Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, a bunch of guys were hatched. These guys did not like where they were; it was hot and dusty. There was little color — the dust was a dull gray-green, and the only things living there (other than these guys) were bugs roaming this colorless place.

Over time, they constructed a huge trebuchet (an improved form of a catapult) from the few large trees found on this whirling boulder. When ready, they climbed into the basket at the end of the arm, bound themselves with twine in a big ball, released the trigger, and hurled themselves into space.

After some time flying through the dark void of space, they spotted off in the distance a tiny, bright blue dot.

“Wow,” they exclaimed. “Let’s head there,” and they did.

The most pleasant place they spotted on this blue celestial ball was a small range of hills between two little lakes; it was beautiful. By twisting and turning, the men guided their human ball to that area and landed.

That was a long, long, time ago, but on Tuesday morning, June 12, 6018 (years from their auspicious landing, using their calendar) these green-gray planet guys are still meeting, this time at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, New York. They now have a title.  They are called “The Old Men of the Mountain” and still roam the hills they love.

Gas Up

This time each year, on a farm between Schoharie and Gallupville, the Gas Up is held. Many of the OMOTM make a trip to this event to meet “old friends.” These so-called “friends” do not have two or even four legs, but they are a replacement for their old farm equipment.

The old “friends” include old engines, old cars, old trucks, and sometimes really old flesh-and-blood friends.

The OFs discussed some of the changes made at the Gas Up and one of the things they missed was the Reformed Church of Schoharie running the eat, meet, and greet shack on top of the hill this year.  However, there is still the homemade ice cream. The event was larger this year with more equipment.

When the OFs were younger, they would spend the whole day at the Gas Up but, like everything else, as they get older, the legs and the body doesn’t allow many of them to do that. As quite often with the older OFs, the mind says one thing and the body says another.

It does the heart good anyway — for the guys that like to mess with this older method of producing power — just to smell the mixture of gas and oil, hear the putt-putt-putt of the hit-and-miss engine, the flap of the flat belts as they run old rusty equipment like it was new, and the whine of the buzz saws cutting wood. It is different.

Parking is free, and the event is by donation, which is a plus for the OFs. There are youngsters at the Gas Up, quite a few to be exact, which is good to see.

A few OFs interjected that not all the young kids are becoming cross-eyed from staring all day at a 3 x 4 screen six inches from their nose.

Catching carpenter bees

Last week, the column included a section on carpenter bees. This week, an OMOTM (who also belongs to the Kiwanis) brought in some carpenter bee traps that the Kiwanis are making and selling.

They were a hit with some of the OFs who are having problems with these bees. The OF said they work exceptionally well, and use no poison of any kind. This OF sold two traps immediately to some OFs at Tuesday morning’s breakfast.

The OMOTM recommend if you are having problems with these critters to contact the Kiwanis in Altamont and maybe your problem will be solved. A couple of OFs said it is more fun swatting them though with a racket than catching them in a trap.

Kids lack municipal jobs

The OFs wondered what happened to all the summer jobs that school kids could get working with the city and towns, and even with the county. It really gave them something to do; they did jobs like mowing the park, painting fire hydrants and cleaning around them. Painting and fixing up town barn buildings, they did lots of things to improve the appearance of the town. One OF said they even worked in Thacher Park.

Another OF said that he heard it was the child labor laws and the kids were not allowed to do this work.

A third OF responded, “What, I was driving a tractor mowing hay when I was 9! Whose cockamamie idea was that?”

Another OF said he heard it was the public service employee unions that complained kids were taking jobs away from the regular employees who could be doing that work. If the state, county, or town needed more regular employees to do this work, it would give more people jobs (instead of part-time jobs to kids to do the work).

In either case, whichever is right or not right at all, the kids find themselves looking for other programs or part-time jobs to keep them active during the summer months.

One OF said, “Believe it or not, the kids would rather be doing something other than just leaning against a tree staring at their phones like many people think.”

Those OFs who hit on the Helderbergs as a beautiful place to live (and who continue to feel that way) maintain their connection every Tuesday and those OFs who met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Shafer, Jake Lederman, Ted Feurer, Russ Pokorny, Herb Bahrmann, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Art Frament, Ray Kennedy, Glenn Patterson, Joe Rack, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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It was a really good Tuesday morning on June 5 with the Old Men of the Mountain meeting at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg.  All the morning welcomers acknowledged each group of OMOTM as they came into the restaurant.

This is similar to the opening of the old TV show “Cheers” — only the places the OMOTM visit on Tuesday mornings are not the type of places that promote “cirrhosis of the liver.”

(This scribe, after typing the morning opening, thought about the name of a large boat which was parked at a dock on the Route 5S side of the Mohawk River near a nice restaurant just south of the Fonda-Fultonville bridge. The boat was named “Cirrhosis of the River.”)

Now is the time for new birth. Eggs are hatching, young rabbits are scurrying, and the deer are having their young.

Two OFs mentioned spotting young fawns along the side of the road. One OF brought in a picture of a fawn (he took the picture with his phone) which had to be no more than a few hours old. This, too, was alongside the road.

The OFs thought that these young animals — being brought up right alongside the highway — are either going to be very road-wise and look in both directions before crossing, or they are not going to pay any attention to vehicles; they will just leisurely cross the road because the road sounds will be so familiar to them.  

Along with this new birthing time, the OFs mentioned how few of the little creatures we see now. Woodchucks were a prime example of this dialogue; raccoons were another, and even skunks were mentioned.

The OFs said that, when one of these youngsters is spotted, it is noted what, when, and where, and so can be brought up as conversation fodder at these breakfasts.  

However, there are always exceptions. Some exceptions that have been seen in abundance this year are carpenter bees. They seem to be all over the place.

A short discussion followed on what to do to get rid of these bees because of the damage they do. The consensus was: “There is not much we can do.”

The most positive solution was to get a tennis or badminton racket and swat them to the ground and step on them. This sounds cruel, but it’s necessary, if the OF doesn’t want his house or shed falling down.

OFs take their time

One OF uttered a very true statement that included all the OFs. The OF noted that, when the OFs were contemplating a project together with other OFs, it now takes three of us to craft something impressive, as well as four times the amount of time.

He continued, “You guys are talking like we will go and work on this job and it will be over in an hour or so. Not so; I better plan on having supper at your house.” Pretty clever, some of these OFs.

Going back in time

The OFs talked about back in time. Like this scribe says, the OFs are time-jumpers.

This time, they were talking about (way back) carrying with them baling twine or baling wire, friction tape, a hammer, a pair of pliers, and a screwdriver so it was possible to fix anything. Now the OFs say all that is needed is a roll of duct tape and wrap “it” up and “it” is good to go.

However, one OF said there are way too many products made now that are so complicated all the OFs can do is stand and stare at whatever it is no matter how many tools they have. One OF said it is impossible to find bailing wire now anyway and who knows what friction tape is.

Memorial Day

A couple of weeks ago, it was Memorial Day and the OFs were discussing what they did with parades and family get-togethers and visiting gravesites. The OFs who had been in the military did the same and some attended the ceremonies in the small town in which they lived that represented the meaning of the day.

But some of the OFs mentioned that the crowds that used to be in attendance at these occasions seemed to be getting smaller and some events were even canceled.

One OG’s family worked very hard on Memorial Day. The work they did made Memorial Day much more pleasant for others, and saved a lot of moms, and maybe dads, a ton of work.

This OF’s family put on a public chicken barbecue in front of the Knox Reformed Church. That is one way to celebrate the holiday, and help others celebrate it at the same time.

Then there were those who worked on and in parades, or participated at ceremonies that honored the veterans. Even the OFs who were physically unable to participate went to watch those who were marching, so the marchers are not parading just for the cows and horses.

The OFs who made it especially early to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg (it may be the sun that gets them up) were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Pete Whitbeck, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Art Frament, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Mace Porter, Herb Bahrmann, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Joe Rack, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Allen DeFazzo, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

On a rare pleasant day for the Old Men of the Mountain, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie on Tuesday, May 29, to discuss whatever happened the week before. Not much for some — yet lots for others.

One OF went with another older person to visit a younger person. The younger person who was visited brought up an unusual topic during the conversation, i.e., “Why don’t weeds grow on ant hills — only grass?” This actually required no answer and the two visiting had no reply because neither had a clue.

The one OF asked this same question at this morning’s breakfast and had the same response from the OFs that he had visiting the younger person. The question remains, “Why does only grass grow on ant hills and not weeds?”

This scribe went home and checked out the ant-hill question. This scribe mows about three acres and has lots of ant hills. Checking the ant hills, this scribe found that the foregoing statement was nearly correct.

In seven out of 10 ant hills, seven had only grass growing on them and three ant hills (and this was quite a colony so it may be considered just one) had a vine-like weed covering most of the ant colony, and a small section had nothing growing on it yet.

Cutlery question

Another OF had an observation that was in the form of a question and the OF asked this question at the breakfast. Question: “Does flatware seem to be getting thinner and smaller?”

This question did have a reply and the OFs seemed to agree with the OF now that they thought about it at the breakfast. One OF said he has had a fork bend trying to cut into the hard crust on the bottom of a piece of pie.

Another OF said he didn’t think it was the cutlery but the OF’s sense of touch has lessened and he was trying to cut through the plate.

“Well, it should have cut the plate anyhow,” the OF replied. “It was a paper plate.”

Yet another OF said, “Maybe, but it all depended on how much that OF wanted to spend on his flatware.” This OF said, “There is a happy medium.”

This OF also grumbled about some flatware that is big and clunky so that it is hard to use. This OF complained that the heavy fancy cutlery, especially spoons, does not scoop up the good stuff in a bowl of soup, and generally there is no depth to the spoon. When the OF arrives at the supposed bottom of the bowl with the big spoon, there is still so much soup left that the OF has to pick up the bowl and sip the rest out.

Hot topic

The OFs discussed the eruption of Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii. They discussed the fantastic photos of the lava pouring out of the cracks in the Earth.

What brought this up was the turnaround of people wanting to go to the island. The OFs mentioned that the tourists visiting Hawaii have dropped by 50 percent.

One OF said unless anyone is going to the area around where the volcano is mad because they have stopped offering up goodies to the volcano gods and the volcano is letting the inhabitants know who is boss. The rest of the island is pretty big and, if it weren’t for the news, most of the island people would not even know what was going on.

The OFs went from Hawaii to Alaska and that was because the discussion on the eruption led to talk of the geothermal electric plant that is in the way of the lava flow. One OF mentioned the geothermal power plants in Alaska and how efficient they are and they use no fuel whatsoever.

Another OF mentioned that, until the eruption, geothermal as source of power for running power plants was really not known by the general populace. This OF said it has been mostly solar, wind, and occasionally the tides that we hear about.

Trials of travel

This scribe reports on this occasionally and it is because, as stated before, the OFs are OFs; therefore, aging is a topic of discussion often. This time, it was what the OFs used to do physically and what the OFs are limited to now — not all but many of us.

One limitation is getting up and down; the other is: When did they start putting things up so high?  The OFs have trouble reaching things.

When did getting in and out of a vehicle become a project? When did getting out of a chair require pushing on the arms? When did sitting down mean looking for a hard chair instead of one of those chairs you sink into? When did just taking off on a two-day trip change from throwing your ditty bag and some clean underwear into the vehicle and taking off?

Now it is plan the pills, plan the route for rest areas with bathrooms, and where will the OF be in a couple hours of travel, is there a McDonald’s close by? This goes on until eventually the OFs says: The heck with it; let’s just stay home; tain’t worth the hassle.

Some of the OFs agreed with a lot of this, especially the McDonald’s being so strategically spaced. One OF said that, when on trips, they have purchased a lot of coffee at McDonald’s, even while they have full thermoses in the car.  

Those Old Men of the Mountain who found traveling was not much of a chore when making their way to the Your Way Café in Schoharie were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Pete Whitbeck, Joe Rack, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Herb Bahrmann, Ted Feurer, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Duncan Bellinger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

On Tuesday, May 22, the Old Men of the Mountain met on Main Street in the Village of Schoharie. With their canes and OMOTM banner held high, the OMOTM attacked the Country Café, wedging themselves through the door, shouting their battle cry: “Feed Me! Feed Me!”

Tuesday, there was another discussion by the OFs that has not been broached before and that was about OFs and girlfriends once the OFs became widowers.

The OFs said that, when married for 40 or so years, basically the couple grows old together and becomes one person. When that person departs (and in the case of the OMOTM it would be his wife) and the OMOTM becomes a widower, he is pretty much set in his ways.

There comes a time when the OMOTM desires companionship to help with the lonely times. Most of the ladies are widows and they, too, are set in their ways just like the OMOTM.

One OMOTM mentioned that attractions at our age are not like when we were younger. When the OMOTM meets someone, new magnetism can come out of the blue but the attraction can cross class lines.

The OMOTM could have been a farmer, or machinist, and the one attracted to could have been a doctor or lawyer, yet they get along well and seem to enjoy each other’s company.

The problem is that to go any further than going to the movies, or on trips, or out to eat, the OFs were wondering if that is about it. The OFs were questioning if they went any further in their relationships, would their different ways and social lives spoil a good thing?

Boy! The OFs can dig into some real social problems that consume many people’s thinking time and deep understanding.

Flat-tire saga

When anyone wakes up, young or old, what the day has in store can change in an instant. The phone may ring and the news on the other end is not good, and requires the immediate attention of the person answering the phone. What prompted the phone call has nothing to do with what the person answering the phone had in mind for the day.

One OF ran into this type of situation at Tuesday’s breakfast. This OF showed up as usual, had his breakfast as usual, paid his bill as usual, left the Country Café as usual, then the OF went to enter his car and saw his left rear tire was flat.

It was flat-flat, not low, but flat! With that particular tire being the one that was flat meant the butt of the person fixing the flat was sticking into traffic right in the middle of downtown Schoharie.

In this case, one of the younger people at the breakfast was attempting to take the flat off and put on the doughnut spare so the OF could get to Lenny’s (Tire & Repair shop in Middleburg) to either purchase another tire, or have the flat repaired.

Many of the OFs leaving the Country Café gathered around to watch. Now we had the case of two workers and 12 or more chiefs.

The wheel would not come off. They even removed the jack and had the OF drive his car forward and back to try to break it free.

No dice; did not work. Then one OF brought his battery-operated pump to try to blow the tire up enough to get the OF to Lenny’s. No dice, not half a pound of air entered that tire. What now?

One OF said he would drive the OF with the flat up to Lenny’s and see if they could help him out. That was done, and at Lenny’s the OF said he was treated really great, and they would be down and see what they could do.  

This scribe checked with the OF to see how he made out.

The OF said that, after being brought back to his car by the OF that took him to Lenny’s, the service person was there in half a minute. The service tech came and looked at the tire, gave it a kick, and it fell off.

He put the doughnut tire on and the OF drove to Lenny’s and purchased two new tires, since the ones on the car were shot anyway.

A miracle

At Tuesday’s breakfast, some OFs who are also emergency medical technicians sat across from each other and began discussing, not specific cases, but what they have in their little black boxes when they come upon, or are called to, a particular situation. This scribe thought, from their conversation, that EMTs are well prepared to handle — as one of their titles, first responders, implies — most any situation.

One of the OFs who is an EMT told a story of how a lady was in her bedroom talking on the phone to a relative in New York City when she lapsed into a diabetic coma. The relative in New York City heard a thud and then no one talking to her on the other end of the line and so she knew something had happened.

The relative in the city immediately called the fire department, who in turn immediately contacted the ambulance squad up here in the Hilltowns.

The squad went in a hurry to the address supplied. When the squad members arrived, they were met by a large black Labrador retriever, and a young lady who asked what they were doing there.

The EMTs asked if there was anyone else in the home and were told yes, and they asked where and were told one person was in her bedroom. They ran to the bedroom and found the lady passed out between two beds in the bedroom.

They were there in time to revive the lady, and things worked out well. Nobody else in the house knew that anything had happened to her. Miracles, large and small, for whatever reason, do happen.

Those OFs who made it to the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie and formed an audience for the few who were attempting to change the tire were: Miner Stevens, Bill Bartholomew, Art Williams, Dave Williams, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jake Lederman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Duncan Bellinger, Rev. Jay Francis, Bob Donnelly, Allen DeFazio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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Another Tuesday, another breakfast, and another restaurant.

On Tuesday, May 15, The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. Mrs. K’s is the only restaurant the OMOTM patronize that costs money to go to.

It is the only restaurant with on-street parking so, if the OMOTM want to park close to the restaurant, it will cost them 25 cents. There are municipal parking lots but they are across the street and the OFs that use this facility have to be quite ambulatory.

Most people in the realm of the OFs know of Howe Cave, or Howe Caverns, which is in the village of Howe Cave — duh. The village of Howe Cave is between the villages of Old Central Bridge and Cobleskill off Route 7.

The OFs discussed the upcoming event to be held at the caverns on July 14, “International Nude Day.” The caverns is going to hold a “Naked in the Cave” party.

As far as this scribe knows, none of the OFs have signed up. If any did and the news got out, that would put the kibosh on the whole event. No one wants to see a group of naked OFs in a group.

Oh dear, that brings tears to the eyes just imagining that sight; however, in the cave, it is not only so dark it is not possible to see your hand in front of your face, but it is also very, very cold 2,000 feet underground. The caverns are a constant 52 degrees no matter what the ambient temperature is.

Another thing to consider is this: If you ever want to get a bearing to stick to an axel, first you heat it and it expands, then it is chilled to shrink it on the shaft. Guess what that cave is going to do to everybody.

One OF said he understands that, as of now, there are over 100 people signed up to take the tour. This scribe does not know if that is right or not but the OFs think these people are not familiar with caving.

Many years ago, an OF worked for the cement plant that operated from a quarry at the original entrance of the cave. The office for the cement plant was in the Howe Caverns hotel. The original entrance to the cave was right along side of the hotel.

This OF said he did double duty and worked as a dispatcher for the cement trucks that hauled the cement under contract to the cement company. This OF worked a day shift for the cement plant, and third and sometimes second shift for the trucking company. At the cement plant, this OF held many supervisory positions basically because he could read and write so the OF could fill out the required forms.

This OF said the chief chemist at the plant was not too well liked, and was an arrogant individual. One day, while working a second shift to fill in for the trucking company, the OF went into the lab where they tested all the cement and opened all the windows in the lab.

In the evening, at dusk, millions of bats would come out of the cave right alongside of the hotel. The air would be black with bats, and the sound was like thunder. This phenomenon lasted less than a minute the OF said.

The lab was on the ground floor right above the cave entrance. On this particular day, the OF said, he took a piece of plywood about 2 feet by 4 feet and stood at the cave entrance and waited for the bats. The OF’s intention was to see if he could get some bats excited enough to go through the open windows into the lab.

Right on time, out the bats came, and the OF stood in the midst of them waving the piece of plywood slowly back and forth. After the bats had all dispersed to search out their bug meals, the OF said he quickly ran back into the lab, shut the windows, and closed the door. The OF said he did not see a bat and thought the whole thing was a waste of time.

This OF said at that time he was stores supervisor, yard foreman, and safety man for the plant. When he went to work at the plant the following morning at 7 a.m., things were just as normal as blueberry pie, but at 8 a.m., when the office help showed up for work, all misery broke loose.

The OF said he heard the siren of an ambulance speeding up the drive to the office. He then received a call from the plant manager to get up to the front office on the double.

The OF said he ran to the front office just as the ambulance people got there and there on the floor in front of the lab door lay the chief chemist out cold. The girls and the lab personnel were all out on the “front porch” milling around.

The OF said he looked into the lab and saw not only a few bats but hundreds, maybe thousands, of bats hanging from the light fixtures, from the back of doors, the tops of the windows, as many as 15 to 25 bats hanging like long black moving ropes all through the lab; bats were everywhere.

The plant manager pulled the OF aside and told him that he didn’t care what projects the OF had planned for the carpenters but to get every carpenter up to the office immediately and plug every hole they could find.

The OF said, “Yes, sir” and did send the carpenters to the office building, knowing they were not going to find any holes.

Those Old Men of the Mountain that were at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and, according to them, not planning on going to the “Naked in the Cave” event at Howe Caverns, were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Pete Whitbeck, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Chuck Aelesio, Ray Frank, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Joe Rack, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Jake Lederman, Wayne Gaul, Ted Feurer, Jim Heiser, and it was great to see Ted Willsey at the breakfast, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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