The Old Men of the Mountain gather on Tuesday every week at a roundtable series of restaurants. The OFs refer to this as spreading the wealth.
These restaurants are spaced throughout the area like a clock and, as the OFs rotate through the clock, they are able to tell where the next breakfast will be if they miss one or even two. This Tuesday, which was March 24, the OFs gathered at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown.
Any OF that missed the breakfast this past Tuesday will know where the next one is by this constant rotation. Why is this important? The reason is the OFs can’t remember a thing so it is necessary to keep it simple. Read on.
Two OFs planned a trip off the Hill to go to the doctor. The price of gas has gone down but the OFs remember when gas was 29 cents a gallon; now $2.55 a gallon still seems excessive to the OFs so this prompts them to accomplish as much as they can into one trip.
The doctor’s appointment was going to be coupled with grocery shopping, getting the car washed, and a couple of other errands the OF could not remember. However, the main reason for the trip was to go to the doctor, and, when the OFs arrived at the doctor’s office, they found they were there at the right time but the wrong day.
Another OF who has to make real plans to go anywhere (because he requires transportation) also was planning trips around a doctor’s appointment, only this OF not only had things to do but also had time constraints thrown in. This OF thought (and the key word here is thought) that his appointment was for his annual physical, with a prostate check included for good measure.
This OF was all prepped mentally for his appointment for the “oil and filter change” (as the one doing the tattling put it) only to find out that it was the wrong kind of physical he was expecting and the wrong doctor. He was supposed to be at the eye doctor for a checkup with the retina specialist, and again, as the tattler told it, the wrong area of the body was going to be poked.
We OFs have to be saved from ourselves — in many cases, it is a good thing there are people watching over us.
Remembering Iwo Jima
We, as a nation, have just celebrated the 75th anniversary battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. That is the battle where the iconic photograph was taken of the Marines raising the flag, which is now also a very famous statue.
The OFs have a member who was on that island immediately after the initial attack; there were still pockets of resistance from the enemy. This OF was a bulldozer operator and does not talk about the war much.
This scribe has known this OF for a long time. The OF is a licensed plumber and electrician and this scribe has used his services on a number of occasions and only knew he was in the service. That was it.
At the breakfast Tuesday morning, there was another OF who had to tattle. All one of the OFs mentioned to this scribe was, “You know the OF that was the licensed electrician and plumber was in the battle of Iwo Jima” and that was all the OF said.
That was enough to make this scribe ask the OF that was in the battle about any recollections he might have. This OF that was asked said he was there about a month and what he still remembers is the smell, and the smell was of dead bodies because part of his job was to dig trenches where all the dead bodies were placed and then he had to cover them up.
Although not spoken out loud, but implied, it was more or less a joint burial of American and Japanese. Warriors of two nations joined in a final everlasting peace, resting side by side in a communal hole in the ground. That kind of experience is something not many of us would want to remember or talk about either.
The pranks the OFs pulled in their early days would today have us in prison, or at least fined. One OF told how, in his one-room school, they caught a skunk and put it in the schoolhouse, and the skunk, in panic, sprayed the whole place.
This OF said it was days before they could get back into that schoolhouse. This OF did not relate if the parents got together and had school held at one of their homes. Apparently not, because the OF would have mentioned it.
Another OF told of how they tied a chicken to the steering wheel of a car and two of the young OFs laid down on the front seat and one operated the clutch, brake, and gas while the other leaned across him and steered.
Two other young OFs sat in the back seat and told the other two where to go. This setup gave the appearance that the chicken was driving the car. They drove the car through the village of Gallupville, and then drove up to West Berne, and Berne, where the drivers would again duck down so it would look like the chicken was driving the car.
If this had any impact or not, the young OFs never knew. No one ever said, “Hey, did you see the chicken driving the car through Gallupville yesterday,” or something to that effect, but it was fun to tell the story in school the next day.
Once this olive was out of the jar, many more stories along these lines were told. This scribe will save those for a later date, when the scribe’s notes from a breakfast are boring, but that is rare with these OFs.
Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon and getting a little too old to pull many pranks (and nowadays some of the OFs’ tickers could not even handle a good prank) were: Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Jim Rissacher, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Harold Guest, Warren Willsey, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.
On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner; the waitresses were dressed in green, and the room the OFs gather in was festooned with green shamrocks and other St. Patty’s Day decorations.
A few of the OFs wore green; one even had a bright green necklace around his neck, similar to the beads thrown in New Orleans and other places that have Mardi Gras festivities before Ash Wednesday.
A routine question asked of the OFs by many other OFs is, “What are your plans for the day? Do you have anything to do?” The answers are generally vague, or met with a blank stare, as “Do? Do what?” Many of the OFs offer smart remarks like, “Take a nap,” which is true in most cases.
A common reply is list what doctors the OF or his wife have on the schedule for this day or week. Some really have something planned, places to go, and people to see.
An OF said he has to check the to-do list that is posted on the refrigerator. This OF thinks that quite often there are so many chores listed that the neighbors sneak in and add to the list because the neighbors know the OF is retired and will be home with “nothing to do.”
The OF says the handwriting of the weird chores are poor attempts at forgery. These notes say things like, “Take care of Blanche’s cats and let them out.” That message is one that has the worst attempts of his wife’s writing.
Yeah, we get those types of jobs on our to-do list but they are funneled through the old lady so the messages come from a bonafide source. One OF said it isn’t possible to put a to-do list on his refrigerator because, with all the pictures of relatives and grandkids, there isn’t any room.
The OF said that once he put a picture of a nude pinup on the refrigerator among all the other relatives, kids and grandkids and it wasn’t noticed at all. The OF said, after a year, he took it down and threw it away.
Gardeners get ready
The OFs who have gardens are talking about getting ready for the planting season and some have all ready started their plants. These are the OFs who are really into gardening and start plants likes peppers, tomatoes, and even some flowers from seed.
One OF mentioned he has purchased a worm composting system. According to this OF, this is a self-perpetuating system because the worms are prolific and multiply quickly. One thousand worms become 2,000 worms in a hurry.
This OF says they will compost anything. When one tray of compost becomes ready, it is time to start another tray and the worms will turn anything that is compostable into dirt, even newspaper, and cardboard.
Occasionally the OFs start comparing prices they pay for similar items. This morning the discussion was on cable TV, specifically, Time Warner.
The outcome was that not one OF was paying the same for cable that the other was. Some were close but no cigar. It seemed to be the variety of packages offered and what each OF has.
The same inconsistency was observed with car insurance. Some of the OFs shop for car insurance all the time, while others stick with an agent they know. This is where there are large differences.
The OFs did not converse about their coverage and their deductibles. Neither did they get into the ages of the vehicles involved. Some of their vehicles may be clunkers and others may be top-of-the-line vehicles.
One day, this scribe thinks the OFs should have an insurance party where the OFs can bring in information from their policies and compare apples to apples.
This also may be a plan of attack for the cable bills. We should gather all our bills, check and see what is what and show up en mass at the Time Warner kiosks in Colonie Center and sign in as one organization, “The Old Men of the Mountain.”
When the name is called, all the OFs there go to the representative as a group, with our canes, one good eye, limps, and hearing aids that don’t work. This might scare the be-jeepers out of the clerk. The OFs would probably hear “Manager” in a panic tone emanate from the clerk feeling he or she was being swarmed by the undead.
Living in the Age of Google
The OFs who are on computers (and that is many more than people think, many OFs also have smartphones, and there is a good group of OFs who own the latest tech gadgets) play with Google maps. The OFs think it is fun to google friends and relatives, and places in the news with Google maps.
One OF said, while you guys are googling other people and places, they in turn are googling you. One OF added that the places depicted on Google are not very current. This OF said that he has googled his place and the shot used is years old.
He said that plane could fly over when his yard was a mess; however, it could look like the gardens at the Governor’s house in Williamsburg now. The information is definitely not real time.
With all this new technology going on with drones, cameras, with lenses that can take a picture of a match being lit on the moon, and computer maps, the world is nothing but one great big peep show. Where an OF once could take his wrinkled old body out in the backyard and run around naked, he is now going to show up on somebody’s computer in Stockholm, Sweden.
The OMOTM would like to offer their condolences to Harold Grippen and family on the loss of their son and brother.
The OFs who showed up at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, and fully clothed (thank goodness ) were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Ken Weaver, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, and me.
On March 10, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. Finally some decent weather, but the OFs that make the breakfast — make the breakfast. Not many will come out of the woodwork just because it is nice out; they will come anyway.
The places that the OFs frequent are always staffed, the cooks are there, the waitresses are there, the restaurants are open and warm — all this regardless of the weather. Dedicated people own and operate these establishments (they have to be) because the OFs start banging on the doors at 7 a.m., canes in hand and hungry.
The local area has seen its share of fires during this miserable winter. Each time winter stories come up, the OFs say this: “We have seen bad winters before but for some reason this one is a doozy.”
The latest go-round was the fire on Jay Street in Schenectady, then the one in the town of Bethlehem at the industrial park — two biggies on the same night. Then there was a fire in Reidsville about the same time. The OFs are wondering where the next one is going to pop up.
Some of the OFs say they are double checking their woodstoves, wood piles, and furnaces, and many are unplugging their electric appliances. The OFs are just being cautious, but not paranoid. One OF mentioned the strain this must put on organizations that assist people in these types of personal tragedies.
Another OF mentioned how neighbors help out when something like this happens. The OF said it is not only small communities like the Hilltowns, but the individual neighborhoods of larger cities possesses the helpful spirit for those in need.
One OF noted that neighborhoods are similar to a collection of small towns bunched together to form a city, so he could see why this impulse to help those you know that are in trouble happens. It doesn’t make any difference if the one in trouble is on a farm in the Hilltowns, or in the middle of Manhattan, or Tokyo, or Sao Palo.
The OFs started talking about playing cards, especially pinochle. Some of the OFs travel to visit another OF who is having serious physical therapy and does not have the use of his legs, so the OFs visit and play pinochle with him.
Some of the OFs were saying that the OF who can’t walk partners up with a relative and they think these two have secret signals because the remaining OFs have yet to win a game. These OFs said they came close to winning the last time but didn’t make it.
Pinochle was a card came popular in the military, and at the work place; hands are fast and challenging. At lunchtime, it was possible to get many hands in before it was time to go back to work.
The OFs said that the pinochle game was a form of release on the troop ships going over to the front. Most of the soldiers spent their time on “deck” to get away from the smell of the “hold.” That sentiment was echoed by other OFs in the same boat.
One OF said they came around every morning and swabbed the sleeping areas, but it still smelled like “puke.” Another OF said he spent only one night in the hold and along with almost everyone else he slept on deck and played pinochle.
There is another card game played by seniors that these OFs have heard of, but they did not play it. That game is called Hand and Foot and one game might last for hours. It’s a very popular game in Florida and is played by many retirees.
Big Brother big time
The coming event of cameras at the red lights in Albany was another topic of discussion. Tuesday morning, the OFs were all over the lot with their thought processes, time jumping from one minute to the next. We heard about going to battle an enemy way back when the OFs knew what they were up against, to red-light cameras not even installed yet.
Quantum leaps have nothing on the OFs; they do it all the time.
The OFs seldom go to Albany anyway but now they will be especially sure the trip is really necessary. Trusting government, outside of where you can go to the town supervisor’s home or the local town board member’s and hash out your problem, is not in the OF vocabulary.
This is Big Brother big time. The officials can give all the holly golly they want on what these cameras will do to protect the public, but trust them? No way.
One OF said it is just a money grab. This OF says they will adjust the yellow to just a quick flash, then nail you for running the red light.
Another OF thinks they can alter the film and, if they are not making enough money, they will have the camera showing a car running red when the light was actually green. One OF suggested staying out of Albany altogether, or find alternate routes that may take a little longer, but at least the OF will be able to avoid those cameras and not get caught in their nefarious trap.
Grateful for camaraderie
Many of the OFs have mentioned how ad-hoc organizations like the OMOTM have certain camaraderie among those that belong to these made-up groups. These factions are just like the Elks, or Moose, or Masons, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion (to name a few), including churches or the local bridge clubs, which have an unmentioned togetherness.
One OF said he would like to thank the group for being the group. In essence, what the OF was talking about was how many take the familiar for granted, for those we know, and fail to say thank you for being there.
This scribe thinks this is way too true and agrees with the OF who brought this up; this OF and all the other OFs should thank each other just for being there.
Those OFs who hauled their aged butts to the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie and plopped them down for a hearty breakfast were: Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Miner Stevens, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.
On March 3, The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.
Beware the ides of March, we are told. The ides of March, was March 15, way back in Julius Cesar’s time; however, other months had ides, which, in ancient Roman times, were the 15th day of May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other, shorter months.
The soothsayer told Julius Cesar to beware the ides of March, and we all know what happened then. How the ides of March became hooked onto the weather we don’t know; how that rodent became a foreteller of the winter is also in question; however, right or wrong, that snaggle-toothed varmint predicted six more weeks of winter.
This winter seems like six is going to be on the short side — to the OFs, it looks like 10 more weeks would be a better number.
The OFs continued their discussion on the weather. Part of this discussion was the amount of snow that is protecting the nasty ticks. This bit of information was in the newspaper and the newspaper said that this spring ticks are going to be on the severe side.
The OFs also mentioned the frozen water-pipe situation again particularly because Cobleskill is on a boil-water advisory right now — for the second time. One OF mentioned that the same reasoning about snow protecting the ticks may apply to snow protecting water pipes: The removal of the snow on the streets is what may be causing main water lines to freeze.
Snow is a pretty good insulator by itself. But, still, in many places, the frost is down quite far this winter especially where there is open ground.
The OFs are still blaming the weather people (who really have nothing to do with the weather we get) because of their interpretation of the “models” and “charts,” which causes all of the hubbub. Generally, the weather people are OK but, when they miss a big one, it generates lots of problems.
On Tuesday, the OFs complained about the use of the word “overspread” by the weather people. Case in point: It is dry as a bone out and the weather people say, “Rain will overspread the area,” and the OFs say, not possible.
In order to “overspread” anything, whether it is rain, snow, salt, or pepper, there has to be a predetermined something already there. In this case, an arbitrary number of inches of water already has to be on the ground — it can’t be dry and “overspread.” In this case, rain will “spread over the area” until it reaches that arbitrary, predetermined figure then it can “overspread” the area.
One OF used the analogy of shaking salt on his eggs. He said when the eggs are served to him, he spreads salt on them, but, if the cap falls off the shaker, then he has really “overspread” his eggs with salt but not until he has “spread” as much salt on the eggs as he likes; that is the predetermined amount. Anything more than that is “overspreading.”
Along with the cold weather, the OFs were talking about keeping warm. Those who burn wood, and planned on a historical use for them (on the amount they would require for a winter season), are finding that this year they are running low. Some of the OFs figure they may even run out so they are looking at some of the OFs who may have excess wood, or some they could buy, in case it arrives close to the point of running out and a cold spring.
A few of the OFs used to burn wood, but, as the OFs get to be older OFs, they have given it up. Burning wood is nice heat, but it is a lot of work. It is much easier to have the oil truck pull up and have the driver fill up the tank, and then all the OF has to do is turn up the thermostat and pay the bill.
Reading maps is becoming a lost art
Old maps were a new topic discussed by the OFs. This is unusual because this scribe does not think this has been touched on before.
The maps the OFs were talking about were the Geological Survey maps. One OF said he had a collection of every section for New York State. That is a lot of maps.
Old survey maps of localities are interesting, one OF said, because they show houses that are no longer there. People who are serious bottle collectors can use the maps to locate these now-gone homes and use them for dig sites for old bottles.
Another OF said that, back at that time, many family cemeteries were around, and these old maps can also be used to find these cemeteries. Some of these old maps can be used for those that do gravestone rubbings as a hobby, and some for finding where Great-Great Uncle Harry was buried.
All the knowledge on how to read maps of any kind may soon disappear, unless you happen to be a Boy Scout or Girl Scout. Tuesday, one OF said, all you need is a global positioning system; it was added those things aren’t always right either.
It was also noted at Tuesday’s breakfast that the chatter at the OMOTM breakfast is a tad on the loud side. One OF noted it is because, at the ages of most of the OGs, hearing is a problem, so the speech decibels have to be raised to be sure the person next to you can hear.
If each OF raises his voice so the people around him can hear, it becomes loud in a hurry at the gathering of OFs. This must drive other patrons in the restaurants nuts because, even though they might not have hearing problems, they have to join the shouting match so the ones they are with can hear.
What a cycle. The OFs who wear hearing aids say they aren’t worth a darn in situations like this and leave them home.
Those OFs who found their way to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh by using geographical maps from the 1940s and not getting lost were: George Sokol, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Jim Rissacher, Don Wood, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.
The Middleburgh Diner was given the opportunity to wait on the Old Men of the Mountain on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
It was double digits below zero for most of the OMOTM when they rubbed the sleep from their eyes this particular Tuesday morning. The OFs keep commenting on the coldest day of the winter, then along comes another week, and it has the coldest day of the winter.
That is true though, but this scribe will have to be careful to add “up till this breakfast” it has been the coldest day of the winter, or the hottest day of the summer because, even though we continually live in the past by about 80 milliseconds, we are not living in the future. With that being the case, all should be preceded by “so far” such and such has happened; we know nothing about the next second.
The news is full of stories about people being without water, and the OFs talked about local areas like Cobleskill and Central Bridge being without water because of broken water mains — these areas are over the hill in Brigadoon-land and rarely make the news.
The water-main break in Central Bridge was in pipes that have been under the ground since 1876. The OFs were wondering if they were the old-fashioned wooden pipes the likes of those that are in museums. Could be, the OFs thought.
Then the OFs began discussing on how the craftsmen of that day made those wooden pipes. One OF said he has a set of drill bits from that period and some have extensions that can be added together. Another OF suggested they might use the lumber from the sycamore trees, which are hollow in the center.
This scribe went to Google, and those wooden water pipes are all over the place. It shows how many different styles there were, and also showed drilled ones using the extensions like the ones the OF has. Online sources note how many different ways these wooden pipes were connected, the most common being the taper, and these pipes even had Ts to carry water in different directions.
The ingenuity of our forefathers to make do with what they had (in some cases) puts the current generation to shame. At one point, one OF reported that his daughter said, if she didn’t have her hair dryer, she would kill herself, life wouldn’t be worth living without that dryer. The OFs knows this is kids’ rhetoric, because it isn’t only hair dryers they can’t live without.
The OFs’ question is: Have we progressed or have we slid downhill so far we can’t see the top?
Free lunch for seniors
In the Hilltowns, and from what this scribe understands, it is not only for Hilltown seniors but all seniors in Albany County, the OFs can now go to lunch at the Hilltown senior center on Route 443 in Berne. Lunches will be available at noon on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.
According to the OFs that have been there, the lunches are free but there is a basket for a goodwill offering for those seniors who are in a position to do so. One of the days is Tuesday; now the OFs can eat out almost all day and on the cheap too.
The OFs also gave a phone number; if any seniors have a question, that number is 872-9400. Some OFs took exception to being labeled seniors because some aren’t.
“Well, then you are excluded and not invited,” the OF who was giving this information explained.
“Why?” the other OF asked. “Are there going to be senior police at the door checking ID?”
Oh dear, another rankle brewing.
Living on the Hill, and as mentioned above in Brigadoon-land, it was found that the way OFs are connected by blood to other OFs in such roundabout ways gets scary. Mention just one ancestor going back only as far as an OF’s grandfather and the connections start.
Except for the few outsiders who migrate to the Hills and the valley of Schoharie, it begins to break down to one big happy family. Except that in some cases “happy” doesn’t really apply.
Last week, we talked about a man’s barn, shed, or garage being his castle, and the house belonging to the wife. Almost a continuation of this is who does the dishes and the laundry.
It is surprising how many OFs do the dishes, and some do their own laundry. One OF knew what he was doing in the laundry department, but the others, well, that is another story.
They throw everything together and eventually it all turns a bluish-gray color. This must be a carryover from the military or college.
Some OFs do a lot of the housework, but not the laundry. These OFs don’t know wool from silk, or cotton from polyester.
Just like shopping, most OFs said their wives feel and touch everything, and they’ll know if the zipper will stick and it takes them forever to find anything. Then a lot of the time, when they get it home, it won’t go with anything so they take it back.
Lord help the OFs who go on shopping trips. One OF mentioned he has a couple of pairs of shoes and he doesn’t need 20 pairs.
Another OF said he has four pockets in his pants, and generally two on his shirt so he does not need 15 or more pocketbooks. The OFs don’t quite understand how the shoes have to match the pocketbook, the pocketbook has to match the ensemble, and that includes the earrings, and other jewelry.
One OF said that his wife wears contacts, and she has them in different colors. The OF continued that she wouldn’t be caught dead in a brown outfit with blue eyes.
Under the weather
The topic of the weather came up as it seems to be coming up in many conversations other than the OMOTM’s breakfast. It’s the weather at the mall, the weather at Wally-world, the weather at the grocery store, the weather at the hardware store; the OFs can’t escape the weather. As one OF put it, it is bad but not as bad as it could be.
The OFs who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh (and in their own various shades of gray) were: John Rossmann, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, Mark Traver, Chuck Aleseio, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Bill Krause, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, and me.