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.
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.”
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.
Tuesday, another Tuesday, and the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. This Tuesday, the OFs headed to Rensselaerville encountered some elevation fog. It was one of the types of fog that hung around the mountain; was not too deep, and, as the OFs drove to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, they drove into, then out of, the fog. This narrow band of fog wrapped itself around the mountain like a laurel wreath, indicating that weather is king.
The OFs talked about a real current event — the new toy drones. The OFs were not talking about drones used by the military but the ones that can be purchased from the hobby store. One OF mentioned a friend with a drone so large the OF claimed it was necessary to have a license to fly it.
Another OF mentioned how drones are becoming quite popular and can fly all over with cameras of exceptional quality. One OF thought they would be a great asset to farmers and police departments. Spotting marijuana growing illegally in farmers’ fields would be one use.
Another OF mentioned, if he spotted one flying over his property, he would shoot it down, because it would be an attempt to invade his privacy, or survey his property for a potential robbery. In other words, using this technology to “case the joint.”
Another OF said he thinks this has been done on a few occasions, and he would shoot it down too.
“Yeah,” one OF said, then the OF would be arrested “for discharging a firearm within the legally prescribed distance from a domicile.”
“Well, I would find some way to catch the thing,” the OF said. “Anyway, I live far enough from any other house that I could use a canon and not bother anyone.”
Then, the talk flipped backwards in time from drones, to wood bearings, and Babbitted bearings. Babbited bearings are thought to be an “old style” of bearing and they were. Wood bearings are still made and used today, but Babbitt-type bearings not so much. (The reason for the capital letter on the Babbitted bearing is because this style of bearing was invented in Taunton, Masschusetts, by Leon Babbitt and just like copiers are Xerox, and tissues are Kleenex, Babbitt is still Babbitt and is capitalized.)
Old Navy guys (and maybe not-so-old Navy guys) are quite familiar with Babbitted bearings; however, wood bearings were used way back when, and even today. The making of a wood bearing and a compatible wood shaft is still a high school shop class project. (That is, if shop is still taught in a particular school. Many schools have dropped this class, which is necessary for kids who do not want to go on to a higher education.)
This scribe sat between two OFs who were sitting at separate tables discussing the topic of bearings and one wore hearing aids, and the other, in this case, should. One was talking about wood bearings and their use and where some could be found today, and the other was talking about Babbitted bearings and where they were used and how he used to work with them aboard ship.
Each OF thought the other OF was talking about what he was talking about. This made for a lot of head scratching before the scribe figured out they were each talking about different things as if they were the same. This scribe’s wife wonders why this column doesn’t seem to make sense. Well, at times it doesn’t even make sense to this scribe.
The OF talking about the wooden bearings says that the old steam engine from Harts Mill in Berne now resides in the mill in Rensselaerville. At this point in time, this OF did not know if the engine runs or not. He only knows where it is.
The OF with the Babbitt bearings was probably still remembering his days on the Merrimac and throwing wet towels on the bearings to keep them cool.
(For those who want to check if these OFs have their bearings right, go to Goggle and type in “Babbitt bearings” or “wood bearings.” So much information — so little time.)
In passing, the OFs mentioned their gardens and how some OGs are picking peas. In this discussion, the OFs mentioned that this year, if anyone has brown spots on their lawn, he had better check for grubs or some other insect, or grass fungus or disease, because it sure isn’t due to lack of water.
“But,” as one OF said, “we still have the month of August to go.” Yet, to him, it doesn’t look like August is going to be much of a problem in this regard either.
This prompted another OG, and then another OF to comment on how much money they have spent on mowing their lawns so far. One OF said it cost him $25 in fuel to mow his lawn once, and another agreed but he didn’t spend quite that much.
This scribe referred these OGs to the column of last week (about the July 8 breakfast, published on July 17) and the OFs said all they are doing is mowing the lawn, nothing fancy.
Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and who are going to watch the skies for drones (with shotguns at the ready) were: Jay Taylor, Jack Moss, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, and Roger Fairchild. (This group of OFs were there waiting for the restaurant to open up.) Also: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Bill Krause, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, George Aleseio, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Joe Loubier, Duane Wagenbaugh, Rich Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Bob Lassome, Bob Donnelly, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, and me.
On July 8, many of the Old Men of the Mountain made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont. The Assistant Proprietor was there, having his breakfast (does this indicate the Home Front is a good place to eat?) and he greeted the OFs as they came in.
Many OFs suggested that he should join the group, but the A.P. maintained he was too young and not eligible to join our nefarious group. He also said he did not live far enough up the mountain to be considered a mountain man anyway.
As usual, the OFs talked and complained, and some did not complain but still joined in the conversation on the new and fast-moving technologies — of computers, tablets, smartphones, and cars that talk to you.
One OF said that he can’t keep up with all new electronic gadgets.
“Heck,” he said, “I still jam my foot down on the clutch pedal in my car when putting on the brakes, and I haven’t had a manual shift car in 20 years or more. It took me quite awhile,” the OF continued, “to even accept automatic-shift cars. I thought they were a fad, and for lazy people, or people who didn’t know how to drive.”
“We know that,” another OF said. “You still call recorded music ‘records’ and say you are off to the picture show.”
“So,” the OF replied, “you know what I mean, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do,” the other OF answered. “But some 12-year old will think you are from another planet and the kid will not have a clue as to what you are talking about. He will think records are in file cabinets, and a picture show is a collection of photos on a smartphone.”
Ponds under pressure
With this normal (?) but unusual summer, the ponds (at least on the Hill) are full — some to overflowing with all the storms. One OF said we have storms, and rain, but for some reason this summer the storms are OK, but the amount of rain they contain is different.
One OG said, when he hears a storm is headed his way, he takes his car out of the garage and puts it in the driveway. This OF said, “Some of these rains are harder than a car wash.”
It was mentioned that the high water in the ponds puts added pressure on the top of the pond’s wall and the spillways, or spill pipes can’t handle this pressure and some of the OFs are beefing up their ponds at this point.
One OF mentioned that the farmer up the road from him woke up one morning and his pond was empty. In checking out what had happened to his pond, the farmer said “muskrats.”
These varmints tunneled into the wall of the pond from the water side, like normal, but the end of the tunnel was so close to the back side of the dam, the water pressure finally burst through the rat’s tunnel, eventually draining the pond in one night.
Where have all the seeds gone?
The Home Front Café has the tables already set for the OFs when it is the café’s turn for the OF assault. Tuesday morning, they had plates with slices of watermelon, muskmelon, and oranges on them.
This display prompted the OFs to ponder if the producers keep on growing seedless watermelons and seedless oranges (and, according to one OF, there are even new seedless tomatoes), what is going to happen when there are no more seeds to produce these fruits? How long can you have seedless this and that before whatever is gone.
One OF said, “Are we getting too lazy to spit out watermelon seeds? That’s half the fun of eating watermelon.”
“Yeah,” one OG claimed, “what about watermelon seed-spitting contests? We need the seeds.”
An OF interjected that our planet is not infinite, it is finite; we can’t make any more water, or oil, or a lot of other things. Once we use them, they are gone.
What happens to old lawn tractors? The OF brought up how many of these things that have died are still on people’s lawns.
Lawn sculpture or laziness?
One OF said, apparently, when people have to go out and buy a new lawn tractor, they just mow around the old one that has been left there. Other OFs mentioned they have seen this modern phenomenon quite often.
One OF said that the other OFs were missing the point. This OF maintained this (leaving the old lawn tractor in the yard) is the new form of modern lawn sculpture. Why these lawn tractors can even be a new form of a worship symbol, that is, the owner bows down to the lawn god, and the lawn tractor represents the deity of this newfound religion.
The OF made the comment, rhetorically, how nowadays, if there is one blade of grass not cut on the overly manicured lawn, the homeowner runs in and grabs a pair of scissors and a ruler, runs back out, measures the wayward piece of grass to the proper height, and snips it with the scissors, and then breathes a heavy sigh of relief. Now all is right with the world.
This same OF said that, just as sometimes it is possible to see old chairs, old toilets, or old bathtubs as flower planters, he thinks we will soon see old lawn tractors in the middle of the yard as planters. The OF said, maybe some might even have little candle shrines to the lawn gods placed around them.
The OFs who met at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and were not preparing to worship the lawn god any time soon, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Henry Witt, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Krause, Jay Taylor, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Roger Fairchild, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, George Covey, Jim Heiser, Glenn Paterson, George Aleseio, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Rich Donnelly, Bob Donnelly, Joe Loubier, Andy Tinning, Duane Wagenbaugh, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me. Phew.
Who is dumb, who smart?
On July 1, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. The OFs have complained about the weather almost all winter and spring — rightfully so. However, the OFs have not had any complaints about the last two or three weekends, with one exception, that is, the ground is still wet.
One OF overheard part of a conversation at a mall where three people were discussing someone the three all seemed to know and, as far as the OF could ascertain, was a common friend. These three were commenting on how little he knew, and how stupid he was.
This prompted a conversation on stereotyping a person, which is earned by his actions, but has nothing to do with how smart he is or how dumb, and the definition of dumb and smart.
How about a plumber, or an electrician, who won’t have anything to do with cell phones, or computers? The computer-savvy person will comment that one or the other is as dumb as a post because they have no idea what a mouse is, or what a cursor is.
He thinks these guys think a mouse is something that skitters around the basement and has to be trapped, and a cursor is someone running around all day swearing.
Yet this same guy will stand and watch his toilet overflow while banging his head against the wall moaning, “What’ll do, what do I do?”
Which one is dumber?
One OF commented, “Well, he can call an OF.”
“Oh wait,” he added. “The OF is out on a job and not home to answer his phone. Dear, dear, what a pity.”
Then one OF just went with the flow and said, “Like me with my new TV. I had no idea how to get started. The (dumb) TV had all the instructions on the screen and I had no idea what it was trying to say.”
Whoops, now it is time to call the guy standing in the water with the overflowing toilet. The lexicon of dumb, and smart, has nothing to do with intelligence or education. The OFs in their wisdom have spoken. (Gee, that is smart).
Only rich can afford pets
The topic of social disparity cropped up, and this scribe thought we should add it after the above. This is because some of the OFs maintain that society is ruled by those that have — not how smart they are. The OFs had no idea the type of water they were getting themselves into, but with this discussion the OFs were just sticking their collective toes in the kiddy pool.
When many of the OFs were farming, when an animal became injured, or really sick, the OF at that time humanely disposed of the animal in pain and generally with a well-placed bullet, or, with a larger animal, stunned, and throat slit.
Many times, the OF would be in tears but he knew it was for the best, and it was the most humane thing to do, and as kids (this scribe can report from firsthand experience) we would be upset for weeks.
Nowadays, it is required that you have to take your animal to the vet and have it euthanized, which is not a bad idea, but not everybody has the money to see a vet. Many do not have money to spend on a cat that has cancer, or some other disability.
The OFs are not saying that vets are not necessary, and the vets do the best they can, but the underlying social problem is that only rich people can afford to have pets.
Many rules, regulations, and laws apply if you have the means to comply; if someone doesn’t have the means, then he is either out of luck and can’t enjoy some of the basic pleasures of life (like giving a kid a kitten to take care of) or he has to break the law.
One OF interjected that taking a sick animal to a vet is a very smart thing to do. What if the animal has a disease that is highly communicable and someone takes matters into his own hands and does not dispose of the animal properly and it makes other animals sick, then what? What, another Catch-22.
Continuing this discussion revealed that many places charge a fee to discard replaced tires, and to some people the fee charged to dispose of these tires is more than they can afford for used tires to put on their vehicles.
So what is left, the OF said, chuck the old tire on the side of the road along with the beer cans?
“I don’t know,” was a reply. “It just seems so many of the rules have a tendency to push people — people who have problems — down a little further.”
The OFs chatter away and quite often do not realize that, in many cases, the OGs are being quite profound and informative by relating their family relations and family history or discussing social problems from the kiddy pool.
At the Chuck Wagon, one OF came over to another table to answer a question that an OF asked about a mutual acquaintance. While this OF was at the table answering this question, another OF asked if he were related to anyone with his family name in Breakabeen, just southeast of Middleburgh, on Route 30.
The first OF said he thought he was a relative of the name in question and he started naming names of who was connected to whom going back four generations. The OF who asked the original question began to talk about some of his ancestors who had lived in that area, and there might be some connection between the two.
The OFs were having a little trouble connecting all the dots and so at this point no real conclusion was reached.
Then one OF, who is really up on the history of the Schoharie Valley and the families living in the county, asked if they were talking about the family with the same last name that fought in the Civil War. This OF reported that the father and two sons enlisted and the father spent considerable time in the hospital.
The other two OFs drew blanks, but thought the name being discussed was particular to the area and concluded they may have been talking about the same family line but really didn’t know.
If all this information could be knitted together like some crazy quilt then these two OFs would be related. “It’s A Small World After All” may be apropos.
Then came the typical after-40 lament, (maybe it is after-50 with all the vitamin supplements people now consume) when the OFs find it takes them longer to do the same things they used to do. What the OFs did in one hour now takes three.
But what the OF wants to know is: Why am I slowing down, but time is speeding up?
Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, not eating any more slowly than they usually do, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Henry Witt, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Jay Taylor, Herb Sawotka, Roger Shafer, Art Frament, George Covey, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Frank Pauli, Bill Krause, Duncan Bellinger, Jim Heiser, George Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Joe Loubier, Rich Donnelly, Bob Lassome, Duane Wagenbaugh, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen (2X), Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, and me.