On a beautiful October day, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the newly refurbished Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville.
It was Tuesday, the 28th of the month, and some of the OFs had a little extra ride early in the morning on the way to the Hilltown Café. The road normally traveled was closed for apparent culvert repair and this carload of OFs was not completely familiar with the hills in this area of the county, and in them thar hills there are roads that lead the unsuspecting driver to no-man’s land.
This carload backtracked to where they knew and took the roundabout way, which seemed to take forever, but, according to the OFs, time-wise it was not that long.
Some OFs said to these OFs, “Why didn’t you come up Ravine Road? That is the way we get here anyway.”
The carload that went for the ride said they saw the sign for Ravine Road but, not being familiar with the road, was hesitant to take it. Some OFs might still be wandering around the hills up there trying to find the restaurant and this carload of OFs remembered that incident. This carload said they would follow the directions from the OFs that use Ravine Road to get to the Hilltown Café and take that way back down the mountain.
Views on schools
Many of the OFs are glad they are not back in school, and some of the OFs at one time were involved with the school system and one still teaches. The OFs don’t have a clue as to what is going on, both politically, and academically.
The political correctness is driving many of the OFs nuts but the one that opens the shell for the nut is how far behind the times the OFs are and they have no idea what their grandkids are talking about when it comes to schoolwork.
One OF said that the kids have to learn everything that has gone on in the past 80 years, and that is a lot — we didn’t because the OFs have lived it. Except for math and science, which has really changed, the rest is the same old stuff, just repeated over and over although American history seems to be shortchanged.
The OFs comment is there are not really any new stories or poetry since Homer or Heraclitus. How about the Divine Comedy or the Bible?
To this OF, it is all the same intrigue only using different words. To this OF, “So what’s new?”
There have always been wars, only different people going at it with the same results. First it was fists, then clubs, then spears and the like, then the Chinese came up with gun powder, and now we are throwing atoms at each other. Nothing has changed, and neither will the results.
“Boy,” this OF said, “I am glad I’m not back in school.”
Similar to the Barbarians taking Rome, and the Huns running roughshod over everyone, this OF feels the Barbarians are back and their weapons are drugs going after our young people.
Who knows where we would be if the Romans, the Greeks, and the Egyptians were able to continue without being thwarted by might, and not brains? We would probably be traveling to other planets, and pain would be eliminated. These cultures were on their way to achieve that.
“Boy, I am glad I am not back in school,” the OF said again, “not for the learning part but all the crap that goes on between those walls. The teachers must not only teach, but, by golly, they have to be cops; along with their degrees, they should automatically be part of law enforcement and get badges.”
“You cynical old coot, you are being swayed by only a small portion of the school population,” an OF said. “How do you think it has gotten so far advanced that we OFs don’t understand it? Most of the students are paying attention to their teachers and then those kids are going on to become responsible citizens like us. We should give them a hand for running the gauntlet and coming out the other end as the next doctor to cure cancer. Like everyone says and this column has reported: If you can read this column, thank a teacher.”
Better than raking
The fall season of raking came up and some OFs say they don’t bother to rake anymore. They take their tractor, set it low, and grind the leaves up into mulch and leave them there.
Other OFs have to deal with pine needles; they are a horse of a different color. Those nasty little orange needles have to be raked. When they get twisted into the grass, they have to be double raked, once north and south, then east and west.
One OF mentioned that, in the South, they bale the pine needles and call them pine straw and some landscapers go around and do all the work for them just to get the pine straw.
More buzz on bees
One of the OFs has a winter chore this year that he doesn’t generally have to do. This OF is a beekeeper and this year he is moving his hives to North Carolina for protection.
Apparently it is not to protect the bees from the cold but rather from disease. This OF says he has lost half his bee population this year.
The bee is one of the main links in the pollination of almost everything. Birds, butterflies, and the wind are some of the other links but the bee is number one. We are in trouble if the problem of why the bees are dying is not found out and controlled.
Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and quite pleased that Route 85 and the road to the bridge have been paved were: Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Miner Stevens, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Roger Chapman, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, Otis Lawyer, Bill Krause, Jessie Vadney, Frank Pauli, Harold Grippen, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Mark Traver, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Elwood Vanderbilt, Jim Rissacher, Gill Zable, Ted Willsey, and me.
On Oct. 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont.
The question was asked: What time do the OMOTM meet? Because our bylaws are so extensive, the time is obliterated: One page says one thing and another page says something else.
As this is a collection of OFs that get together, the time for each is arbitrary. Some of the OFs are quite ambulatory while others are not. Some ride with early risers, and some share transportation with those who were not farmers and arise a little later.
Still, some who do the chauffeuring for that day have quite a trip to round up all their OF passengers. Adding all this together makes for an interesting XYZ equation. So the OFs get to the restaurants when they get there.
The restaurants understand this; they know they are dealing with the senior section of our society, and the restaurants, God bless them, know that, if the OFs want to wear purple, they will.
Now that fall is on its way out, the OFs talked some about winterizing their homes, putting away the summer items the OFs hauled out in the spring back to the winter-resting places. This, to many of the OFs, is a lot of work, seeing that the lawn mowers, weed eaters, tractors, and other gas-engine powered lawn equipment is ready for their winter hibernation.
All the lawn furniture is undercover, or covered up, hoses are drained and stored, outside water is shut off, the snow blower is ready to go, the plow is on the truck and ready, and there is enough wood in the shed. This is what keeps the OFs — OFs.
All this activity, and just planning for summer and winter and all that is involved, may be one of the thought processes that keeps Alzheimer’s at bay.
As always, there is one spoilsport. One OF said he sold his home and has moved into a condo so this OF doesn’t have to worry about anything, not even plowing the driveway. He has no storm windows to put up, no old caulking to be redone, no hay bales around the foundation — none of that.
“Hey,” as one OF put it, “Now what are you going to do for fun?”
This scribe continually reports on how many of the OFs are at least up to the 20th Century on some of the newer technology with computers, cell phones, GPS systems, and the like. We are in an age that much of what is done can be, and will be, caught on camera.
There is no more hiding behind the barn with the lady next door, or picking your nose, or running around half naked to be comfortable; it will now be fodder for some camera somewhere. The OFs can whip out their cell phones, or iPads, or whatever electronic device is at hand as fast as anyone and record it.
A never-ending conversation with the OFs seems to be OFs and old cars. These conversations are what keeps the interest up and subsequently preserves the history of cars (and it doesn’t have to be only cars) and Tuesday morning it happened to be Volkswagens.
An OF reported that, when they were young, they had an old V.W. This OF couldn’t remember if it was one with the small taillights or not.
The OFs’ memories now and again can be quite vague unless it is something of real interest; apparently, the OF was not interested in that old car. What is interesting to some is not interesting to others so the Volkswagen must not have impressed this OF until now because the V.W.’s with the small tail lights (that still run) are in popular demand.
One OF suggested that in World War II we were trying to blast the Germans to kingdom come; now we run around in their cars, and tout German ingenuity. The same with the Japanese and the reliability of their cars, and most of the vehicles with Japanese names sell like hot cakes. It is a good thing memories are short.
“Elderly” is subjective
It was brought up that the OFs should respect our elders.
Well, who the heck is more elder than the OFs? What elder were they talking about?
This scribe was furrowing his brow at this one until the scribe found out he was the elder in question. This scribe in not elder, there are more elder than this scribe in the OMOTM group.
The OFs as a whole take exception to the use of elderly by the newspapers, TV, and radio. An example recently used in a local newspaper stated, “The car in the accident was driven by a 72-year-old elderly man.”
Hey! To the OFs, that driver is just a kid, not elderly.
Who determines what age is “elderly?”
Some young reporter on the scene might call the person elderly, but, if the reporter on the scene is a year or so from retirement, he might just say a 72-year old man, and leave out elderly.
Why is elderly even used the OFs want to know. It is just letters to fill up space; it has nothing to do as an adjective to describe anything.
The word is subjective; a 72-year old person is sufficient, that is enough of a description. Would you say a 72-year old wrinkled old hag fell down the stairs? Wrinkled old hag does nothing — just a 72-year old lady fell down the stairs. The OFs are robust, not elderly!
The OFs have spoken.
Those robust OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont under their own power were: Jim Rissacher, Roger Chapman, Henry Witt, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Dave Williams, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Bill Krause, Lou Schenk, Mace Porter, Henry Whipple, Bill Keal, Ted Willsey, and me. However, three OFs made it to the wrong restaurant and they were: Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and Gill Zabel — and these three apparently had a good meal.
The Old Men of the Mountain shook themselves out of bed on Oct. 14, and scurried off to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg for the OMOTM breakfast.
One OF told of overhearing two ladies coming out of Tractor Supply in Cobleskill, complaining about prices and how they hit the nail on the head when one said, “Money does not go as far as it used to.”
The OF mentioned this at the breakfast and there was complete agreement. One OF said that taking care of the household expenses comes first. Look at the places that are going out of business: casinos, restaurants, car dealerships, and more.
“Things we can do without,” one OF said.
Traveling has been cut way back because of the price of gas. Now it is necessary to go to the bank to get money to pay for a couple of cups of coffee.
Take sugar, for example. The manufacturers didn’t change the price but the sack now weighs only four pounds when it used to weigh five.
“A lot of items are like that,” an OF said. “We just have to check the weight, or the volume and see how many products supply less for the same money — and some even charge more. The price of a movie now is ridiculous.”
The OFs guess this is everybody’s lament.
The group of guys who make up the OMOTM have many talents that this scribe has brought up a few times before; this is true with many groups that get together under this name or that.
Schoharie has an annual historical revolutionary re-enactors’ event at the Old Stone Fort in October. This year’s event was special because of the 125th anniversary of the Schoharie Historical Society.
In TV ads for this event, one of the OFs who plays guitar and sings with a group was shown in his Colonial garb, strumming his guitar. Of course, as this scribe pointed out, it was from a previous event because this one had not happened yet.
Nostalgia for the old days
Talking about Colonial times seemed to make the OFs a bit nostalgic and they turned the conversation back to when many of them were farming. During those years, WGY had an early-morning radio show that was on in every barn.
Charles John Stevenson was the Chanticleer; Earl Pudney was on air with him. The Chanticleer gave the farm reports for the day, including the cattle auction (which included more than cattle) from Central Bridge.
This let farmers know what hogs and cows were selling for on a weekly basis. This radio show started with the National Anthem, and a prayer.
“Try that today,” one OF said.
One of the chores on the farm (at the time the OFs were YFs) that was fun to do was to go and clear the fields of woodchucks. These varmints’ holes and mounds were downright dangerous to farmers.
Mowing with a row crop tractor and having those two wheels drop into a woodchuck hole could cause a broken, or at best, very sore thumb, wrist, hand, or finger from the twist on the steering wheel. Cows would step in these holes and really get hurt, so it was one of the routine chores on the farm at that time to get rid of them.
Today woodchucks are a rare sight. Either the farmers cleaned them out, or they are living under sheds or barns. Occasionally, a woodchuck can be spotted waddling along the side of the road. They are not gone; it seems they have adapted and found a safer place to live so the farmer boys don’t use them to learn how to shoot.
It is approaching Halloween and the OFs began to relate a few ghost stories.
Do the OFs believe in ghosts?
That brought on a few shrugs. Shrugs like, “Yeah, I do,” or, “No, I don’t.”
These shrugs indicated both.
The OFs had to admit there are some strange things that do go on that are hard to explain. Just like aliens. Most of the OFs do think there are other universes, and some think there may be too many to count.
It was noted that there are now changes in Berne with the new sewer system up and running.
The corner where Route 443 meets Route 156 is much wider, and the building that stood there by the creek is gone.
The OFs brought up the changes that will be in the village of Schoharie when the new apartment complex is completed. The OFs understand (and this may just be something the OFs heard) that there is going to be a drainage system under the apartments that will go to the creek to drain the complex in case of high water.
The OFs wonder how this will work if the creek overflows and there is water in the streets of Schoharie. The pipes will be under water. Without a series of check valves to stop the water from flowing from the creek to the apartments, how is the water going to drain out? The OFs were just wondering.
With true dedication, the OFs who made it through the fog to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, were Steve Kelly, Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Duane Wagonbaugh, Joe Loubier, Andy Tinning, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Harold Grippen, and me.
On Oct. 7, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Scho/Co Diner in Schoharie. The group now has fewer people barging in on the restaurants that are on the OFs’ round-robin list of eateries because most, if not all, the snowbirds have flown
This leaves the group with the hard-core Northeasters and the few who wish they could fly with the snowbirds. This second group has many reasons for not joining the southwestern, or southern brigade — family and friends, doctors, money, and some just don’t have the guts to pull the trigger and go.
The OFs wonder sometimes why we are at the table. This breakfast, the OFs were discussing accidents they have seen, they have had, and the many close calls that were had among the OFs.
Recalling some of these accidents the OFs have had (or almost have had), the OFs noticed that once the accident started it seemed to transfer into slow motion. There are all types of accidents: falling, industrial, shop, car, and just living-type accidents.
Then again, some happen so fast (as one OF put it once) that the OF can just pick himself up from the floor and say, “What the H--- just happened?”
The OFs say no one goes out and says, “I guess I will have an accident today.” That is why they are called accidents.
One OF said, “Accidents are caused by our own stupidity or someone else’s stupidity.”
But another OF said that being in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn’t help either. All the OFs now have a fear of falling down and not being able to get up.
“Even if I get down on purpose,” one OF said, “I have a fear of not being able to get up.”
This conversation was because one of the OFs had such an accident recently, and it was of the “Holy Cow, what just happened?” type. This particular OF is one hurting individual right now.
With the snowbirds flying, the subject of the upcoming winter arose and what type of weather it would bring. The OFs whipped out their own Ouija boards to predict the winter.
The OFs also rely on the marking of the wooly bear. So far, that little caterpillar says a long hard beginning to the winter, and a little break in the middle, and a short hard ending. This friendly little thing is generally right, but, then again, as one OF said, so is the Farmers’ Almanac.
An OF said he just waits and watches what happens during the winter months and, come spring, analyzes what the winter was — whether it was hard, average, or not bad. Trying to predict is useless; even the weather guys can’t get the next day right much of time so why should he bother to try and figure out what is going to happen for three months.
Some of the OFs have had knees, or shoulders replaced recently, even a hip or two. One just had a piece of kidney taken out so the OFs started talking about pain pills: Some of big boys like hydrocodone, or oxycodone, or morphine, and, though it seems as if these pills take the pain away, sometimes the side effects are worse than the pain.
Some of the OFs have hallucinations that are downright scary, while others break out in hives or other types of rashes. On one occasion, an OF took only one pill and wouldn’t take another because of the hallucinations — so the doctors gave him Tylenol #3, which seemed to work but another OF said he even has a reaction to that. Weird.
However, some can take the things as if they were candy and the only side effect they have is sleep. “Sleep,” one OF said, “is the best pain killer going and maybe that is what those things are supposed to do — knock you out.”
“Heck,” one more OF said, “if that is all they are supposed to do, I will come over and whack you with a hammer every now and then. That’ll put you to sleep.”
It is tough to beat the logic of the OFs.
Eagles for real?
The OFs at this table were talking about seeing eagles and some of the OFs hoped they were not mistaking turkey vultures for eagles since there are tons of turkey vultures around. The eagles the OFs claim to be spotting are around the Thompsons Lake area of the Helderbergs; the Camp Woodstock area, also in the Helderbergs; and along the Schoharie creek between Middleburgh and Schoharie.
Some of the OFs are waiting for some photographic proof on these majestic birds, i.e., real eagles, and not the ones that sit atop the very high tree stumps in one OF’s yard.
Those OFs who made it to the Scho/Co diner in Schoharie and didn’t have any accidents along the way were: Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Henry Witt, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Karl Remmers, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Dick Ogsbury, Miner Stevens, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Don Wood, Bill Krause, Duncan Bellinger, Rich Donnelly, Ted Willsey, Joe Loubier, Duane Wagonbaugh, Jim Rissacher, Bill Keal, Carl Walls, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zable, Harold Grippen, and me.
On the last day of September 2014, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. The Country Café is across the street from the Parrott House, which is a three-story hotel on the main street of the village.
The Parrott House holds a lot of memories for many of the OFs but, after Tropical Storm Irene entered the picture in Schoharie County in 2011, the hotel fell on hard times. The OFs say this is a shame.
The Parrott House itself can almost be considered one of the centerpieces of the county. Today, looking across at the building in need of repair inside and out, and with a blue blanket stuffed in one of the windows apparently to keep out some flying critters and drafts, the paint peeling, and the sign drooping, the building looks sad. It almost appears to be saying, “Help me.”
One OF said that it would take someone with deep pockets to bring it back to life, and then there is all the Schoharie politics that would go with it. One OF said the power structure in Schoharie is anti-this, anti-that, and anti-this again.
The anti group has a whole series of hoops for anyone trying to do something to jump through, and, once anyone is done with those, there is a whole series more of hoops to go through and someone in the group is running around gathering up the first set of hoops so it is necessary to go through them again.
Rigmarole in Berne
Then there is all the rigmarole required to hook up to the new sewer system in the village of Berne. That is another story, but the way it was told at the gathering this morning was so pathetic it was like a comedy show.
This exchange came from OFs at the breakfast who knew something about the mechanics of what was being installed and they were left scratching their heads.
The OFs on this topic were wondering whatever happens to common sense to when people become elected or are appointed to this board or that board, yet when they are not together with these groups seem like such nice, normal people and great to be with.
Political ads confound OFs
A few quick yearly comments that pop up at election time are the political ads. Most all the OFs are sick of them (the word “most” is used here because the scribe can only report what is within earshot of where this scribe’s bum is plopped).
(Another aside: The wife of this scribe said that the scope of his earshot is only about the end of his arm, because she maintains that this scribe can’t hear her when she is in the same room with him.)
Back to the political ads — to the OFs, the only one that benefits from these ads is the media.
“They must love it,” one OF said.
Pols patch roads
Another sign that it is October is handing out money for this program and that program, when it could have been done long ago. All of a sudden, the blacktop batch plants are working overtime because many roads are being paved.
The OFs also noticed that, where fancy people live (and the roads weren’t that bad), these roads are being paved, and the roads where the middle class hang out are still being neglected.
Fall is not only the season for leaf peekers, but it is also the season of church dinners. The OFs highly recommend these dinners.
Not only do you get fed well but you help support the small-town community churches, and these dinners are inexpensive plus being all you can eat. Many of these church dinners have craft tables set up that also contribute to the small churches, and a big plus is that most of the desserts at these dinners are homemade pies. Some even have take-outs.
One OF said what he does is attend the supper and eat a meal, then he orders a takeout, takes it home and splits it up, places some in the freezer, and some in the fridge, and he eats well for a week. These OFs aren’t dumb, but, of course, they have been around awhile — that is why they are OFs.
At Tuesday morning’s breakfast, the OFs had a double show and tell. One OF purchased, at an estate/garage sale, a gadget that was used for gardening. It was old, so he brought it in to see if any of the OFs knew what it was.
The OFs came close but no cigar. It was a potato planter that was built so the person planting the potatoes did not have to bend over to do so. Must have been invented a long time ago by someone with a bad back.
The buzz on bees
Another OF brought in a picture he had taken of a beehive in a tree. Without being inside the tree, the combs of honey just hung from a “Y” of a branch while the bees just kept on building the hive.
This OF is a beekeeper and supplies many of the OFs with their honey.
Another reason the OFs are OFs, many eat cinnamon and honey regularly. The OFs maintain that adding that combination of food to their diet keeps many diseases and ailments away.
The photograph drew much attention, because the OFs understand that there seems to have been a problem with the bee population the last few years; however, this photo showed there were a ton of bees around this hive exposed to the air. One OF commented that it is good thing a bear hasn’t found that hive yet.
Those OFs that attended the breakfast at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie and came on their own, not chased in by bees, were: Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, Jim Heiser, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Bill Bartholomew, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Rich Donnelly, Bob Lassome, Joe Loubier, Duane Wagenbaugh, Don Wood, Duncan Bellinger, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey (ask Mike what not to do when using a table saw), Gerry Chartier, and me.