On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont. The Home Front was out of sequence because the restaurant that usually follows the Duanesburg Diner was closed for vacation so we swapped the two restaurants around.

The way this winter is going we can’t blame them for being away for awhile, but the OFs will be back there next week. See how congenial and flexible the OMOTM are?  Just as long as the OFs get fed they are good with it. There is a big “however” here and that is: Did all the OGs get the message?

The big news of the day was noted and for the OFs this is really big news! A couple of OFs came in with a news report that McDonald’s French fries promotes the growth of hair.

That got the OFs’ attention because at the ages of these OGs there are not too many full heads of hair. Some are fortunate enough to have some hair, and even some of those have thick wavy white hair.

To most though, the hair has gone the way of the comb, brush, or stuck to the inside of knit winter caps, and even the pillow has collected some. One OF said he wore his off on his bed’s headboard.

The OFs who reported this news did not mention if the hair was specifically grown on the top of the head. It was questioned that maybe it was elsewhere on the body, and not wanted there. This scribe wonders how many of the OFs are going to go to McDonald’s and have just a double order of French fries with a cup of coffee every day and see what happens.

The reporters did not mention if the report they heard said how long the study was, or how long anyone had to wait to see results, and what about the ladies? Maybe they would have to shave their legs twice a day to keep up with it. The OFs have not heard of this complaint though.

A quick glance at Google showed that it’s not eating the fries that makes the hair grow, but it’s a chemical that is added to the fries (in order to prevent the cooking oil from splashing), which is used to stimulate hair growth.

Winter woes

The OMOTM were concerned about people they know who are dealing with cancer and other maladies this winter. This prompted the OFs to discuss cancers that the OGs and their spouses have had — cancers that hit close to home.

It was surprising how many were part of this group and how the newer treatments work. One OF suggested that maybe all these campaigns, and fundraisers for research on cancer is beginning to pay off.

An OF thought it might not even be a medical person that comes up with a major breakthrough but some computer geek who is working in the same field who could hit on a solution and find how these things get started.

An OF brought to the attention of the OFs the dangers of antifreeze. This OF mentioned about having animals die from ingesting antifreeze. Other OFs joined in and mentioned that they have had a cat die from eating the stuff.

One OF had a relative who was an alcoholic and this relative was unable to get hold of some alcohol to satisfy the craving and he drank the antifreeze and died. This prompted some OFs to check their supply of antifreeze to be sure it is where it is not easy to get to, and one OF said he was going to see if there is the required skull and crossbones to advise people that it can be poisonous.

One OF mentioned the antifreeze does not have to be fresh. They had a car that leaked antifreeze unbeknown to them. The antifreeze was in the vehicle well over a year. Their cat was seen licking it and a couple of days later it was found dead on the back porch.

Apparently, there are two basic ingredients in antifreeze. One is ethylene glycol. That is the nasty one where very little ingested by your pet can do it in. The other component is propylene glycol. This takes a lot more to make them sick or have their four paws to the air.

Spice of life

Buried in many of these columns are what specific items the OFs use and how each OF insists the items he uses are the best. Collectively, it is another OF microcosm of the general populace from soap, to cereal, to bedding, to vehicles (and tractors, of course), to grass seed, to clothing including shoes, to household cleaning supplies, to choice of music and types of movies, to types of tools, to choice in women.

The OFs identify with “variety is the spice of life.” Each one insists that what he chooses is the best. Sometimes an OF will admit he made the wrong choice and claim “it” is a piece of junk, whereas another OF will disagree and say “it” (that item the first OF just complained about) is the best ever.

Most of the OFs agreed that on hand tools Craftsman tools were one of the best. They don’t know what is going to happen now that Sears has sold off the Craftsman line. Is the lifetime guarantee for the OF’s life, or the life of Sears? One OF said there are a gazillion Craftsman tools out there and in use every day. Well, we shall see who has the guarantee.

Those OFs who understood that the switch of our restaurants had been made and who showed up at the Home Front Café in Altamont were: Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Low Schenck, Jack Norray, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Rev. Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Guest and guest Carolou Kristofik, Harold Grippen, and me.

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January was just about to give way to February when on Jan. 30 the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner. We were not too far from the day when the guys in their top hats drag the groundhog from its slumber in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

The OFs can’t remember when this oversized rodent was ever right on how long the winter will last. Winter hangs on for six weeks no matter what.

One OF has just returned from some time in Jamaica at the Montego Bay resort. He reported that he had a great time at the resort, but he added that they are having a problem in Jamaica with some type of uprising and that 73 people have been killed since the first of the year.

From the first of the year until when the OF got there were only about 20 days. He said there was so much to do at the resort that he did not feel it was necessary to wander off the property into town.

The eyes have it

The OFs continued their previous discussion on eyes — particularly the common cataract surgery. All the OFs around where this scribe was sitting have had good luck with this procedure but in varying degrees.

Some experienced immediate recovery from the surgery, while some took more time to heal. The OFs who had to wait for their vision to come back said it eventually exceeded expectations.

The OFs said that eye drops were required but the need was not the same for all the OFs. One OF at this scribe’s section of the table claimed he was not too religious about using the drops. After a while, the OF said, his eyes seem so normal he often forgets to use them at all for three to four days.

Another OF also said he did not have a routine for putting in the drops, but his eyes do tell him that they need to be fed.

Avoid cooking, eat out

Many of the OFs asked one another if they have tried the new store in Knox, which (as of this writing) is not yet a store but a take-out restaurant. There are also some tables so that you can order in and eat there.

Most of the OFs said it should become a great place to stop and get something for supper on the way home from work. Another OF mentioned that, if you and the little lady had a tough day, it was a good place that is close to many on the mountain, so the OF and the aforementioned little lady can go and grab a bite. Then no one has to cook!  

This not-cooking bit is great for the OFs because the wives of many OFs have had way too many years of cooking for these OGs. Actually, some of the OFs themselves don’t mind cooking and are good cooks (especially from late spring to early fall) when they can fire up the ole grill and char up a few burgers.

No dress code

The Old Men of the Mountain are a microcosm of the general population — at least those in the Northeast and north central parts of the country — in how they dress. It was not the warmest day when the OFs were at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, New York but how the OFs were dressed coming into the diner, and once there, varied. Some came with coats like they were going to top of Mt. Washington; others came in simple jackets, and still others had on a couple of layers with light jackets.

Once inside, some took off their coats, while others kept them on; some sat at the table in shirt sleeves, and one was even there in a short-sleeved shirt open at the neck. This is the way they were decked out even though the temperature outside was the same for everybody, and the temperature on the inside was the same for everybody.

It is easy to understand why in a large or small office building it is tough to satisfy everyone with the thermostat.

Down in the dumps

Another topic touched on was town transfer stations, also known affectionately as the “dump,” and this is where most of the interaction of the mountain people takes place. It is the social center of the towns. Some might think it is the school, or the church, but it really is the “dump.”

Quite often on dump days, some of the OFs are known to advise another OF that he is going to the dump and would this OG have any trash to go. The atmosphere is generally very friendly as well as informative.

It is amazing to some of the OFs what some people consider trash but to the OF it is a treasure. However, some things really are just trash and should have been taken to the dump long ago.

One OF mentioned the barge of trash from Long Island that no transfer stations would take and the barge of trash just meandered around the ocean — for how long this OF did not know. For all this OF knows, it is still plying the waves of the ocean looking for a home. More information can be found by Googling “Long Island garbage barge.”

Before the world became a global economy, most products and food were manufactured or produced close to home and did not need all this packing that we have today. An OF said, "if we are going to ship apples two- or three-thousand miles away, we had better pack them very well. If we are going to get grapes from two- or three-thousand miles away, they also should be packed pretty well."

This OF feels that the basis of our whole trash problem is the global economy and way too many people to feed and provide for.  

One OF said he just bought a new vacuum cleaner, and the box and packaging weighed almost as much as the vacuum cleaner, and the instructions were like a small novel in size because it was written in so many different languages. This substantiates the trash problem (assumption of OF number one).

The world is now one global economy, and tractors made in the United States going to other countries are passing ships on the oceans with tractors made in other countries coming to the U.S. This may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it sure keeps money in circulation.

Those OFs who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg to share the wealth in our own little pinprick of the planet were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Marty Herzog, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Rev. Jay Francis, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

 

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Tuesday, Jan. 23, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie to break bread together. It is a darn site more than bread that becomes broken when the OMOTM get together.

Eating is one thing all the OFs do together on Tuesday morning at our round robin of restaurants. Some of the OFs eat more slowly than they used to because swallowing for them is not like it used to be. The old esophagus is getting tired and some foods become harder to choke down but, as one OF suggested, it is good to get the swallowing bit checked out and make sure that’s all it is — the OF has an aging esophagus.

One general question asked on Tuesday morning was, “What have you been doing this last two or three weeks?” This scribe was a little surprised at the answers because this usually active group (for the most part) said “nothing.”

Some have come to the breakfasts and just hung out when they returned home; they did not go to their shops, or barns, or “man caves.” The weather and clouds shut them down.

As this scribe listened, it became clear this phenomenon was definitely weather related. For some reason, at my end of the table, the blahs really took hold. I predict this circumstance won’t last long — these OFs have too much to do and are not a bunch to let projects pile up.

Mechanical spies

If we didn’t have new techno toys, the OFs would not have much to talk about. We would be back to cars, trucks, tractors, and boats. Trips, kids, and shop work would be thrown in for good measure.

However, this time the conversation centered on people talking to gadgets that talk back and give answers, or can be programmed to have some other gadgets work for you so the OF won’t have to get up from his favorite recliner. The OFs, for the most part, are dead set against these round, mechanical spies.

“What if the machine decides not to listen?” the OFs said.

If you ask it to unlock your garage door and the device decides not to unlock the door and every time you went to open the door mechanically the device re-locks the door. The device has programmed all doors to lock, and it has also programmed all electrical appliances to turn on and overheat.

The only way out is through a window and it is impossible for you to shut any of it down. You stand on your lawn and watch your house burn to the ground and a maniacal laugh comes from the coffee table in living room.

Remember “Hal” in the movie “2001 Space Odyssey” or the people in the Pixar movie “WALL-E” who did nothing for themselves?

This brought the OFs to mention the cameras in China that use face recognition, and how they can track anyone in a city of over one million people. The camera was demonstrated to a reporter from the BBC and and he was shown the operation center where all this tracking is done.

The demonstration was definitively scary. From knowing nothing about him but (for this demonstration) considering him a person of interest, they took a picture of him from a camera at an intersection and in seven minutes he was surrounded by police at a bus station.

The OFs covered many details of the demonstration that would take up too much space here. One OF said, “It wouldn’t work on me. My face is so ugly it would break the camera.”

Going the way of the dodo

This conversation continued, telling how the OFs who are mechanics and the OFs who are handymen are being pushed to extinction because the technology of today requires tools that are in the $1,000 to $10,000 range.

How can the OGs who drive newer models afford tool prices like this to tinker with their vehicles, like changing their own oil?

One OF mentioned that we are getting to be like our grandparents when vehicles were taking the place of horses. How about our grandmothers when the washing machine came out?

An OF said his mother told him that her mother was actually afraid of the first washing machine, which was run with a small gas engine. His grandmother told his mom it didn’t get clothes clean and she used a round tub, washboard, and wrung her clothes out by hand, and dried them on the line, until she was unable to do laundry.

One OF added, “That is just like many of us OFs with the self- driving cars, and the electric cars. We don’t trust them and the younger generations can’t wait to get their hands on one and these kids wish the technology would hurry up.”

Send me out to sea

Then we started checking up on the OFs who are ill and we were brought up to pace on their well-being. This led to a discussion on nursing homes.

The OFs, to a man, said from what they have seen of these places they do not want to have to go there. The Eskimos might have the right idea: Give me some food, put me on an ice floe, and send me out to sea.

One OF said, “Why, in so many cases, does life have to end like that?”

There was no answer.

Another OF said, “If we were smart, there are insurance policies that provide for 24/7 home care until you enter the tunnel of light. I don’t know what the premiums would be but I bet they would be substantial.”

The Old Men of the Mountain who met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie — with the early birds receiving a thorough art lesson on an original painting hanging on the wall in the restaurant — were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Karl Remmers, John DeMis, Mark Traver, Glenn Paterson, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Wayne Gaul, Jim Rissacher, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Darn!  It is still January and on the 16th of the month the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie.

Again, the Old Men of the Mountain were there just as the doors opened. The way some of the OMOTM get up in the morning, dressed and ready to work, would make any employer eager to get their hands on some of these OFs.

As mentioned last week, some of the OMOTM were businessmen and some are still in business. One OF who is in this category related this story of a customer who regularly frequented his shop.

It seems this specific gentleman was from Germany, and fought for the Germans in World War II as a spotter for enemy troop movements. He surveyed the situation from church towers and the like — at least he did that until he was captured by the Russians.

Like most prisoners of war (on either side), he was not taken to the Waldorf-Astoria. The German friend would tell the OF some of his war experiences.

One day the OF asked him how he came to eventually settle in the United States, especially in this area. The old German told him that, when he was in the war (including the time spent with the Russians), there were boxes all over the place left by the Allies.

All the boxes had printed on them, “Made in Schenectady, New York.”  These boxes were used for big equipment, even tanks. He told the OF that he made up his mind that, if he ever got out of the war alive, he was going to go to Schenectady, New York because it must be a great place. That is how he arrived in the U.S. and in our area.

It really pays to advertise.

Dangerous work

This scribe has reported on how many of the OFs have worked in the woods especially when they were on the farm. When the OFs were young, wood was their main source of heat.

Many of those OFs who worked on the farm had their out buildings made of wood cut from their own woodlot, taken to the mill, and milled to what the OFs’ parents or the OF themselves needed for construction of a particular building. The OFs knew at the time this was dangerous work. It required muscle and dexterity.

At the breakfast tables, the OFs sometimes tell woodlot stories of injuries, intelligent horses, and deaths that took place in this routine activity of the farmer. Tuesday, the OFs again brought up some logging anecdotes that happened way back when because of a simple little notice in the Albany Times Union that logging is the most dangerous industry in the country. The OFs can attest to that.

Brrrrr!

The OFs discussed the cold weather again and began comparing the amount of wood burned this year to the last few years; the same with fuel oil and electricity. At least the OFs are savvy enough to know how to protect their pipes from freezing and none of the OFs have complained about that.

Some of the OFs discussed how much more kerosene they have burned this year than normal. The interesting part of this conversation was the OFs who burn kerosene all travel to Cobleskill to purchase the fuel.

These OFs claim that this is the closest place to get good, clean kerosene; most of the other stuff is “junk” (the OFs term) and gums up everything and smokes.

This little tidbit of information came up without coercion — none of the OFs knew that other OFs were getting their kerosene from the same place, and for the same reason. This scribe found that interesting.

Maybe, instead of the OFs all going to Cobleskill separately, they can kerosene pool. One week one would go and purchase kerosene for all of them, and next week it would be someone else who would make the trip. That would work unless going for kerosene is an excuse to get out and do something else.

Orwellian reality

Technology! Another subject! Technology is all around us and the OMOTM keep bringing it up.

“All around us” is a good euphemism for the OMOTM — the OMOTM are out of the loop. Technology is developing at such a pace that the OFs think that many in the techno-crowd themselves have a hard time keeping up.

The OFs talked about TVs that roll up, and people having chips put in their children so they can be found should it become necessary. One OF mentioned the book that came out when the OFs were in school, and it talked about “Big Brother” controlling people.

Well, y’all, it is here, according to the OFs. One OF said, “Let them rattle their sabers with talk about ballistic missiles. That’s not where the next war is going to be.”

This OF thinks the next war will be over mind control. This OF thinks there won’t be a shot fired; it will all be done with computers and AI (Artificial Intelligence).

One OF thought a good business to get into would be the tailoring business, and one might make lead-lined suits, like the jumpsuits worn on Star Trek. That show may be way ahead of its time. Perhaps that is what the writers were thinking of when they came up with the costumes.

Who knows what unwanted crap comes with an app. Some dangerous privacy spy program might be inserted into an innocuous name of a simple app. The OFs are not smart enough to figure this one out; it is not a bulldozer, tractor, or truck.

The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie and this scribe can vouch for those named who are not AI’s loaded or robots, or clones, or aliens; they were:  just earthlings Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Otis Lawyer, Wayne Gaul, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Marty Herzog, Ted Feurer, Rev. Jay Francis, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Harold Guest, and me.

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The Old Men of the Mountain made it to Week Two of the New Year; on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.

The days are slowly getting longer but it is still dark when many of the OFs gather at the restaurant of the week. The OFs have mentioned this before: The light from the restaurant’s window on the sidewalk and the smell of eggs and bacon cooking early in the morning for some reason is a peaceful sensation.

A natural beginning topic for just about any group that meets on a regular basis is the weather. It is no different with the OFs. The OFs did much comparing at Tuesday morning’s breakfast and, although the weather guys are talking about setting records this month, the OFs remember winters that have been much worse, at least to date.

One OF remembered throwing water into the air and having it freeze before it hit the ground. Others remember cutting ice on the pond and having the water start to freeze right behind the OFs as they hauled the blocks of ice off to the sled.

Most all the OFs said they could handle the cold a lot better when they were younger than they can now. A big “Amen” was added to that little pronouncement, though many of the OGs said, if we dressed for the weather, it isn’t that bad.

One OFs said, “We don’t need anybody to teach us history, we remember it.”

And another added, “The worst part of January is February.”

Ghost towns

Because of the New Year, the OFs talked about some of the new state regulations going into effect and the OFs feel that there is going to be such an exodus of businesses from New York (let alone people) that there will be quite a vacuum formed behind them as they leave.

This is too bad because above Route 84 New York is a beautiful state. The Adirondacks, the Finger Lake region, the Catskills, and our own Helderbergs along with many other local areas, are one calendar picture after another.

To see many of the small towns become like ghost towns in these areas is sad. The OFs in their remembrance of history remember these places as they were 25 or 30 years ago.

One OF said the towns should have all progressed to one extent or another, not decayed.  Another OF thought it was not just a New York State problem but a problem for many parts the country, which are in the same situation.

One OF thought the whole thing comes down to dollars and cents, and this OF thought we were giving too much away. The OF continued that, when his first two kids were born in the 1950s, there was no such thing as insurance for having kids.

The insurance companies said that pregnancy was not an illness, or a disease; it was of choice and for that reason was preventable. Pregnancy could be avoided so therefore the insurance companies would not insure a pregnancy. Now look at what it costs to have a kid — the cost went from 0 to out-of-sight; there isn’t even a percentage number for that.

When troopers were like stern fathers

The OFs were reliving history again without having to study it. This time it was on how simple times were, and this was associated, as it often is, with cars.

The OFs on the farm learned to drive at an early age and they drove on equipment where it was necessary to know how to drive, and not just drive. There was no power steering, the machinery had mechanical brakes, which in the winter might freeze. One line might have ice around it, and the other wouldn’t — little things like that.

Then along came a state regulation called — license to drive.

That law did not deter the farm boys. The young farm lad, 13 or 14 years old, could hear the following instructions from Dad: “Take the truck down to the spring in Gallupville and fill some milk cans with water from the spring.”

Off the kids would go. Once they were stopped by a trooper and asked for the license, and the big joke going around now about “What license, we ain’t got no license” was said in earnest.

The OF said the trooper told them, “You kids get that truck home right now.”

There was no threatening language, or even a hint of getting a ticket. “Just like their own father being a little stern,” the OF said.

Things are different today.

What is young?

That followed along with what many talk about today. If you were disciplined at school, the OF didn’t expect sympathy at home; more likely the OF was disciplined at home worse than school.

One OF added, “That attitude is sure screwed up now. Look at all the problems that society and schools have with conduct today; this may be part of the reason why, the tail is wagging the dog.”

“This argument has been going on for a long time,” an OF suggested, “and will probably continue until all of us OFs are gone.”

“That won’t be too long,” an OF said, then another OF, looking around the group, chimed in, “It may be longer than you think because we have some young guys in this group now who are young by our standards anyway. To me, 60 is pretty young.”

"Young to me,” another added, “is if you can shower, shave, and get dressed without groaning and complaining. That is young enough”.

The OFs think they are all young, and young enough to make it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh were: Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.

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