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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet maple

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned obsolescence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Habits meld

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seasonal chores loom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018: Where the blankity, blank, blank is spring? This year it is tough to prove global warming.

To get to the Home Front Café in Altamont and back over the hill to home, some of the Old Men of the Mountain thought they should bring chains (just in case) as the snow was falling at a pretty good clip.

The OFs are still carping about fish.

Some of the OFs have ponds on their land; one OF has his stocked with fish. Some of the fish were brought by birds, which is a big question mark, and some of these fish are carp.

Some ponds are built and are not stocked with fish but they come anyway and so do frogs and turtles. The frogs and turtles the OFs can understand, but fish?  

Anyway, this OF feeds the fish and they know when it is feeding time. The carp will come right up out of the water to grab food that falls close to shore. The OF says the carp will come up out of the water on their own and make quite a racket flopping their way back into the water.

The next carp tale was told by another OF, and briefly mentioned last week. On a trip to Williamsburg Virginia, with friends, he stayed in the village of Williamsburg, in the Williamsburg Inn. In back of the hotel were two ponds, both filled with huge carp.

There was a bridge separating the two ponds. The upper pond had carp at least two to three feet long and these carp still had some gold scales on them. The lower pond had smaller carp about 18 inches to two feet.

In this pond the OF and the son of one of the friends (both were early risers) went with a couple loaves of bread to the bridge and proceeded to feed the carp. The friend’s son started tossing bread on the riprap (loose stone used to form a foundation for a breakwater) at one end of the bridge and the carp came right up out of the water to get the bread. The fish made a sucking sound as they flapped on the rocks, grabbed the bread, and returned to the water.

The next morning, the OF’s friend tossed the bread to the fish, increasing the distance further up the rocks, and the carp kept climbing the rocks and getting the bread. Just as the previous OF told how the carp behaved at his pond and how, at times, they did leave the water on their own, this OF at Williamsburg said he could not confirm, but wouldn’t doubt, that some of the carp he fed in Williamsburg might come out of the water on their own.

The moral of these stories is carpe diem. Enjoy yourself while you have the chance.

A dangerous question

Who is old? That was a question put to the OMOTM. What kind of question is that to ask a whole bunch of OFs?

One OF said that anyone 10 years older than you is old and he started giving examples. For instance, if you are 30 then someone 40 is old, and if you are 50 then someone 60 is old.

When he arrived at the age of 70, the OFs present said, “Hold on, wait a minute!”

This OF was getting into dangerous territory. The OF defended himself by saying, “You guys are not old.”   By his criteria, someone 90 is then old.

The OFs continued with their, “Hold on a bit; the ice is still thin. You are going to have to shoot for 100 to cover this group and then still have to use some numbers instead of zeros.”

Thrifty history

The OFs went back into history when they were first employed, how much they made, and what they were able to do with it. The time period the OFs were talking about was when $25 was a ton of money. If your employer at that time gave a 50-cent raise, it was time to get down and kiss the ground the employer walked on.

The OFs were talking $40 to $50 a week. The OFs did everything on that amount of money. They purchased homes and cars, maintained them, went to the movies, took vacations — everything.

One OF started adding up how today it is so easy just to spend a $100 in one day on entertaining. The OF said he took the family to McDonalds, and the movies, and filled the car with gas, nothing special or extravagant, and over 100 bucks was gone in just about four hours.

Another OF mentioned that pretty soon we won’t have to carry wallets; we will need wheelbarrows to carry money around if we are going to pay in cash.

Watch out for Jersey drivers

Somehow the OFs started a little discussion on when and how we took our driving tests and what we had to do to pass these tests. Still going backwards in time, many OFs took their tests in Schoharie County in front of Lasell Hall on Main Street in Schoharie.

One OF related how his kids took their road tests now in New Jersey and what a snap these tests were. The OFs took their road tests on the streets and had to dodge traffic; however, in New Jersey, the OF’s kids took theirs on a closed course.

They were the only one on this course. It was a laid-out area; parallel parking was between cones, and the stop sign had no cars coming either way and all the driver had to do was stop. No worry about checking right or left.

At no time did the one taking the test have to worry about cars or trucks, or even motorcycles coming out of nowhere trying to attack you, as the OFs complained happened, when they were taking their driving tests.

On the other hand, after these young people took their tests in an atmosphere like that, they are then dumped out onto the streets of New Jersey and New York City. No wonder the theme in our neck of the woods is to watch out for Jersey drivers, especially now that we know how some of them got their licenses. They think they are the only ones on the road.

When most of the OFs got their licenses, they were put through their paces, but many of them had been driving farm trucks, tractors, and horses since they were about 10 years old. At that time, there was no power steering, the brakes were mechanical, and there were no automatic transmissions.

The OFs were accustomed to using a clutch, so the test for the farm boys was not much as long as they obeyed the rules and didn’t think they were Barney Oldfield (who was the first man to drive 60 miles per hour).

Those OFs who made it to the Home Front Café, and were glad some fish made it out of the water for good, were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Karl Remmers, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Allen DeFazio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Doodlebugs, made from worn out cars or trucks, were common on the farm in the ’30s, and ’40s.

Where were you on April 10 between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.? This scribe knows where he and 22 other guys were. We were at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, New York where absolutely nothing happened.

One question an OF put to another OF was, “Do I look old to you?”

Boy, talk about putting a guy on the spot.

“Hey we are all old,” the OF replied, and the first OF pressed on, further questioning, “Come on, do I look old to you?”

The other OF said, “Well, your ears are long like mine,” still trying to get out of it.

The first OF dropped the inquiry and continued to tell stories of how he and his wife were treated on a trip to Hungary. The other OF said after the stories were told that many of the OFs should be proud to carry the badge of age when they carry it well.

Some people realize all too soon they will be old, so they treat age with respect. And, in some cultures, age demands respect and the youth are taught that. Conversely, in other cultures, the young think they will never be old and treat age as a nuisance and the elderly are just in the way.

Many of the OFs have trouble with being old and trying to keep up with how everything is changing so fast. The wife of this scribe sums it up very nicely when she says, “All I want is an on and off switch,” and the OFs agree.

Trying to remember all the buttons to push to operate a microwave, or the kitchen stove and in the proper sequence can drive you nuts. Even a simple thing like a clock radio, let alone the newer vehicles, all have ways of operating them that are so far out the OFs need instructions on how to just turn these things on and get them started.

Change sometimes is necessary and the OFs understand that, but change just for change’s sake does not make much sense to the OFs.

Yeah, I guess the OFs are old but that is not a bad thing. Within each gray hair and each wrinkle is a storehouse of experience that perpetuates change, which all the young ones think is theirs alone.

And snicker a tad when they have to show an OF how to set his TV.  Just wait until there is a massive power outage and none of the young ones’ electronic toys work, and the OFs have to show them what to do just to stay alive.

“Don’t sell the younger generation short,” an OF interjected. “The way they are going, the grid will only be used for large manufacturing plants. Solar power and small wind-powered generators will be able to keep the home fires burning.

“Even electric cars that can be charged at home with your own home-generated power will keep the younger generation (and us) on the road. Food will be sustainable with the farms that have their own power plants. The same will go for small and light industries. Even large buildings can share their own local power source.”

This OF maintains in the not-to-distant future fossil fuels will not be required.

No fuelin’

In previous columns it has been noted how much extra fuel the OFs say has been necessary to keep the old homestead comfy this year. One OF commented that he has operated his wood-burning furnace so much more this year that his woodpile is down to the base.

He is now burning old wood, some of which has sunk into the ground, and is years old. The OF said he has had to bundle up and go out to the woodlot and do a little logging in snow up to his knees to keep the home fires burning.

“Never had to do that before,” the OF said.

Doodlebugs

Another OF commented that he had made a purchase of a Model A doodlebug with steel wheels. This is going back a ways. Doodlebugs were common on the farm in the ’30s, and ’40s, and maybe even later.

When a car or truck began to wear out, many farmers and the farmers’ kids turned the thing into a doodlebug. Not only was it fun but the usefulness of the tired old vehicle carried on doing farm chores (and all it had was an off and on switch).  Sears and Roebuck even had a kit for turning Model A’s into doodlebugs.

Of carp and kayaking

The OFs were literally all over the map this Tuesday, speaking on their different topics. The topics went from fly fishing, to making their own flies, to kayaks and kayaking, to feeding and catching carp, to China, Russia, and Hungary.

For the OFs at the table, the kayaking bit was when they were younger. The OFs discussed kayaking in the Schoharie Creek. If any of the readers know the creek from Boucks Falls in the town of Fulton, downstream to Old Central Bridge, they will know a popular area for kayaking.

One OF said he would put his kayak in on Vlaie Pond, which is just outside of Middleburgh on Route 145 south.  (Google tells me Vlaie or Vly is a word for swamp that comes from the Dutch settlers of the area). The OFs said that putting a kayak in at Middleburgh and taking it out at Old Central Bridge is a nice day trip, and it is downstream.

The OFs next discussed carp and how it is quite an interesting fish. One OF said he feeds the fish in his pond and some are carp.

Another OF said that in Williamsburg, Virginia (where the world’s largest living history museum is located) there used to be two good-sized carp ponds that held nothing but overgrown goldfish. However, this was in the seventies so he is not sure if these ponds are still in use there.

Stories to be continued….

The Old Men of the Mountain who enjoyed the early morning at the Chuck Wagon Café were: Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank,Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen and me.

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It is Tuesday again — funny how fast the days come around as the OFs get older and older.

This Tuesday, April 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. April is going to be the month of the Green Moon; all the planets that are whirling around are going to line up and the moon will turn green.

Those who want to see this phenomenon will have to watch it now because it won’t happen again for another 420 years. The OFs won’t be around for the next Green Moon — they will be lucky if they make it to the next breakfast.

This scribe is getting a little tired of having to report the OMOTM’s main topic of conversation. Lately, it is the redundant yakking about the weather.

It is miserable at least in the OFs’ locale. The OFs know the sun is up there.  How do they know this? It’s because, when the OFs fly anywhere, once they are above the clouds, there’s the sun.

The OFs feel it is about time those clouds find some place else to go, giving us at least a couple of days in a row of sun with no, or at least very little, wind. We don’t want the wind blowing the OMOTM’s hats off and down the road.

There! That is two-thirds of the conversation that took place.

Some conversations were, in a roundabout way, connected to the weather and that connection is the way the OFs were talking about how they have used more fuel this year than they normally do.

One OF said, “It isn’t over yet.”

The OFs also are already complaining about how muddy it is going to be especially on the Hill as one OF retorted. Another OF said, “What makes you guys think you are going to be so special? It is going to be muddy in the valley, too.”

Yet another OF commented that he has already purchased some cheap throw-away rugs to put on the floor of his mud room because, where he lives, the mud is clay and sticks to his shoes. The OF said his feet get so much clay stuck to them in just an hour that he adds 10 pounds; just lifting his feet tires him out, lugging all that mud around on his shoes.

A few OFs complained that snowplowing their driveways has turned their lawns into major spring projects. Now they’re putting the lawns back together where the plows dug in because the ground didn’t have much frost in it — if any.

Disappearing senses

A topic came up out of the blue, and this scribe is trying to remember how it started. One OF asked if the other OFs had lost any of their senses as they got older.

The answer was yes, the most common being eyesight, but the sense of smell seemed dulled, and the sense of when their feet were hitting the ground was a different one. The combination of the sense of smell and taste in concert was another one, and the OF who mentioned this said smell and taste were both about gone.

But this OF said it came after an event of some sort that this scribe wasn’t quick enough to write down. Catching that might indicate the reflex senses are not what they used to be.

One OF thought all our senses tire out as we age; that is why they make hearing aids, glasses, and canes. Another OF agreed with him.

This OF said his mind tells him he can hurry across the street and the OF thinks he is hurrying but all he can manage is the “Tim Conway” shuffle. One OF said that if he has to hurry all he can do is hope he passes gas and get an assisted boost from the pressure release of the gas.

Another OF said, “If wasn’t for that little pressure assist, I couldn’t get out of a chair. Is that natural phenomenon a sense that increases with age or is it a sense at all?”

One OF recited the old farmer saying: “A farting horse is the horse to hire, for a farting horse will never tire.”  To which yet another OF said he has worked behind horses like that.

Calling veterans to parade

For Memorial Day, the Hilltowns of Berne, Knox, Westerlo, and Rensselaerville are having a parade on May 28. If you are a veteran and would like to participate and join some of the OFs, call Zenie Gladieux at 518-894-8589 or, if you are computer literate, you can email her at zeniegladieux@gmail.com and indicate if you want to ride, or prefer to walk, or are in a wheelchair.

Because the OFs are of an age many veterans are, you can indicate if you need assistance getting in or out of a vehicle. The OFs understand this because for many of them walking any distance is a chore, yet for some of them their exercise is taking a walk, while for others just lifting the fork up and down at breakfast is their exercise.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, and none of them who walked to the restaurant, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Karl Remmers, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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