The 27th of May, may be our one day of summer! Mark the calendar — it reached 87 degrees, and we had a hot day later on with high humidity.
On Tuesday, this day in May, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburg Diner in Middleburgh. The Middelburg Diner and the Duanesburg Diner in the Duanesburg are the only two restaurants the OMOTM travel to that have their locations in their names. All the others do not; however, some hint at it.
Anyone who is unaware of where the restaurants would be have to google the location, or ask a friend, or use a GPS system, but most of the OFs are a little suspect of that.
The OFs began discussing personalities; we each have one to some degree or other so the OFs then talked about the degree of personalities. This scribe must point out the OFs have rather high degrees of personality. The OFs state their opinions without rancor and that places them in a class of personalities that makes for harmonious conversations even with divergent opinions.
The OGs continued the conversation of yards and yard work of the last couple of weeks like there were no days in between the Tuesday breakfasts. These chats were much alike (we are OFs and the same stories told over and over are expected and normal, and to the OFs with short attention spans, even though the stories may be old, to them they are new) but keeping equipment going was the topic this past Tuesday morning.
Another aside about being OFs is just that many of these OGs lived through the Depression, World War II, and the times when there were enough possessions but still everyone was poor by today’s standards. Nobody knew they were poor because everyone was poor.
That little tidbit of information leads to why the OFs keep old machinery running and just don’t run out and buy new when something starts giving the OFs fits. Tinker with this old paraphernalia and get it going again is the OFs motto.
The magic screwdriver
One OF mentioned that he has a number of old lawnmowers a weed whacker, chainsaws, and equipment with other small engines. Somehow they had all decided they were tired of working and so they decided to quit.
A couple of OFs are geniuses when it comes to small engine repair, and one of these OFs was working on one of the lawnmowers, and he wasn’t quite done fixing it.
The OF who had all this equipment was like many other OFs who don’t know a thing about small-engine repair; sometimes, if they do know a few things about repairing them, they find they do not have the patience to mess with them.
One day, this particular OF took a small screwdriver and said he would try adjusting one of the mowers because it wasn’t running anyway. The OF adjusted a screw, pulled the rope, and brraaapp, son of a gun, it started.
“Holy cow,” the OF said. “I guess I will try another.”
So, he took the magic screwdriver and adjusted another motor that wouldn’t run and brraaapp, away it went running like clockwork. The OF said he then looked at the screwdriver in his hand and tried fixing a chainsaw that hadn’t run.
He turned the screw to what he thought was right, pulled the rope, and, slap your butt, there was another brraaapp, and it was purring like a kitten.
The OF said, “Now that is what I would call a good day.”
To have all the lawn equipment up and running is essential to many of the OFs. The OFs have manicured lawns, and they look good, but to show off is not the reason for having these types of lawns. Most of the OFs live in the country, and the OFs maintain their lawns to keep the creepy-crawlies down and away from the house.
Mowing the lawn keeps these critters down because they breed and live in tall grass. One OF said, not only the crawly things, but the little flying critters, too. Another OF said we should keep plants and shrubs away from around the outside of the house because they bring the unwanted guests into your home also.
There were quite a few “Oh no’s” from some of the OFs now that it is the beginning of the political ad season. Now is the time, at least with the big-position politicos, that the politicians who have the most bucks will bombard the radio and TV with ads “to try and convince the 10 people who haven’t already made up their minds,” one OF said.
A second OF opined, “The media loves this. Look at the bucks it reels in for them.”
In one OF’s opinion elections nowadays are not won, they are bought.
“Well, weren’t they in the old days also?” retorted one OF. “Only back then they handed out five-dollar bills, and cigars.”
“To which ‘back then,’ ” another OF said, “five bucks was worth something. Now you might just as well give a guy a quarter, and that won’t even buy a pack of gum — a lot of votes that’ll getcha.”
Changes in bathing
The OFs dropped that subject and went back to discussing bathrooms and how our bathrooms have changed over the years.
An OF said that he can understand that because he has trouble lifting his leg over the side of the tub to take a shower. It seems to be that, at our ages, a house does need two bathrooms — one with a tub for the soakers, and another with a walk-in shower for the OF who wants to be rained on.
In the good old days, the OFs took a bar of homemade soap, and went to the creek or pond.
One OF said, “You OGs have to remember we were YFs then.”
“What did our parents do?” an OF asked. None could really remember.
Those OFs who have lots of wrinkles from all that lye in the homemade soap and who had breakfast at the Middleburg Diner, in Middleburgh, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Steve Kelly, Duncan Bellinger, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Andy Tinning, Miner Stevens, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Jack Norray, Jim Rissacher, Ken Hughes, Bill Krause, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Roger Chapman, and me.
On Tuesday, May 20, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and noted that Route 85 has still not been fixed. The OFs swear the highway department must be in cahoots with some fender and body shops in the area.
’Tis the season for just about all the outdoor activities of the spring and summer months to start. One of these many activities is gardening.
Last week, the OFs touched on this subject but a new twist was mentioned this week. This new detail is in regard to raised beds, or complete gardens being raised, so the OFs don’t have to bend over so far to maintain them.
Bending, as anybody over 60 will attest, is not the easiest body motion to do. One OF suggested using cinder blocks and another mentioned using old railroad ties. The last OF was jumped on because there is creosote in the old ties.
To which the offended OF said, “Hey! When we were kids, we chewed the stuff. On a hot day, we would peel it from the telephone pole and chew it, and we are not dead yet.”
Another OF wondered out loud who makes up all the rules saying that “creosote was the best wood preservative going and now it is bad; get around it and you will die.”
Another OF thought that there was a new item that came on the market and the company wanted to sell it, so, in order to make a place for it, the government had to say the creosote was bad, just so they could sell the new wood preservative, and the new preservative is not half as good as creosote.
“Just wait,” another OF added. “In a few more years the new preservative will be found to be hazardous to the tsetse fly and we won’t be able to use that either.
“Give me the good old creosote, oil-based paints, hey, even white lead — these new paints offer as much protection as food dye in tap water.”
This scribe often wonders how we get from gardens to the tsetse fly, to creosote and paint all in a matter of minutes.
Year of the dandelions
Without any fertilizer, or even planting in raised beds, the OFs say this is the year of the dandelions. Everywhere you look, the dandelion’s yellow flower is dotting the landscape at least on the Hill, and in the valley of Schoharie, and maybe Altamont and Rotterdam have the dandelion yellow carpet also.
Some of the OFs remember their mothers gathering the young dandelion leaves and using them as greens in salads and garnishes. One OF mentioned that using what pops up in lawns and fields, picking it, then using it to cook with is becoming a lost art.
Another OF said he used to do a lot of that — collecting mushrooms, dandelions, burdock, and other plants that the OF has forgotten about.
One OF mentioned that he thinks he still has a stash of dandelion wine in the cellar. The OF added that, if he went out today to forage in the forest, he probably would come home with plants that would kill a horse in minutes, or a least give the OF the trots.
Encounters with angels
The OFs started talking about a subject that was both a little sad and a little scary. This topic was how much it hurts the OFs when their kids become seriously ill.
“Why them — why not me? I am at the short end of the ruler,” was a general consensus. Many of the OFs have gone through this type of unwanted anxiety and have the same thoughts.
Somehow this started a few of the OFs talking about angels and how some of the OFs have had encounters with these beings.
The OFs did not seem to be talking about the type of angel that has been perpetrated by humans as comely visions with golden hair and white feathered wings flying off floating through the air, but the OMOTMs’ angels are people, known and unknown, that just seem to pop up and disappear.
When the OG is in trouble, one can be a friend who for some unknown reason has the time to help. The OGs began relating a few stories where a particular event would take place and help would come from out of the blue.
This scribe thinks that we are all angels and, when the time comes for us to be used, we will be used and not even know that we are being used that way.
Let sleeping cats lie
The OFs mentioned how unsafe it is to disturb a sleeping animal, especially a cat.
“Yeah,” one OF said, “disturbing a sleeping cat is not the smartest thing in the world to do, not if you want to maintain your eyeballs.”
“Not only a cat, but have you ever been kicked by a normally gentle horse?” a second OF asked.
“If you come up on the wrong side of the animal while it is sleeping, that is a half a ton of flying hoofs that are flaying at anything within reach and that to the horse could be a bear, mountain lion — or you. The horse also is not thinking, ‘Shoo, go away’; the horse’s kicking is meant to harm, disable, or bring whatever startled the horse to an untimely demise.”
The OFs think that the old adage to let a sleeping dog lie is a good one to heed around anything that has left this conscious world and, if you can see its chest is still heaving, leave it be.
Those OFs who were at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and having no intentions on disturbing any sleeping being (especially the wife) were: Bill Krause, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Harold Guest, Carl Walls, Robie Osterman, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Miner Stevens, Andy Tinning, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Lou Schenck, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bob Lassome, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, and me.
This scribe looked around the Home Front Café in Altamont on Tuesday, May 13, and again noticed that the restaurant was full of men. The only member of the distaff side was the waitress. This scribe thought that, as often as this happens, the ladies’ time out and about must be later on in the day.
The OFs talked about mowing the grass (not hay). This is almost like the conversation of last week only now the OFs are already complaining about cutting the grass. Once started in the spring, the OFs say, it is like pulling a cork out of a bottle.
The grass (also known as weeds in some yards) continues to grow and once one corner or section of the yard is done, it is necessary to go back and start all over right away. This little circus goes on until late June and, in August, when the OFs are able to catch up with the growing cycle of the grass (AKA weeds) the grass takes a break in the hot weather.
Another typical discussion was that of the OFs’ medical operations. The OFs were not talking hangnail type operations but the real thing, like heart bypasses, knees, shoulders, hips, hernias, some cancers, and having metal plates placed in the head.
One OF has just had his hearing repaired in one ear. The OFs don’t know if this is a hearing aid or not. Half the OFs have those things, and the other half need them.
But this OF had an operation on his head. The doctors placed something in his head just behind the left ear. Then they gave the OF a round object about one inch in diameter, and one quarter inch thick. Attached to that object is a little box about one inch square and one quarter inch thick. This unit snaps to the metal plate inside his head with a magnet.
When the OF clicks this unit to his head he can hear. It sure is different than a hearing aid, and also different in price — about two to three times more than a pair good hearing aids.
The OFs who have had other operations all seemed to have them do whatever they were supposed to do in one degree or another. Some of the OFs have no pain while others, at times, have a little discomfort.
A few of the OFs have problems with some of their joints and they could be operated on, but the advice from the doctors is “leave it alone and live with it.” The OFs wonder why this approach is taken at times and, at other times, the knife is already in the air.
Some of the OFs have had their operations done at the hospital in Cooperstown and say what a nice place this is. It is a small hospital with only 164 beds but the OFs who have used the facility say it is a good hospital and they felt safe there.
Cooperstown is a town in central New York, and one OF had a three-way bypass done at this facility. After the bypass surgery, he was sent to Sunnyview rehab in Schenectady for his (you guessed it) rehabilitation.
This OF was transported by ambulance to Sunnyview. This is quite a ride, and the driver apparently knew his way around Cooperstown, but got lost with the OF in Schenectady.
The OF said the ambulance driver drove all over the place trying to find the hospital. Some of the OFs could understand this because of the one-way streets, and it is not the easiest of hospitals to get to even if you were from Albany and had an inkling of Schenectady.
The OFs assumed the driver must have been male because he could have asked for directions. The OF in the ambulance said he did ask for directions but they seemed to be of no help.
No one asked if the ambulance had a GPS, which would have been a help. This was a few years ago, because most of the newer ambulances today are equipped with a GPS system. A few of the OFs are EMTs and one said that the GPS systems works pretty well if you are a good speller and know how to spell where you are and where you want to go.
One OF had a knee replaced recently and is getting around great but the hospital stay was another thing. We will save that for another time.
Those OFs that made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont and who would make a good support group for those contemplating an operation, or for reassuring those just coming out of an operation, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Krause, Dave Williams, George Cove, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Andy Tinning, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.
Canes at the ready, the Old Men of the Mountain attacked the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg on the history-making date of April 29, 2014, and to many of the OFs it is still winter. Some have even put the lawn mowers away, and gassed up the snow blowers.
The OFs that had farms or grew up on farms began talking about the types of animals they raised on these farms. Most were the usual kinds — cows, horses, mules, pigs, chickens, cats, dogs, turkeys, and goats. These were the mainstay of the farm. Some of the OFs had, not unusual, but “different” animals like guinea hens, peacocks, rabbits, or suchlike.
Growing up with these critters taught the OFs how different animals behaved. Some were quite alike and some were totally different but most had their own personalities. The OFs could tell if any of their animals were sick and required the attention of a vet.
On the other hand, if the animal was not sick but in severe distress, the OFs then knew which was which and it was time to get the gun. Most OFs, with tears in their eyes, would painlessly put the poor animal down.
Continuing on with the farming theme, the OFs maintain that everybody is sticking their nose in the business of farming, and most of those doing the sticking have no idea of what they are doing. The OFs maintain that they should go back to washing windows, and keep their collective noses out of their business and everybody would be much better off.
“Well,” one OF said, “someone has to be looking out for the common people.”
Another OF picked up on this and said, “I am a common person.”
And the first OF replied, “You know what I mean.”
“Of course,” the other OF answered.
The original OF said he knew some farmers would cut corners just like some contractors and even manufactures cut corners. One OG said he knew that, but that was not what he was talking about.
He opined that milk inspectors and people like that knew most of the time what was going on, and common sense was the norm between most of the routine inspectors and the farmer, but mandates like having to install bulk milk tanks, instead of using strainers and milk cans, put him out of business. This OF thought that milk cans were the cleaner way to go anyway, and he felt that, if the farmer wanted to install the bulk tanks, OK, but let the little guy still use his milk cans.
Such mandates have killed many of the small farms. Most of these small farms are now in disrepair with barns and out buildings falling down. The once productive fields are now trees and brush.
“Yep,” another OF said, “the big money cats have persuaded the legislators to tax these same farms as building lots and the farmer can’t pay these high taxes so the developers jump in and buy the farms. The guy in the capitol has met his commitment to the fat cat.
“We can take this little sneaky conspiracy one step further. Where does our food come from now — Chile, Brazil, Australia, Canada? I bet,” the OF continued, “this is another commitment met, only higher up.”
End of OF rant.
Pessimists and optimists
Most of the OFs are glad to see April go, as much as the OFs were glad to see March go.
One OF said “he feels like he is wishing his life away by wanting May.”
Then another OF added, “Maybe this year, we will be glad to see May go also.”
Yet some of the OFs were talking about tomato plants and planting gardens.
Optimism and pessimism in one little conversation.
The OFs had a small discussion on the phrase “lost in his work.”
One OG was picking up another OG to go to the breakfast and the OG being picked up was out working in his yard. The picker-upper drove up his driveway and the OG being picked up kept right on working.
The picker-upper OG turned around and drove back down the driveway and sat waiting for his friend who just kept right on working. The driveway was no more than 50 feet from where the OG was raking.
The picker-upper OG sat for a short while with the car running and finally blew his horn. The OG working in the yard just raised his head and waved in the general direction of the road and went right back raking.
The OG picking up this OF then really blew his horn, and, finally, the OG turned and saw the car and laid down his rake and walked to the car.
It is a good thing this scribe does not use names because, if anyone realized who this was and saw the OG working in the yard, they could drive right up his driveway, steal one of his tractors, drive it away, and the OG would never know it. That is what is known as engrossed in your work.
As one of the OFs commented, “That OG is the type of person you would want working for you — one that is not easily distracted.”
Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg (with some OFs quite removed from farming but still think they are farmers, yet are now are able to go out to breakfast and not to the barn) were: Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Dave Williams, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Harold Guest, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Andy Tinning, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ken Hughes, Jack Norray, Duncan Bellinger, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.
This scribe would like to have a nickel, no, maybe just a penny, for every time the following has been said: “Why do the weeks go by so fast?”
Tuesday has rolled around again, and it seems like it was just Tuesday the day before, but here it is Tuesday, April 22, 2014, and already 112 days of the year have gone by. My goodness, the OFs will have to start their Christmas shopping pretty soon.
To add to this, in just a few more weeks, the Old Men of the Mountain will be right back at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie ordering the same breakfast — or maybe not.
According to the OFs, spring has sprung because the peepers are peeping. Most of the OFs say, don’t count on it; one day does not spring make.
With the temperature hovering above freezing, and not by much, except for the aforementioned day, the snow does melt. With the snowmelt, the water table goes up and the OFs were talking about how much water they have. Some have their wells overflowing.
One OF said that he has water coming up all over the place, but this OF lives between two hills so this is understandable. However, one who has a well overflowing so the water is running from under the casing cap down the drive lives on top of the mountain. The OFs surmised there must be a ton of pressure on the water table to push the water up like that.
Then comes mid-summer and the OFs hope the water is still there. Generally it is.
One OF said occasionally some of their friends come up from the city to spend time with them and to be in the country for a while. They have day trips planned, and they do some farm-stand shopping, but what drives this OF up the wall is their indiscriminate use of water, “like there is an infinite source of water.”
The showers these friends take are long, and then long again. When trying to help in the kitchen, they turn on the tap and let ’er run. They have the water running and then walk away to do something else.
It is a good thing they are only here for a few days, the OF noted, and he stressed again that they are great friends and nice people.
Another OF chimed in that they have similar friends, again from places with public sources of water and apparently no usage tax. They don’t really know about being on a well with the energy to run the pump and the possibility that the water may be low in a long dry summer.
“Somehow,” the OF said, “we have to remember how important water is because we really aren’t that far removed from the fish we once were.”
Sorrowful Friday pervades Easter
Easter is an event that is not celebrated like many of the others.
The OFs do not wish each other Happy Easter. Maybe at some ends of the table it was said, but nothing like the expressions heard at Christmas. Happy Easter does not have the ring to it as does Merry Christmas.
There were only a couple of OFs that even asked, “How was your Easter?”
On Thanksgiving, most of the OFs are curious about what the other OFs are doing for Thanksgiving, like family coming over, or checking to see if the OF was going anywhere.
Even the first day of deer season sparks more conversation than Easter. Good Friday, in many circles, is such a downer that it carries over into Easter. (No one really knows why it is called Good Friday, conjecture applies, so take your pick, only in German it is called Sorrowful Friday, everyone to their own interpretation. There that answers the OFs’ questions.)
an aggressive cardinal
Some of the OFs discussed having birds attack the windows of their homes. The OFs were talking about deliberate attacks, not the occasional bird that flies headlong into a window.
Most of the time it is the cardinal that becomes so aggressive. One OF reported having one of the cardinals becoming such a nuisance that he was making a mess on the side of the house.
The OF said that this bird would attack his hand as he tried to shush it away. The OF said that the only thing between him and that crazed bird was the glass in the window.
This OF called the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service in Voorheesville for advice on how to handle the situation. They said that cardinals were very territorial and the cardinal saw his reflection in the window and saw what he thought was another cardinal.
The extension service said to hang newspaper on that window and the bird would not see his reflection and stop trying to attack the reflection. Did not work! The dumb bird just went to the next window. More newspaper; the bird just went to the next adjacent window.
Finally one old farmer friend said he should get an owl from the garden shop and hang it where the bird will see it. Cardinals in the wild are afraid of owls and they can’t seem to tell the difference between plastic owls or the genuine bird.
The OF said he went and purchased two owls. Bingo! The next day, the bird was gone. The OF said he still has those owls, and no birds with aggressive behavior wailing at his house to date.
The Old Men of the Mountain would like to offer their condolences to the family of Bob Dietz who passed away at his winter home in Tucson, Arizona.
Bob was a loyal member of the OMOTM and graced the company of OMOTM with his stories, and humor.
Those OFs with the courage to get out of bed, and ambulatory enough to make it to the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie were: Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Andy Tinning, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ken Hughes, Jack Norray, Don Wood, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.