakfast.

The OFs who made it to the County Café on Main Street in Schoharie on a January day in November were: Harold Guest, Dave Williams, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Gerry Chartier, and me. (And the fly on the wall was there again, and buzzed it would be the last time until there is a wall free around Christmas time.)

Location:

This scribe jumped out of bed at 5 a.m. on Nov. 11 and found it was Tuesday, and time to round up whoever was going with him to the breakfast. Even at 5 a.m., when this scribe and riders arrived at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh, the restaurant was already half-full

What hour in the morning must these OFs get up to be at the breakfast, showered, most shaved, and reasonably dressed? Some must still be thinking they have to roll back the barn door and get ready for milking.

The OFs have been enjoying this fall, and commenting on it at every breakfast. A couple of the OFs have mowed their lawns again; it was Nov. 10 when they were at it

One even commented on a farm putting in third cutting. The OF said that the alfalfa was nice looking stuff, deep green color, but not many bales, which is understandable

It is interesting how the OFs talk about what they observe on farmland as they drive by and sometimes they comment on the other farmers — still farming — just as if the OFs were still in the business. Forgetting they are thinking horses, and the farmers today are using GPS guided tractors, and individual machines that do all the work as they go through the fields. Tain’t the same, Magee.

From the horse’s mouth

The OFs carried on with the discussion of the work being done on the Little Schoharie Creek that the OFs mentioned last week. They are still amazed at the amount of work being done, but the OFs can’t see how what they are doing is going to help.

Loretta and Patty (proprietors of Mrs. K’s) said that the “boys” (their term) working on the project stop in for breakfast in the morning before going to work. Maybe one of the OFs who live in that area should stop in one morning, seeing that these OFs are some of the ones up that early, and get the information from the horse’s mouth by talking to these “boys.”

The expression “horse’s mouth” must be from the racing game where a bettor bets on some swayback nag to win the race and, lo and behold, it does, because the horse told him it was pay for the hay day. That’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Thank you, vet, on your day”

Nov. 11 is Veterans Day; it was Armistice Day for the end of World War 1. This armistice was signed on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918.

Some parts of the world call it Armistice Day, and, in others, Remembrance Day. The United States changed it to Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

The Old Men of the Mountain is a group with many veterans in its midst. Not only have they made a major contribution to this country, but to the neighborhoods in which they live now.

The Old Men of the Mountain who are vets should be honored for both of their contributions, and son of a gun they are still are contributing just by being at this OMOTM breakfast.

This scribe wonders if it should be, “Thank you, vet, on your day” instead of, “Happy Veterans Day” because to some veteran it may not be that happy.

Opening day of deer season is a quasi-legal holiday

Deer hunting starts soon and the OFs were discussing this semi-holiday in our neck of the woods. Some were enthused that hunters are now able to use rifles in most of Albany County.

This also alarmed a few of the OFs because the errant shot of a rifle could travel quite a distance and cause unintended harm. Still and all, the opening day of deer season in many households is a quasi-legal holiday.

The OFs remember, when they were working, the opening day of the deer-hunting season was when the hunters and non-hunters were making arrangements to switch vacation times and days off so the hunters could hunt.

This scribe remembers the significant drop-off in hunting permits issued after the Walt Disney movie, Bambi, came out. With just a tiny bit of imagination, it is possible to see the deer all clapping in the woods for the release of this picture.

When racing was real

There was some discussion on automobile racing since NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) really took over. It has changed the sport considerably.

The OFs remembered in the 1950s and ’60s going to Fonda for the races and having to leave the house early to get a seat, and get to the track really early to get a seat where you wanted. It is not like that today. It is possible to get a seat just before the first heat is to start.

Pete Corey was a racecar driver back when the safety rules were simple and races were fun to watch, said The Old Men of the Mountain. — Photo from John R. Williams.

 

The OFs talked about the older drivers, their cars, which in the ’50s and ’60s were not fake souped-up cars but the real thing — a Chevy coup was a Chevy coup, a Plymouth was a Plymouth, a Nash was a Nash, a Hudson was a Hudson, a Ford was a Ford, and a Gremlin was a Gremlin.

Each team did its own thing from engine work, to set-up. The safety rules were simple — roll bars, automatic fire extinguishers for rollovers, seats, safety belts, and a few others.

The OFs agreed the races were fun to watch, and each race team had its own following and many would sit together in the stands; some of the OFs were part of that crowd. One OF actually worked on them, well, not really “worked” but did some of the lettering on the racecars.

Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and arrived in their own conventional chariots were: Miner Stevens, Jim Heiser, George Washburn, Dave Williams, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, with guest Mathew Pauli, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Don Wood, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Jim Rissacher, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, and me. (Plus the little fly on the wall was there again.) 

Location:

On a beautiful October day, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the newly refurbished Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville.

It was Tuesday, the 28th of the month, and some of the OFs had a little extra ride early in the morning on the way to the Hilltown Café. The road normally traveled was closed for apparent culvert repair and this carload of OFs was not completely familiar with the hills in this area of the county, and in them thar hills there are roads that lead the unsuspecting driver to no-man’s land.

This carload backtracked to where they knew and took the roundabout way, which seemed to take forever, but, according to the OFs, time-wise it was not that long.

 Some OFs said to these OFs, “Why didn’t you come up Ravine Road? That is the way we get here anyway.”

The carload that went for the ride said they saw the sign for Ravine Road but, not being familiar with the road, was hesitant to take it. Some OFs might still be wandering around the hills up there trying to find the restaurant and this carload of OFs remembered that incident. This carload said they would follow the directions from the OFs that use Ravine Road to get to the Hilltown Café and take that way back down the mountain.

Views on schools

Many of the OFs are glad they are not back in school, and some of the OFs at one time were involved with the school system and one still teaches. The OFs don’t have a clue as to what is going on, both politically, and academically.

The political correctness is driving many of the OFs nuts but the one that opens the shell for the nut is how far behind the times the OFs are and they have no idea what their grandkids are talking about when it comes to schoolwork.

One OF said that the kids have to learn everything that has gone on in the past 80 years, and that is a lot — we didn’t because the OFs have lived it. Except for math and science, which has really changed, the rest is the same old stuff, just repeated over and over although American history seems to be shortchanged.

The OFs comment is there are not really any new stories or poetry since Homer or Heraclitus. How about the Divine Comedy or the Bible?

To this OF, it is all the same intrigue only using different words. To this OF, “So what’s new?”

There have always been wars, only different people going at it with the same results. First it was fists, then clubs, then spears and the like, then the Chinese came up with gun powder, and now we are throwing atoms at each other. Nothing has changed, and neither will the results.

“Boy,” this OF said, “I am glad I’m not back in school.”

Similar to the Barbarians taking Rome, and the Huns running roughshod over everyone, this OF feels the Barbarians are back and their weapons are drugs going after our young people.

Who knows where we would be if the Romans, the Greeks, and the Egyptians were able to continue without being thwarted by might, and not brains?  We would probably be traveling to other planets, and pain would be eliminated. These cultures were on their way to achieve that.

“Boy, I am glad I am not back in school,” the OF said again, “not for the learning part but all the crap that goes on between those walls. The teachers must not only teach, but, by golly, they have to be cops; along with their degrees, they should automatically be part of law enforcement and get badges.” 

“You cynical old coot, you are being swayed by only a small portion of the school population,” an OF said. “How do you think it has gotten so far advanced that we OFs don’t understand it?  Most of the students are paying attention to their teachers and then those kids are going on to become responsible citizens like us. We should give them a hand for running the gauntlet and coming out the other end as the next doctor to cure cancer. Like everyone says and this column has reported: If you can read this column, thank a teacher.”

Better than raking

The fall season of raking came up and some OFs say they don’t bother to rake anymore. They take their tractor, set it low, and grind the leaves up into mulch and leave them there.

Other OFs have to deal with pine needles; they are a horse of a different color. Those nasty little orange needles have to be raked. When they get twisted into the grass, they have to be double raked, once north and south, then east and west.

One OF mentioned that, in the South, they bale the pine needles and call them pine straw and some landscapers go around and do all the work for them just to get the pine straw. 

More buzz on bees

One of the OFs has a winter chore this year that he doesn’t generally have to do.  This OF is a beekeeper and this year he is moving his hives to North Carolina for protection.

Apparently it is not to protect the bees from the cold but rather from disease. This OF says he has lost half his bee population this year.

The bee is one of the main links in the pollination of almost everything. Birds, butterflies, and the wind are some of the other links but the bee is number one. We are in trouble if the problem of why the bees are dying is not found out and controlled.

Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and quite pleased that Route 85 and the road to the bridge have been paved were: Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Miner Stevens, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Roger Chapman, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, Otis Lawyer, Bill Krause, Jessie Vadney, Frank Pauli, Harold Grippen, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Mark Traver, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Elwood Vanderbilt, Jim Rissacher, Gill Zable, Ted Willsey, and me. 

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