It is May 10, and it is a Tuesday, and any old man worth his salt is at the Old Men of the Mountain breakfast at the Home Front Café in Altamont.
Except for the cold, the OMOTM had clear driving on their way to the Home Front; however, some of the OFs had early morning temperatures in the low twenties. That will get your attention, especially in mid May. (Almost).
The OFs being just that — OFs — were youngsters during the Great Depression (1929 to 1939). Those whose parents were farmers got along (for the most part) pretty well. Most were poor but didn’t know it because everyone else was poor by today’s standards.
A couple of the OFs never even knew there was a depression because their parents had pretty good jobs during the whole event.
One OF said his relatives made marine engines out of Harley engines and these engines, even then, were in demand. This OF also said his uncle had one of the fastest racing boats in the country for 29 years, and, according to this OF, he was never beaten even by company-sponsored boats.
The OF said that most of the boats used a nitro combination in their engines as did his uncle. The OF said his uncle used a higher nitro combination without damaging the engine.
His secret came from farming. Instead of using the pistons that came with the engine, his uncle removed them and replaced them with Oliver tractor engine pistons, which were much more rugged than OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) pistons, so he could burn this higher nitro ratio. His uncle’s boat recorded speeds up to 134 miles per hour on water way back then.
Collectors or hoarders?
Now there are OFs who are collectors, and there are OFs who just have stuff. Then there are OFs who have accrued many items over the years that is neither hoarding or collecting; it is just bits and pieces of leftover items purchased in order to do a project of some sort and all of the material was not used and just put away for future use.
Then there are items that their kids have given the OFs over the years that the OFs didn’t have the heart to get rid of. Parts to this, that, and the other thing, just put on a shelf with the thought of using it later, and later still hasn’t arrived.
There are tons of clothes that the OFs have grown out of and still take up space in the closet. Eventually sheds, cellars, garages, and barns are nothing more than paths that the OFs wind their way through to find a place to stash something else.
The OFs maintain that they know just about where everything is squirreled away, and if and when something is needed, what path to go down and retrieve it.
The OF thinks someday he may use those old lawn-mower wheels; unfortunately this scribe thinks that “someday” is not in the OF’s future — so — some of the OFs were talking about downsizing. How this was going to happen never materialized. The term “garage sale” was never mentioned.
The beauty of retirement
There are a plethora of clichés pertaining to those who are joining the ranks of OFs, i.e., better on this side of the grass, age brings wisdom, (scribe’s comment: not necessarily smarts) etc., etc. One thing age does bring is retirement.
Some of the OFs are retired, and some still work after retiring, especially those who were in business for themselves, or those who had a saleable hobby, or interest.
A few OFs retired and proceeded directly into working at these hobbies or interests. The word “retired” makes working at these jobs practically stress free.
If the OFs want to go to their grandkid’s graduation, they go; if they want to go fishing they go, if they want to go to the Adirondacks to do a hike, they go.
Those working for themselves can tell their customers, “When it is done, it is done; I’ll call ya.” If working for someone else and the boss starts piling on the pressure, the OF can say,“Hey, buddy, take this job and shove it.” Oh the beauty of retirement.
However, the OFs left out all the aches and pains that go with the age of retirement, and the desire to not want to get out of bed because, in lying there, the OF realizes it is the best he is going to feel all day.
Another thing the OFs mentioned was that, when working at something that they really enjoy, they do not have to worry about deadlines; the craftsmanship goes up exponentially with age. But one OF said that is until the eyes dim, or the hands start to shake, or everything becomes an effort, just brushing you teeth is a chore.
“I don’t worry about that,” one OF said. “I just take them out of the Efferdent.”
The Old Men of the Mountain who sat at the tables at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and were tempted by the proprietor to talk about politics (but the OFs in their OF wisdom did not take the bait) were: Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Andy Tinning, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Richard Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.
On May 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. Again, the OMOTM must report on the weather because for the drivers it was another miserable Tuesday morning.
It seems that for some time now the weather has been in the dumps on Tuesdays. Maybe our winter has spoiled the OFs but many say they feel colder now than they did in mid-winter. It is raw and damp the thermostats have been bumped up, the furnaces and wood stoves are still running, and even cranked up a degree or two higher than what the OFs had them set at during the winter months.
The OFs are getting too familiar with funeral homes, and the OFs started talking about friends that have passed and how some are really missed. This feeling is about good friends as well as relatives.
Many of the OFs’ relatives have moved away and are seen only on special occasions, like weddings, births, graduations, and, yes, even funerals. To take their place, many friendships are deeper than relative connections and the death of one of those friends hits harder than a relative. When a relative of a friend (who the OFs hung out with on a regular basis) passes on, the hole that is left is harder to fill.
Some of the OFs mentioned that the bond became so great, that years later when the OF wanted to go here or there, or do this or that, and that person or those persons are not around, there is the empty feeling of why isn’t so-and-so around so we could do this or that together. It is no fun doing it alone.
Cultivating new friends to fill the void is hard and not even thought of while the good times were rolling on with the friends we had in the past. Then we all get old and life changes.
Breeding bigger, better fish
One table of OFs discussed the work that SUNY Cobleskill is doing with raising fish, and cross-breeding the fish to make them larger and more tasteful.
One OF who worked at the college said that this research has been going on for some time, and now they have a new large building to house the work they are doing. The OFs thought this is extremely needed work as the population of the planet continues to grow.
The work at Cobleskill is for research, but the growing of fish on fish farms in the ocean, and in places like the fish farm in Coxsackie is for consumption and we are supposed to eat more fish.
Rent before you buy?
A conversation that included three topics that did not seem to go together (only the OFs combined them) is a routine conversation like they were all saying the same thing. They spoke about motor homes, then rocket ships, then submarines, and regular ships — all at the same time. Only the OFs could tie this all together.
The only real story told about motor homes was how a friend of one of the OFs decided motor homing would be the thing for them so they purchased one — neither a fancy one nor an inexpensive one, just a motor home in the medium price range.
With hands on the wheel, they headed out on their first trip to Florida. They set up in a nice park that catered to motor homes but also had permanent homes as well. According to the OF, it rained almost all the time they were there, so their friends could not leave unless they used the motor home.
It wasn’t long before they decided this was not what they thought RVing was going to be like; however, there was a permanent home in the park they liked and it came up for sale. They purchased this home and found it to be more to their liking.
Now there is a motor home for sale that has only one trip to Florida registered on the odometer. What a deal for someone who wants to try their hand at motor homing.
As with many large investments of this type, it was suggested by some that maybe they should have rented instead of buying for their first try with one of these RVs. One OF said he has done this with cars — he rents a make and model he was thinking of purchasing to make sure he likes the vehicle before he buys one like it.
Another OF said, “Hey, that is not a bad idea; how about renting a wife and trying her out before taking the plunge and buying the license and hauling her home?”
Another OF thought renting kids would also be a good idea to see if you wanted any of your own. He figured that might cut down on the population explosion after that little trial worked its way out.
“You know,” one OF said, “The renting of the wife could work in reverse. The gals may want to rent you to see if you fill the bill, and you — you old goat - wouldn’t. You’re ugly and don’t have any money.”
“Well,” the retort came, “I have a nice, late model car. I don’t drive around in something like that old rat trap of a vehicle you call a car that still has pedals in it.”
Oops. Time to put the pedal to the metal and end that conversation.
Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown (and some had quite a pedal to get there) were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Mace Porter, Andy Tinning, Duncan Bellinger, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.
On Tuesday, April 26, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. Fog and rain, snow, sleet, and hail do not deter the Old Men of the Mountain from reaching the appointed eating establishment for the week. This week was such a Tuesday — lousy weather — and we had a full house.
As the OFs report to the breakfast each Tuesday, they are greeted with a hearty “good morning.” Sometimes the name of the OF joining the group is also greeted by his name (if he is arriving by himself) or maybe just a couple of OGs arriving together will have their names included in the greeting by the OFs who are already there.
The later the OFs arrive, the more “good mornings” are expressed. Most of the OFs being greeted have a reply, and some just wave.
On Tuesday morning, one OF came in and was welcomed with the round of “good mornings” along with his name. When all the greetings were done, the arriving OF replied, “To your misfortune I am here.” Now that was different.
Zeros and ones
Redundancy is something this scribe tries to keep at a minimum; however, this scribe is dealing with OFs and it is hard. At times, although the topic may be redundant, the approach is different, or the circumstances related to a topic are new.
That was the case with a topic Tuesday morning on technology and how much and how fast it alters the way we do things, especially for the OFs who did not grow up with the technology of today from the toddler stage in their life.
What the OFs talked about was the routine, low end of the work force that has been replaced by technology. For instance, the OFs were referring to jobs like file clerks.
It took many workers to shuffle and file paper that was once necessary to keep on hand, but these records are now being taken care of by machines. Many of the people who are now titled learning-disabled but could handle this type of job easily are no longer working.
The OFs say that, no matter how hard many people try, they are just unable to grasp much of what is going on, but they are definitely not dumb or stupid. The OFs know many of these types of kids who have fallen through a crack large enough to sink an ocean liner.
One OF said that he did not mind all the technology; he maintained that things (for him anyway) are now so much better. Medicine, construction, solar energy, plus so much more are tons better thanks to those zeros and ones.
Then the OFs noted that many of today’s vehicles have so much technological garbage on them that has no real function in making the vehicle go, steer, or stop, which makes it more frustrating when something goes wrong like the Global Positioning System.
“Hey,” the OF said, “I know how to read a map.”
An OF added that, when the light comes on in cold weather to tell you your tires are soft, they may not be. Why do I need that thing when I can see if a tire is soft or not? Those things are more expensive to fix than a new tire.
One OF said, just put a piece of black friction tape over it and forget it. Another OF said that, if you drive a car that has automatic braking on the vehicle, as an operator of such a car, the OF would probably become so used to the car stopping by itself when that little feature failed, whoa — what happens now? — one huge rear-ender.
Yet another OF said he remembers when automatic transmissions came out (and electric windows, and power steering, along with power brakes, and tubeless tires), the same things were said. He continued, “Go with the flow; give me all that new stuff. Anything that makes my life easier, I am all for even if it is nothing more than zeros and ones.”
Small engines, big headaches
The OFs also talked a lot about lawn tractors, small engines and lawn mowers. The gist of the conversation was small engines are not like tractor engines, or car engines.
The mechanics in the group all agreed that repairing small engines can be frustrating and regular mechanics do not even want to mess with them.
This brought up the new phenomenon of lawn-tractor planters. The OFs noticed in many yards, when a lawn tractor decides to quit, it is just left where it died and the homeowner trots out and buys a new one.
When approaching the tractor (left where it quit) the lawn is just mowed around it and there it sits as a piece of lawn sculpture, or a potted plant is plopped on the seat and it is now a planter.
In closing this week’s column, the Old Men of the Mountain would like to offer their heartfelt condolences to two families of our members — the Porter family, and the Stevens Family on the loss of Pauline Gaige, and Donna Porter.
Mother and daughter who passed away within days of each other, both are now joining hands in the company of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a better place.
Those OFs who arrived at the Duanesburg Restaurant in Duanesburg, like the crew of the Flying Dutchman materializing out of the fog, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Roger Shafer, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Duncan Bellinger, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.
On Tuesday, April 19, Primary Day in New York State, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie, and the OMOTM thought maybe this would be the end of the circus in New York, or maybe (as one OF mentioned) just the beginning. Ah, we shall see.
If only it weren’t so important. Either way, there is a lot of fodder for the comedians but ain’t funny, Magee.
Then, as another OF said, we should look at the primary with some humor and then realize we have been through this many times and generally it all comes out in the wash. One added none of the candidates have done all they say they have done, or can they do everything they say they are going to do.
“Yeah,” one OF said, “all of them have graduated from the same school that teaches them how to fib and make it sound like the truth.”
“Well,” another OF said, “I learned that in kindergarten along with learning that I learned it is not nice to pick your nose, but I still do both.”
Fat wallets, small watches
The OFs next had a brief discussion on wallets and watches. Now everyone knows that to follow all the current fashion trends all one has to do is stand at the door of the restaurants the OMOTM frequent and notice how patrons are dressed, then go and do likewise.
The OFs have a variety of wallets. Some are thin, and some are fat. The thin ones belong to the OFs who don’t have any money, and the fat ones belong to the OFs who are loaded
Either fat or thin, the OFs say that the wallet is the best place to put things that they can’t find later on. The reason some of the wallets are so fat is they contain gift cards the OFs forget they have, and notes and phone numbers that the OFs don’t know who they are from or who they are for.
One OF still has the picture in his wallet that came with the wallet and people think it is a relative. Some have an appointment cards in their wallets to remind the OFs of an appointment, only the appointment has come and gone.
We still haven’t found the money yet — only credit cards. One OF said his wallet is so fat that he leans to one side to carry it. He also said, if a pickpocket grabbed his fat wallet thinking he had hit the mother lode, he would really be ticked off. Money is the one thing that is not in there.
Watches are another thing; most of the OFs, if not all of them, have not caught up to the latest fad of wearing Big Ben on your wrist. The wrist watches today are so large the OFs expect to see a pendulum and hear it chime the hour and half hour, or at least a miniature bird pop out and chirp coo-coo.
“Wine is like duct tape”
“There’s a Tear in my Beer” by Hank Williams Jr. may become the newest rebirth of a song along with the lack of beer because of the lack of hops. Craft beer, which is booming in popularity now, is using between four and 10 times the amount of hops that industrial-scale brewing uses and this is causing a major hop shortage to develop.
One of the OFs, as we have reported before, is a hop farmer. The hop-house may be coming back on many farms; also, growing barley may make a comeback. It would be great to see some of the land that has grown up to brush be put back to use again and some of the small farms be able to produce a product they can sell
Drinking and driving may be the next farmer mantra, corn for gas, hops and barley for beer, grapes for wine. Help your local farmer; please drink and drive will be the next bumper sticker.
One OF said that will not only help the farmer, but also your local undertaker, and body shop. The OFs really know how to stimulate the economy while stemming the population growth.
It is not only beer that may help the farmer but also wine. With the new interest in wine, especially New York State wine, grapes are now in demand.
“There ya go,” one OF said. “After a tough day, a bottle of beer, or a glass of wine sure takes the edge off.”
Then another OF noted that he saw a very true sign (for him anyway): “Wine is like duct tape; it fixes everything.”
Fishing without bait
This spring has been a spring of contrast. The peepers chirped at night, the birds sang in the morning; as one OF said: Then came the cold. Real cold. Then the sounds of spring became just like winter silence.
One OF said, “Did you ever notice how quiet winter can be?” Not the spring and summer where this OF lives — it is like living inside a bird sanctuary that can be akin to a factory.
He went on to say, “Those feathered fowl can make an awful racket. Then add the peepers (thank goodness they only peep for a short while) and, when those nickel-sized frogs stop their peeping, then the singing insects start wailing their songs, or strumming their legs, and others do whatever they do to make a noise all of which adds to the evening’s din and I am trying to sleep. Oh the silence of winter, I miss that,” the OF mused.
One OF was all tanned up from fishing on the river all weekend. This OF said he fished, and he fished, yet caught only one fish.
Another OF said he thought that is what fishing is all about, just being out and away from it all. Who cares if you catch anything?
Still another OF chimed in to say that, when he goes out fishing, that is what it is all about, just being out, away from it all with a few beers. “Heck,” he said, “When I go fishing, heck, I don’t even bring bait.” Now that is what he calls fishing.
Those OFs who made it to Your Way Café in Schoharie, after telling the wife they’re going out to breakfast with guys and then going fishing, were: Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Dave Williams, John Rossmann, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer (all tanned up), Henry Witt, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.
On Tuesday, April 12, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the County Café on Main Street in Schoharie.
Here is another weather report from the OFs. Those on the Hill talk about a mighty wind that blew through the area and where hail came down for a brief time so hard that it was at a 10-degree angle to the Earth before it struck the ground.
After the hail came the rain. Then, on the news, the OFs saw the damage done by what was a comparatively local blow. The weather guys never saw that one coming or told the OFs to batten down the hatches.
The OMOTM sat in the comfort of the County Café enjoying the aroma of breakfast being made in the kitchen and looking out the window across the street to the Schoharie County Courthouse where trees are down and the park is gone. Construction is underway to build a hydraulic dike to keep the water from running into the courthouse when there is another flood.
The OFs say what a shame to spend all that money and ruin all that real estate when the OFs feel it would be less expensive just to add another floor to the courthouse if they need the space; subsequently abandon the basement and first floor.
But nobody asked the OFs. Some of the OGs can just fall out of bed and be at the County Café so it is not like the OFs are outsiders butting in.
The OFs discussed the location of the county jail and that is another bone of contention where (in the opinion of the OFs) the opinions of the residents were ignored.
This led to other topics that are generally no-no’s at the table: Politics and religion. That is the general heading of the conversation but it wasn’t explicitly on religion or politics.
Is God having trouble finding people to call?
Discussion was how the attendance in many organized faiths is dropping off, and churches are combining services in one church and closing others.
In some faiths, according to the OFs, it is a combination of the lack of attendance, and fewer young people showing interest and this trend is causing a shortage of young people going into the ministry.
This made one OF think, if it is God that calls people to the ministry, is God having trouble finding people to call, or is he calling them to minister in the church of “What’s Happening Now?” Or is it that the traditional churches are so wrapped up in adhering to tradition that they are failing to minister?
Lacking presidential material
And, as for politics, the OFs at this scribe’s end of the table had no idea who they are going to vote for. The OFs felt none of those running to be the nominee of their parties were presidential material.
One OF said that, no matter which party took the White House, the OFs could look for, “A crow in every pot, and bicycle in every garage.”
None of the OFs could remember such a circus as there is now for an upcoming presidential election. It was more or less a generic opinion for the OFs that, with all the name calling and mudslinging going on among all of those running, how could anyone trust any of them?
The scariest words to hear is someone who says, “Trust me.”
One OF wondered who would want to run for president — their lust for power has to be great and their hide has to be as thick as a tank so that they can deal with the press, and all the negativity that is thrown about.
Oh, well. None of the OFs are running for office anyway so it is all moot. Then again, maybe the OFs should run as a group and maybe something would get done.
The OFs thought that, if enough people wrote in “Mickey Mouse,” maybe Disney could run the government and the whole country could then live in fantasyland.
Bionic men share trials and tribulations
The OFs continue to become more bionic. One OF is going in for knee replacement; another is going for facial repair.
It is interesting to see how fast the medical profession is progressing in replacing people parts — not only organs, but joints too.
One OF had shoulder work done maybe 10 or more years ago; lately, one of this OF’s shoulder started acting up. The OF went to the same doctor who performed the procedure originally and, when the doctor saw the OF and the X-rays, he told the OF, “Oh, I don’t do it that way anymore — I don’t cut, or use screws like that. I use lasers.”
He didn’t offer any condolences to the OF either. In fact, the doctor said, “You’re too old, suck it up; I will give you a shot.”
The OF said at the breakfast “Well, that shot lasted about three weeks.”
The OF going in for the knee operation might have the procedure performed with current technology, and the ways of yore may be long gone for how it is done now. The OFs wonder, at the rate medicine and technology is progressing, what medical procedures will be like in 50 years from now to replace a hip or transplant a heart.
OFs in office
The OFs who made it to the Country Café in Schoharie, and who think it might be a good idea to write in OFs for president, were: Miner Stevens president; Glenn Paterson, vice president; Mark Traver, secretary of State; Chuck Aelesio, Federal Bureau of Investigation director; Mark Traver, secretary of Defense; Harold Guest, press secretary; John Rossmann, secretary of the Navy; Roger Chapman, secretary of Homeland Defense; Bill Lichliter, secretary of Treasury; George Washburn, Federal Aviation Administration director; Robie Osterman, secretary of Transportation; Lou Schenck, secretary of Communication; Jack Norray, secretary of Interior; Gerry Irwin, secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency; Matt Farnam, United Nations ambassador; Ted Willsey, secretary of Labor; Mike Willsey, secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Bob Fink, secretary of Education; Bob Benninger, secretary of Energy; Jim Rissacher, secretary of Health and Human Resources; Elwood Vanderbilt, secretary of Farm and Home Management; Gerry Chartier, chief of staff; Harold Grippen, secretary of Veterans Affairs; and me, chief dog catcher.