At our routine Tuesday morning breakfast, we gathered at the Duanesburg Diner, in Duanesburg. For most of us, the ride over to Duanesburg was like an early fall morning; the air was crisp and clear with areas of patchy fog. Some of the OFs said they could see their breath around 5:30 to 6 a.m., and it is August. 

This made for breakfast chat of bringing in wood, and telling ways of keeping warm for the winter. One OF said he was going to get another dog.  There may be a three-dog night coming up soon.  To the OFs, it is too early, yet some said it is never too early to prepare for winter. To some OFs, that is not a cheery thought. 

A few of the OFs heard the late summer locusts singing, but they thought these little bugs are in for a surprise if it stays like this in the weather department. How would we start conversations if it weren’t for the weather?

Money matters

The OFs had a brief discussion on money and how much of it is really around. This was brought about by how much money the wife of a Russian billionaire recently received in her divorce settlement. Either she had a darn good attorney, or her ex-spouse really wanted to get rid of her.

Her settlement was reported to be 4.5 billion (that is billion with a B) American dollars. There must have been a conversion for American readers because rubles were not mentioned. 

The OFs maintained they are satisfied when they have enough to pay for breakfast, leave a tip, and buy gas to get back and forth from the restaurant. The OFs brought up how much money the United Arab Emirates have and, with the most populous city of Dubai in the emirate, how much money they control.

One OF said that, if you want to have your house on an island, and you are a big shot in Dubai, all you do is pump in sand and make your own island and go ahead and build your house on it. (On Christ, the solid rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.) Hmm.

Those Arabs that control Abu Dubai are not dumb; they have set themselves up pretty good, one OF said, because, when the oil runs out, the Dubai operatives will be able to control the high-tech plants, like Global Foundries, which is fully owned by the Abu Dhabi government.  The OFs know about that company because of this company’s involvement in the Capital District. 

Old days and old ways

Depending on where this scribe plops his butt, the conversation basically gravitates to the interest of the people in that group: hiking, conservation, work projects, farming, farm equipment, old times (that includes most all the OFs), and travel are among the most frequent, general topics for discussion.

This week, the banter encompassed old times, farming, and old equipment all in one. This happens a lot.

There are some OFs who collect items that will not fit in their living room, i.e., old farm tractors, and equipment. The OFs were discussing what they have, and what process some of the OFs are in of negotiating for some old tractors.

These tractors are vintage machines from the 1920s or so. Included in the conversation was who has what old oil can and who has the most oil cans, and who has the oldest oil cans.

The OFs discussed oil, particularly GLF (Grange League Federation) oil. Two OFs said they own some of these cans. GLF is a farming cooperative, and these cans were from the Petroleum Division of the Cooperative GLF Exchange Inc. in Ithaca, New York.

Many oil containers way back when, were not in cans, but glass bottles and it is a miracle that any of this type of container survived yet they are all over the place with their pour spouts still intact.  

When listening to these OFs talking and paying attention to what they are doing now — collecting, maintaining, and restoring — part of our agricultural history makes these OFs accidental historians. These OFs could tell book-type historians what past possessions were really like.

Some of the OFs’ homes are like museums for what they have collected and saved from the dump or scrapyard. It is not only large agricultural equipment collected or restored by the OFs but cars and boats should also be included in the large-collected-items category. Ah, and then there are the smalls — that is another story.

It has been brought up from time to time whether the OFs are hoarders or collectors. There is one big difference: Hoarders just pile junk upon junk and have no idea what it is or what they are going to do with it. The OFs are collector-restorers.

They purchase with a specific purpose in mind like spare parts, or restoration, or they might even disassemble for needed parts at a swap meet. Thank goodness for us OFs — we are of the pre-throw-away culture.

The OFs motto is: Build it to last, not build it with timers installed that make whatever it is quit in a prescribed length of time so it is necessary to go and purchase a new one of whatever. The OFs have spoken (for now anyway). There is another way to look at building something to last.  

The OFs who attended the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg (and none showed up in a Duesenberg) were: Roger Chapman, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Art Frament, Herb Sawotka, Bob Benac, Roger Fairchild, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Mark Traver and guest Tanner Spohn, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Joe Loubier, Rich Donnelly, Bill Krause, Duncan Bellinger, Andy Tinning, Duane Wagonbaugh, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Harold Grippen, and me.

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On Tuesday, Aug. 12, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the restaurant they were supposed to be at.

On Aug. 5, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. This scribe has to tell a tale of a whopping mistake he made.

Tuesdays in the summer of 2014 are rolling on by. This Tuesday, July 29, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and the group was one of the largest collections of OFs to date.

The OFs arrived in all their summer finery, this after managing to get dressed. The OFs quite often comment on how much effort it takes at times to perform this major task of the day. However, it beats running around naked all day and using all that sun block.

One OF mentioned that he was able to put on his socks this morning standing up and not having to sit down. Then a second OF added that he considers it a good start to the day if he can put on his shorts standing up and not falling over.

Sometimes, the OF said, he stands there looking at this part of his underwear and considers the challenge of standing and getting those things on. The number-one challenge is to be able to bend over far enough and lift his leg high enough to even get started. The number-two challenge is if the OF can get that far and not hook his toes in the yard of material which has now fallen halfway down and he has to perform the one-legged dance to keep from falling over. Not passing this challenge causes the OF to give in and sit down.

The conversation drifted into how many of the OFs say they have two different bodies. One OF demonstrated how he can reach his left arm quite far up his back, and the right arm not so much. The OF said it just won’t go.

Others joined in with different appendages being able to, or not able to, do the same thing the other one does. One OF mentioned, as far as sensations go, he is divided in half. The OF said that, if he puts his keys in his right back pocket and he sits down, it is like the princess and the pea. If he takes the keys out of right pocket and puts them in the left and sits down the OF said he doesn’t even know they are there. The OF continued that he can’t carry anything in his right back pocket.

Then the OFs started on eyes and ears; this narrative included many of the OFs.  Some can see well out of one eye and the other one not so much. Some

OFs have to turn their head to listen to conversations so their good ear can pick them up. One OF said he can open a bottle with his left hand but not his right. This OF said he just does not have the strength in his right hand to open the jars and bottles yet the OF said he is right handed. Hmm.

The OFs concluded we must be made in halves not wholes.

Keep your Nose clean

Most steady readers of the OMOTM column know that some of the OFs maintain and blaze hiking trails. Part of this group maintains the trail that goes to the top of Vroman’s Nose in the town of Fulton just outside of Middleburgh, on Route 30 (can be googled — just type in Vroman’s Nose.)

The OFs were talking about how much work they do to make the plateau at the top of the Nose a scenic and attractive area, and how much of this work winds up being ruined. They have built benches for seniors to rest on once they’ve made the climb to enjoy the view. These benches have all been thrown over the cliff at one time or another.

They have put up fireplaces so fires would not be started on the fragile shale on top; these, too, have found their way to the bottom of the cliff, and bonfires have started on the shale, which, in the end, shatters it.

One OF took the time and effort to build benches around a tree so people could sit in the shade after the climb. The tree was cut down, and the benches, you guessed it, found their way off the cliff.

The OFs clean the base of the cliff at least once a year from all this debris and even find empty beer half-kegs. Everything they have tried to do to make the top decent is ultimately destroyed.

The OFs ask, “What does this say about the people who come up and their respect for anything?”

The OFs tried to remember what they did when they were young bucks. Nothing of this magnitude came to mind.

Then, again, turning over outhouses and hornings might apply, but none could remember behaving with the vandalism they were talking about at the Nose.

Then one OF asked, “Do bar brawls count?”

Another OF answered, “Not unless (in the process of the brawl) we happened to throw the bar itself out into the parking lot.” 

Those Old Men of the Mountain making it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and not starting any brawls while there, were: Carl Walls, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, Karl Remmers, John Rossmann, Duncan Bellinger, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Frank Pauli, Dick Ogsbury, Dave Williams, Art Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Herb Swabota, Roger Fairchild, Bill Krause, Don Wood, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Rich Donnelly, Bob Lassome, Duane Wagenbaugh, Joe Loubier, Art Frament, Chuck Aleseio, Bob Donnelly (and his distaff side to check out that there really is a group called the OMOTM), Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Ted Willsey (who brought another young lady to keep tabs on him), Mike Willsey, and Gerry Chartier.

Gerry brought one student from Germany — Olga Zerr, a Berne-Knox-Westerlo exchange student and Mario Schneider; however, their timing was a little late and most of the OFs had gone.  This may have been a good thing for the young people from Germany — they only had to deal with a handful of OFs; who knows what they would have thought if they had encountered the whole group. And me.

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Again (and probably more “again”s) this scribe must admit to so much to do, and so little time, but finally he is able to get at the scribing duties. Tuesday, July 22, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.

Either it is the number of OFs at the breakfast, or maybe the fact that more of them are becoming hard of hearing, but the decibel rating of the restaurants when we gather is increasing. However, there are enough loud OFs that notes are able to be taken to compose some kind of report.

The old hotel, and later a store of sorts, at the corner of routes 156 and 443 in Berne is in the process of being torn down. (By the time this is written, it may be down). The OFs mentioned this building’s demise was brought about so trucks on Route 443 can make that difficult turn to get into Berne.

This is a case of history meeting the wrecking ball to make way for more modern equipment. One OF mused that Berne — and some of the other Hilltowns — are just like the towns that people travel from all over the country to visit.  Like Vermont, the character is here, or in some cases was here, but not the little gifty shops. One OF said those who try owning one of these gifty places in the Hilltowns are never quite able to cut the mustard.

“I can understand that,” another OF said, “because this is New York, and have you ever tried doing business in New York?  It is almost impossible to get started with all the red tape, and taxes. That corner will look really different without the hotel.”

A different OF opined, “Can you just imagine the state building a fake covered bridge there, and the hotel having a gift shop, and the little defunct store across the street something else, like an artist studio or gallery?  Envision the old stage that was in the hotel refurbished and having live music every now and then, and using the stage for exhibitions. A small café overlooking the falls in the old hotel would be slick, too. Too bad all these types of opportunities are now gone.  The Masons could really tout the local produce on a daily basis...Opportunity gone, for now.”

 “Hey,” one other OF said, “our trees turn just as colorful as Vermont’s.”

Phone pioneers

The OFs then mentioned the old Middleburgh Telephone Co. and how the wires used to be strung through the trees and on fence posts and whatever was handy to get to where they were needed.

The OFs also mentioned the actor John McGiver who lived in West Fulton, just outside of Middleburgh, and his connection with the early Middleburgh Telephone Co. One of the OFs mentioned that one of his grandchildren is married to one of McGiver’s grandkids.

The OMOTM wondered if these early pioneers of the phone networks could ever imagine that most phones being made and sold today would not even use wires.

Kudzu of the North

It was noted that most of the vegetation this year is doing quite nicely, and that includes vegetation that is not wanted. Wild grape is one of those that are not wanted, and the OFs on the Hill are beginning to notice that this nasty vine is like kudzu in the South.

One OF noted that crawling in the bushes to get at the root system and cutting it is just making it worse because it is akin to pruning grapes. The more it is cut, the more it grows. The stuff is a pain, but, in the fall, its bright yellow leaves do add to the color of the fall season.

One OF said “Ya know, that is not too far away!” 

This dialogue brought up flowers, which also seem to be doing well this season, and that brought up a discussion on “stressing flowers” to either strengthen them, or have them produce more blooms. Some of the OFs doubted this idea, but, depending on the flower (and there are many), planned stressing does produce more blooms and does strengthen the plant. 

One OF said grass is a case in point. The more often the grass is correctly mowed, the thicker and richer the grass is. The OF said, if grass is planted and left alone ,it soon thins out, becomes weak, withers, and weeds take over. This OF said it has to be “stressed” by mowing in order to do well.

The same with the miserable wild grape vine, only this OF admitted he didn’t know what to do with this stuff.

“Just cut it and make grapevine wreaths; it might be a nice side income,” the OF said.

In checking out this conversation, this scribe found, when Googling “Stressed Flowers,” tons of information came up.

Signs sprout like lilies

Whether a person is a gun enthusiast or not, the OFs say they do not know how we ever got a “gun law” just by the amount of signs in the valley and in the Hilltowns that espouse — in essence — to repeal the SAFE (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement) Act.

The OFs were not saying much about guns or no guns only that one thing the law did was help to generate a lot of money for people that make signs and to sell guns. These signs have sprouted like day lilies, in the geographical area of the circle of restaurants the OMOTM bother on a weekly basis.

Those OFs who rolled off the hill and bothered the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh — the rolling started with a good push from the wife — were: Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, George Aleseio, Bill Bartholomew, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Steve Kelly, Bob Benac, Miner Stevens, Frank Pauli, Glenn Patterson, Roger Fairchild, Art Frament, Don Wood, Dave Williams, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Roger Shafer, Bill Krause, Duane Wagenbaugh, Bob Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Gill Zabel, Mike Willsey, and me.

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