Tuesday, Feb. 20, will be remembered for how warm it was for this time of winter. The Old Men of the Mountain mentioned temperatures in the forties at 6 a.m. with a warm breeze, fog, and smell of spring in the air.

Fog encased the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown as the OMOTM arrived for breakfast and being OM they knew this weather was not going to last and they were sorry to see the fog, because fog in February means a wet, cold May. That is an old farmer’s weather guide.

One OF said that doesn’t mean a whole lot because there always is fog in February. Now all the OFs are going home to mark their calendars for the month of May and see what happens.

One OF, who still farms, was bringing a round bale of hay on the forks of his tractor down a road north of Berne when an elderly couple in a van pulled up alongside and asked him to stop.

The OF stopped and the driver in the car said, “Sir, I am not lost but I just can’t remember where I am.”

That took the OF back a bit and he stuttered out “Berne, New York.”

The driver said, “Thanks” — and took off.

“Hmmm, what a strange way to put that,” the OF said.  

Warts vanish

Another topic that the OFs talked about was a strange comment made on how some of the OFs work on repairing equipment or building this or that. One OF made a new tailgate ramp for another OF’s trailer that he uses to pick up equipment.

The OF was telling almost all the steps and care he went through to construct the ramp. As he told about welding it together, he said he was starting to get a couple of warts on his left hand and he stuck out his hand for those at the table to see there were no warts on it.

This OF said, “Welding gets rid of warts.”

That was it, just the five-word sentence, and then the OFs started talking about something else. Another Hmmm.

Slowing down

The OFs began a conversation that is dear to all of their hearts.

This topic was how old an OF was when he noticed he had really slowed down. The age was not the same for all the OFs, but the age span would be somewhere between 68 and 84.

This scribe thinks the 80-year guys are stretching it a bit but, then again, some of the old goats do seem to be on always the go — whether the OG is doing anything or not is another question.

All the OGs say that it now takes four days to do what they used to do in one — a common senior lament.

This next exchange was more specific. Some of the comings and goings brought up were work and chores. The other was fun stuff like hunting, fishing, boating and hiking, taking long drives, going to the picture show, square dancing, woodworking, painting, and activities like that.

One OF summed up this discussion with a little narrative.

He said he used to get his bow ready for bow season (deer hunting) a couple of weeks ahead of the season’s opening. The OF said he would be out of the house at the crack of dawn and not come back until late in the evening.

Now, he says, he goes out around 10 in the morning and is back around two in the afternoon — and that is if he goes out at all. We all slow down but we found out some slow down later than others.

What was the key that kept the late ones being active later in life? This scribe has brought this up before on how active the OMOTM group is compared to many others.

But, as we found out at Tuesday’s breakfast, the OFs can’t keep up a super-active pace forever.

One OF told about his uncle who walked everywhere — even when he had a car. By walking, the OF meant from Berne to Altamont, or Berne to Albany, or Berne to Schoharie.

That was really walking, but all that recommended exercise did not help him reach the age of most of the OMOTMs. Unexpectedly, he died of a heart attack at age 77.

Another OF added that, for himself, he did pretty much what he wanted to do. He ate what he wanted, but did give up smoking, and that decision gave him something like a permanent shot of adrenalin.

The OF continued, saying that he never exercised a day in his life, although he worked hard all the time, and he was outdoors most of the year — summer and winter. This OF says he doesn’t understand all the hype about exercise and diet.

This OF’s motto is, “Stay away from processed foods.” If you want a piece of pie with ice cream, eat it.  If you want steak and eggs eat them. If you want spaghetti and a side of French fries, eat that too.

Nevertheless, you have to move and get fresh air, ignore the diet hype and skip the stress it brings, and then (according to this OF) 80 will be just a number.

Warm weather, salted roads

The OFs discussed the upcoming few days of predicted warm weather and were quick to add that winter isn’t over yet. The OFs said they would hate to see it get warm for an extended period of time, that is, eight to 10 days.

This, the OFs say, would fake out the trees and shrubs and they would start budding. The OFs said that much warmth so early would be disastrous.

Then the OGs talked about how much salt was spread on the roads and how all the dampness caused by cold ground and warm air, plus any rain or drizzle, turns the highways into a saline solution that raises havoc on vehicles. One OF thought there is collusion between the highway department and body shops.

Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown through the salted rivers call roadways were: Bill Lichliter, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Rev. Jay Francis, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Marty Herzog, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Mace Porter, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

Most of the Old Men of the Mountain found their way to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. On Tuesday, Feb. 13, the OMOTM almost filled up the restaurant, so this scribe believes most of the OFs got the message of the restaurant change.

What to do when you are old?  The OFs are quick to insert that little nuance “age by numbers only,” which was more or less a theme of this morning’s breakfast.

How do you manage your “stuff?”  This “stuff” includes your property and your money. When the OFs reach an age where anything can happen and the OFs want to protect their assets from the clutches of the courts and the government, what course should they follow?

After all, as one OF put it, he worked a lifetime to acquire what little he has, and in this lifetime he spent much time dodging the grabbing hands of said government. He felt the government did all it could legally do to grab his money while he was working, and he wasn’t going to let them win out in the end because he felt the government took more than its fair share the time he was working.

One OF suggested it is not only the government, it is nursing homes and other institutions that want it all. Sometimes, if you ticked off your kids, they, too, might want to get their hands on whatever you might have acquired.

One OF said, “Let them fight over what I have. There is not much money and the rest of the ‘stuff’ they may wind up taking to the dump because I was going to anyway.”

Some of the OFs have their financial arrangements taken care of, and some don’t quite know what to do. One OF suggested at this stage of life it might be a good idea not to be too secretive about what he has.  For instance, other people (whom the OF knows he can depend on) should know about the OF’s situation and those people will know if something out of the ordinary is going on.

Pain meds

Still in the aging theme, another topic the OFs touched on was pain medication. The OFs talked about over-the-counter medications; one suggestion was, “What the heck? At our ages, take what works.”

The OFs discussed the advantages of one over the other and it seemed that Aleve works much better than Tylenol — at least for many of the OFs. Aleve is not supposed to be taken when taking some other particular meds.

The OFs are not doctors and are not prescribing anything. However, some OFs say taking Tylenol is just like taking a glass of water, or a handful of gumdrops. It is interesting to note how the OFs agree on these items, but can’t get together on which lawn mower is the best.

The OFs discussed hydrocodone and found most could not take the stuff. One OF said that, after a particular surgery, the first set of pills he was given in the hospital contained hydrocodone. This OF said he had hallucinations that scared the living daylights out of him.

He said he felt like he was walking, and would swear he was walking, only when he looked at his legs they were perfectly still. Then he said he felt like one of his arms was at the side of the bed hanging down, and the other was across his chest.

They weren’t, of course. One was at his side and the other arm was in back of his head; however, all situations were so real it could have been the other way around. At one point he thought he had four arms.

The OF said he refused the next pill and said he would take the pain — to heck with that stuff. The OF said the doctor changed the hydrocodone to Tylenol 3, which he understood was codeine. That worked and he only took the Tylenol 3 twice.

Kids ask for everything

The last topic was geared to kids and the times. The OFs say they don’t remember when they began giving in to their kids. Somehow it seems the OFs think they must have. The OMOTM’s kids are worse (in some instances) than the OFs think they themselves were.

The OFs to a man did not remember asking their parents for anything. The OFs took what they got and were more than happy with it. Some remember getting help purchasing their first car or motorcycle, but they worked for it. Mom and Dad did not just up and give them a vehicle.

Today, it seems kids are asking for everything from $150 sneakers, to cell phones, to TVs, so they can play their games, which can also cost in the hundreds of dollars. The OFs think they must have started this with their kids, but don’t really remember when.

The OFs have often traced this (what may be called a problem) back to Fifth Avenue marketing along with well-designed advertising, creating a demand. This has been coupled with the rapid development of communications, and World War II mixing all kinds of people together and finding the farm boy wants what the city boy has.

One OF thought it really wasn’t us wanting things; it was that we did not know there were things to want. Maybe a shotgun, or high-top boots, but not much else.

Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville (because they wanted to) were: Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, John DeMis, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Lou Schenck, Ted Feurer, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter (Welcome back, Mace), Herb Bahrmann, Jack Norray, Marty Herzog, Jake Lederman, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Rissacher, Wayne Gaul, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter woes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spice of life

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

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

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

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

Location:

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

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

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

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

The eyes have it

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

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

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

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

Avoid cooking, eat out

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

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

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

No dress code

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

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

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

Down in the dumps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Location:

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

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

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

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

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

Mechanical spies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going the way of the dodo

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

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

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

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

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

Send me out to sea

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

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

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

There was no answer.

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

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

Location:

Pages