— Photo from John R. Williams

The captain stands in the bow of his ship, the “Flying Eagle,” after the successful launch. Captain Roger Chapman, who has worked on building the ship for 12 years, awaits the boarding of his crew.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Ready to sail: Roger Chapman has built a pirate ship out of a discarded cabin cruiser. The Old Men of the Mountain convinced him to launch it on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Aug. 21, The Old Men of the Mountain met for the last time at Kim’s West Winds Diner in Preston Hollow. Kim is closing the doors for good on Sept. 2.

Kim has the lament that is heard by many of the OMOTM — that it is hard to find people who want to work. Some of the retired OFs have been contacted by former employers to see if they want to come back to work.

The common thread is that the workers out there are right now seem to be the best of the worst.  “Anyone worth their salt is already working,” is another often-heard comment.

What is left, according to many employers, are those who don’t know how to work, those who don’t want to work, and those unable to work. The OFs are often asked if they know of anyone who wants to work.

Group rate?

To transcend from that to an observation by one of the OGs as he looked up and down the tables set up at Kim’s: The OF leaned over and said, “What we should do as the Old Men of the Mountain is to select a funeral parlor and get all the OGs together and see what kind of discounted rate we could get on pre-paid funerals for the whole group of OFs.”

That is not as silly as it sounds, and by looking around, we contend that the funeral parlor would not have to wait long before they started cashing in.

Empathy for old tugs

The OFs (and again being Old Fs) have a particular bond with things that have age attached to them.

This time, it was sad to see the old tug boats go down to the ocean where the governor is supposed to be building an artificial reef to attract fish for fishing. There these tugs will be sunk to add to this reef.

These tugs are classics. The OFs think they could be sold to people who could then convert them to houseboats.

Some of the old floating museums still can ply the waters; those, too, would make interesting houseboats. We are not sure if the state ever considered putting them up for auction to see what might happen.

The OFs don’t know how many tugs the state has in its fleet and some may be so far beyond repair that the houseboat plan is not feasible; some of these classics, the OFs think, are salvageable and should be kept afloat. It is tough for the OFs to see old items just discarded.

Pirate ship launched

On Sunday, Aug. 26, the OFs had a launching of their own. One of the OFs has been building his version of a pirate ship for years.

This OF has taken a discarded cabin cruiser that was sunk and constructed his own pirate ship, the “Flying Eagle.”

The OF was told, if he could raise this cruiser, he could have it. You don’t give this OF a challenge like that!

He soon took the challenge and raised the cruiser. The OFs have listened to this OF discuss the progress on the construction of this boat for so long they began putting pressure on him to get this thing in the water. So Sunday, at one o’clock, in she went.

The ship is brand new, but the crew looked like a motley gaggle of old misfits.

The launching was tense as the ship was pushed into the water: Would it tip over, would it sink, would it leak? The crowd gripped the railing as the “Flying Eagle” edged further and further into deep water. A great cheer and clapping went up when the ship floated free at the end of the slip.

Then all the food was brought out and everyone ate and over ate their fill and beyond, while the ship was maneuvered by a couple members of the crew to where it was to be moored. We are too old to have this much fun, although there were young ones who watched through the railing with great big eyes when the ship began to move.

Now that the ship is in the water, the mast and sails will be installed. The future plans for this venture is to install a galley and the OF and his wife can have meals on the deck and sit there with their coffee and watch the sun go down, or come up.

In the morning, they’ll listen to the morning sounds of the birds waking up, and in the evening they’ll listen to the bullfrogs croak. There is even a full-scale skeleton crew to cater to their every whim — Ta Dah! the Flying Dutchman in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.

The OF even constructed a new dock to accommodate the ship. When finished, the dock will be of the period. This whole project started in 2007, and maybe it will be completed by 2020, or 2021, or 2022, who knows?

Power play

The OFs are in a quandary. The OFs wonder why their power bills keep going up when they are doing everything to conserve energy.

Some OFs go around insulating every nook and cranny they can find where drafts can get in, support the solar farms, change all their light bulbs, purchase new appliances only with the energy star sticker on them, and some even wear sweaters in the house during winter time.

One OF mentioned that, with so many homes with solar arrays on them, and the huge wind farms and solar farms being built, there must be less of a strain on the generators used at normal power plants.

One OF said his son works occasionally with geothermal installation, which also should help alleviate the drain on use of gas, nuclear, or fossil fuels. Another OF thought new construction is going faster than the newer technology grows so the drain on the grid, this OF thinks, is higher.

But then again, what do the OFs know?  We just talk.

Those OFs who all gathered together for the last time, even those OFs who drove an hour to get to Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow, were: Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Art Frament, Ray Kennedy, Pete Whitbeck, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Warren Willsey, Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier and very special guests (Olga Deur, and Mario Snyder), Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the Old Men of the Mountain left the comfort of their homes and took off on another wild adventure; this time, it was to the Home Front Café in Altamont.

For those not familiar with the Home Front Café, it is like eating in a museum. Tuesday morning, an OMOTM brought an artifact for the café to add to its collection.

It was a sextant (all it is is a device that measures the angle between objects) used for sighting a canon. This sextant would have been used in early battles; however, the café is dedicated to United States veterans of all conflicts.

Tuesday morning, with all that was going on at the restaurant the waitress gets three atta-boys for handling all the OFs.

Final flight

The OFs at our end of the table discussed the mechanic who stole the short-hop commercial turboprop airplane in Seattle.

As one OF put it, “He went out in style, and put on quite a show beforehand.”

Another OF commented that the airlines had him in the wrong job; if he could handle a plane of that size like he did, he should have been a pilot instead of a mechanic.

Then one OF said, “What if he was and then went nuts with a plane full of passengers? If he decided to do loops and rolls (as he really did) and crash the plane that would have been a real disaster.”

Yet another OF mentioned something more scary: “What if his actions have triggered a series of copy cats that will attempt the same thing for the notoriety? Now we will have a genuine mess.”

Cycling safety

The OFs then talked a while about riding bikes; one OF mentioned they are the scariest things on the road. The OFs have covered this before, about how dangerous bikes can be.

One OF had a great suggestion this time. He felt that there should be designated bike paths on certain roads that are wide enough to support both the sport and vehicles.

One OF mentioned about riding bikes when we were kids and thought nothing of it. Then an OF suggested that, when he was a kid, the only thing he had to worry about when he was on his bike was a galloping horse not with a car going 50 to 55 miles an hour at the crest of a blind hill. That’s where a driver may come upon one bicyclist, or maybe more than one, in the road a hundred feet in front of him.

Then a smart OF said the bicyclist and in-line skaters have the right-of-way on most public roadways so, he said, “It is up to you guys to be alert.”

“If that is the case,” it was suggested, “then all roads that bicycles travel on (if they have the right-o- way) should have the speed limit lowered to basically what a bike can do; then there wouldn’t be all these scares.”

“Are you serious?” came a reply.  

One other OF offered an applicable observation. This OF thought that, with all the miles police officers travel in their patrol cars, they come upon the same situations we do and may have the same feelings.

“The officer also knows the law better than we do and sucks it up, but I bet they have some heart-stopping instances too,” he said.

Few go to the fair

Not many of the OFs are going to the Altamont Fair this year, and have not gone in the past couple of years.

The OFs are waiting for some of the family to come and tell them the fair is like they remembered years ago. Some OFs mentioned like before the grandstand fire.

Another OF said they were going too far back, using the fire as a starting point. The basic problem this scribe seemed to sort out is the OFs are too darn old and their legs won’t take them around the fair.

This was because a couple of the OFs mentioned walking and stopping to sit awhile, then walking some more and sitting some more. A sit for a long time was in store before starting the trek to the car.

The OFs who did go said it is not for farmers and workers much anymore — it is for the younger adults from about age 14 to 21. An OF came up with a reasonable summation: The farms are few and far between!

The big garden growers like LaVie farms and others are gone; the young are not into chickens, rabbits, and farm young stock as pets.  Now it seems to be all electronic games, and not much teaching the youngsters how to knit, sow, or create.

This is not to knock all kids because the electronic skills they are developing now they will need later on — we are just out of the loop. Is it for better or worse?

This OF didn’t know but it just isn’t our kind of fair anymore. We all want the fair to be like when we were kids; that is not going to happen. The kids 50 years from now will be complaining the fair is not like when we were kids; let the younger kids and adults support the fair so the fair will still be here.

Warm and wet

We all know that this summer has been on the warm and wet side so far, at least on the East Coast. A couple of the OFs brought relatives who have been staying with them to the breakfast Tuesday morning.

The OFs had to shake these visitors out of bed rather early in the morning to make it to the breakfast.  That might have been a shock to some.

One of the visitors was from Austin, Texas and he said that the temperature in Austin was 100 degrees in early May and has not been below 100 degrees since. The OFs will take what we have, thank you very much!

However, the OFs say that for this late in the season it is the trees and grass, in fact the whole surrounding area is the most lush they have seen since they can remember. (Hey! The OMOTM are OMOTM and the memory may be a little short) but it has been green and the foliage has been full.

One OF mentioned the trees have to be done for the season; fall colors may be early this year. But he concluded, “Then again, what do I know?”

The OFs who hacked their way through the jungle to get to the Home Front Café in Altamont for breakfast with Tarzan and Jane as the cook and waitress were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter and guest Josh Buck, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Rich Donnelly, Art Frament, Karl Remmers and grandsons Nolan Debar, Kaleb Debar, Herb Sawotka, Pete Whitbeck, Rich Vanderbilt, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Otis Lawyer, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Café in Princetown. Most of the OMOTM that had to travel to the Chuck Wagon had to head east at one point, some for quite a distance. Those early birds were greeted with a sunrise that indicated it was going to be one hot day.

One OF has had extensive dental work done and the OF was pleased and said the surgery went well. The OFs began to discuss pain pills, and pain, and blood.

This OF said he was told to take Tylenol for four hours, then Advil for four hours, than back to Tylenol for four hours, and back to Advil for four hours. The OF claimed he had no pain and very little swelling.

Although the Tylenol-Advil cycle was recommended to this patient, the OMOTM do not recommend anyone try this without talking to his doctor. One OF said he can’t do this because Advil is out. The OF said he takes some heart meds that makes ibuprofen a no-no.

The conversation turned to, as usual, old-fashioned ways of taking care of pain, and controlling blood.

One method for controlling blood flow was using tea bags as a compress. One OF mentioned how his mother (now we are really going back) used boiling water and tea leaves for serious cuts. She would take a clean sock, place tea leaves in it and make her own tea bag. The OF claimed that process worked.

Odd, sodden summer

Another OF took a week off and proceeded to go to Virginia to visit friends. Bad idea, but the arrangements were made some time back.

The OF said he was going to bring his boat but, after watching the weather to where he was going, he figured that was not a good idea. The OF said the weather was awful — it rained all the time; he felt the whole state was going to wash away.

The OF said, in hindsight, he should have brought his boat; he could have used it to tow the truck in places the water in the roadways was so deep.

So far, the OFs say it has been an odd summer. The west and southwest is burning up, and in the southeast and east the people here are going to require flippers and gills. One OF commented that, though this weather is unusual, it is not rare.

Weather watchers

This led to a talk on where the OFs get their weather information from. The sampling was small.

This scribe should come up with a survey of the OFs on their weather-watching habits. One OF suggested the scribe should include a column for “out the window.”

When we were on the farm, the weather came from two places, observance of what was happening in the morning in the atmosphere and the color of the hills to the southwest, looking toward Schoharie and Middleburgh from the Helderbergs. If those hills were purple to almost black and the sun was shining, we prepared for a rain and a blow.

The other area we placed our faith in was “The Chanticleer” with Earl Pudney, and John Charles Stevenson. One OF said their cows were brought up by these two. We received the news, the weather, and the farm report every morning listening to those two broadcasters on WGY in the early morning.

Purpose of tipping

The OMOTM were having breakfast in a restaurant and what else came up was tipping. This has been in the news lately and one OF said he was at a restaurant where the tip was included on the bill.

A unified “Say what?” was uttered.

One OF explained the purpose of tipping and what the word means. The word is an acronym, he said, for “To Insure Prompt Service,” i.e. TIPS. If the customer is not happy with the service, the customer does not have to leave a tip.

Generally, the reason for not leaving a tip and indicating why, the leaving of a penny is the norm. This is just like turning a fork over at the end of the table to signal the waiter/waitress you are finished with the meal and table can be cleared.

For a restaurant to automatically charge you for its service (especially when it has been very bad) is ludicrous. That way, the restaurant will never improve, or be able to find out what employee is causing the problem.

Sunshine for old timers

The Cobleskill Sunshine Fair was to be held on the week this breakfast was in progress and the OFs were checking to make sure that this was Old Timers’ Day. Most of the OFs assured those asking that it was this week and this was the day, so some were making arrangements to go to the fair and take advantage of the savings. If anything, these OFs are Old Timers and there should be no license check at the gate.

After this wisecrack, an OF said just a while back he was at the Wal-Mart in Cobleskill, purchasing bullets. When he went to pay at the register, the clerk asked the OF with a straight face, “Sir, are you over 21?”

That brought chuckles to customers in line in back of the OF. The customer directly in back of the OF (the OF had no idea who he was) said, “I’ll vouch for him.”

The OF said he thinks there is a camera at each checkout and, as soon as those bullets ran through the scanner, the clerk’s asking was mandatory, and pictures were taken. This is just conjecture on the OF’s part and may not be the case at all.

Maybe to the clerk the OF did look under 21. Boy! Wouldn’t that be great?

The Old Men of the Mountain who are managing the heat and still being able to find their way to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Art Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Ted Willsey, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Pete Whitbeck, Ray Gaul, Rich Donnelly, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Joe Rack, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen and me.

Location:

This scribe has a little book that he brings to the Old Men of the Mountain’s breakfast where the scribe writes little notes of what was discussed by the Old Men of the Mountain. This is a good thing to have because. in starting this column. the restaurant the scribe wrote for the opening paragraph for the OMOTM was not the restaurant the OMOTM were at; it was listed as the Your Way Café.

It is a good thing this little book had the restaurant the OMOTM were really at and the date listed. So it is now safe to say that on Tuesday the Old Men of the Mountain made it all the way to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg on the last day of July, which was Tuesday. the 31st, and that is the truth!

At the Duanesburg Diner, the OFs take up the whole room in the back and half of the booths out front. This past Tuesday morning, there was a regular customer in the room in the back as the OFs began to filter in. This gentleman finished his breakfast while OFs sat down.

While the gentleman was sitting, he heard some of the conversation of the OFs and this conversation was on eating, and the OFs were commenting on whether the sausage gravy was from a can or homemade — conversations like that.

When the gentlemen left, he stopped at the head of the table and told a story about his grandfather who lived to be 99 years old. According to this fella, his grandfather’s meals each day consisted of one sandwich and a fifth of cheap whiskey, and that was it. Well maybe. However, the OFs do know some that there are functioning alcoholics and they have similar stories like this.

That brought up the question of people who keep telling us OFs (which is another term for seniors) what to eat. One OF said he was tired of young whipper-snappers telling him just that, what to eat.

He said, “I am over 80 years old, and work most every day in my garden, drive my tractor, and do brush-hogging for customers and I am not going to change my diet because at this moment sugar is bad. I will wait a day and sugar will be good.”

The OG talking was raised on a farm, as many of the older OFs were. When the OMOTM were young and on the farm, they received the best start for growing old and being reasonably healthy. The OFs drank whole milk, not pasteurized (just as all the barn cats drank). The table food went from vegetables to meats and had no growth hormones.

Soft drinks were not around that much; Madison Avenue marketing was not yet underway for all this processed stuff we eat now. Breakfast was eggs, bacon, sausage or ham, potatoes, fruit; sometimes even pie, homemade bread toasted by holding it with a fork over the woodstove and real butter or jam, flapjacks with fruit in the batter and real maple syrup.

The OFs had none of the wimpy stuff like snap, crackle, and pop around to spoil a good breakfast. The OG was right because the YFs on the farm had a great start and their eating habits began on the right path.

Cleaning up at track and casino

Some of the OFs make a few trips to Saratoga during the August meet. For most of the OFs, it is just for the experience of being able to say they were there. None of them win big, or even win small.

Some have different approaches to betting when they go. One throws all his loose change in a coffee can, takes it with him, and when that is gone he claims he is done. This OF says that lately he has come home with more in the can than when he went to the track.

The OFs were pretty sure this “taking the can” is a metaphor. The OFs are convinced he doesn’t show up at Saratoga with a can full of small money and change. The OFs can’t see this OF at the two-dollar window with eight quarters; then again, knowing this OF, it might be just what he would do.

Occasionally some of the OFs trot off to Turning Stone Casino and they have with them the “bet fund.” When the bet fund is depleted, they stop betting.

Some of the OFs say that their bet fund generally does not get depleted; they win a little and come home happy. Others say that more often than not they do come home with less then what they started with, but they’re not completely broke. That is like having a couple of great golf shots out of 90 bringing the golfer back for more golf.

Cleaning out a gas tank

The OFs went from this discussion to how to clean a gas tank!

One OF inadvertently added diesel fuel to his tractor that runs on gas and he didn’t realize it. The OF said, when he went to start the tractor, it started hard but it did run.

The OF said it smoked like a son of a gun and it was then that the OF realized what he had done. This OF took the tractor to another OF who is in the business of fixing mistakes and he cleaned the tank for him. This is nothing a neophyte wants to do on his own.

Then the OFs who had some knowledge of how to handle these kinds of problems began telling their ways of cleaning a gas tank.

One OF said that he didn’t do this, but a friend of his in the business would take a paper towel and tear it up. Then he would throw that in the gas tank, and get a high pressure hose and blow it into the tank.

The shredded towel would swirl around and soak up the remaining gas that wasn’t siphoned out. Then he would use a vacuum and vacuum out the paper towel. Bingo! Clean tank.  Kids — don’t try this at home!

The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and hopefully had the correct fuel in their vehicles were: Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Art Frament, Rich Donnelly, Herb Sawotka, Bob Benac, and grandson Ace Roy, Harold Guest, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Pete Whitbeck, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.

Location:

With ominous skies on Tuesday, July 24, the Old Men of the Mountain headed out to the Your Way Café in Schoharie. Fortunately, the OMOTM met no rain on the way to the café.

Most people have heard that the Thruway is going to go without toll takers, so the OFs started asking a lot of “what ifs.” Some thought that the state of Massachusetts had it under control. This did not satisfy most of the OFs.

One OF brought up this cool scenario: What if someone took pictures of out-of-state license plates in a parking lot like Colonie Center? This entrepreneurial fellow took the pictures and printed them out on either high-grade cardboard, or even on metal.

Now he gives them to his friends, and uses one himself and places it on his vehicle. Now when the pictures of the plate taken at the toll scanner shows a car from Texas and some poor guy in Texas receives a bill from the New York State Thruway Authority saying he owes a buck-eighty to New York, how long do you think anyone would have to wait before that piece of paper hits the trash can?

Now the state has a bill not paid and they start proceedings. However, this guy can prove he was taking his kids to school, and had never even left his hometown, let alone traveled to New York. It is possible to see the state losing big bucks if this would be repeated over and over.

One OF came up with a clever idea that some college kids could use as a math study. Print out 20 artificial plates all alike. Then place them on 20 cars, and the plan would be to place all 20 cars at different booths along the Thruway.

Then have all the cars positioned to enter the booth at approximately the same time and mathematically using speed and distance have them exit the Thruway at the same time. They would do this in short time and use a short distance as they mathematically could. After the prank is done, they would put their own plates back on the vehicle.

What would this do to the computer that would receive identical information up and down the Thruway at the same time? The OF added, “Gee, I wish I was young again.”

Then one killjoy OF said, “If you guys can think this, I am sure it’s already been thought about and the state surely has thought about it and they have ways to detect and correct, so who would do this just to save a few bucks? Makes no sense to me.”

Another OF said, “Let’s go back to Texas and say a guy from Texas did use the Thruway to go from Albany to Schenectady and the toll is 30 cents. The guy returns to Texas and receives a bill for 30 cents from New York. Does this make any sense?”

Years ago in business an average cost to send out an invoice was about $25. This cost might have gone down some with most businesses using computers, but the OF’s guess was, not much.

“The envelope, and paper, the personal time, the postage, let alone part of a tree that was cut down to make the paper,” the OF added. “You can see where this is going.”

An OF piped up, “I thought the Thruway was supposed to be free in the ’70s; at least that is what those lying ‘Bs’ in Albany told us when they went after the money to build it.”

To which a second OF responded, “Whoever told you it was possible to trust anyone from that brood of crooks in Albany?”

Helping a bobcat baby

An OF told a cute story that happened to him between breakfasts. He did relate the time and day but this scribe did not catch that information, but it doesn’t make any difference to the story.

When this OF pulled into his driveway, he noticed a small cat with a trap attached to its paw. The cat turned out to be a bobcat kitten.

The OF said he was a little leery of approaching the kitten but it didn’t react violently when he did. The OF said he still was not going to handle that cat without some protection so he went to the garage and came back with a fish net and put it over the kitten, which he said made no attempt to run away.

The OF said he let the paw with the trap on it stick out from the rim of the net and he pushed the trap open then pulled the cat’s paw away from the trap.

The OF then carefully lifted the net and the little thing scurried off into the woods by his home, apparently none the worse for wear. The OF said all the time he was doing this he was looking around for mama cat to come bounding out of the woods but that never happened.

Country roads

The roads in the Hilltowns are not super highways — they are country roads whether they are state, county, or town roads. These roads in the Hilltowns are full of surprises. Unexpected sharp turns, very short sight distances on hills, and some of these same turns along with some really bad intersections.

One in particular is where County Route 1 (Switzkill Road ) crosses State Route 443 just west of Berne.  The OMOTM will not use this intersection. They drive all around Cock Robin’s barn to avoid it.

The OFs talked about another serious motorcycle accident in the Hilltowns and it was at this intersection.

One OF said, “Going onto country roads is not the place to say, ‘We are in the country, we can throw out our trash, and go like the devil, no one is around.’ Big whoop, there are lots of things around other than sharp turns and blind intersections. There are deer, horses, cows, turkeys, the occasional pig, and sheep. These animals all think the road is theirs.”

The Old Men of the Mountain who know the country roads and made it to the Your Way Café in Schoharie safely, were: Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Shaver, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Ray Donnelly, Herb Sawotka, Bob Benac, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

— Photo from John R. Williams

Bob Giebitz, at 94, cuts a birthday cake that looks like his garden.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Mike Willsey celebrates his 92nd birthday.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Ted Willsey looks thoughtful at his 90th birthday party.

— Photo from John R. Williams

Ted Willsey smiles at his 90th birthday party.

The Tuesday morning of July 17 was a wet one. While the Old Men of the Mountain were in the Country Café in Schoharie having a great breakfast of one kind or another, outside it started to pour.

The irony of this is, when the early birds of the OMOTM arrived, they encountered a workman for the village with his tractor and wagon, watering all the flowers along Main Street. The OFs think that, with the amount of plants he has to maintain, the workman never made it to the end before the rains came, although looking at the tank in the wagon, the village was using fertilized water to keep the plants looking as fresh as they do so maybe he kept going.

July 14 was International Nude Day. This was the day Howe Caverns was having its Naked in the Cave party. None of the OFs had the courage to participate and most thought that they would be turned away even if the OFs applied for reservations.

Just because the cave is dark, slippery, cold, and damp, the OFs thought their rejection would be considered by the planners that to view any of the OFs naked would frighten away all the participants younger than 60.

They would look at the naked OFs and wonder to themselves: “Is that what I am going to look like in another 20 years?”

The OFs would have to reply, “Yep.”

The OFs understood that the event was a huge success, and the caverns had to turn people away. One OF commented that he wouldn’t go because he couldn’t imagine sitting in the boat to cruise the underground lake with a bare bottom on that cold, damp seat.

Naked in the Cave brought more stories about the North American Cement plant that used to be the entrance to the cave. Across the railroad tracks, and the street in Howe Cave, there was a restaurant.

The OFs are talking back in the mid-1950s at this time. The OFs’ resident historian actually could remember the name of the restaurant and it was Tillison’s Restaurant; one OF had a relative who was a waitress there. Just down from the restaurant, on the other side of the street, was the D&H railroad dispatcher’s building for the plant.

According to an OF who used to work at the cement plant, this dispatcher was the cheapest guy on two feet. The dispatcher would take the tape from the machine that recorded railroad cars in and out, and he also maintained information on demurrage (a charge for detaining a ship, freight car, or truck) for railroad cars on plant tracks.

This tape would drop into a bucket, and, instead of getting a new tape when the tape was full, this dispatcher would wind the tape back on the roll and use the back of the tape until that was full.

This same skinflint would go over to Tillison’s, order a glass of hot water, take a ketchup bottle from one of the tables, pour it into the glass of hot water, shake a little pepper on the top, order a cheap peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and have soup and a sandwich for lunch and leave. This guy was a piece of work.

Birthday boys

The month of November is a month with nothing much going on. Maybe because there’s nothing to do is what causes July — which is nine months later — to be such an active birthday month. The OMOTM are kept busy with birthday parties during July.

The weekend of the 14th there were three that affected the OFs, two of which the OFs en masse were invited to. On one day, there was one where all OFs were invited and one was a family event on the same day.

When the OFs have birthday parties, they are “bring yourself and nothing else” parties because what does an OF need or want?

One OF said, “What the OFs should do is always invite all the OFs with the proviso that they all take something when they leave.”

The OFs are trying to downsize. One OF said, if he did it that way, he would have a top-prize gift, and that would be take the wife. He would have everything packed for her, and a $50 bill pinned to a ribbon in her hair.

Birthdays for the OMOTM require large cakes just to hold the candles. The smart way would be to have one candle for each decade with the last decade the number of years. Another OF said he wouldn’t be able to blow out even that many.

One OF mentioned that, when we were in our forties and fifties, we were contemplating retirement and how so many of our friends retired and in a few years we were going to their funerals. Today, the OFs said, look up and down the table, these guys have been retired for 20 and 25 years, and some are mad because it is raining and they can’t go out and play golf.

Back in our working years, we never even would have thought of it.  “Yeah,” one OF said, “Rocking chair sales are way down.”

Those OFs who were spry enough to make it to the Country Café in Schoharie, and that of course is all in attendance, and they were: Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Wally Guest, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Roger Schafer, Harold Guest, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Ray Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Bob Benac, Ray Kennedy, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Wayne Gaul, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Ted Willsey with son Jerry Willsey from Arkansas, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

Tuesday, July 10, the wives, girlfriends or whoever the housekeepers are must have been anxious to get the Old Men of the Mountain out of the house.

Tuesday morning, 40 Old Guys and not-so-Old Guys pushed their way through the doors of Mrs. K’s Family Restaurant in Middleburgh to have breakfast together. The number of OFs who crowded into Mrs. K’s generated quite a din. It was hard for this scribe to pick out conversations to eavesdrop on.

This scribe also observed regular patrons trying to talk across their tables and they appeared to need megaphones to do so. This scribe supposes the younger ones could text each other across the table; that way, the OFs’ racket wouldn’t bother them.

One OF told of needing a gardening tool and went to the box his wife keeps to do her gardening. The OF said he sorted through the tools to find something he could use. The OF said that he located a shiny tool with a plastic handle that would fill the bill.

Just before he was about to use it, he noticed the plastic was not a common plastic so he looked at the tool. The tool was brand new and still had the sticker on it.

This tool was from the Middleburgh Hardware store, and the phone number was VA xxxx (two letters and four numbers) and the price was $1.89. How long had this tool been in his wife’s box and never used?  It had to be years upon years.

The OFs wondered how many things like this are still tucked away in tool sheds, garages, and barns. One OF said, “How about junk drawers in the kitchen and behind the furnace in the cellar?”

This OF took the tool to Middleburgh Hardware and donated it. The OF found out the hardware store has started a collection for items like this and is going to make space in the store to display them.

Vintage vehicles

Some of the OFs talked about the power plant on the Schoharie Creek below the Gilboa dam and about the large pond they built on top of the mountain to run the generators. The OFs were surprised that some local OFs did not know about it. Lansing Manor is there, so is the Mine Kill state park.

One OF commented, “Can you imagine going from Lansing Manor to Albany in a horse and buggy in the winter time to go to work in either Poughkeepsie and/or Albany?”

The OFs have talked about this before — vintage vehicles — one of their favorite topics, because the OFs are vintage themselves. The OFs commented on how similar vehicles look today and how hard it is to tell one make from another and how they have no individual class.

However, back when the OFs were not so vintage and cars had style, quite often the OFs would see one of these cars broken down on the side of the road. The OFs said some of the cars even came with tool boxes so the driver was able to make repairs if necessary.

Today it is rare to see a car broken down on the side of the road, and they are mechanically so sophisticated most drivers wouldn’t even know what to look at to repair and get going, other than to fix a flat. One OF supposed many vehicles now have the ability to repair themselves when certain things go wrong, and rust seems to be a thing of the past said another OF.

A different OF said that with today’s vehicles it is almost impossible to run out of gas. When the gas becomes low there are bells, whistles and blinking lights to warn you. Even a message comes on a screen — e.g.: “This vehicle only has enough fuel for 100 miles.”

Running out of gas was common when the OFs weren’t vintage. If the OF had poor vision, the OF was unable to tell how much gas was in the vial in the fuel indicator sticking out from the hood on the front of the car.

This scribe does not think the OMOTM are that vintage but they are vintage enough to know dimmer switches on the floor, no turn signals, vacuum windshield wipers, mechanical brakes, curtains on the windows in the back, windshields that cranked out, and little side windows that flipped in.

One OF commented on keeping his old military vehicles running and on the road by going to junkyards and swap meets to get parts. One time, the OF purchased two tail gates for a vehicle that was being rebuilt.

One was rusted out on the bottom but had a good top, and on the other the top was all banged up but had a good bottom. The OF said he cut them in half, welded the two good parts together, sanded them down, and painted them and no one knows the difference. To the OFs, if they can’t make a pot, they will make a pan.

The roads must have been plugged with the Old Men of the Mountain headed to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh because they were: Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Bill Lichliter, Ted Willsey, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Roger Chapman, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Joe Rack, Karl Remmers, Kenny Parks, Pete Whitbeck, Ray Kennedy, Herb Bahrmann, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Wayne Gaul, Herb Sawotka, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Warren Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Russ Pokorny, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Allen DeFazio, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, July 3, The Old Men of the Mountain were crazy enough to venture outside and attend breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. The OFs thought nothing of it — they do make it to the breakfast in a blizzard, and, as one OF put it, “What’s the difference?”

The weather was the basic topic of conversation throughout the breakfast. One OF said he has a brother in Austin, Texas and gave him a call to let him know that we were getting some of his weather up here and told him the temperatures were in the mid- to high-90s. The brother answered him with, “Gee, it does get that cold here too.” That is a sharp reply.

Another OF received a call from a friend who lives in the hot area belt and the friend wanted to go know how the OF liked the good old southern heat. The OF said not much; it is why he doesn’t like the anything south of Pennsylvania. The OF said that when he leaves a store or a restaurant in the daytime, New York is beginning to smell like Florida outside. One OF mentioned the heat around the country must be the news of the day all over the United States.

Most of the OFs say they have hunkered down indoors, with fans and air-conditioners. One OF said, “We are going to have whopping power bills this month, with air-conditioners and dehumidifiers really cranking up.”

A second OF said, “Those of us who are supposed to drink two to three cups of coffee a day (instead of taking Flomax) take a second look at a cup of hot coffee when it is 93 degrees out.”

A third OF said, “You know, iced coffee should be the same thing.”

Another OF mentioned that the hot coffee has worked for him for years and he still doesn’t like the stuff, but as long as he is voiding OK it’s gonna be hot coffee for him, both ways outside and inside.

This brought the OFs that farmed back to farming when they were younger and no matter what the weather, they went out to the fields. They started with loose hay, next were the square bales, and now it is round or chopped or bales as big as garages.

Some farmers hired guys that went around with big stationary balers and the farmers would haul the loose hay to them and the guys with the big balers would bale it up. The crux of the matter is that this work was done if it was 65 degrees outside or 100. Everyone was doing the farm work this way and there were no summer panics.

One OF mentioned that, back in the old days, there wasn’t TV bellowing all the dangers of sunshine and fresh air. Another added that we were tougher then.

One more OF chimed in about taking salt tablets. They were sold all over the place and people did remind others who worked in hot conditions to take their salt tablets. Those things made you thirsty so drinking plenty of fluids was not a problem.

One OF talked about having cases of “Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer” in the milk cooler, and one other OF added theirs was the “Knickerbocker” beer from Albany. Scribe note: No one mentioned having Schaefer beer in stock. At one time that was a big brewery in Albany.

So much for the heat and how to take care of it; in the forties and fifties it was just as hot but we didn’t know it was a bad thing.

My goodness, the OFs made it through many a 90-degree summer and are still at the tables in the Middleburgh Diner, in Middleburgh.

Tuesday morning, the waitress had a helper who was just a little higher than the tables, so we will start off with little JJ (Joe) as the youngest number one of the OMOTM who made it to the breakfast, the rest are: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Wally Guest, Harold Guest, Don Wood (who made 83 today), Ken Parks, Art Frament, Herb Sawotka, Ray Kennedy, Rich Donnelly, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Duncan Bellinger, Joe Ketzer, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen and me.

Location:

The drive to Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow on Tuesday, June 26, made the whole day. The air was so clear the Old Men of the Mountain mentioned being able to see people across the valley on the Catskill Mountains up and about.

The view was from Route 358 outside of Rensselaerville heading south. Many OFs go over the mountain and comment on this view.

One OF mentioned having quite an experience while having a meal at the Maple on the Lake Restaurant on Warners Lake. While eating, a friend sitting at a table next to the OF pointed out the window and said, “Wow look at that!”

The OF and his wife turned and looked (along with other patrons) to the indicated area in the sky. There was a bald eagle flying in the sky about 100 feet up and cruising toward the restaurant.

Suddenly the eagle made a sharp left turn and dove toward the water. Just in front of the dock in front of the restaurant, out came his feet and the eagle snaked a fish out of the water. This happened about 40 yards from the restaurant. The eagle taking the fish in his talons flew toward the other shore not more than three to four feet above the water the whole distance.

After hearing about this amazing display, another OF said, “Yep, they do that all the time.”

This OF told how his camp is on the other shore and the eagle’s nest is just about in front of his camp. Many times, these birds eat their catch on his front lawn and it isn’t always fish — sometimes it is birds. The OF claims it is an awful mess because quite often the eagles don’t eat the whole victim and he has to go out and clean up his yard; otherwise, it stinks up the whole place.

The friend of the OF who spotted the eagle boats on Thompsons Lake and he said there are two pairs of eagles nesting on that lake. This is really wow time.

The OFs remembered many years ago when bald eagles were on the endangered list. They’re not on the list anymore. One OF mentioned how great it would be if this worked on all endangered species and if they could have that same satisfactory rebound. Sadly, life doesn’t seem to work that way.

Another OF mentioned that we do have some big birds in our neck of the woods. Thacher Park is loaded with turkey vultures, and part5 of the park now is the Nature Center and it has eagles. These birds are just like small planes.

The wing span on the eagle can approach seven feet and on the turkey vulture, six feet. The OF who lives in the camp on Warners Lake said it is fun to watch the little birds harass the eagles just like they do crows. This OF said they are dive-bombing them all the time and driving the eagles nuts trying to get away.

The OFs continued in the bird vein and started talking about talking birds and how many of them had friends who owned one or more of these birds. One OF said that, to him, it is necessary to concentrate and listen to make out what the birds are saying.

Another OF said a friend of his has a gray parrot that talks up a storm. The OF said the parrot can bark like a dog, and meow like a cat, and repeat words basically in the accent of the person who asked it to speak. This OF said his friend’s parrot mimics the sounds it hears and is able to repeat a man’s voice with the low tones of a man and vice-versa with a female.

One OF thought this must take a lot of patience to train a bird to do this. Another OF said that he had a friend that had a parakeet that he trained to talk. The OF said this friend was a Chevrolet dealer when dealers sold only one make of car or truck and to that dealer they were the best, and the dealers were loyal to the brand. Today one dealer sells everything and, if you don’t like the Chevy, he will just as soon sell you a Toyota.

The OF said the parakeet’s cage door was open and that bird flew all over the house. This OF’s friend taught the parakeet to say “p-h-o-r-d Ford piece of junk” only the last word wasn’t junk — and the bird flew all over house squawking that statement and his name.

The bird would also fly up to you and say, “Love you.” The OF said some of it was pretty clear but some of the bird’s chatter made it necessary to concentrate to make out what he was saying.

Hornet’s nest

Now for something completely different: The conversation at this scribe’s end of the table (which included about 14 OFs) was about Spectrum. What an uproar that caused.

One or more OF called Spectrum out-and-out criminals in their opinion. One OF told about getting so mad at Spectrum that he purchased a new 40-inch TV that is like a computer.  He then dropped Spectrum and went to streaming.

The OF with the new TV tried to explain how it worked to the rest of the OFs. Some grasped how to operate the TV while others did not quite get it.

Some OFs said, in their opinion, the company out-and-out lies on what it can do and its services rot. Others said you ask for help and get nothing or are sent to India where it is almost impossible to understand them.

The cry went up: Bring back Time Warner; as much as the OFs yapped about Time Warner, at least they were customer-oriented. If you needed help, Time Warner took care of it and the OF would be talking to somebody in Utica. Boy, did the simple comment about Spectrum stir up a hornet’s nest.  

Those Old Men of the Mountain who got up and out on a beautiful morning and made it to Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow, were: Pete Whitbeck, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Ted Willsey, Dave Williams, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Don Wood, Russ Pokorny, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Joe Ketzer, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Warren Willsey, Winnie Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Allen DeMis, Bob Donnelly, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

A bit of history — now gone, but not forgotten.

This Tuesday, June 19, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont. Redundancy is a habit of the OFs, along with most people who are over 60, and so is this little weekly message.

Therefore, to be redundant, this scribe is always amazed how one waitress can handle all the OFs, and the regular patrons, all alone (duh, if there is only one, she have to be alone). Tuesday morning, there were 29 OFs plus 16 regular patrons and one waitress. The young lady never lost her composure. What goes on in the kitchen, the OFs have no idea.

One OF brought in a note someone gave him in an envelope with a 3-cent stamp on it. This stamp was issued by the United Post Office, June 21, 1955, and commemorated the Old Man of the Mountain rock formation in Franconia, New Hampshire. This rock formation tumbled to the bottom of the mountain on Saturday, May 3, 2003. That must have made quite a noise, and sadly, it is no more.

The OF who brought in the stamp is the same OF who, when the Old Man in the Mountain quarter was made to represent the state of New Hampshire, purchased a slew of them. He then proceeded to solder clasp pins to the back of the quarters and handed these quarters out to the OMOTM when he finished them. Many of the OFs then pinned the quarters on their OMOTM hats and wear them to this day.

This scribe, after looking at this 3-cent stamp and the envelope, wanted to make a record of these items for the OMOTM’s folder. That is when today’s technology entered into the conversation.

Technology nowadays, which is so commonplace to many, yet is only fascinating to others (particularly this scribe) along with really older folks. Because the envelope had so much character with the stamp attached, this scribe asked the OF if he could take it home and scan it into his computer.

Sitting at the table were three other OMOTM and they all had these super-duper phones. One OMOTM said he wanted to take a picture of the stamp, and he did. When they heard what this scribe wanted to do, the same OMOTM said he would take pictures of the stamp and envelope and send these pictures to the scribe’s computer.

He took the pictures, asked for this scribe’s email address, typed the first three letters into his phone, and up popped this scribe’s email address. The OMOTM hit “send” and, in seconds, the phone recorded “sent.”

This scribe trusted the electronic transfer so much he gave the envelope back to the OF who brought it in.  The whole transaction took just seconds. Amazing.

When this scribe returned home, he went immediately to his computer to check it out. There it was, in all its glory — tattered envelope, Old Man of the Mountain, 3-cent, green stamp, glory.

Some of the OMOTM know Franconia and the face of the mountain well because they have been there. When that face in the mountain was protruding out of the mountainside, quite a tourist community developed around the area.

There were puzzles, paintings, photographs, and all kinds of touristy items for sale. Pick up a mug with the image on it, turn it over, and it says “Made in China.” There is a stream that runs below the mountain and one OF said he brought his pole and actually caught fish in that stream.

No one has mentioned going back to Franconia since the figure has collapsed to the base of the mountain and become just a pile of rubble.

Hot times

As most OFs could attest, June 18 was a tad on the warm side; actually, it was really hot. The OFs talked about how they managed to stay cool. Basically it was by doing nothing, except one OF mentioned he mowed his lawn.

This conversation occurred only at one corner of the table. Some of the other OFs may have been busy doing something but what it was, was unknown. The smartest thing for those of the senior set is to take it easy when it is hot and humid.

Collision course

One never knows what is going to jump out in front of your vehicle when cruising down the highway. One OF reported that the grill on his truck is all smashed.

The OF claimed to have hit a coyote while driving on Carman Road just by Hannaford on Route 20.This is the first report of an OMOTM having his vehicle and coyote come in contact with one another and not on a country road to do it.

The animals are moving to suburbia. Generally, the OFs hit rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, the occasional woodchuck, and sometimes a bird, which does not manage to make it to the slip stream and gets whopped, but this is our first coyote. Oh!

It was remembered that, a while back, two OFs clipped a peacock in flight. The two OFs thought it was an airplane coming down the road and they ducked under the dash. They stopped and the peacock was at the side of the road. Just as they approached it, this bird got up, shook out its feathers, and gave the OFs a dirty look and took off.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who greeted the workers at the Home Front Café in Altamont with a cheery “Good Morning and where is the coffee?” were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Wally Guest, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Henry Whipple, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Karl Remmers, John DeMis, Ted Willsey, Herb Sawotka, Joe Ketzer, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

Pages