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.

 

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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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It looks like one of our biggest concerns is coming true — this is going to be a year where the bad weather will fall on a Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and the roads were not in great shape.  One OF thought there was a temperature inversion, because the temperature on the Hill was in the 40s, and the temperature in the valley at 6:45 a.m. was 27 degrees.

The parking lot at the restaurant was solid ice and very slippery. The OFs hung on to each other as they did their Tim Conway shuffle to the restaurant. The plows were out doing their thing, so the OFs were pretty sure that, when they left the Your Way Café, the roads (like the week before) would be in better shape. (Scribe’s note, at least for those in our vehicle, the roads were better.)

Stained-glass reverie

The OFs touched on an unusual topic for them; it was stained-glass windows. The real old-fashioned stained-glass windows cost and arm and a leg, plus maybe a scalp, an ear, and an eye to have cleaned and repaired.

Of course, this is depending on the size of the window. The cost, which may be understandable, is prohibitive in many cases and small churches simply cannot afford to have this done.

What many churches are doing is covering the stained glass window with clear glass, or storm windows, in order to protect the stained-glass window. The way the OFs understand it, the new stained glass windows are regular colored glass, which is generally applied over a pane of regular glass, not like the old-fashioned stained-glass window that was cut and then leaded to separate the colors that were fitted like a jigsaw puzzle.

The OFs thought the old-fashioned way must have been painstakingly slow and meticulous. First, a sketch to fit the opening; then, locating or making the colored glass; then, cutting; and now it is time to make the window.

Red-winged scouts

Two OFs have reported seeing red-winged blackbirds in our area already. One OF saw the birds in Colonie, and another right in the town of Knox. This is a little early for these birds to make a showing.

Those birds may have had a few scouts in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and reported back that the fury rodent said spring would be early this year. Now they are hauling butt back north to take advantage of the seeds that should be on the ground from last fall.

The OFs know that, when the birds first show up, they attack the backyard feeders by the drove. It is only mid-winter and we could get a ton of snow between now and April, but maybe these birds know something we don’t.

The better half wins out

Most of the OFs who are still married are easy-going types. These OFs acquiesce to their partners on many occasions. More often than not it costs the OF time or money.

One OF reported that recently he picked out tiles for under their woodstove that were effective, would do the trick, and looked good. These tiles were 12-by-12 inches and only 97 cents each.

The OF and his wife piled in the truck and headed to the one of the big-box stores that have everything for the home DIY, OF. They were ready to purchase the tiles when a salesman suggested a different tile to the wife that he thought might work better.

Then he went on to show them other decorative tiles. The original selection the OF and the better half decided on when they left the house were 12-by-12 inches and 97 cents each; the fancy ones they came home with were 6-by-6 inches and $7.37 each.

A simple little job that would have cost about 16 or so dollars, wound up costing the OF over $450. You gals are lucky to have these OFs to lean on. We acquiesce to prevent days of whines and pouts.

No throw-away culture

Our normal patter about old stuff generally pops in the conversation at one time or another at every breakfast. Tuesday’s breakfast was no different.

The OFs compared old tractor engines, and engines in general, to the newer ones. This topic was geared to how good the international engines were in the Farmall tractors. (These tractors are the red ones).

One OF mentioned that he was using his Farmall cub tractor when he heard a loud bang. The OF said nothing looked out of place, the tires were fine, and tractor ran great so he had no idea what it was.

The OF told us he used the tractor for three days around his place and it started and worked as it should. Then the other day he walked by it and noticed that the whole top of the battery had blown off, but the cables were still connected. If that had happened on one of the newer tractors or in your vehicle, there would probably be one heck of a fire.

Back in the day, there was a product most every farm kept on hand which was like tar in a can. This product was used to repair cracks in batteries, and this scribe can attest to this invention because on our farm we had an old GP John Deere tractor that had a patched battery and it was the only battery that tractor ever had that this scribe can recall.

The OFs remember filling the batteries with distilled water at times and even adding battery acid. Today, changing batteries is rather routine, and they are not cheap, Magee, just part of our current throw-away culture.

Those OFs who made it to the Your Way Café in Schoharie, and sat at their tables without falling down on the ice, were: Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, John Rossmann, Gerry Irwin, Jay Francis, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Wayne Gaul, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, and me.

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On Feb. 9, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. This was a Tuesday, and on Tuesday, December 29, the weather was a tad nasty, and then on this Tuesday, the OFs had to content with about two inches of nuisance snow. Is this going be a year where the bad weather will happen on a Tuesday? Maybe.

Well, the Country Café was warm, and cheery — a welcome place to be early on a Tuesday morning.

The first topic was an OF’s complaint: Why did Time Warner jack up the bill by as much as 30 bucks? How do they get away with that?

One OF said that is not so much; it is a buck a day.

The other OFs said, you may be made of money but we aren’t. One OF said, if everyone thought like that and jacked up their prices only a buck a day, it would take only 10 suppliers of this, that, or the other thing to do this and, by the end of the year, we are talking big bucks, like $3,650 for the year. How do you make that up on a fixed income?

This scribe does not know how or if the subject transitioned at this time to if things are better now or when we were young. The OFs thought not, but the scribe said, yes, in most cases things are better now than then. So this scribe did a little checking, the key word here is little.

In 1970, when the United States had 203 million people, there were 16,000 murders, 350,000 robberies and 28,000 rapes.

A decade later, with a population of 225 million, there were 23,000 murders, 565,000 robberies, and 83,000 rapes.

The following decade, in 1990, there were 250 million people, again 23,000 murders, 639,000 robberies, and 84,000 rapes.

Skipping to 2014, the most recent since 2015 isn’t yet tallied, there were 319 million people, 14,000 murders, 325,000 robberies, and 84,000 rapes.

So you can see how crime in all major categories, with 116 million more people now than then, is considerably less crime than when there were fewer people. Tires last longer, cars run better and last much longer though they are nowhere near as stylish, and homes are constructed better. Medicine is better by leaps and bounds.

Conservation is beginning to take hold. Back in the day, sewage was untreated and dumped in the rivers, lakes, and streams — and winding up in the ocean. Factories dump what we now know is called hazardous waste anywhere because there were no controls stating they couldn’t.

Even based on average income, cars and houses are relatively proportionate. Food is a tad higher, but two items are way out of whack — tuition and health care cost much more than in the 1950s and proportionately so. 

This is one way to look at then and now; however, stats can be bent anyway to prove anything but is some cases facts are facts.

News skews 

The reason most of the OFs think times are worse now than in the past is the immediate assimilation of news from all over the world, and most of the reporting is of bad news. Naturally the OFs are going to think everything is bad because that is all they hear today, almost hourly when it happens.

There is TV, Skype, cell phones, and computers. No wonder the OFs think the world is coming to and end and, if you believe the media, it is.

This scribe says: Sit back and relax — this ole sphere has been around a long time and it still will be for a long time to come. There is only one person who knows when it will end and he isn’t telling or leaving any clues.

Talk opens with wallet

This conversation opened up when one OF took out his wallet to leave a tip, and one OF ran to get a fly swatter to swat the moths as they flew out of that wrinkled, old piece of leather. That topic was where some people kept their money.

One OF said that this guy ran a junkyard and did not trust banks so he did everything in cash, and used his money as insulation in the walls of his home. When he retired, he sold the junkyard, and had what the OF called a fire sale, and sold all the junk he could.

There must not have been a clause in the contract that said he couldn’t, and it did happen a while ago, according to this OF. The new owner was really upset when he found that many of the walls in the house were all torn apart with an ax.

Another OF said this same kind of reasoning applied in a story he had heard about an OF who hid his money in a wall behind the stove and, when he finally went to get it out of the wall, all he had was confetti because the mice had gotten into it and made nests.

Highway hazards

The OFs also discussed some of the places where they had worked. Those who had worked on the Thruway said it was dangerous.

The OFs who used this road quite a bit also mentioned the close calls they had on this stretch of highway. One said that it was people not being used to driving at 65 miles per hour, and dealing with the wind that was a big problem. Another problem was inattention of drivers not realizing how much ground is covered going this speed with a machine that weighs on the light side one ton.

The OFs who worked on the Thruway mentioned pulling the steering right or left to adjust for driving with a side wind is one of the problems. After driving at a good clip with this constant pressure on the steering wheel and then coming to a bridge that stops the wind, the vehicle will then dart right or left and, if the driver is not concentrating, the vehicle will smack right into a bridge abutment. 

The Old Men of the Mountain who found their way to the Country Café in Schoharie and did not need to drive the Thruway to get there were: Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Jack Norray, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.

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