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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really pays to advertise.

Dangerous work

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

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

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

Brrrrr!

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

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

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

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

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

Orwellian reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Location:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghost towns

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

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

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

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

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

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

When troopers were like stern fathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are different today.

What is young?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Location:

The first Old Men of the Mountain’s breakfast of the New Year was held at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh on Jan. 2, 2018. Now all the OMOTM have to remember is to date everything 2018, or ’18.

This will be tough because many of the OFs have trouble remembering if it’s right leg in the pants first or the left leg. This may sound weird but this particular practice not only the OFs have, but most people — if they unconsciously slip out of their routine — become confused or irritated when doing many simple tasks like getting dressed.

To get the day started on the right foot, the best thing to do, at least according to the OFs, is take the pants off and start with the foot that is normally used when getting dressed. It is the same with many functions most do out of habit, like what side of the face to start when shaving; do we tighten the belt or pull the zipper first? One OF thought, for us OFs it is for the most part very important — just pull the zipper! This is true.

We all should realize now how a major portion of the country is going through quite a cold snap, and the OFs don’t think it is over yet. One OF said he knew a winter like this was coming because we had such a beautiful fall.

The OFs started talking about frozen pipes and the cold going so deep it is driving the frost deep in the ground where there is no snow cover. On the Hill and in our general area, an OF pointed out that, with the dribble of snow we have, he feels it does not mean much, as far as keeping the frost at bay, so the OFs should be careful with their water pipes.

One OF mentioned the people south of the Mason-Dixon Line must be having a lot of fun with their pipes. He bets many of these trailer parks have their water lines right under their trailers and unprotected.

“Even here,” one OF added, “most OFs are OK if the power stays on.”

Another OF said he has a whole-house generator but if the power is off for an extended period he worries about fuel because he uses propane and it is not easy to judge how much propane he will need. It is not like running to the gas station and getting a few extra cans of gas.

This brought up a conversation on the outside wood-burning furnaces and the power required to run the circulators because, if the power is out, the circulators are out. One OF who has one of these furnaces also has a portable generator to keep the regulators running. For the most part, the OFs are a resourceful lot.

The OFs continued chatting about the weather and how much extra fuel they are consuming to keep the castle warm. “The last two years have spoiled us,” one OF said. “Last year, we were riding our bikes and worrying about dandelions sprouting up in the lawn in December.” Another OF said he noticed in this cold weather how the miles per gallon on his vehicles has dropped.

The OFs have short memories because they have been through weather like this before.

Global warming

The subject of global warming came up and, as with most topics like this, there are OFs on both sides of the issue. The OFs on the warming side have a tough road to hoe when we have six or seven days below zero, the wind blowing a gale up your pant leg, and the OFs’ cheeks glowing red in just a couple minutes of being outdoors.

The OFs who have ponds that are close to the road are worried about how much salt has been spread so far this year and how much has gotten into their ponds. One OF said he may have to change his fish to saltwater fish.

Another OF said, unless these ponds are like a bowl of water and just sit in a hole in the ground, there should not be a problem. Most ponds have an inlet or maybe are springfed, but they do need an outlet so that salt will purge itself out of the pond. But this OF did admit that there is so much salt on the highway it is like driving on a dirt road.

One OF said he would rather have it that way than sliding into the ditch. Then the other argument started about which is best — driving on cold, hard snow, or wet, slippery, slushy snow.

Subsequently there were the OFs who preferred just using the old-fashioned sand and keeping the salt off the road. These OFs maintain that the roads and vehicles would last much longer than with all the chemicals that are dumped on the highway.

One OF said, “We don’t hear the environmentalists complaining about that one.”

Another OF asked, “Have we ever noticed how the cold weather follows along with a full moon? The moon is so bright at night that the moon shadow on the white snow is beautiful, or would be beautiful, if it wasn’t so d--- cold.”

Winter swim

An inquiry was contemplated. Did any of the OFs have any inclination to run and jump into Lake George in a bathing suit like that group of nuts we saw on TV?

“Yeah, right,” an OF offered, “as soon as my big toe would hit that water, I would have had a heart attack.”

A second OF yelled back, “Or maybe it would kick your ole ticker in high gear and get it running again.”

Harassment charges

Then an OF suggested he wouldn’t want to get that OF’s ticker running again. It was reasoned there wouldn’t be a girl safe on the planet with that OF’s blood pump in high gear.

Another OF said, “I noticed all these harassment suits are against guys. What about the guys? If the same thing happened to them and they brought charges to the distaff side, they would be laughed out of court, especially if they were OFs.”

This scribe’s wife comment on these OFs’ comments was: “Dream on, guys!

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh with none ready to complain about harassment were: Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey (our oldest member who is still getting to the breakfast like the postman), Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

The last of the Old Men of the Mountain’s breakfasts for the year 2017 was held on Tuesday, Dec. 26, at Kim’s West Wind Diner in Preston Hollow on a real winter morning! Some of the OFs left before 6 a.m. in wind-driven snow, with temperatures in the low teens.

Kim was there, ready to go, as the OFs showed up. This scribe hopes she lives close by.

As life goes on, day by day, minute by minute, not only the OFs but no one else ever knows what to expect and what might happen in the next breath. The phrase “Johnny on the spot” is so true.

With today’s technology, it is possible to record history as it happens regardless of where anyone is at the time. This includes the OFs. Now there are moments in time caught forever on disc, or film, or on the phone.

One OF recounted a story that happened to him and his wife at Niagara Falls. The OF was going to meet his brother at the falls and he was there with plenty of time to kill.

He and his wife were in their hotel room when they heard sirens. The couple looked out of their hotel window and saw fire trucks and an ambulance stop in front of the hotel and park at the edge of the falls.

The OF said to his wife, “We have time so let’s go down and see what is going on.”

When they arrived at the scene, they saw a man (who they think was attempting to commit suicide) had jumped in the river to go over the falls.

This guy apparently had second thoughts and he had grabbed onto a branch of a tree as he was about to go over the falls. The OF said he watched the whole proceeding until the end and recorded it all on his camera.  

The amazing part was in the beginning of the rescue. The powers that be had actually stopped the falls on the American side and, while that was going, on a fire company shot two lines across to where the man was dangling.

Then a couple of firefighters used these lines to climb out to where the man was. All the while this process was going on, a large helicopter with double blade towers approached and by this time one of the firefighters had reached out and grabbed the guy.

At the same time, a basket from the helicopter was on the scene where they were. The firefighter pushed the guy into the basket and fastened him in and the chopper crew hauled him up.

The chopper then brought the guy to an ambulance by the fire trucks and the emergency medical technicians placed him in the ambulance and drove him away to the hospital.

This OF had been an EMT for years and he had a chance to speak to the firefighter who caught the guy and put him in the basket. The OF asked him how he did that so fast and without resistance.

The firefighter told him it was timing. When this firefighter saw the guy who was dangling on the tree branch look up at the chopper (which was lowering the basket), the guy’s attention was totally fixed on that procedure, so when the basket arrived the firefighter just pushed him into it and that was that.

When it was all over, a special team simply returned the water to the falls. If anyone showed up 10 minutes later, they never would have known anything had gone on; there was no fire truck, and no ambulance, just people standing at the railing watching the water go over the falls.

Some of the OFs commented on how well these rescue people must be trained, and how much this rescue must have cost. Helicopters do not come cheap.

Stopping Niagara Falls from flowing — that can’t be nickel-and-dime stuff. Then you have those two guys going out on lines over what is now about a two-hundred-foot cliff — you wouldn’t catch this OF doing that even when he was young and stupid.

“Johnny on the spot” with camera at the ready — so easily done today.

Lost and found

As the OFs are old, and getting older by the day, Tuesday morning’s breakfast brought out how many of the OFs set things down and two minutes later can’t find them. The OFs were telling how all of them have this malady but the best one was how one OF said he couldn’t find his hearing aids this holiday season.

The OF said he thought he knew where they were and everyone in the family was looking for them. Over and over in the same room, moving things, even looking on the floor (because there were quite a few wrappings all around) and the OF thought they might have been thrown out when the kids started picking up.

After at least an hour of everyone looking and getting ready to go through the trash, one of his kids said, “Dad, they are right in your ears!”

That is like looking for your glasses and they are on you head. In both cases, panic sets in pretty early when items like that are lost.

One OF said, “I think I keep losing my wife but, darn it, I turn around and there she is.”

Much more was discussed at this breakfast and this scribe could fill up a page of the paper; however, we will save those for another time when the OFs become so redundant that it is hard to come up with something new.

Those OFs who are the toughest and who made it through driving snow, questionable roads, and the dark morning with bright shining stars were: Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Rev. Jay Francis, Elwood Vanderbilt, Rich Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier and guest Winnie Chartier, and Amy Willsey, Harold Grippen and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Old Men of the Mountain met for their Christmas party (offered by Patty) at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.

It is a good thing this party was held there because one of the largest groups of Old Goats gathered around the tables at Mrs. K’s. Forty guys walked through the door of the restaurant and enjoyed the music and hors d’oeuvres that were placed up and down the tables.

An OF could make a meal with just the hors d’oeuvres but, being a group of gentlemen, they did not. The music was supplied by two of the OFs and one of Santa’s elves. The OGs were Roger Shafer and Gerry Irwin, and the elf was Debbie Fish who is definitely not an OF, and was not counted. With the restaurant this full, this scribe had to remove his hearing aids so he could hear.

The Old Men of the Mountain would like to thank Patty (following in the footsteps of her mom) who put on this spread for the OGs who appreciate it very much and look forward to it every year.

Some of the OFs reminisced back to the days of when the OFs started gathering together for breakfast and when some of the OFs passed on.

It is obvious that when a group of OFs, or OHs (Old Hens) get together on a routine basis, the change of ranks will be rather quick; it is not like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts where relationships can go on for years. If a group starts out with the beginning word “old” sometimes it is necessary to drop the “s” on years.

Dealing with lemons

A throw-away society — that’s us. The OFs discussed Tuesday morning’s topic to some extent as how we, as a nation, throw so much good-to-new “stuff” away. The OFs claimed they do not know about other countries, only what they have observed first hand.

Some of this “throw-away” mentality the OFs even participated in after World War II.  Maybe the habit developed from being in the military, or seeing the military discard perfectly good things.

Some of the OFs remember lend-lease, and some currently have witnessed political incompetence or corruption that lets food rot on docks; the food was never delivered from Good Will or other organizations that sent supplies to “third” world countries in order to help these starving nations.

This is not what the OFs were alluding to in this discussion. What the OFs were mainly talking about was how something brand new gets taken back to the vendor because it does not work right, or it is just not what the customer wanted.

The store generally just hands over a replacement and then (as a rule) tosses away the original item, which had been returned. Many times there is nothing wrong with it; the article just goes in the Dumpster.

The OFs think there could be a staging area where people would be able to go and either make an offer or rescue the discarded item to tinker with and see if they are able to revive it, or use it as it is.

One OF mentioned he can understand why stores do what they do because some devious enterprising individuals could buy something new, screw it up a little, take it back, and have a buddy purchase the one placed in the staging area, make a ridiculous offer on it, then take it home and fix it.  Because he is in cahoots with the guy who returned it, he would know exactly what to do.

One OF said he has toured the Ford Mustang plant in Michigan and said that tour was very interesting. When he arrived at the end of the assembly line and saw a car (which he had followed all along this line) start up and run out of the building to the staging area, it was very impressive. (Side note: The first trip a car takes is “pedal to the metal with screaming tires,” the OF said).

As the tour group watched this, the OF noticed some cars did not start, or they ran really rough when they did start. These cars were hand pushed to an area called the hospital. In this hospital, mechanics worked on them to get the vehicles started or running right.

This tour group was fortunate to observe one car that did not make it. The vehicle would not start at all. The mechanic slammed the hood down, and put a tag on it.

One of the people in the group asked the tour guide, “What happens to that car?”

The guide answered, “The car goes to the dealer and now it is up to him to fuss with it. Every car off the line is sold. We do not stockpile Mustangs.”

The customer who receives this vehicle gets what is commonly known as a “lemon.” Then it becomes what again is typically known as the customer, dealer, and Ford hassle.

The OF added that, in most cases, the dealer’s mechanics, for some reason, iron out the mechanical problem (especially those trained at a Ford facility). The OF said the tour guide said the group didn’t hear it from him, but he thinks “it’s because the dealer spends more time with the problem than we do at the plant.”

Those OFs who made it to the party at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh in fine running automobiles, for the most part, because one showed up in a horse and buggy, were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, George Byrne, Jim Heiser, Richard Frank, Chuck Aelesio, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Marty Herzog, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Russ Pokorny, Warren Willsey, Jake Lederman, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Mace Porter, Rev. Jay Francis, Gerry Chartier, Jerry Willsey, Shirley Willsey, Ted Willsey with chauffeur Denise, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. This, as has been mentioned before, is for some of the OMOTM the farthest and highest restaurant we OFs have on the roster.

Starting out Tuesday morning about 6 a.m., we found it was dark with a light snow and wet roads. The surprise snow blew strongly across the road, especially on a turn.

The OFs call this the “oops, surprise highway” as the car momentarily goes sideways for a few feet when it meets one of these turns at 45 to 50 miles per hour and the conditions quickly become 25 to 30 miles per hour, especially in the dark.

When the OFs left the breakfast, all their vehicles were covered with about 3 inches of wet snow. Old Man Winter is just getting the OFs ready for Christmas.

The first topic of conversation was how the OFs planned to use their 2-percent Social Security increase. One OF thought he would get a new truck and another said he was going to update his deck. Yet another said the wife and he would use it for a cruise to Alaska. Yeah right!

A couple of OFs said they lost a buck, another made two bucks, and some stayed even. This was a great conversation to start the day. It definitely was not how rich they were going to become. Some OFs opined on how they would spend the two bucks, others on how they would make up for the loss.

Bald truths?

There became a slight challenge between the OFs who had lots of hair; some with thinning hair; and some with hints of hair; and some, it has to be said, bald. Each OF began to discuss the benefits of each condition.

The ones with lots of hair maintained they look younger and attracted younger ladies. Many of the OFs disputed this claim saying, “You OFs are not counting all the wrinkles under that hair.” The one with hair maintained he had character lines not wrinkles.

A challenger from the hairless side said, “The one with hair has to go to the barber frequently and have it coiffed, has to keep shampooing it, and worst of all — clean that hair out of the tub and sink traps.  Now then, all I have to do is wash my head with a washcloth every day and dry it with a towel and I am all done.”

Then another OF retorted, “Yeah, you guys with hair tick me off. I go to the barber and they go zip-zip and I am done; you, on the other hand, occupy the chair three times as long and they charge you the same as they charge me. That is not fair.”

Then one of hairless ones came up with the standard cliché — “No grass on a busy street” (whatever that means) — and another OF pronounced an older cliché, which this OF maintains is true.  He said, “He (the OF with no hair) wore all his hair off on the headboard of the bed.”

“If you guys believe that one,” another commented, “I have a large bridge for sale and it crosses the Hudson in New York City.” And so it went.  Are we jealous or envious?

Tire talk

The OFs talked about flat tires and how seldom they see them with the new tires we have today, and they added how many more miles the OFs get on their tires. Then they started talking about problems they had with tires with stupid leaks.

Most of the leaks were attributed to the new tire sensors that are required to be in tires and how they can corrode with the salt and the weather in the Northeast, and in other areas where the winter brings ice and snow and roads are treated.

One OF mentioned how he had a tire that was continually going down and he found it was the hole in the rim was slightly oversized when the rim was made. Being an enterprising OF, he welded and drilled the hole again to the proper size.  Problem solved, tire stayed up.

The OFs then started to prattle on about tire punctures — these being a real nuisance.  One OF mentioned tractor tires and the thorndike thornberry tree (or shrub) that is native (on the Hill at least) to our area and how the thorns on the shrub can and do puncture tires of tractors if they should run afoul on one of these branches that has fallen on the ground.

A collection of these shrubs would be like meeting up with Johnny Horton’s song “The Battle of New Orleans” — the briars and the brambles where a rabbit couldn’t go. To work around these thorn trees would take an Oliver “Cletrac” — farm tractor with steel tracks that was made by Oliver until 1951 and now is quite collectible if you can find one.

Fordson fires

The OFs talked about things that haven’t changed from the forties till now. This conversation was about what the OFs consider poor design of equipment, highways, and buildings.

One that was in the thirties and forties was the Fordson tractor. This had the carburetor right over the manifold; the manifold became rather hot after the tractor was run for just a short time. The carburetor had a breather hole right in front of it and, when the float acted up anytime the tractor was plowing, the farmer would start a new row.

The right steel wheel would dip into the furrow, and gas would squirt out the little hole and Bingo! there was a fire. The farmer had to stop, or carry a bucket of sand on the tractor to toss on the flames, and then continue on. Gas might spit out on the next turn — then again it might not. What fun.

Condolences

The OMOTM would like to offer their condolences to the family of Willard Osterhout. While Willard could, he was a faithful attendee of the OMOTM. He brought stories to the breakfast that would enhance the stories that bounced around the table every morning. Only Willard could connect the dots as to who was related to whom, and many times, who they were currently.

The OMOTM who braved the weather, which wasn’t that bad, except driving in the snow in the early morning darkness at the ages of the OFs is not fun anymore, and those OFs were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Rev. Jay Francis, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Jim Rissacher, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Marty Herzog, and me.

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— Photo from John R. Williams

Really nice country: Some of the OFs travel the backroads of Schoharie County, and there is the Hollock Bridge that crosses the Keyserkill Creek just south of Mackey, New York.

As the old man with the sleigh draws closer to getting it loaded, the Old Men of the Mountain met on their usual Tuesday — Dec. 5, at the Home Front Café in Altamont. Some of the OMOTM have their shopping done, some are half done while others haven’t even started yet.

“What the heck,” these OFs say. “It isn’t December 24th yet.”

The OFs wonder how some people wait until Christmas Eve until they decorate the tree. It takes most of the OFs who do decorate a week to get that chore done. At least that is what they attest to.

The ones who decorate in a few hours on Christmas Eve must have a Charlie Brown tree, or all the other jobs are done like wrapping the presents, and having what ornaments that are going to be put on the tree all laid out ahead of time.

Sun sets on summer jobs

The OMOTM wondered when kids working summer programs phased out. The OFs remember when kids could work the summer at Thacher Park, or for the highway department where they were painting fire hydrants and trimming around the guardrails, sprucing up the town barns, and painting and mowing the town parks.

All these jobs seem to have disappeared.

The OFs remember how, in early spring, there were notices in schools from farmers looking for summer help to work the fields. These notices, too, seem to be gone. Now it must be word of mouth by the kids themselves.

The OFs can’t remember, if they even knew, what the reasoning was behind removing these summer work programs.  

This brought up a topic concerning summer help of migrant workers. This issue is in the forefront of the news right now.

The OFs mentioned what an important and necessary part of the summer labor force these workers are. One OF added, “These guys really know how to work.”

The machines to harvest much of the delicate fruits and vegetables have not been invented yet. “Maybe never will be invented,” one OF added, “so this work still has to be done by hand.”

Migratory Old Men

The OFs talked about heading to warmer climes and what would be the best way to get there. This seems to be an annual discussion at this time of year.

The OFs say it all depends on how fast you want to arrive at you southerly destination, or if the OF wants to take his time and putz along the road less traveled. This brought up the train that takes the OF and his vehicle along with him; it is not that expensive. It sounds like fun; however, none of the OFs around this scribe commented on availing this service from Amtrak to give a firsthand account.

Irene revisited

Believe it or not, Tropical Storm Irene popped its ugly head up again. This time, the OFs were talking how some local bridges held up and some did not.

The OFs seemed to think that those bridges that failed were not built correctly from the beginning. This thinking may be correct because the OFs know the ground as much as what is below as what is on top.

The OFs think that the footings on some of the bridges were not on rock (or what a lot of people think of as rock) but the footings were built on what the OFs call hardpan. Hardpan, as one OF put it, is hard, slippery, and fluid.

Some call it good old-fashioned blue clay, but hardpan is a little more than that. The dictionary defines it as any layer of firm detrital matter, as of clay, underlying soft soil.

One OF mentioned that the water running off both hills that fill the Little Schoharie Creek as it runs through Huntersland were like waterfalls. The OF said that there were streams of water coming down the mountains from both sides into the creek that were never there before and the water in the Little Schoharie was rising as fast as if it were a bathtub being filled.

The OFs still think water was let out of the Gilboa Dam and came with such force that it demolished the covered bridge in Blenheim. That bridge had weathered many creek risings and floods.

In the OFs’ opinion, it was some special and unusual force that caused the bridge to go. One would think the event of Irene would be on the back burner but to those who lived through it this scribe guesses not.

Bridges to beware of

The OFs say there are some bridges that these OGs hesitate to use but, as far as this scribe knows, the OFs all go ahead and shoot across them anyway. One OF mentioned that some of these bridges are on small country roads and cover some creeks that have carved out deep gorges as the eons have drifted by.

Many of the bridges in the localities where the OFs reside are Kodak moments. For instance, some of the OFs travel the backroads of Schoharie County and there is the Hollock Bridge that crosses the Keyserkill Creek just south of Mackey, New York. This is in really nice country.

After crossing the bridge and continuing on south to Flat Creek Road to County Route 17, the driver comes out at the Schoharie Creek below the dam at Gilboa. This is where there is another bridge that crosses the Schoharie Creek, which takes the driver back up to Route 30 — an interesting ride submitted by the OMOTM.

This scribe is sure there are many spots like this throughout New York State.

Those OFs who traveled to the Home Front Café in Altamont and traveled over some of the interesting bridges to arrive at the restaurant were: John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Miner Stevens, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, George Byrne, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Tuesday, Nov. 28, and still no snow to bother the Old Men of the Mountain as they make their appointed rounds.

This round was the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown; as a matter of fact, the weather was quite nice. The Chuck Wagon sits on the crest of a hill on the south side of Route 20.

The Old Men of the Mountain used to meet later in the morning — now the major part of the group is there at the doors waiting for the restaurants to open up. This puts the OFs on the road the same time as most of the crazies who are hustling off to work.

Most of the OFs are heading west on Route 20 while most of those going to work are heading east right into that early morning blinding sun. The OFs notice the drivers going east on Route 20 are hunched over the steering wheel and peering under the pulled-down sun visor, while going over 60 miles an hour just to keep up with traffic.

This is just one of the many reasons the OFs are glad they are retired and don’t have to do that shuffle off to work any more.

The OFs, at times, do vent to each other on the public utility companies; Tuesday morning, it was what used to be Time Warner and is now Spectrum. The general consensus and opinion of the OFs is that Time Warner was not the best but compared to Spectrum it was aces.

The OGs say that Spectrum is like a big bully — it likes to take its own sweet time getting back to you. Spectrum has taken away shows the OFs were accustomed to and replaced them with nothing. QVC is one of these shows and it was one of the major channels for the wives of the OFs.

The OFs are not on the fast track for the big bucks so they do not understand why Time Warner sold out to such a schlock outfit. At least (in our area) Time Warner had a lock on cable viewing as it was the only game in town. This was the end of the tirade.

Tech talk

The OFs discussed the pros and cons of drones. This new craze has a lot of ironing out to do.

Some OFs said if they see one of those things flying over their house or land they will shoot it down. One OF said it is bad enough that Google flies over and has cars going up and down the streets spying on everybody.

The statement “your home is your castle” is not true anymore. Any pervert can Google your place from the street or from the air then Google puts it on the net so people in Afghanistan can see your place, get the coordinates right down to the seconds. The OFs question how all of this is legal.  

This scribe thinks we have covered this topic before but not quite like Tuesday morning. One OF sees lots of pluses for the use of this new, fun technology. This OF said, in the case of fires, fire departments can use a drone to see the fire from above, and this, he said, will aid the firemen in fighting the flames more safely.

He said it will also help in locating people if they’re trapped in the fire and show the safest way to get them out. He mentioned that, when people get lost in the woods or hurt while hiking in the wilderness, these drones can go where people can’t. All this made a lot of sense to the OFs.

Another OF thought many trades could now use drones as a tool like loggers, surveyors, highway engineers, farmers, and probably many others. The OF said it is the idiot that uses them as a new level of peeping toms, or flies them around airports, which makes it seem like there is always a few that spoil it for everyone else.

Plum Island

A couple of OFs spoke about an Island off the North Fork coast of Long Island, east of Orient Point, Long Island. This island is called Plum Island.

According to the OFs, this is a rather nasty place. It has its own private ferry to take workers there and back. This ferry can carry just a few vehicles and no private individual or vehicle can board this ferry.

The OFs mentioned that, when fishing this area, there are patrol boats that keep their boats from getting close. These patrols function 24/7/365.

What this scribe understands is that this is a government-run animal disease-control center, whatever that means. Maybe the OFs who go fish those waters should think twice about catching any fish there, let alone eating them.

Shopping styles vary with gender

’Tis the Christmas season, and that means Christmas shopping, and that means the OFs have to find new hiding places so their better halves can’t haul them off to the malls. The OFs complain that we are surrounded by malls. The OFs say they see themselves sleeping with their heads in their hands in the chairs that run up and down the center aisle of major malls, or else they are out in the car, taking a snooze.

One OF said that his wife,  in malls and grocery stores, has approached many OFs thinking they were the OF she is married to. This OF said his wife said we all look alike.

Well, the reply was that trying to find our wives in the mall is tricky because all the older ladies look alike with the same hair-dos and the same clothes. This comparison goes both ways.

Most of the OFs agree the ladies shop; the OFs say they run in the store, grab the closest item to what the OF is looking for, pay for it and run out — shopping complete. Locate item, pay for item, and out in 15 minutes, whereas the OF’s lady spends 15 minutes looking at one item and then doesn’t buy it and goes to the next one three feet down the aisle and repeats the same process. The OF’s lady will spend two hours in the store and come out with nothing.

Those OFs who made it to Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and showed their way of shopping by ordering their breakfast without looking at the menu were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Wayne Gaul, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Mace Porter, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Rev. Jay Francis, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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On Tuesday, Nov. 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg.

The OMOTM piled into the back room in an orderly fashion and, because of their ages, could not do otherwise. It would be fun to watch many of the OFs try to enter the restaurant in an unruly fashion.

They would be falling over their canes, crashing into one another, picking a few up off the floor, and unable to park their butts on the chairs. It would be fun, similar to drunken cows trying to find their stanchions.

A natural topic for the breakfast at this time of the year was the holiday of Thanksgiving. There were OFs who were traveling, who were staying home, who were having it catered, who were going to a restaurant, who were invited to friend’s or neighbor’s, or who were joining relatives close by.

Somehow Thanksgiving is all planned around a meal like the Pilgrims and the Indians had. Some of the OFs volunteer to serve others who would not have a meal at this time, and for some of those enjoying the food of Thanksgiving served to them by volunteers, meals are scarce many times for those being served.

On-the-job dangers

Here we go again with mechanics, only this time one of the mechanic OFs came to the breakfast with quite a sore hand from a typical mechanic’s malady called the slipped-wrench syndrome.

One OF said that anytime he grabs a wrench he is ready for the wrench to attack; either it is the wrong size, or the head or nut has been rounded off, or the nut has rusted on, or it is metric and the OF thought it was fractional, or the wrench was not wiped off and is oily, or the fastener is splattered with oil.

All of these conditions await the OF and then, from a completely unsuspected source the evil wrench has hidden up its sleeve, it will attack the OF mechanic anyhow.

Some of the OFs who are mechanics are also handymen contractors on a regular basis. For some, it is a way of making a living. For others, it is just a way to add to the retirement income so the OF can purchase some really big boy toys.

The OF will put up with all the head knocks, cut and bruised hands and knuckles plus a few other aches that go with being a mechanic. One of these OFs also added, “It is fun though, working with other people’s money.”   

One of the disadvantages, with OFs continuing to work after retirement, is having the OF’s reflexes slow down. This normal aging process brings on its share of scrapes, cuts, and bruises.

Another OF at the table Tuesday morning had quite a cut and bump right between the eyes. After the normal kidding — was it the wife or a jealous husband that caused that gash? — it was found out that the OF walked into a forklift.

That is not an even clash. The forklift probably weighs five tons, and the OF about 180 pounds. Guess who wins? The OF claims he saw the lift but could not either stop, or duck quickly enough. Ouch!  That whack had to smart. The OFs wonder if this OF saw stars.

Another OF said these normal bangs, cuts, and scrapes are signs of an active person. This OF said, “Thank goodness these guys are up to being able to work and take their chances. It is better than the rocking chair and TV.”

Lessons learned camping

The OFs harkened back to a time in their youth when many of them, as kids, were taken camping. Then the OFs as YFs took their families camping so they could develop into responsible adults.

The OFs who participated in this family endeavor recommend it highly for many reasons. The youngsters learn to live without all the necessities of home — there are only cold showers, no hair dryers, toast was made on a fork over an open flame, and a skunk could have the run of the campsite while the family just sat there and watched.

Taking hikes, going fishing,  making new friends, Mom and Dad can teach their kids a lot about living with less, the same as the OFs learned from their parents. And, to the OFs’ parents, it was not camping —  living with less was a way of life.

Stuff with strings attached

Another thing about getting older is how hard it is to downsize. The OFs talked about how, as they grew older, their bodies became magnets.

“Stuff ”just came to them; how they accrued so much junk they have no idea. Now the problem is how to get rid of it. It is too good for the dump (according to the OFs); the kids don’t want it — in fact, nobody wants it, the OFs say. For example: the infamous pool table, and the old piano. This is just “stuff,” but good “stuff.” (Maybe.)

One OF said, “It’s ironic how the OFs claim much of what is made today will not last, and here we are trying to get rid of it because it has outlasted its usefulness.”

Another OF added it is not the “new,” which he has no qualms about hauling to the dump; rather, it is the “old stuff.”

An OF spoke up and said, “If you haven’t used it in 20 years and it is just there taking up space, and it has been there so long you don’t even see it, you OG, haul it to the dump!”

The first OF replied, “I can’t do that; ‘stuff’ is part of me.”

The other OF said, “Go on a cruise for a couple of weeks and have the kids come in and clean house and I bet you won’t even notice most of it is gone.” One of the many frustrations of growing old is getting rid of the old.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who found their way through the maze of their accrued treasures to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Harold Guest, Gerry Irwin, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Jim Heiser, George Byrnes, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.

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It isn’t even Thanksgiving yet and already Christmas music and decorations are in the stores. Are the trappings for Thanksgiving going to be forgotten? Trappings like the turkey, the Pilgrims, the Indians, the Mayflower, and especially the giving of thanks for the country we live in.

It seems the Christmas season is well underway. It is getting close though, but hey, what’s the rush?

Tuesday, Nov. 14, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and Christmas conversation never really came up; then again, neither did Thanksgiving.

The saga of the pool table continues. The pool table is still in the OMOTM’s cellar and waiting for the rope to drag it outdoors. The table is bolted together and the OF just does not want to take time fussing with it.

This OF claims he has bigger fish to fry, like finishing his pirate ship. One OF said that, if the removal of the pool table takes as long as building that ship, the pool table is going to be in his cellar for a while longer. The OFs were surprised that no one wants the table just to get the piece of slate on top.

Winter driving

This time of year, the OFs are considering switching the tires they are running now to tires for winter.  This is to be sure they are ready for snow and ice.

Some change tires from summer to winter tires while others go for the all-tread design and some for the studded snows. An OF suggested the best attack for winter driving is to stay off the doggone roads.

Holes in the floor boards

Driving for the OFs is not the fun or the challenge it used to be. One OF said he thinks today’s drivers have become more crazy than ever.

Another suggested it is the handling of (and how much more quiet) new vehicles are than the ones the OFs used to run — old cars where the driver was able to see the road roll by through the holes in the floor boards.

These newer vehicles give a false sense of security to the driver so the driver has a tendency to have mind lapses and unknowingly make more stupid diving mistakes like following too close, too fast, or blowing through stop signs, etc. The drivers know better, but the tunes take precedent over their driving.

Too bright

The OFs have complained about this before, and are now finding out it is not only OFs, but many people the OFs talk to about the white lights on vehicles — especially pickup trucks. The lights are blinding.

They may be fine for the driver of the vehicle that has them, but they are extremely dangerous to oncoming traffic. The incident of drivers’ having to pull over and stop because they are blinded by these lights is increasing, and they are not all OFs.

Maine glories

One of the waitresses at the Your Way Café was wearing a Maine sweatshirt and it is interesting to note how many of the OFs have been to that state. In the Northeast, more of the OFs have been to Maine or Vermont than the other New England states.

Some have mentioned they have been to Massachusetts, Connecticut, or maybe New Hampshire, while none of the OFs have ever mentioned Rhode Island or Delaware. Maine seems to be the spot.

The OFs who were talking about it say the best time to hit the state of Maine is after kids go back to school. The OFs are not inclined to be ones who are going to charge into the ocean just to watch themselves turn blue in the water off the coast of Maine.

The OFs are more inclined to go to the southern part of Maine at this time when it is possible to drive the highways at a speed of more than 15 miles an hour.

One OF mentioned how ethereal it is to be awakened early in the morning (when sleeping in a cabin close to the ocean) and hear the horn of a lighthouse off in the distance moan its way through the mist of the first light of day.

Or at night listen to the gentle slap of the ocean on the shore while the lighthouse sounds its warning to ships at sea in a slow constant rhythm.  

One OF complained that it is now hard to find old Maine. It seems all the entrepreneurs and developers from the big cities have ruined most of the southern part of Maine; however, many still travel there, trying to reminisce about how it used to be.

Again, one OF remarked — just like going to concerts or football and baseball games — the little guys have been priced out. These outings now are mostly for the upper class, and the upper middle class.

The buzz on bees

As this scribe has reported on various occasions, one of the OMOTM is a keeper of bees, known as an “apiarist,” and, as reported before, he transports his bees to a little town south of Raleigh, North Carolina for the winter.

The place where he takes his bees was involved in a hurricane that came through the state as a tropical storm last summer. This OF reported that all the bees of that beekeeper were lost as they all drowned in the water and mud caused by the storm.

The weather can be detrimental to an industry rarely given any thought and, as industries go, this one of the bees is at the top of list in being the most important one of all.

Many people do not consider that, if it weren’t for farmers, there would be darn fewer people trotting this sixth rock from the sun (they have taken away Pluto and, if it weren’t for bees, there would be nothing for farmers to grow.

It is amazing how all life goes back to one simple but intricate and amazing insect. Even the dinosaurs had to depend on a few simple insects and birds to pollinate the plants.

Those Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Your Way Café in Schoharie and partook in a friendly atmosphere and lively chatter were: John Rossmann, George Washburn, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Miner Stevens, Richard Frank, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aelesio, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, Jim Heiser, Roger Chapman, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Jim Rissacher, Jerry Willsey, Ted Willsey, George Byrnes, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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