This Tuesday (the day the Old Men of the Mountain met) was the same day that, that rodent weather prognosticator in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (I got the spelling from the Internet; I ain’t that smart. This is similar to people not being from this area who try to spell local names, like Schenectady, or half the towns on Long Island) was going to advise the whole Northeast what the rest of winter was going to be like.
The OFs say that rodent isn’t necessary because his predictions are generally wrong. Just ask any of the OFs who have lived on the mountain for years; they can tell what the winter will be like right down to number of snowflakes that are going to fall just by looking at the color of hills across the valley precisely at 11:36 a.m., on Jan. 10.
That will be as correct as any rodent shaken out of a great nap by a bunch of Norman Rockwell-type old goats, in tall hats can predict. Howeve,r that groundhog is a lot like a construction worker because they whistle at perspective mates. When the groundhog is awake that is.
This brought the OFs to talking about the ice on the ponds and lakes this year, specifically how little there is of it, and, if there is any, how treacherous it may be. One OF reported that there were some ice fishing shanties out on Thompson’s Lake and the ice is so thin at the shoreline that planks are laid down so those stupid enough to go out and fish could go across open water to get to their shanties out on the lake.
One OF said they had better be pretty good swimmers if they do head out to fish. It has been a very open winter so far, and the OFs are hoping we do get substantial snowfall sometime before the winter is out because the wells and reservoirs will need the water.
One OF did mention that, a couple of years ago, we had plenty of snow and still there was a water shortage the following summer. The OFs couldn’t argue with this OG because they were unable to recall this particular weather event.
More than one way to fry an egg
Many of the OFs are good cooks, some because their moms taught them how when they were young, and others by necessity, and some because they went for beauty instead of brains and were forced to learn how. One OF started giving a brief lesson on how to take care of the pots and pans especially when making fried eggs and bacon.
This OF said, “Keep your eye on the bacon and don’t let it burn because once that starts the eggs will stick to the pan where the bacon burned.”
One OF said he didn’t have that problem because he uses two pans. What? Now you have two pans to clean.
Start cooking the bacon first, then throw the eggs in after the bacon is cooked some, that way the bacon grease is used for the eggs.
“Nah,” was a reply. “That way, everything is too greasy. I take the bacon out and put it on some paper towels to soak up the grease.”
“That spoils the whole thing,” came a response. “By the time the eggs are done, the bacon is cold.”
“No, it isn’t,” was the answer. “I cook the eggs in another pan.”
“Not another two-pan job for simply frying up two or three eggs and bacon for breakfast,” was the comment.
“You guys have it all wrong. I throw in half a stick of butter, then the bacon; when that is about ready, I crack in three eggs, and there is about an eighth of an inch of grease in the pan. After that, I put my plate over the pan for a little while (that warms up the plate) then I take the spatula and wave some of that grease over the eggs. When the eggs are the way I like them, I take them out, and the toast off the back of the stove and I am ready to go.”
“All that fat, what about your cholesterol?” was asked.
“What about it?” the reply was. “My last check-up it was 150 which is not that bad.”
“When was that check up?” an OF inquired. “When you were ten years old?”
The OFs discussed drones again, and how in the Netherlands the Dutch National Police are training eagles to hunt down drones and attack them.
One OF said, if he sees a drone over his property, if he can’t get his shotgun in time to shoot it down, he will throw rocks at it. If this OF brings down the drone, he better hope that it doesn’t land on someone’s head.
The subject came up again how most technology, not all, but most, generally is an improvement. Tuesday morning, the discussion was on tools. It was mentioned how much safer most tools are these days, and how much easier they are to work with.
One OF mentioned the Hougen magnetic drill and cutters. The OF said they used to have to climb poles and drill holes in steel for the appropriate fastener. This process took two men and a boy to handle the drill to drill the hole, and, when the hole was about through, the bit would catch and the drill would spin and twist your arm, or snap your wrist, or could even knock you off the pole.
Along comes this Hougen tool, and one guy carries it up with little effort, sticks the drill to the steel and just feeds the cutter in and the tool does all the work. No more dangling from a harness because the drill has twisted the OF around and dislodged him from the pole.
Those Old Men of the Mountain who are lucky enough to escape the pitfalls of farming and heavy industry, sundry wars, and the occasional whack with a frying pan and make it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh were: Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, Dave Williams, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Roger Shafer, Mace Porter, Wayne Gaul, Lou Schenck, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Bill Herzog, Ellwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.
OK, the clock starts again! The Old Men of the Mountain were at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh on Tuesday, Jan. 26, and we start the restaurant round again. Right now it takes eight weeks for the OFs to run through our round-robin clock of restaurants.
This can, and has, been changed by adding or deleting eating establishments, but for now it is eight. The OFs like to call it spreading the wealth, and keeping the wealth at home.
The OFs began talking about themselves this morning and commenting on age itself. Age is a relative thing, according to this group. The OFs say your attitude means a lot.
It is possible to be a real OF, 90 years old cranky, and grumble about everything or be 90 years old, smile with your teeth, fake teeth, or no teeth, but take everything in stride and be like a 60-something 90-year old.
The OFs are first to admit getting old brings a lot of baggage as parts of the body decide they don’t want to work like they used to. Many doctors reply to some of the OFs’ complaints by saying, “Well, you are getting older; there is nothing really wrong with you except you are getting older and there is no pill for that yet, so suck it up and live with it.”
Believe it or not, many of the OFs, when they hear this and know their situation is not life threatening, do suck it up and go on about their business.
That doesn’t make it any easier but it is all attitude, and most of the OFs do not escape the maladies of getting older; they just mention these woes as part of their conversation and then go on to something else. Some of the OFs really hurt, are really sick, or have rea,l serious problems but at the breakfast one would never know it.
Age is relative, not a number, which is evidenced by the OMOTM.
Hot air will melt snow
The OFs discussed the storm Jonas that came up the east coast last week, and walloped the major cities along the way. What do they do with all that snow? Miles and miles of streets have to be plowed and where do they put it?
One OF who moved here from Long Island said they are not allowed by law to dump the snow in the river or the ocean. Hey, they are not playing ball: Why not use Yankee stadium, Citi Field, or Central Park? Another thought would be to gather all the politicians and have them stand on the corners of the streets and make speeches on how they are going to help us. All that hot air will melt the snow in no time.
Last week, the column mentioned some of the waitresses and this week the OFs read the column and expanded on how effective the waitresses are in all the restaurants on our clock.
One OF mentioned that he bumped into one of the waitresses just the other day; she now isn’t on the shift of the OFs’ attendance on Tuesdays. She asked him how we were doing.
The OF mentioned that sometimes waitresses do change and they really do not get to know the OFs, and sometimes the OFs see the same ones for years. One such waitress used to bring her baby to work; the OFs have seen that baby become a toddler, and now he is going to school. The OFs who hang in there long enough may see the same young man wait on them for pin money as he proceeds through high school, maybe even beyond.
Parrott House preserved
The OFs discussed the ongoing work being done at the Parrott House in Schoharie and now this effort is at a standstill because it has to be in compliance with allowable work as authorized by the Historic Preservation authority.
The OFs mentioned places where work done had to be removed and redone to satisfy the Historic Preservation demands once the building is on the Historic Preservation registry. Some of the rules seemed pretty silly and harsh if the OFs understand the demands of the authority correctly.
But the OFs guess the key word is “historic,” and to change what a historic building looked like would not fit the word historic. The OFs assumed that, as radical as it may be, they do have a point.
Most of the OFs have a cat or a dog, some have a cat and a dog, and some have cats and dogs. Taking care of these animals as the OFs become older is like taking care of kids. Most of them are pampered pets.
On the farm, the OFs remember, the cat or cats, dog or dogs were rarely taken to the vet, and they seemed to have gotten along very well. Today the OFs are running the same animals to the vet more than the OFs are running to the doctor.
The OFs spend good money purchasing fancy food for their pets, and, back when they were on the farm, the animals ate what the OFs ate — scraps from the table. The cats might have a mouse for dessert, and the dog might have a rabbit.
The OFs remember the fur of the animals being shiny, their teeth and claws being sharp and in good shape. Now the OFs say some even brush their dog’s teeth. Say what?
One OF commented, “If you tried brushing my dog’s teeth, you would be missing a few fingers. Our barn cats never saw the inside of the house; they were out when it was 20 below and were more healthy than those pampered pets are today.”
An OF did say, if they really became ill or hurt, it was off to the vet then and they would patch them up. Sometimes, one OF said, if the vet was coming to the farm, he would have the vet check out the dog or dogs while he was there, maybe the cats if he could round them up in one place and keep them there.
The old saying that it is impossible trying to herd cats is very true. The best way to handle a bunch of cats is grab one at a time and stow it in a box until all the cats that might need attention are caught. The OFs say, don’t try to catch a cat; coax that feline to where you can catch it with food.
An OF remarked that he should rename his fat cat “Useless.” That says it all.
The OMOTM who were coaxed to the Middleburgh Diner by food were: Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Chuck Aelesio, David Williams, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Don Wood, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bill Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.
It is already Jan. 19, and a Tuesday when the Old Men of the Mountain braved the wind and single-digit temperatures to meet at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville.
Wouldn’t you know it — Murphy’s Law applied. As good as the Hilltown Café is, it is the restaurant with the highest elevation the OFs have on their list, and Tuesday was the worst day of the year so far.
Two hands on the wheel or the vehicle could be blown into the ditch, and there the OFs would be stuck, with a temperature, figuring in wind chill, of 20-degrees below zero, in the middle of nowhere hoping another carload of OFs would come by and pick them up.
It’s wrong to be always right
The OFs found that it was time to pick on those who think that they are always right. An argument between two people who think they know it all and who are always right the OFs consider a waste of time. Generally neither one is right.
The term “my way or the highway” is one phrase the OFs say fits right in this discussion. The OFs said we all know people like this.
One OF said, “Yeah, we have a room full of them right now.” This OF continued, “I know I am right on this. Which one of you guys is going to admit they are not right? Starting a sentence with, ‘I may be wrong, but “xyz”’ doesn’t count because it really means the OF thinks he is right.”
In most cases, there is more than one way to get a job done. As long as the job is done and it works, there is no right way; any way was the right way, the job is done, so what, who cares how it was done.
Travel with cash
One OF mentioned that, when traveling now, it is a good idea to bring some cash. Some banks and credit card companies will prevent you from using your card if the place where it is being used is an unusual situation for you.
One OF reported that his identity was stolen and the credit card was being used to buy lumber in California. The credit-card company stopped payment right away, and would not honor it. The company contacted the OF to see if he was there and, of course, he was not there, he was still here in New York. The OF then obtained a new credit card, making the original one useless.
But the OF said, “Suppose you were in California and really needed to use the credit card and the bank put a stop on it and you had no cash?” Whoops — now what kind of hoops would you have to go through?
The OFs said that it is a good idea to notify your bank if you are going to travel and inform them of where you are going ahead of time. That sounded like a good idea to the OFs.
Another topic the OFs touched on Tuesday morning was diets. As long as the OFs have been around, diets (going on and off diets) have been a national source for conversations, articles, and cookbooks.
How many ways can you fry a potato? The OFs have found a diet that seems to work and was prescribed by a physician — just a regular M.D. trying to help someone lose weight. The OF relating the advice the doctor offered said that, on a plate of meat, potatoes, and veggies, start with the protein first, and then chew, chew, chew.
Many of the OFs have their breakfast gone in a manner of minutes. The reasoning is they like to eat their food while it is still warm. To these OFs, if you spend all your time chewing, it takes too long and the food cools off.
That may be part of the secret of this diet plan; if the food is cold the eater will eat less — hmmmm. Some OFs do chew their food but shape-wise, the mix of OFs who chew, or gulp proves nothing.
The other part of this diet is to drink water. Sounds simple enough to this scribe who might take heed; apparently, it is not what you eat but how you eat. Hey, it is worth a shot.
The last piece of advice was not about dieting but should be added to the regimen and that is: Get some exercise. How much and exactly what type of exercise was not mentioned.
This scribe thinks good long walks should be sufficient. Although, at the ages of some of the OFs, the arthritis, along with other aches and implants, prevent the OFs from these long walks. Some sort of exercise for these OFs should be doctor recommended.
This brought up the notice of how many of the OFs use their elbows or hands to push on tables to get up. Some of the OFs prefer to sit in chairs with arms so they can use the elbows, and some even sit with their elbows and shoulders under pressure on the arms of chairs because they are unknowingly supporting their backs even while sitting down.
Tips on tipping
The OFs brought up the adding of 18 percent to the bill for a tip. The OFs say they don’t trust a lot of the managers of these restaurants to pass that money along.
The OFs would rather leave it or hand it to the server than have it automatically collected. A few of the OFs have been so disgusted in a restaurant (these OFs had to admit it was just a few times) that they left the traditional penny to indicate their displeasure.
Now, an OF said, the waiter or waitress can just sling the plate at you, and forget to even ask if everything is OK, or if you need anything else and they still get a tip. This is wrong, according to the OFs.
Most of the OFs leave a pretty good tip when they are happy and now they won’t even get that chance.
The OFs wonder what planet these politicians live on. Social Security saw no increases this year because the cost of living has not risen — say what? Have the people who run that governmental department been in a grocery store lately? The OFs doubt it. How this got into talking about tips, this scribe does not know.
The OMOTM that were at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and being served by a waitress with a ready smile and laugh along with proficiency that earned her money and tips were: Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Bill Herzog, Jim Rissacher, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Wayne Gaul, and me.
Tuesday, Jan. 12, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont. For the usual weekly weather report, last Tuesday went from spring to winter in one day. The OFs arrived at the Home Front Tuesday morning bundled up for the trip outside.
As the readers must suspect by now, the OFs sit together at the restaurants we favor. Though the times the OFs arrive at the restaurants may vary, it is within half an hour for most of them to take their place at the table.
This means the OFs leave in just about the same order they come in, except for a few that hang in the restaurant until lunch time. When it comes time to leave, the grunting and groaning of the OFs as they get up from the table is almost like a concert.
This is similar to, but not as gross as, the campfire scene in “Blazing Saddles” where those sitting around the campfire select Alex Karas as Mongo to go and take care of the sheriff. “Let Mongo do it” is the collective decision of the cowboys in “Blazing Saddles.”
The OFs, being no different than anyone else, have a goodly number just coming down with, in the middle of, or just getting rid of colds. So added to the musical selection of grunts and groans getting up, is the hacking and sniffling of colds going around and now you have an idea of the sounds of the Old Men of the Mountain in concert.
Old stuff is useful
The OFs began talking about all the old stuff they have lying around which doesn’t work. Once the conversation started, it was discovered that, not only do the OFs do a lot of things in concert, we can add this trait to the mix.
The scribe thinks it has to do with the era the OFs were brought up in. Most of the OFs were in their formative years when nobody had many material things, and what they had they hung on to.
The other lessons learned were that the OFs made do with what they had and threw nothing away because, if something broke, it could be cobbled up to work with something else that would make it work.
This is so embedded in the OF’s psyche that it has never left. Younger people may think: What is the old goat doing with all that junk? It is not junk to the OF. What the younger people think is junk may be a part that will repair another piece of so-called junk and put that piece back in operating condition.
New stuff can be excessive
The OFs talked again about treating our finite planet as an infinite planet and it isn’t. This was brought about by a brief conversation on fracking and what happens when the entire product is removed from under the ground. What happens to that space?
The OFs think that eventually we will take so much from under us many parts of the Earth’s crust will just cave in. A few of the OFs feel that some of what is being done to the planet in the name of progress is anything but.
Then there is always the argument that, as there are more people inhabiting the Earth, they have to be taken care of. However, some of the OFs think we don’t really need three televisions, two and three cars, a pickup truck, a couple of ATVs, plus a couple of snowmobiles, and houses the size of hotels.
Some OFs say that making and selling all this “stuff” is what keeps people working and, in their opinion, that is the important thing. They, too, have a point.
What to do? What to do?
One OF said, “We do not need Viagra; we should be using ‘saltpeter’ in the water instead of fluoride.”
This OF thinks we are going about it the wrong way. His thought is, if we cut down on population growth all over the planet, then there would be fewer people to consume food, water, and stuff. (Scribe aside: Saltpeter has nothing to do with the male libido; that is an old wives’ tale.)
Starting cars in the cold
Standard wintertime discussion is starting vehicles with the OFs. The OFs notice that most new cars start right up even in cold temperatures and with weak batteries. The battery has to be completely drained for the newer vehicles not to start.
Some OFs do not have newer vehicles and have to put up with the ominous deep sounding whirrrrrr, whirrrrr of the starter motor sucking up all the juice and not leaving any for the spark plugs. That is a sickening sound on a cold day when it is necessary to be someplace.
The OFs start pumping the gas pedal and either cussing at, or cajoling the d--- car to start, when deep down it is the OF’s own fault for the vehicle not to do so. The OFs discussed all the remedies from covering the engine with blankets, to using lead lights, to getting out the ether, to bringing the battery in the house.
The OFs don’t see much of this anymore, if at all. This is one place where the OFs agree technology has paid off in making life easier.
The OFs who have traveled to the western part of the country talked about what the terrain and climate was in that section of the United States. One of the things they discussed is the Four Corners where visitors are able to (if they want to look like a spider, as one OF put it) be in four states at the same time.
The four states are Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is interesting to visit these areas, but the OFs thought it was always good to get back home. Conversely, if visitors originally from the wide-open spaces of the Southwest came to New York, they probably would be just as glad to get back home.
Those OFs who are quasi-glad to be back home, and were able to attend the breakfast at the Home Front Café in Altamont, were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aelesio, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mack Porter, Wayne Gaul, Gerry Irwin, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen and me.
It was cold last Tuesday morning! It has been colder by a lot, but for some reason the OFs thought it was really cold when they got to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. The OFs are not yet conditioned for single-digit numbers, above and below the zero mark.
There are up-sides to misery at times. This time it was the clear, cold early morning, with no wind, plus there was a great feel to the air; then, when looking up and seeing the crescent moon and bright stars running away to make room for the sun to arrive, this feeling seemed to take some of the cold away. Great start for the first Old Men of the Mountain breakfast in 2016.
The number of OFs who were at this first breakfast showed (at least this time) that the OFs can deal with the cold, but snow, sleet, and freezing rain kept most of them in the week before. Those OFs with outdoor furnaces have to get up and feed that furnace no matter what the temperature is. So, while they are up and dressed (the OFs are not going to run out at 20-below in the snow and in their PJs to feed the furnace), they might just as well go to breakfast.
Failing eyes or smaller print?
The OFs are in the stage of life now where everything hurts; the ears do not hear as well, and the eyes do not see as well, so this brings the OFs to large print. Most of the OFs say it is not their eyes; they maintain it is the printed matter that has gotten smaller.
One OF said he did a comparison on phone books. He was using an old phone book as a prop. Who hasn’t used a phone book to prop something up? But to leave it there since 1979 is a little unusual. It seems the OF should have fixed whatever it was by now.
However, the OF compared the print in that decades-old book with the print of the newer phone books, and he found there is no comparison. He could read the old phone book with ease, and in the new phone book the names and numbers were just thin black lines.
An OF mentioned he gets the Readers Digest in large print and that large print does make it easier to read. This OF said he doesn’t have the eye strain with this large-print version; however, the OF is still capable of reading the regular Readers Digest but there is eye strain involved after a period of time when reading regular print version.
The OFs surmised that it comes down to dollars and cents (as it usually does). The OFs think publishers can place more information on fewer pages with tiny print, and eye doctors can sell more spectacles.
This scribe in not a food connoisseur so he is not sure if there is much difference in eggs. For instance, do duck eggs taste different than chicken eggs, or do chicken eggs taste different than goose eggs?
The OFs were kidding another OF with his response to being fed pigeon eggs. How did the OF know they were not eggs from a chicken?
There seems to be the seed of a little survey here. We should try to get a sampling of different bird eggs, and see how they compare.
Those OFs who have tried eating rattlesnake say it tastes like chicken. The rest of the OFs have to take their word for it.
There were not many takers on the survey anyhow. The OFs are meat-and-potato guys, not too adventuresome in the culinary department. The OFs are more of the “Let Mikey have it, he’ll eat anything” variety.
The OFs touched on a subject many people get into. That was: What makes some days go fast, and some days just seem to drag?
One thought was to have an appointment or plan in the not to distant future — good or bad. Some plans being considered were going to the dentist, or going to the hospital for a procedure, when some of your wife’s friends are coming over that you can’t stand.
Time just flies by and the next thing you know the day has flown by. When the OF has a family outing, or fishing or hunting trip, all of a sudden it seems like the fun trip is never going to get here.
A simplified reasoning is: If it is fun, time seems to fly by while you’re doing it; if the OF hates what he is doing, time seems to drag; or, if the future plan is fun, time is also a drag (i.e., the time drags before you can get do it.
One OF mentioned that he enjoys coming to the breakfast and looks forward to them. The OF said that sometimes the time between breakfasts is short, like he just left one breakfast, and is on the way to the next; yet sometimes he wonders to himself will Tuesday ever get here.
Another OF pondered: What if we did not have years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes — would anything being done collectively get done?
It would be hard but most projects would get done, not in a reasonable time, but, if we were not concerned with time by years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes, who would know when it was done and who would care because time is not being measured? Whatever it was would just stand there completed whenever.
The OFs do care, and those OFs who care that it was morning, and it was Tuesday and they were at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Bill Lichliter, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Wayne Gaul, Mace Porter, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Henry Whipple, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.