The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in the village of Middleburgh on March 29. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 16 years since the world was supposed to come to an end, all the computers were supposed to crash, and the second coming was supposed to occur.

The OFs’ first discussions were about the winds during the early morning hours of March 29. For our area, it was a blow. For all the howling of the wind, the OFs did not notice many trees down. There were some smaller branches and a few larger dead limbs or small dead trees down but nothing to write home about.

If any of the OFs have had the experience of being in a hurricane, no OF in the hearing range of this scribe mentioned it.  What an experience it must be with winds double the speed of the night we had on March 29.

What happened to March going out like a lamb? Maybe the timing isn’t generic.  The timing is definitely March 1, and the 31, so the 31 may yet be tranquil and warm so the ole saw will fit.

The OFs did mention being on cruises in high seas, and both of the OFs telling tales of what went on was like the OFs were on the same cruise at the same time. However, the times were different and the departure cities were different.

One left from New Jersey, and the other from Fort Lauderdale. The similarities were uncanny. One OF said that the ship was shuddering from the pounding of the waves that were hitting the ship as high up as the sixth deck. This OF said that after the storm abated the ship continued on and completed the cruise.

The other OF said that on his ship the waves were washing all the furniture that was on the decks off the fantail, and letting the sharks have the tables, chairs, umbrellas, and all that stuff for their next picnic. This OF said that there was a water spout off the port side of the ship that sent out two huge rolling waves

The ship went up on the first one and started back up as the next wave hit the ship and sent it back down. The OF was not familiar with the group of people he was standing with but all of their knees buckled and all of them went to the deck.

The casino was closed, the deck doors were locked; it was quite a ride. The engines were disabled, and the mechanics managed to repair one and eventually they limped into the Bahamas, turned around, and went back to Fort Lauderdale with one engine. The OF said that on the return trip the ocean was as flat as a table top — not a ripple in it.

These types of adventures the OFs can relate to. Certain events the OFs use to date other events, like using the phrase “Oh, that was right after the cruise we took to Timbuktu,” or something like that.

The description of “barf bags” everywhere, hanging on the railings and over the backs of chairs is why both OFs thought they were on the same boat. One of the OFs said they thought “The Poseidon Adventure” was not that far fetched.

The natural segue was travel by air and some of the experiences the OFs had on that means of travel. This scribe noticed that all the stories (both boat and plane) were of when things went awry. The tendency to keep in mind all the traveling, where on the trip everything went well, the OFs did not remember much.

Bugged by bugs

A common conversation among the OFs is their current health condition. These are not pity parties just stating the facts of life for the over-75 crowd. These conversations are generally quite short.

At the breakfast Tuesday morning, it was found that many of the OFs have been battling this cold/flu/allergy bug that is going around. The OFs found that apparently this is not a local bug.

In talking to relatives up and down the East Coast, many have the same problems. What makes this interesting is one OF’s description of it. It is rare for this particular OF to not be present at a breakfast and he did miss one.

This past Tuesday morning, he said he had the “two-pail flu” and is still weak from it. For those who have had or are in the process of going through it, it is not over in a week or so.

The OFs who have had it probably still have vestiges of the nasty bug, because this bug hangs on for weeks and weeks until it can find another home. Some OFs think the bugger comes back. (When did bugs come to be associated with colds, flu, and a variety of other ailments?)   

The mysterious “S”  

The OFs mentioned Warner Lake this past Tuesday and wondered where the “S” comes from on some of the spellings of the lake. There is no “S” on Warner Lake, just like there is no “S” on Wal-Mart.

Many people will say “I’m going to Wal-Marts, which is wrong. Well, this is the end of this week’s report from “The Old Men of the Mountain” — not Mountains.

The Old Men of the Mountain made it to the Middleburgh Diner, where the waitress made an announcement that a waitress from another restaurant wanted to say “Hi” to the OFs. The OFs who were at the Middleburgh Diner said “Hi” back and the OFs are glad we make a favorable impression, and those OFs were: John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aelesio, Don Wood, Roger Chapman, Marty Herzog, Miner Stevens, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Jim Rissacher, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ed Traeger, Jeff Ward, Dave Porter, Gary Chartier, Harold Grippen, and me.  It was good to see Gary Porter at the table this morning.

Location:

On Tuesday, March 22, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Kim’s West Winds Diner on Route 145 in Preston Hollow.

This restaurant is a new one for the Old Men of the Mountain, and it was well received. The Old Men of the Mountain’s clock is now beginning to resemble an amoeba.

On a whiteboard in the restaurant was a message that read, “Welcome to the other side of the Mountain — The Old Men of the Mountain.” That was true because, to many of the OFs, it is the other side of the mountain.

The restaurant, new to the OFs, has been in Preston Hollow for some time and was recommended by one of the OFs who knew of the place and said it would meet our criteria.

Hiking mentor

Back again to the hiking chatter. One of the OMOTM who is part of a group made up of serious hikers (this is another group within the group of OFs) would hike with Fred Schroeder. This OF said that Mr. Schroeder was his mentor as far as this OF becoming an accomplished hiker.

Fred and Martha Schroeder are the ones that donated the money to build the nature center on Ketchum Road in the town of Knox. The Schroders donated it in the name of Emma Treadwell Thacher for all the work she did in donating land that would eventually became John Boyd Thacher Park, one of New York State’s jewels hidden in the Helderbergs.

Tough sledding

Some of the OFs run their ATVs and snowmobiles like many other people who use these pieces of equipment as a hobby and for recreation. This year, it was necessary to travel quite a distance to find any snow to use these expensive toys, and equally expensive gear, other than planters in the yard for holiday decorations.

They would take the time to travel north to Old Forge or the Tug Hill Plateau or Tupper Lake to find snow. They do not have snow guns on snowmobile trails like they do ski areas.

Keeping pace

Electronics are developing faster than the OFs can keep up. One OF said he watches his grandkids only 3 years old play computer games.

Say what!

Many of the OFs were just learning to talk at 3 years old.

One OF mentioned the newer cars, and how, on a smartphone with the right electronics in a car, he saw a car that was in a Texas airport parking lot.  The owner of the car was standing next to him on the mountain in New York State, and he had the phone tell him everything that was going on with that car, in real time, and that car was 2,000 miles away.

The phone recorded where the car was, what parking spot it was in, that the doors were locked, the mileage had not changed, the amount of oil in the car, etc., etc. The OF said that the car could even be started from here on the mountain. One OF said this is getting creepy.

There are negatives and positives to this type of technology. Again, on the positive side, another OF related a story of a friend of his who purchased a car where this type of technology was free for six months and then, if you wanted to keep it, there was a monthly charge.

His friend said “no” to continuation. His friend’s car was stolen after the grace period. The friend went to the police to report the stolen vehicle.

The police were able to access the information from the car, located where the car was, and in short time located the vehicle, and made an arrest. That is a plus in one way, but a negative in another; with that information, now anyone will be able to tap into that “extra” on the car and locate where you are.

So any time an OF stays out late, the wife can have the grandson take his smartphone and find where he is. Then they get in the grandson’s car and find the OF is at Sleazy Joe’s Girly Joint and Bar.  Now that OF is in trouble!

And now one OF said hackers are hacking into the automobiles as they are driving and steering and applying the brakes and the driver cannot control the vehicle. That, too, is scary.

As the OFs have said, just give me a regular engine, standard transmission, a rear end, four wheels, and brakes, and the OFs will do the rest

One OF said to his friend, “The way you drive, you left off one necessary item, a horn.”

What’s next?

A few weeks ago, the OFs discussed Teflon, as the newest, best thing for cooking and cleaning up afterward. Now we are hearing about PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). In case someone has been living under a rock, the PFOAs, man-made toxic chemicals, have contaminated the water supply in Hoosick Falls and a couple of other places that we know of.

The same difficulty turned up with asbestos.  Asbestos used to be the newest, best thing for building materials and who knows what else, and now it is the worst product going.

The OFs are wondering what’s next.

One thing the OFs are doing is reviewing their pots and pans and getting rid of the ones with the old Teflon coating on them. Of course, there is one OF who interjected a little common sense — that is, why worry about it now that we are OFs?  We’ve got what (health problems) we have, no changing that.

“The only thing is,” one OF said, “it keeps the grandkids safe by getting rid of this stuff.” That is true — keeping them safe and out of harm’s way is paramount.

Those OFs who traveled to Kim’s West Winds restaurant in Preston Hollow and were pleasantly surprised were: George Washburn, John Rossmann, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Don Wood, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aelesio, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Matt Famin, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Elwood Vanderbilt and his grandson Derrick, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Marty Herzog, Harold Grippen, and me.

Location:

The good weather is still holding for we OFs who currently travel to the furthest restaurant on our schedule to have breakfast. The Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville is a hike for some but right in the backyard for other OFs. On March 15, the spring-like weather was still around.

The OFs used to complain about Route 85 going to Rensselaerville but not any longer.  That portion of the highway has been paved so the conditions of all the roads the OFs take to have breakfast at the Hilltown Café are in good shape and, unless there is a big argument going on in the cars, it is a pleasant trip.

Most of the time, as the OFs arrive at the restaurants, each carload sits with the same group they drove there with. On occasion, there isn’t enough room for a particular carload to sit together at a table and that splits one OF out and he enters another group. This makes for interesting conversation because the OF who does not generally sit with that group brings different tales to the tableOFs arrive at the restaurants, each carload sits with the same group they drove there with. On occasion, there isn’t enough room for a particular carload to sit together at a table and that splits one OF out and he enters another group. This makes for interesting conversation because the OF who does not generally sit with that group brings different tales to the table

This is just like square dancing.  Four couples will travel to a dance and form their own square for most of the dance. (Except if you danced to caller Ken Downs. He had a few calls that would mix the party up pretty good and that was fun).

A split-up happened this past Tuesday and it was found that, at the table with four unlikely OFs, the conversation was spirited, lively and interesting because all at the table were involved with scouting, outdoor activities, and hiking. The topics covered Boy Scout camps throughout Albany, Schenectady, and Schoharie counties.

One OF is still involved with scouting while the others had to draw on fond memories of when they were in Scouts, and were Scoutmasters. For some of the OFs, that was going back a ways.

The OFs discussed the Boy Scout “freeze outs,” which were overnight camp-outs in the winter. Most of the time it was as tough on the scoutmasters as it was the Scouts.

One OF, a, former scoutmaster, remembered taking a couple of Scouts home in the middle of the night from a freeze-out at Thacher Park. After dropping the Scouts off, this OF was thinking about stopping at his own home while he was so close, because he was freezing, but he resisted the temptation; he dutifully went back to the tent. This OF is still involved with scouting and on the Eagle Scout review board.

One OF mentioned that, while his son was in Scouts (when they had the freeze-outs on Long Island), the campsite was already set up and ready to go. Not so with some of the freeze-outs upstate.  Here the Scout had to learn how to set up tents (while there was a foot or more of snow on frozen ground) and how to prepare these tents so they were dry and reasonably comfortable inside in the dead of winter.

Another former scoutmaster remembered becoming snowed in on a freeze-out off Singer Road in the town of Knox. This was a long time ago and cell phones hadn’t been invented yet.

So a scoutmaster had to snowshoe out from the campsite to the Thompson Lake Road to make a phone call and have the town send out plows followed by cars to get the Scouts out. The Scouts had a blast, not so the scoutmasters and adults that were there.  (Scribe’s note: As a matter of fact, phones then were still the black rotary phones; that was all there was — even the Princess phone was still a figment of someone’s imagination).

What the OFs learned as Scouts and from being involved in scouting, and what they continued to learn as scoutmasters (along with serious outdoor people who hiked and camped out) was invaluable to their overall adult lives later on. The OFs were remembering years ago but they assumed scouting must still be similar only with more up-to-date equipment today.

Early spring

This year, so far, is nothing like some of those years with the Scouts.  The pussy willows have already bloomed, some crocus and snow flowers are popping their colorful heads out of the ground, the cluster flies have decided to wake up and buzz all around the sunny windows, and lawns are being raked.

One-stop shop

The OFs next talked about the Montgomery Ward building on Broadway in Menands. Malls are not that new.

“Monkey-wards” in Menands was a mall. It was a bustling place in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. The OFs could not quite remember when it started to fizzle out.

It was a planned trip from the farm to Wards. The OFs remember going there with their families. Their fathers would purchase items from the floor, and then from the catalog, and the kids would go to the pickup area and wait. It was fun to watch through the doors that went into the warehouse to see the workers hauling items from the shelves.

Wards had a restaurant, snack shop, beauty salon, camping supplies, farm supplies, and clothes.  There was everything there except a movie theatre.

It even had medical supplies for people and animals. You could purchase a small tractor, or a canoe. The store even sold windmills, barns, and sheds, and the newest radio or telephone.

Try finding those in one of these new malls.  One OF said that all he sees in the new malls are shoe stores, clothing stores, and the occasional jewelry store.

The OFs that made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and would love to see a store like Montgomery Wards come back, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Bill Lichliter, Harold Guest, Dave Williams, Karl Remmers, Alvin Latham, Mace Porter, Chuck Aelesio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Don Wood, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

 

Location:

On March 8, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont. It was a nice uneventful early morning.  The sun was coming up and, though a little chilly, there was a Florida feel to the air

Maybe it is more than global warming; the planet may be tipping on its axis at a greater rate than originally was thought.

The OFs who were (and still are) farmers of sorts are a little concerned about this early warm weather. In their bucket of wishes, they hope for some snow, the wet warm kind, and plenty of it.

These rains aren’t going to mean much because the ground has a lot of frost in it and the rain is just going to run off.  Snow, the farmer OFs say, will suck the frost out of the ground and the water from the melting snow will be able to get to the aquifers

They also say that, if a few days of real cold weather should happen to come by now, it will severely damage the early budding of trees and plants that has been brought on by such early warm days and nights.

One OF thought that, if the weather holds true to their bucket wish list, third cuttings of hay will be normal and first cuttings could end sometime in April.

Then one OF said, “Look how long we are going to have to put up with mosquitoes if things become this warm this early.”

“Maybe,” another OF said, “fall may start in June; who knows?”

With the spring-like weather coming sooner than expected, many of the OFs who are collectors of sorts — actually bordering on hoarding — were talking about clearing out some of their clutter. This is only talk, mind you; this is not cast in any kind of stone.

The stone for this rhetoric hasn’t even been found yet and this scribe doesn’t think any of the OFs are even looking for it.

One OF said to another OF that, for him to clear out his clutter, he would need a tractor trailer. The other OF replied that, that OF should talk; it would take two tractor trailer loads just for him to clear off the top of the pile.

“Wait a minute,” the other OF said. “What I have is collectible; it is my wife that has the clutter.

It was strange because the reply from the other OF was in agreement; he said, if he didn’t watch his collection of old tractors and farm machinery and parts, his wife would have the junk dealer come in and haul it away.

That conversation led to how the collectors of large items are going to have these collections for awhile because the bottom has fallen out of the price for scrap. Then another OF (one who is not part of the collector group of OFs) said he just purchased an anvil so he could strap his wife to it and sell her for scrap.

Another OF said, “You are stuck with her for now. Wait until the price goes back up; then you ship her off to the scrapyard.”

Navy vs. Air Force

At the table Tuesday morning, an OF who was in the Navy, and an OF who was in the Air Force sat directly across from one another and these two began talking about which one of them had it tougher in the service

The OF in the Navy described what it was like on a ship that was not much larger than a Saudi’s yacht. His ship had only four toilets, he said, for everyone on board, and these toilets were made of wood

The Air Force OG maintained that they did not have conditions like that.  The Air Force had bunks and regular latrines, whereas the Navy OF slept on a hammock that he shared with another fellow

But the Air Force OF said that their attrition rate was much higher than the swabbies.  So the debate goes on between the different branches of the military.

Sick bay

Quite often, the OFs discuss other OFs who are ill, or laid up, and at Tuesday morning’s breakfast some mentioned a collection of OFs who are out of commission for one reason or another. The concern for them all was genuine, because many of the OFs can safely say the old phrase, “Been there, done that,” and be right.

The OFs started talking about attitude when one of them is under the weather; how some moan and groan and that allows for some semblance of relief.

Others just grin and bear it; some take the attitude of, “Well, I got it — now what,” and still others become so miserable no one wants to be around them. Some appreciate company because talking takes their mind off whatever it is that is bothering them, and others just want to be left alone. Still others equate visitors like vultures waiting for the OF to pass away, which may or may not happen.

One OG mentioned he does not know what to do.  This OF said he does not want the ill OF to feel that everyone has abandoned him, but he doesn’t want to upset him either.

And then there are the Job visitors who belie the OF who lies there in his misery, with the comments of his sorry life, i.e., we told you that your smoking would bring you to this, or how many times did we tell you to lay off the booze.

Then some OFs would tell the OF that they came to visit he was surely going to have to put up with what he has. This OF said his problem was chasing all those women and catching them.  The most accurate declaration of all would be, “We told you to slow down, you OF; you are not 50 years old anymore.”    

Many of the OFs feel like these OFs at one time or another; still, all the OFs are concerned about the ones who are temporarily not with us and can’t wait until they get back to the breakfast table. Then the returning OF can continue with his story, which is likely to be 20-percent exaggeration, 40-percent fabrication, and the balance might have a smattering of the truth tucked in there someplace.

Those OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont, and claim, “The weather is what it is; deal with it,” were: Roger Chapman, Karl Remmers, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Tinning, George Washburn, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Mike Willsey, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, and me.

 

The Old Men of the Mountain gathered together on March first (on the Hill, March roared in like a lion during the night; the wind rattled the windows — welcome March) at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. The sun was shinning so bright in the morning that the blinds had to be shuttered because of the glare.

The Chuck Wagon is on Route 20, which runs east and west in New York State.  The windows on one side of the restaurant face just about due east, and, while enjoying the breakfast at the restaurant early in the morning, the OFs can welcome the sun as it eases its way over the hill.

One OF found that using the microwave to boil sap is not a good idea. The steam generated started to loosen the wallpaper in the kitchen.

The OFs remembered renting steamers, or making steam on their own to do just that — loosen the wallpaper — so it becomes pliable, and then with wide putty knives the OFs could scrape the wallpaper off the wall. Then they would hang new wallpaper.

That was back when wallpaper was popular. Some of the OFs still prefer wallpaper to paint. One OF said with the wallpaper there is still the insulation aspect of the paper on the wall.  The OFs that know how to apply wallpaper would rather do that then apply paint.

Eerie talk

How this next topic came up, this scribe does not know, not having caught the beginning. The subject was wax in their ears, which is normal, but a rather curious conversation at breakfast.

However, the OFs continued on by pointing out that they had gotten bugs in their ears. The range covered most flying insects, from the no-see-ums, regular cluster flies, the occasional small moth, and lightening bugs, to the really bad bugger — a hornet. Inside the ears is no place anyone would want to be stung.

Pure water and fresh air

The OFs who live on the Hill said, with all the water problems that seem to cropping up in other areas, they are glad they live up here with the trees and rocks. The Helderbergs do not have much dirt and except for the areas that will support a pond and a few small lakes there is not a lot of water on the Hill to support industry.

One OF mentioned the prevailing winds blow across a lot of open real estate before it reaches the Hilltowns. This, the OFs thought, also allows the Hilltowns to breathe fresh air.

One OF mentioned that the few that want to bring industry to the Hilltown are thinking more of the buck, than of the health of those that live here. As time marches on, the OFs are beginning to see there is a considerable downside to many industries as far as the general health of the public is concerned.

The OFs were in a preachy mood on this subject.

Some of the OFs say they are going to make a change to stainless steel, glass, or cast-iron cookware now, and not use anything covered with Teflon.

Practical advice on planning funerals

It seemed strange that, after this subject was covered, the OFs went on to chat about something else and the topic was funerals. None of the OFs want to experience a funeral from the inside.

One OF mentioned how some funeral directors lead the family to purchase the best caskets.  An OF thought this was easy to do because of the state of mind the family is in due to the death of a family member. It was a form of conjecture on how the OFs have their ducks lined up in case the OF’s foot meets the bucket.  

One OF thought that, if you know you are going to die, it is a good idea to get the family together and straighten things out so they are not left with a mess when you do enter through the pearly gates.

On the other hand, if your demise is sudden, and the OF is in good health, the family is left with this type of mess unless the OF has taken the time to show someone in the family where the paperwork is, and what kind of funeral the OF wants, and what kind of casket, etc. It seems the OFs have covered this before but this time it seemed to come from a different angle and be a bit more practical.

Good vibrations

The OFs discussed how much technology is now crammed into a little smartphone. They mentioned how clear the tiny little speakers are.

One OF said he can put his phone on speakers, put it in his shirt pocket, and have a conversation. The OF said people can hear him, and he can hear them.

Some of the OFs said that is where they carry their phone but most of the time they can’t hear it when the ringtone is calling them. They also mention that, when the phone is on vibrate, it needs to be close to them or they can’t feel the vibrations

The OFs said that, though the technology is beyond their understanding, the age-old idiom is true: As the OF gets older, his sense of hearing is dimmed, and his sense of feel is beginning to migrate from the body. This may be the reason for their complaints, the OFs can hardly hear Big Ben, or sense the vibration of a concrete leveler.

Antiques experts

Many of the OFs are antiques, and it stands to reason that many watch the “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS. Quite often, the objects some people bring in are what the OFs have hanging around the house or are still using.

One OF suggested someone should bring him in and see how much he is worth as an antique. I’ll give you five bucks was a reply to which another reply was that it was too high.

Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and all still very much alive and ambulatory were: Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Bill Tinning, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Lou Schenck, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Chuck Aelesio, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.   S

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