On Sept. 28, this scribe was not in attendance at the weekly Tuesday breakfast. A more important task was in order and this scribe had an official excuse.

Fortunately, there were some of the OFs who would take names and advise this scribe if anything interesting went on. It was reported some stories were different and topical. This saved research into notes not used from previous gatherings.

On Tuesday, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. One of the OMOTM is a gardener of sorts like some of the others, but this OF’s specialty is raspberries. This OF’s raspberry patch is substantial and he has friends (and strangers) come and pick the berries.

Raspberries have a taste all their own, and are used in many dishes, mostly desserts. Is there a raspberry ice cream, or a raspberry cookie? The OMOTM who grows the raspberries never heard of any. However, just a quick check on Google gave many cookie recipes and suppliers of ice cream.

The raspberry-growing OF (on the Tuesday this scribe wasn’t there) decided to bring to the breakfast cups of raspberries for all the OFs in attendance and pass them out. Which he did; however, there is going to be surprise for one of the recipients.

After the breakfast, the generous OF with the raspberries hopped on his motorcycle and headed home.

When he arrived home and went into the house, the OF’s wife greeted him with, “Hi honey, where is the dog food? I went to the fridge and all I found for the dog was a cup of raspberries. I don’t think the puppies will be too happy with that.”

Oooops — the generous OF grabbed the cups of raspberries for the OFs from the refrigerator and took them to the breakfast. Some OF is going to get home, open his cup of raspberries and find — guess what? This scribe hopes the OF knows how to bark.


Search for the S.S. Minnow

The alternate scribe also reported that one of the OFs continued his tales of boating on Lake Anna in Virginia so once again the report goes back to last week. The location and cast of characters are the same.

This particular story of the lake had the same OF with four friends in the boat and this OF was taking them for a ride to show them the lake. Apparently, the OF thought it would be cool if he showed them the S.S. Minnow (which was reported he “discovered” last week). However, he entered what he thought was the right river (numerous rivers drained into this lake) but it wasn’t right.

The OF said he went up the river, found no Minnow and the water started getting shallower; now it was about four to five feet deep. The OF said he knew this was wrong, so he turned around and went back to the channel.

He turned right and proceeded up and spotted another river and thought that was the right way and he went up this river about two or three miles and the water started getting shallower. Again, the sonar showed only four to five feet of water. Wrong way for a second time so the OF went back; by now the friends were getting a little anxious.

The OF again headed up and spotted another river and it sure looked like where they came in — same thing though, three to four miles up, shallow water, wrong again, back again.

Another turn, found another river, same thing, kept going up this river, after traveling for a while the water became shallow, another wrong choice. By now, the OF knew he was lost.

The OF decided to go back to the channel, which he knew was 15 feet deep, and he would head back down instead of up and keep maintaining 15 feet by checking the sonar.

This he did and, after some time of riding back, one of his guests in the boat said, “Hey, I recognize that brush. Didn’t we come through some brush to get in this channel?

 The OF turned and went through the brush, traveled a little ways and there was the lake.

As an OF was relating this story that the other OG had told at the breakfast to the OMOTM, this scribe thought, “Now do we not only have the S.S. Minnow, but we are on the African Queen going through the brush to get to the channel, only the boat is without Katharine Hepburn.”

It seems the OMOTM who were at the Middleburgh Diner have two choices. Be sure to check the containers of raspberries you may be given, and be careful about getting on an OF’s boat, or you may be in for an adventure, and these forewarned OFs were: Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Jake Herzog, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Russ Pokorny, Jack Norray, and not me.

— Painting by John R. Williams

John R. Williams painted this scene of the now-gone shipyard where he and his wife waited for a whale-watch boat and he painted the name on a newly repaired lobster boat. “The boat that I lettered was right by those rocks,” Williams recalled. “The lobster man asked if I lived around there and I told him no, we were just visitors from the hills around Albany. He said I should move to the area and I would live very well just lettering boats and be much in demand after the other lobster guys saw his boat.”

This scribe is royally ticked off at this scribe. To explain that sentence, this is the second time I have typed this. The column was all finished; however, there was a lack of concentration and, just like in bowling and missing your spot (and you know you missed and want the ball back), this scribe put the cursor on the wrong dot and clicked.

As soon as the finger hit “click” on the mouse, this scribe wanted it back but it was too late. The ball was already in the gutter. All was lost. Now trying to remember what was in the original is a stretch. Oh well, here goes.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, those OMOTM who were not on vacation, or -n late summer visits, met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. It is somewhat of a misnomer to equate a retired OF with being on vacation.

They are retired, where do they have to go? It sure isn’t work for most of them; they are on constant vacation, but it is nice to get away to different scenery, or visit friends that live a distance away. In a sense, these may be considered vacations.

The night before the breakfast was the Harvest Moon, and many OFs thought they were the only ones going out and taking a look in the late evening (some even with binoculars) but they found out there were others, this scribe being one of those. Most of the viewers on the Hill did not have to deal with artificial light and had good views.

Around seven o’clock, as the moon just came up, this scribe thought the Earth and the moon were going to collide. Other OGs agreed and commented it looked darn close.

On the way to the Chuck Wagon, early Tuesday morning, the moon was still up in the west. The OFs had the sun and moon at the same time. “Shine on, Harvest Moon” — that is a tune for the old folks.

One OG returned from vacation close to where he was brought up. This OF took his boat with him and traveled to Lake Anna in Virginia. The OF said it has 275 miles of shore line made up from navigable rivers, creeks, and coves all around the lake. The OF told everyone it is in the middle of nowhere, and Culpepper, Virginia is the closest town anyone knows of.

While riding in his boat on the lake one day, the OF decided to travel up one of the tributaries. After traveling for a while up this river, he saw on the bank an old, pretty good-sized hulk of a cabin cruiser with “USS Minnow” painted on the stern in large letters. The OF said he could almost see the captain chasing Gilligan around the shore.

Another OF just returned from Maine. This is a state where many OFs go, to be by the ocean. The OF said that a lobster meal was on the menu — of course there would be that.

The OF said they went to the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine. This place is like the Chuck Wagon (or really any diner) only it was extremely busy with generally a waiting line to get in.

The OF said the lobsters cost him $70, and he felt ripped off because these lobsters were so small. “Seventy bucks!” the OF said again, but then he said the prices on the coast are getting out of hand for those on a fixed budget. That sure fits the OMOTM.

The OF said the next day he went to a lobster pound and ordered two lobsters — one three pounds and one two pounds so he could have some real lobster. The OF did not say how much they cost.

One OF said he could understand the price of lobsters going up and maybe some other things; just look at the price of gas or diesel fuel. The OF bet it cost quite a few bucks just to put fuel in one of those lobster boats.

Speaking of lobster boats, this scribe, who is also an OF, has to sneak in a story on lobster boats. This scribe and his wife were in Kennebunkport, Maine early in the morning, waiting for the boat, which takes people on a whale watch, to arrive.

This was at the Arundel Shipyard in Kennebunkport. While meandering around the boat yard, the scribe spotted a lobster boat with just-completed repairs and an older gentleman attempting to letter the stern.

At the rate the fellow was going, it would take him at least a couple of days to do it. This scribe watched him for a short while with his shaky hands and the scribe was getting antsy watching him.

Finally, this scribe told his wife he was going to go over and do the lettering. The scribe’s wife said, “John, don’t interfere; besides, our whale-watching boat may come before you finish.”

This scribe didn’t listen and went over to the man painting and asked, “Who owns this boat?” The man said “I do.”

This scribe said, “Give those brushes!” and took the brushes out of the guy’s hands. In 20 minutes, the job was done and looked sharp. This scribe went on to paint lobsters at each end of the lettering and they looked real, from a distance anyway.

The gentleman must have thought it was going to cost a fortune and said, “How much is this going to cost?”

This scribe said, “It’s on the house” gave the brushes back and went to watch whales.

One definition of an OF is that he’s a person who has had many interesting experiences, some of them true.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, while enjoying the show in the sky on the way in, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Duncan Bellinger, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Jake Herzog, Pete Whitbeck, Marty Herzog, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, John D, and me — and rest in peace, Roger Chapman; enjoy your breakfast on the cloud along with all the other OMOTM there waiting for you.

— Photo by Irving Rusinow, National Archives and Records Administration

John R. Williams’s mother cooked on a stove similar to this one. “If I remember right, my mother had two cans of grease, one was just bacon, and the other had different kinds of grease and fat in it,” he said.

The Old Men of the Mountain are still hanging around the Schoharie Valley and on Tuesday, Sept. 14th, they met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. A couple of the OMOTM decided to save room in the parking lot and showed up on their motorcycles. The next thing you know, some of the OFs will be showing up on their horses.

One OF reported that, on the way to the restaurant on Route 145, a short way past Knox Cave Road, he had to slow down to let a black bear cross the road. The bear just took his time as he crossed and then disappeared into the woods headed in the direction of Middle Road.

This started a conversation about recent spotting of bears in the area. The chat included Altamont and Guilderland, Old Stage Road above Altamont, and more sightings over in the valley. There could be three bears or more or just one bear that likes to go for walks.

Again, the talk continued on big cats spotted in the same area, and of course, deer. One OF mentioned the weather has produced an abundance of food for all the critters that roam the fields and woods. It was expressed that all the animals did not have to search for water at least in the Northeast this year.

It might be the reverse. Actually, there was too much water and the creatures large and small have had enough — even the animals with opposing thumbs think there has been too much heavenly water so far this year.

One OF said currently the Gulf at the Mexico arch (also known as Land’s End at the extreme southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula) has seen enough rain. “If only we could catch it some way and send it to the West Coast, it would be great,” an OF mused.


Bacon grease

The scribe was doing his duty, reporting on the doings of the OMOTM basically to supply alibis. Over his morning coffee, he read in the food section of the Times Union on Sept. 16 a section on keeping bacon grease. At last week’s breakfast, there was quite a discussion on how our (the OFs’) mothers kept a can of bacon grease on the top shelf of the stove. This grease was basically bacon but sometimes there was other grease dumped into the can.

The discussion was on how the grease was used and how good that grease made a lot of food taste. One OF mentioned how the smell of eggs and bacon, as he opened the woodshed door to go through to get to the kitchen when he came in from milking, was great. The OF said he wished he could capture all that again. This keeping of (especially) the bacon grease must be making a comeback.

Another OF said that, on one of his trips to Maine, he found a restaurant that had a bacon-grease-and-lettuce sandwich. The OF was questioned if it was just bacon and lettuce, without the tomato, and the OF said, “No, it was just bacon grease and lettuce.”

Sounded weird, but worth a try, probably cheaper than bacon and lettuce, and just about the same thing — the flavor without the bacon.

One OF said, if you haven’t had pancakes cooked on a cast-iron skillet, coated with bacon grease, smeared with butter, and real maple syrup, two or three eggs and a cold glass of raw milk, you haven’t had pancakes, or even a whopping breakfast.

This scribe notices at the breakfast some of the OFs try to emulate these early farm breakfasts, by ordering pancakes with a couple of eggs on top, toast and coffee, and the OFs stow all this away each Tuesday morning.

All of the talk about eating brings to mind a small witticism. Bread is like the sun: It rises in the yeast and sets in the waist.

After eating like this on a regular basis, some of the OFs who are in their seventies and eighties were planning to take some people on a hike. Maybe it is because the OFs ate like this when they were young, worked hard outdoors, and the food had only the chemicals in them that came from basically natural sources that they had a good start.

None of this food was processed; a lot of it came from the backyard. The OFs threw in how they were out digging up dandelions for salads, and whatever grasses and weeds that were edible.

These were much different times, and there was space to hunt for wild greens suitable for eating. Today, with a couple million people living in a few square miles, this is a little hard to do.

Jumping back to Tuesday morning’s previous exchanges, the OFs started talking about hunting large animals — especially with bow and arrow. Those OFs who were talking about this made it sound like quite a challenge and apparently not one for those weary of heart, or muscle.

These OFs discussed eating the venison which is a good thing; after all, we started out as hunter-gathers.

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and not out scurrying about taking advantage of the early days of fall, and the late days of summer, were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rich LaGrange, Miner Stevens, Jake Lederman, Robie Osterman, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Pete Whitbeck, Marty Herzog, Jake Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Bob Donnelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, John Dabrvalskes, and me.

The Old Men of the Mountain met again in Middleburgh, this time at Mrs. K’s Restaurant on Sept. 7. At Mrs. K’s there is generally a lively crowd and Tuesday was no different.  

Topics were many, from local Indians, to upcoming trips to Maine. A tad of time-jumping here.

The art of keeping pets was mentioned and then confined to one OF who has three dogs. This OF claims that he has taught these dogs to drive. He also claims that this wasn’t hard to do.

He feels that the reason most dogs have their heads out the car window, with their ears flapping in the breeze, is so that they can learn how to operate that vehicle. So the OF thought, “Why not let them try?”

The OF said it takes quite a bit of strain off him, but their eyesight is much better than his. Also it takes more than one dog to attempt this. When anyone meets this OF on the highway, they will see what this scribe means. It is very hard to tell who is behind the wheel.


School is back, so are packs

The breakfast is on Tuesdays and some of the schools were open. This was evidenced by kids along the road waiting for the yellow conveyance to pick them up.

One OF wondered what was in all the backpacks every one of the kids had slung over his or her shoulders. Some of the packs were larger than the little kids hauling them.

The OFs remembered when they were in school and school work was done in school. There was darn little homework because on the Hill and in the valley the teachers knew, when the kids arrived home, for most of them there was work to be done, and it wasn’t schoolwork.

One OF said books are heavy, but a 6-year-old might weigh 45 to 55 pounds, and it looks like these backpacks are heavier than that. But the backpacks might have other things than books because many of these kids have computers and they don’t weigh that much.


Fair memories

The OFs talked about flies again, and fairs.

The OFs remember at least the Altamont Fair being on when they were in school, and all the kids wanted to go to the fair. That would put the fair around Labor Day, and still the flies came out.

One OF mentioned he particularly liked Kids Day at the fair. Boy, this exchange went back quite away because another OF mentioned the fair had a really cool aroma, and he still remembers that. Another OF said this OF was still smelling the barn on the farm.



It was found that some of the OMOTM travel to Maine and more than was first mentioned in last week’s column. Tourism, according to the politicos, is a big money-maker for that state.

It must be for other states too. The OFs travel all over, and many people must travel to New York. But this scribe finds that many OFs travel right here in New York and this must lump them with tourists.

In listening to the OFs chatter about their travels, Maine and Florida appear to be the two at the top of the list. Florida must be the big draw in the colder months because the OFs mention making friends with people from Michigan and Canada while they are in Florida.

Snow may call some, but the sun seems to be number one, especially with the OFs and their creaky bones.


Back In Time

The Times Union has recently copied what The Enterprise has been running as long as this scribe can remember, and that is an informative small section on 100 Years Ago Today. These are very interesting to the OFs.

So much of their conversation of “when we were young” is beginning to border on these little snippets of 100 years ago today. If the report was 80 years ago today some of the OFs would be 8 or 9 years old and able to remember it firsthand.

This is getting scary. As one OF put it, “You would think a lot has changed but it hasn’t; all they have done is covered the same old stuff with plastic, and called it ‘new’.”

Some of the OFs didn’t know about that.

As Benjamin Franklin noted, aging folks really need only three faithful friends: an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and would like to be the age of kids in junior high, or high school, but not have to learn all this new stuff were: Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Ken Parkes, Glenn Patterson, Paul Nelson, Jake Lederman, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Rich LaGrange, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Pete Whitbeck, Duncan Bellinger, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, John Dabrvalskes, Jake Herzog, Marty Herzog, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, and me.

Every day should be different, yet most of the time every day seems to be the same. For instance, Tuesdays, for the Old Men of the Mountain, are different. Tuesday, Aug. 31, was different. It was the last day of the month and this is true for all those in our time zone, and using the calendar as most do.       

For the OMOTM that is the same, but who was going to be at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh? What would the sunrise be like? What would the weather be like? Is all that routine stuff, which seems to be the same, going to be different?

Who might show up at the breakfast? Will that be different? What will the OFs wear? That should be different. There is so much difference going on and the OFs haven’t even had their first cup of coffee yet.

The OFs, being the people they are, can remember the past firsthand and the more breakfasts the OFs put under their belts, the deeper the past becomes.

At one point in time, there was a really productive cement plant in Howes Cave, New york. Howes Cave is a very small hamlet in Schoharie County.

At one time, a few people from the Hilltowns worked at that plant. Though the work was hard and dusty it was one of the better-0paying jobs in the valley. It was one of the first cement plants in the country, and the stone was mined before it was quarried.

The OFs were telling stories of people who worked there in the plant’s “heyday” in the late forties and through the fifties. At times, the OFs struggled to remember names of people they worked with, though eventually the names came through.

What did come with ease were the events and stories and who was involved. Being 70 and 80 years old (and some approaching 90) digging back that far to relate a story and be reasonably accurate is pretty good.

Once the door of the brain is open to that time, the stories come more fluently, the stammering stops, and the hesitation lessens, as the mental images of what happened become sharper. This conversation was only between a couple of OFs who knew people who worked at the plant or they worked there themselves. The stories were just that to the others. Stories.


Ocean attracts

Some of the OFs travel to the coast of Maine whenever they get a chance. It must be the draw of the ocean, the waves rolling in with routine laps, or crashing roars. Some go to Cape Cod for basically the same reason.

One of the OFs just returned from Old Orchard Beach in Maine and the discussion centered on lobsters. Eating lobsters. To think they used clams and lobsters for driveways in colonial times, and lobsters were fed to their workers just to get rid of these crustaceans.

As one OF put it, “Now look at what a lobster meal costs!”

Catching lobsters is now highly regulated in order to perpetuate the species, and the same with clams. How times have changed. A good lobster meal for four can set you back a house payment.

The retired can go to the coast after school starts when the crowds are gone. The Old Orchard Beach OF said the crowds were horrendous and we are supposed to be in a pandemic.

But “in the good ole summer time” the crowds along the waterways are like that. Young and old people go, and it is getting to be really expensive, especially the gas to get who knows where. One OF piped up, “or work.”


A bummer

It is fair time and as mentioned before some of the OFs went to the state fair and they came back quite disappointed.

These OFs said, “There was not an animal there. No cows, horses, pigs, sheep — nothing. The only animals there were not remarkable animals at all — there were just a few ducks and chickens.”

“What a bummer,” one OF said.

The OFs can remember it was a big deal to have your cow win at the local fair and then take it to the state fair. The same feeling went for horses and other animals.

Fair time always means fly time especially on the Hill. Come the fair, comes the black cluster flies, and the green buzzy ones.

One OF said they got prepared by purchasing two rolls of fly paper, the sticky kind that pulls down from a little tube with a tack in it to fasten the fly paper to molding or whatever. The OF said they hung the two strips of fly paper and it hung for a couple of days and did not catch a fly.

Lots of flies but none on the paper. Either the flies are more educated or the manufacturers are not using, or are not allowed to use, the bait that entices the fly to the sticky part.

Generally those things work, not only with flies but other flying pests, but the OFs have never seen a bee stuck on one, which is a good thing.

One OF said he doesn’t know where the flies come from, but he does know they want to be outside. This OF said, just open the window and most of the flies will fly outdoors.

Then another OF said, “Yeah, the flies just fly around to the back door and wait for that to open and fly right back in.”

His advice? Swat the buggers.



The Old Men of the Mountain would like to offer their condolences and sympathies to the family of a loyal old man of the mountain, Roger Chapman, who passed away at St. Peter’s Hospital last week.

The Old Men of the Mountain who met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh on what felt like an early fall day, were: Wally Guest, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Jake Lederman, Marty Herzog, Pete Whitbeck, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Duncan Bellinger, Rev. Jay Francis, Russ Pokorny, Jake Herzog, Gerry Chartier, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, and me.

It was Aug. 24, and the Old Men of the Mountain gathered at the Chuck Wagon Diner on Route 20. As most in the area know, Route 20 travels basically east and west and the sun comes up in the east and sets (duh) in the west.

Many OFs at this time of the year are driving directly east as the sun peeks over the horizon. Going east and meeting the glare of the sun in the morning can be an experience with old eyes. However, one OF said he would rather put up with the glare than drive in fog, drizzle, and gloom, and expect no better for the rest of the day.

The OFs are guaranteed to talk about the weather; who is ill or under the weather; old times, including tractors, cars, trucks, and motorcycles; what they did in school, mostly high school (college seems to be left out); what they did at work, and current events.

Some mention odd or universally interesting hobbies, or gossip; many other topics are just touched on or not mentioned at all.

This leaves the scribe reporting on, and trying to make different commentary on, the same topics over and over. Again, this is understandable; it happens in any group that has been functioning for years.

This past Tuesday, the chatter was on the weather and all the water and how wet it has been, because the OFs remembered how devastating Irene was and how this tropical storm affected so many of the OFs from actual damage, or volunteering to help others who were in need.

So, in talking about weather, that storm of 10 years ago was real weather, and is still talked about off and on today. Not only is it talked about but the evidence is still around.


Stringing phone lines

The Middleburgh Telephone Company was a discussion that was different. The OFs remember when the company was around in the forties and fifties, and at that time it was like a backyard operation.

The OFs remember working with actor John McGiver who lived in West Fulton (about 40 miles west of Albany). They were stringing phone lines through and on trees, even on fence posts.

Maybe there are phone lines strung like that in the North Country or out west someplace, but like one OF said, “If it works, so what?”

The Middleburgh Telephone Co. was started in the late 1800s and has been around ever since.


Fair talk

Some of the OFs talked about going to the New York State Fair in Syracuse. That is quite an event.

Local fairs are fun, especially when young, when youngsters belong to a club or organization that participates in these local fairs. Sometimes this even leads to their taking part in the state fair.

The state fair has a butter-sculpture exhibit that appears just about as people enter the fairgrounds. These sculptures are very well done.

Some of the OFs have seen these works and are really impressed. This scribe has seen the sculpted butter and, like the rest, is impressed.

What happens to all this butter when the fair is over? This scribe would hate to see it go to waste, and so would the OFs, but the OFs think this butter has to be destroyed just to be safe.

It is like sand art. Once it is done, and viewed by those that attended, whoever sponsored the event must have made plans for what they would do with this display when the fair is over.  All the sculptors have now are photographs of their works.

Going to the state fair on a good day, you will find the exit to get off the New York State Thruway can be packed.

One OF said, on a trip to the fair, the right lane of the Thruway was stopped quite away from the exit ramp. Of course, that exit ramp was backed up also.

The OF explained that, as his family inched their way along the Thruway to get to the exit ramp, a vehicle went scooting by on the right of their car. Just as the exit ramp left the Thruway, there was a police car and alongside the car stood a state trooper.

He was waving that car to stop and the trooper did not look too happy. One OF mentioned that rarely does anyone get to see that happen. Generally the guy with the guts to pull a stunt like that gets away with it.

The state fair or the Eastern States Exposition are not venues that (to some of the OFs) can be seen in one day. When we were younger, it was a camping trip; today it may be necessary to rent a room, motel, or B&B.

Trips like this, one OF commented, really make a dent in the ole pocketbook.

“So does a day at the track; rarely do I win,” the OF said. “But I am sure to bring a cooler. Grabbing a bite at the track is expensive.”

Just living today is expensive. A cemetery raises its costs and blames it on the cost of living. Indeed a grave situation.

Those OFs who were at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown regardless of today’s prices were: Roger Shafer, Rich LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Jake Lederman, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Marty Herzog, Monty Hounshell, Pete Whitbeck, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Herb Bahrmann, Rich Vanderbilt, Elwood Vanderbilt, Dave Hodgetts, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Paul Whitbeck, Mark Traver, John Dabrvalskes, and me.

What happened in history on Aug. 17? Not much except for those born on Aug. 17, but on Augu. 17, 2021, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie; that does make that date a momentous occasion.

After the normal greetings, the OFs began talking about the problems in Afghanistan, which shows they do keep up with current events. After much talk, the chit-chat faded out and resolved nothing.

In some major developments, there are as many opinions as there are OMOTM. Sometimes the rights and wrongs are so obvious that most of the OFs are in agreement; however, there are a few times (whether right or wrong) these debates follow basically along political lines.

This Afghanistan issue is just sad; it has been going on for centuries with elected leaders, or believers of Muhammad, or anyone who wants his name in the news. What a mess.


Cracking up

Quite often, in normal conversation, people make a statement that either breaks everyone up, or causes a collective moan. The people making the statements have no idea what they have said that caused such a reaction and they have a perplexed look on their faces, expressing complete lack of understanding of what just happened.

Sometimes, amid all the chatter going on at a table with about 18 guys sitting to eat, those speaking wonder if anybody is listening or are they just uttering sounds into the mix of words already mouthed across the table.

This will show that, while speaking, the OFs are listening as well, a trait that comes with raising kids in large families and getting old. Males and females have this ability when they hit their sixties or so.

So the story now is that one OF was on vacation and had shut his shop down for the month and was planning on taking his boat and having a few days cruising on the beautiful waters of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River.

He was telling the OFs about his pending trip and that now, after hearing the weather report for the week, he was not going to take his boat.

Then a discussion followed on how beautiful that area was and how clear the river was. The OFs started getting a history lesson on the region, with the naming of towns in that area, and how the water for the St. Lawrence comes from the Great Lakes.

One OF said that, when a drop of water falls in the Great Lakes, it takes 500 years for that drop of water to reach the river. A few other OFs said the river at one point is five miles wide, and mentioned information about Indian outposts, and the waterfalls.

The OF with the boat said he was friends with the people at the boat museum on the river and even docks his boat there.

After all this discussion on the Thousand Islands, and all that can be done there, the OF making the trip said, “I don’t care. I still don’t like getting my boat wet!”

At which point the whole restaurant broke up, because not many of them heard the discussion about the weather about a half-hour earlier.


Easy rider?

Then another OMOTM used his cell phone for show and tell. This scribe saw the picture as the OF was passing it around and commented that he saw that on television.

The OF said that the American Legion Riders in Altamont were asked if they could scrounge up 11 motorcycles to ferry the cheerleaders for the 2021 champions of the National Arena League, the Albany Empire indoor football team, around the field.

They managed to obtain the required motorcycles and drivers to do this ugly (?) chore, and the OF was one of these drivers. The picture was of the OMOTM with the very pretty cheerleader on the back of his machine.

The OF said this was not as easy as it looked like on his cell phone. Of course many of the OFs said there was a distraction on the back of the bike that might have had something to do with it, but the OF insisted the artificial turf was very slippery for the bikes to drive on.

Many of the drivers, when they first approached the turf, almost had the bikes slip out from under them so they drove very slowly.

The scribe noticed on television some of the drivers had their feet down, and the OF said, “Yes, it was not the easiest ride going around the arena.”

Not only did they have the distraction on the back of the bike, but one underneath as well. It was a very nice picture though; the scribe also noticed that some of the OFs hung onto the phone longer than others.

The Old Men of the Mountain who showed up at the Your Way Café in Schoharie (some came on their bikes and it rained a tad while the OMOTM were in the café) were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Miner Stevens, Rick LaGrange, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Marty Herzog, Pete Whitbeck, Jake Herzog, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.

It is something to develop any system and have it last since around 50 B.C., and the Old Men of the Mountain, along with many others, are using this system right now because on Tuesday, Aug. 10, the OMOTM met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. (This system is the calendar.)

It was a nice day, uneventful, no floods or natural disasters to contend with as the OFs made it to Mrs. K’s.

It is strange how the weather can have such an effect on the best-laid plans. The OMOTM in the last two years have planned one gathering a year and both times the weather has been very nice.

The OMOTM were discussing how weather can cause a planned event to fail or succeed.

The OFs were talking about the Middleburgh days, and now that the Sunshine Fair is going on in Cobleskill, and the Altamont Fair is coming up, and the upcoming Schoharie Village garage sale, one OF said, “Of these towns, or villages, whoever is planning such an event has to consider how much the weather will affect them.”

Many of the OFs have been on the planning end of such events, or are part of an event planned by others, like fire departments, churches, and schools. Then, on the day of the event, it pours! How discouraging.

As one OF commented, “The next day the sun shines bright.”

Then another OF said, “You guys are all talking about fun things to do. What about listening to the weather report and it sounds so good and some farmer cuts down 100 acres of hay, and it rains all night, and until noon the next day! Happy farming!”


Sandman fails

Another topic that came up and was talked about on Tuesday was somewhat unusual because this topic has never been discussed. The scribe can’t remember any discussion on this subject at our breakfasts. The topic: sleeping.

One OF, almost immediately upon sitting down, leaned back in his chair with a long stretch and deep yawn and then announced he did not sleep well last night. The OFs to his right and left said the same thing; they did not sleep well and were tired.

A few others in that area of the table said the same thing. It was a hard night to sleep, and they, too, were tired.

A couple of OFs also said they were tired when they went to bed so they should have fallen right to sleep. What was in the air, Monday night and early Tuesday morning? Did the sandman fail to get up?

It is not that all the OMOTM don’t have air-conditioners, and have to put up with fans, but was Monday night that bad? It is a good thing most, if not all, of the OFs are retired. Suppose they were all truck drivers and the regular drivers met this crowd on the road.


Sticky wicket

Ah, sooner or later the discussion would get around to Governor Andrew Cuomo and his resignation. Most of the OGs thought his handling of COVID-19 was pretty good except for that nursing home situation.

Within this group, we are all eligible for that trip. The statement, “Be good to your kids because they get to choose your nursing home” is worth mentioning. The OFs supposed, “Well, maybe they do.”

Anyway, most of the OFs thought we should let the governor finish out his term, but there should always be three or four other people in the room regardless of what Governor Cuomo says.

Another OF said, “This circumstance is a trait of overseas behavior. Look at the French, the Italians (especially the Italians) and those in the Mideast — they are huggers and kissers, right down to their goats.”

What a sticky wicket we have now. COVID is kicking in again. What a mess. This scribe hoped the chatter didn’t get too far into politics and it didn’t; however, it did get into a little of the social side of it and then faded out.


Pondering prices

Then the OFs started talking about the price of everything. The OFs thought some of it was price-gouging because the suppliers can get away with it, and other price hikes were just supply and demand.

One OF asked, “Where did all the workers go?”

Another OF replied, “Why work when the government pays you pretty well to stay home?”

A couple of OFs were car shopping; talk about aggressive! One OF said they wanted to take his truck right out from under him, making all kinds of offers.

Another OF said they did take his vehicle in their clutches, and brought around a used one that looked and drove like brand new. The OF said he couldn’t pass that one up.

One OF said he gets many phone calls to trade his vehicle in or outright sell the thing. This OF is beginning to be on a first-name basis with the dealers.

It is changing so fast that some of the OFs said they don’t believe it is all due to the pandemic. The OFs are confused. How can a piece of plywood go from $10 to $13 a sheet just a few months ago to $80 or $90 for that same sheet of plywood today?

The grumbling Old Men of the Mountain grumbled about a lot of things at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh from hugging, to masks, to prices skyrocketing, and those OMOTM who will keep their hands in their pockets to stay out of trouble, were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Rick LaGrange, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Ken Parks, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Ed Goff, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Bob Donnelly, Dave Hodgetts, Jake Herzog, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, and me.

The Old Men of the Mountain have been meeting. However, this scribe picked up some bug that hit like a ton of bricks.

What it is (or was) is unknown. As the doctor said, “You are weird, John.”

This scribe was hit with such pain that, if a jealous lover shot the scribe, the scribe would have replied, “Thank you.”

July 31 is the first day that the scribe has felt like doing anything, and that is not much. (Enough of that.)

The Old Men of the Mountain met on Tuesday, July 20, at the Your Way Café in Schoharie. There is a hint the OMOTM are the OMOTM: Most of what is discussed is old or, if it is current, it is the health of each OF or the health of those the OFs know, but then there is the unusual event of health that happens.

One of the OFs going through a tough time is having chemo treatments. At his last treatment (and the day the Your Way Café was scheduled for the OMOTM breakfast), who was sitting in the chair next to the OF? None other than the owner of the Your Way Café, also having a chemo treatment.

This cancer thing is getting to be a regular club because there seems to be so much of it around. Age does not even seem to matter.


Stubborn eagle

One OF called this scribe to report an event that happened to a carload of OFs on their way to the July 20 breakfast at the Your Way Café. This group of OFs travels Route 443 to get to the restaurant and on this route there are some bridges along the way.

The OF who called reported that, as they exited a turn and approached one of the bridges, there in the middle of the bridge “sat” a full-grown eagle. It just sat there and looked at the car approaching.

The driver assumed that it would take off so it wouldn’t get hit, but it didn’t. The eagle just sat there.

The driver said he had to swerve into the oncoming lane to avoid hitting the eagle. Still, the eagle did not move.

The OFs said it did not appear to be hurt or anything like that, nor could the OF see if it was protecting a kill. The driver said he wasn’t going that fast (that can be attested to because he is not that type of driver) but he was going fast enough so that the whole scene could not be absorbed by those in the car.

The driver also commented that, as in military training, if a vehicle were coming, there would have been a cloud of feathers flying around not attached to a bird because he would have hit the eagle instead of having a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle.

In our area, eagles are becoming more common than hawks, or at least appear to be. Reports of OFs spotting these kestrels flying around and paying them a visit right in many of the OFs backyards is becoming routine.


Moving mosaic

The OFs look at each other many times a day and see a person but really not a face. In groups such as the OMOTM, it is a phenomenon that faces disappear and it becomes just words and conversations, fingers pointing along at times with show and tell.

Nothing noticeable, only when the OF first appears, and then when the OF leaves. This scribe has noticed this even in large family gatherings.

This scribe is beginning to understand now why some people wear such garish outfits and makeup, particularly the distaff side so they will stand out and be noticed. Soon enough though those dressed lavishly will just become part of the moving mosaic, filling up space in the room.

One time, the OFs discussed this odd topic. As the breakfast goes on, it is just a melting pot of flesh-colored faces with words coming out of the hole in the center.

One OF carried it a step further when he thought even what the OFs are wearing seems to melt into some kind of crazy quilt. This happens even if it is a $2,000 dress, or a $50 pair of bibs.

So it is not what the OFs look like or how they are dressed but what the OFs say that is important.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who were able to make the breakfasts at the restaurants have whereabouts that can be accounted for (if any misbehaving went on, it wasn’t these OFs, at least not on Tuesday mornings the 20th and the 27th of July).

On the July 20, the OFs were at the Your Way Café and they were: Robie Osterman, Mark Traver, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Roger Schafer, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Bob Fink with guest Josh Hundley, Pete Whitbeck, Joe Rack, Duncan Bellinger, Rick LaGrange, Jake Herzog, and not me.

The OFs accounted for on Tuesday morning, July 27, were at the Chuck Wagon Diner; the rest of the time they are fair game for the police, bill collectors, ex-wives, kids returning home, or whoever is after them, and they were:  Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Marty Herzog, Bill Lichliter, Roger Schafer, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Paul Whitbeck, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Pete Whitbeck, Joe Rack, Rick LaGrange, Jake Herzog, Dave Hodgetts, and again not me.

On July 13, 2021, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh. The OMOTM thought “here we go again” as the streets of Middleburgh were cleared from the latest go-round with high water.

If anyone has dealt with the mud after a flood, they know how slippery it is. The OFs who helped with the clean-up after Tropical Storm Irene are familiar with this slippery condition; the mud is more slippery than wet ice.

Fortunately, Mrs. K’s was open and the OFs who showed up tread very carefully getting out of their vehicles on the street side; otherwise the other OFs would be dragging the OFs from under the car after they slipped on the mud.

Once the OFs were inside the restaurant, guess what they talked about? You are right: It was the weather!

In this discussion, the OFs at this scribe’s end of the table shared a lot of their experiences of living on the Hill and in the valleys of either side of the mountain. Together the OFs arrived at a good reason for the weather in our area, quite often defeating the weather people.

The hills! Therein lies the problem. Many times, the hills change the direction of the low winds and alter the directions of many storms. This latest storm was one of those storms. One OF said a lot has to do with the altitude and the winds bumping into these hills that makes a big difference.


Fulminating over phones

The OFs then started talking about these new phones. To the young people, even though these phones are new they can understand them, while to us OFs much of the phone technology is a mystery.

The OFs don’t have a clue as to what is going on. All the OFs want it to do is have it ring and the OFs answer, dial a number, and someone on the other end answers. That is all a phone has to do.

It does not have to deliver our kids, shine our shoes, start our cars, wash our faces, or pick our noses! Just ring and be answered

The OFs say they have complained about this before, but the problem is getting worse. It is like carrying a TV in the OF’s pocket.

As one OF put it, “The next thing you know these phones will come with a lanyard so they can be carried around our necks.”


Canes are no joke

This Tuesday, we almost had the battle of the canes. The OFs were in a quandary of where to put their canes when they sat down.

These assisted walking devices can be a nuisance at times when trying to park them. Such was the case on Tuesday morning.

The challenge: Finding a place where the canes could be placed and not fall to the floor, causing the waitress to trip over them, or worse yet, the OF would have to bend over and pick it up. At a certain age, bending over is not the easiest maneuver the OFs can make.

These assistants to walking are not really a joke; they are very necessary for some of the OFs to get around and not be a burden to anybody. They take some time to get used to for those who wield these walking sticks, and they have to be rugged.

Some OFs (and also other people) require the cane to support all their weight at times and that cane had better not snap or fold or it will take 10 OFs to pick the one OF up from the ground and get his legs under him.


Belly of the beast

We all think we have belly buttons and for some reason that bit of information was discussed at the breakfast table, eh-wot?

(The scribe did not make this term up; it was checked out on Google (phew). This term was typically uttered by pompous, posh men; “eh, wot?” was the Regency-era equivalent to “you know” or “right?")

One OF commented that all the paintings of Adam and Eve are wrong because they show Adam and Eve with belly buttons. Of course why would they? Adam and Eve did not need belly buttons, but the rest of us do.

Except one OF piped up, “I don’t have a belly button.”

That got a lot of attention. Come to find out, the OF doesn’t have a belly button. So the conversation continued.

One OF said his belly button is so large, it is possible to park a Mack truck in there. The question arose: What kind of tube must that have been?

Another OF commented that his belly button is shaped like a question mark. Goodness

It is a good thing the OFs were not talking about noses or ears; the column would fill up a whole page.

One OF muttered, “Boy, we are sure made up from a lot of parts.”


Lazy lakeside picnic

An OF offered the use of his place for a picnic on July 15, and this OF will provide the hot dogs, hamburgers, rolls, and that type of extras so the OFs could have a summer gathering with their better halves (and that’s not hard to do). Originally the date was July 14 but that date was changed to the following day due to the weather reports.

Smart move! The weather was perfect and there was a good crowd of OFs with their wives and lady friends. The OFs all sat around under a big cedar tree, had musical interludes, laughed, ate, and talked. A breeze came in off the lake, and the host took those who wanted out for a ride around the lake in his pontoon boat.

It did not seem like a Thursday afternoon. Then again most were old (a word not an age) and retired so every day can be a Sunday afternoon.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it through the mud and mire to Mrs. K’s Restaurant and were lucky enough not to need a boat were: Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Kenny Parks, Rich LaGrange, Jake Lederman, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Russ Pokorny, Gerry Chartier, Otis Lawyer, Jake Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Bob Donnelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Marty Herzog, John Dabravalskas, Duncan Bellinger, and me.