On Tuesday, June 24, the Duanesburg Diner hosted the Old Men of the Mountain. This scribe does not know if hosting is the right word; it was more like a hostile takeover.
No lives were lost, or dignity hurt, but some OFs had to shoo out some other OFs so they would have a place to sit. This was OK because some of the early birds were ready to leave anyway.
The Gas-Up held on June 14 was still a topic of conversation. The discussion was on safety, and how much of the old machinery was as safe as lighting a cigarette in dynamite shed. The dynamite was obviously dangerous even then, but the lighting of the cigarette we now find is even more dangerous.
The OFs mentioned all the spinning, unguarded flywheels; exposed gears; and shafts on various pieces of equipment whirling all over the place.
One OF mentioned that, many years ago, there were belt-driven buzz saws, with no guards at all on almost every farm, and belt-driven jack lines in many factories. At the Gas-Up, the running equipment with its “pit-cha-cha-cha, pit-cha-cha-cha” would give an OSHA (Occupational and Safety and Health Administration) representative nightmares.
Spinning the flywheel on much of the old engines was a way of starting them, even on some models of John Deere tractors; that is just the way it was then.
Another OF did mention that it was a fact we worked like that and to say no one got hurt was not true. Many a farmer and factory worker became hamburger from making a mistake around this equipment, and some of the OFs knew of people who made one of these mistakes, and you only had to make it once.
The “science” of burning wood
The next conversation seemed to follow the same line, but was much more current. Over and over, the OFs discuss burning wood and the “science” of burning wood.
The OFs said how stupid they are at times because many go into the woods alone with their trusty chain saw. It is a good idea to let someone know they are headed to the wood lot if they are going alone. That is the safety part.
There are a lot more safety considerations but this should be number one on the list of things to do before the OF even heads out. This is good advice for anyone to follow for that matter.
Then one OF said, “No matter what kind of wood is being burned it has the same BTUs per pound.” This scribe had not heard that about British Thermal Units, used to denote the amount of heat energy in fuels.
After arriving home, this scribe checked it out, and found the OF who mentioned this little fact was right. The scribe selected four types of wood from a list a mile long of different kinds of wood. Birch, red oak, white oak, and maple were the ones chosen:
— Birch, 3,145 pounds per cord, and 19.5 units of heat per cord;
— Red Oak, 3,570 pounds per cord, and 22.1 units of heat per cord;
— White Oak, 3,910 pounds per cord, and 24.2 units of heat per cord;
— Maple, 2,805 pounds per cord, and 17.4 units of heat per cord.
Divide units of heat into pounds per cord and each one gives l61 (plus a tad) heat units per pound. Son of a gun.
Another OF said that wood and leaves in the woods (fallen debris just lying there until they turn to dirt) give off the same chemicals into the atmosphere in their decomposing state as when they are burned, except in the woods the decomposing also produces methane.
When burning wood, the methane is what burns and the methane is not in the smoke. Some farms use the methane generated by manure piles by processing it through a methane generator and then use it for heat, and larger farms use the methane to power some pretty good sized generators.
To check this out, this scribe would have had to go back to school and take advanced chemistry. What the scribe discerned at the first glance is that all wood is made from the same stuff, only in varying amounts, and that is what makes pine different from ash.
And, looking at it again, this scribe scratched his bald head and muttered, hmm, this might not be right but it sure looks like it. Maybe there is some educated soul out there that could write The Enterprise and set the OFs right.
Anyway, the OF who mentioned the wood smoke and wood decomposing contends, if we breathe deeply on a walk through the woods, we are sucking in the same chemicals as contained in wood smoke. The walk in the woods is supposed to healthy for us, yet the wood smoke is a carcinogen.
None of the OFs had an answer for this. Maybe the heat alters the chemicals, or the heat has some of the chemicals combine into something else that makes a harmful compound. The OFs didn’t know.
This scribe thinks maybe the smell of smoke bothers some, and the smoke being a carcinogen is a “smoke screen” to control by the political process the burning of wood and burn barrels.
Unattended burning barrels can cause a problem with sparks. The fire departments are kept busy with wood stoves, but that has nothing to do with the chemicals in the wood.
As the OFs have said before, many of the products the OFs use are perfectly safe; it is the operator that works unsafely, and the product gets blamed. Another anthem of the OFs.
Those OFs who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg safely, and ate so heartily that much methane was generated were: Miner Stevens, and his guest Justin Stevens, Dave Williams, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Roger Chapman, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Jay Taylor, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Jack Norray, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Joe Loubier, Rich Donnelly, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.
On Tuesday, June 17, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Café in Schoharie where the OMOTM lamented that, at our breakfast the next Tuesday, the day will be shorter. The OFs complained how fast this came about, and many do not have all their gardens in yet.
Some plants and seeds are in — but not all. The corn to be “knee high by the fourth of July” will have to hustle. One OF said, “If we get a good stretch of warm days and warm nights, so the ground itself warms up, we might make it.”
Some of the OFs made it to the Gas-Up just outside of Gallupville, located off Route 443 towards Schoharie, on Drebitko Road. This event is held two weekends a year, the weekend before Father’s Day, and the weekend of Father’s Day.
The OFs that went on Saturday, June 14, froze. It felt like it was about to snow, the wind blew, and the clouds rolled dark and ominous, yet the event was well attended. Sunday was quite different, and, oddly enough, the weekend before was even better.
Some of the OFs had their equipment on display at the Gas-Up. The items at the Gas-Up are old and most of them run like new, only they look beat, just like the OFs who go there. However, the OFs look beat but they don’t run so well.
It is hard to put a new spark plug and fresh gas in an OF and improve his operation. Most of the OFs have to grind it out with what they have, and, like a hit-and-miss engine, the OFs miss more than they hit.
The OFs wonder if the current generation would be able to get along if there happened to be a major catastrophe where all our power was interrupted for an extended period of time. There would be no Internet, no gas, no lights; the list goes on and on. One heck of an adjustment period would ensue.
One OF suggested people should make a list of what supplies they would need and how they would obtain them. Decades ago, before there were large cities, people got along on basically farmers’ markets, ice houses, and homespun clothes.
One OF said that either way with technology up the kazoo (or having no technology at all) the most important job on the whole planet is farming, and too many city people are forgetting that and driving the farmers off the land because, through a whole list of rigmarole, new governmental rules are making it quite hard to farm, and developers want the land. This topic seems to be a general theme with the OFs.
What if all the farmers got together and took care of only themselves and refused to deliver any goods to anyone else? The OFs bet things might change.
However, one OG said he didn’t think it would change anything at all. The big warehouses would just import more materials from China, Chili, Australia, and places like that. It is a Catch-22.
Another OF asked a rhetorical question, “What are we going to do with all the people as the Earth’s population keeps expanding? There is only so much water and so much land; we can’t make any more of either, but we do continue to make babies.”
An OF replied, “You are making my head hurt. To me, the world is full of old people. My problem right now is making it to tomorrow.”
Phew, enough of that! This scribe wants to move to another table. The scribe (as an OF) thinks that, in the not-to-distant future, humans will be scooting around space, like the rest of the universe.
Some like it hot
When is it time to shut down the furnace? Some of the OFs are still running theirs.
One OF said that he decided to shut his outside wood furnace down by letting it go out. So he did, and it got down to just a few embers.
Then along came last Saturday, and last Friday night, and the OF said he caught it just in time and started that sucker up again. Taking a shower when the bathroom is only 60 some degrees is not his idea of fun.
“Hey! It’s the middle of June, for crying out loud,” the OF said.
Some OFs added, “How about those apartment buildings where they automatically shut the heat off in May, and some even April 15th?”
“Then it is the time to invest in a good electric heater,” was a common-sense reply by another OF.
Those OFs who made it to the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie because, at one time, many years ago, they were a gleam in their father’s eye were: Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Don Wood, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Joe Loubier, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Bill Krause, Roger Chapman, and me.
Hobbies are something you do in your free time for enjoyment or relaxation. When I was young, I thought as I got older I'd have time to get into hobbies, but I was totally wrong — the older I get, the busier I get.
Plus, as you age, your energy level decreases such that, sometimes, just resting is all you want to do. Still, hobbies are a wonderful pastime, and truly worth finding the time and resources to participate in if you can. Here are some hobbies I've tried and would love to do more of:
— Model Railroading: I've been interested in model trains since I was a kid. Back then, I had the time but not the space or funds to get into it — now I have those but not the time.
If you've never seen a great model railroad, you really should. There is a club layout in the basement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that is truly a miniature world. They've modeled the Troy area in the 1940s, and it's not only beautiful but historically accurate as well. While I could never create something as amazing as that, I'd sure love to have something to work on and play with. Someday.
— Computer Programming: From the first moment I was exposed to computers in high school, where your programs were on paper tape and punch cards, I was hooked. I've made my career working with computers, and, of course, they are ubiquitous now, but there is still a big rush in getting a computer to do exactly what you want it to do.
If you have the bug for this (no pun intended), there are many programming languages to choose from, and, lucky for us, the best of these are free or "open source." Computers are great because, unlike people, there is no gray area with them — the program either works or it doesn't.
— Woodworking and Metalworking: Woodworking and metalworking are terrific hobbies because you can make useful things. Though very similar in the creative sense, they are very different in real life, because metal is basically stable but wood shrinks and expands with temperature and humidity.
The kinds of tools you need are different as well (tools are like toys for big boys). I've made plenty of bookcases over the years, and I can hang shelves anywhere, but I really want to take my woodworking to the next level.
I'm also learning how to weld, and I have a really old metal lathe that I'd love to get working one of these days. Both of these hobbies reward practice and patience in so many ways it's fantastic.
— Ham Radio, Electronics, Audio: I've been a radio fan my whole life, so it was natural to get a ham radio license. Ham radio ties in nicely with electronics, too — there are so many gadgets to build.
Though ham radio is no longer on the cutting edge due to the Internet, it's still a great learning tool and can really come in handy during an emergency. Good quality stereo gear is awesome as well, and you can still build it yourself if you like. There is so much information out there in this area, much of it free, that you are truly limited only by your time and imagination.
— Fitness: It's always good to do something physical, even if it's just walking. Keeping the blood flowing keeps you feeling young.
Over the years I've tried everything — running, weight-lifting, bicycling, calisthenics — but I always come back to nice long walks to clear my head and make me feel good. I'd like to hike more as well, and someday I'd love to learn to swim, but the important thing is just doing something. A good sweat now and then is a great thing.
— Learning Another Language: Wouldn't it be fascinating to learn another tongue and then travel to places where that tongue is spoken? Maybe you won't be fluent, but it would still be helpful for sure.
My problem is there are so many places I want to go I can't decide on what language to learn. Not too long ago, I was at a campground late at night, sitting under the stars with my short-wave radio, and I picked up Radio China which was airing Mandarin lessons. That language is so different from our own, but for that one night, if a Chinese person showed up at the campground, I could have greeted him or her and then shown them to the bathroom!
— Entertaining: By “entertaining,” I mean cooking and sharing good times with family and friends. Every now and then, you go to a party where everything is right — the food, the mix of guests, and the weather if it's outside. It's hard to get it just right, and there are entire books on how to entertain.
My lovely wife is a big fan of potlucks, where everyone brings a dish to share. Then there's holiday entertaining, theme parties, sports events — I'm getting tired just thinking about it. Entertaining creatively and effectively is a skill in its own right and one worth getting better at.
— Traveling: You only have so much time, money, and strength to travel, yet there are so many places to go it's mindboggling. You name a city or landmark anywhere in the world and I'm sure I'd love to go there. How do you choose?
I know for my wife and I riding motorcycles in the Swiss Alps is definitely on our bucket list, as well as touring Italy and visiting Australia. Those would all be fantastic, but what about Peru, South Africa, Japan, and New Zealand, to say nothing of closer destinations like Key West, Alaska, and even the national parks? Will there be enough time, money, and health? I sure hope so for some of it at least.
— Reading and Writing: All my life, reading has been a dependable joy, the one activity that never fails to entertain and enlighten. Reading truly is a time and space machine, as you connect with writers from different eras and walks of life. Such a deal. In my case, reading led to creative writing, which I enjoy very much.
Even if I had all the money in the world, my favorite things would still be a good walk and a good book. Truly you don't need much more than that.
Note: though I'm an avid motorcyclist, I did not include motorcycling here because, while I do ride in my leisure time, I consider motorcycling more of a lifestyle choice than a hobby. For example, circumstances permitting, I'll always ride rather than drive, and, since driving is not generally considered a hobby, why should motorcycle riding be?
If you can ride to work — and I do whenever I can — then it's not a hobby.
Similarly, I've not included being a sports fan as a hobby. Just listen to some sports talk radio to hear how passionate sports fans can be and you realize we take it very seriously. Sports can be much more than a hobby, or even a lifestyle; watch a Bills game and see those bare-chested fans with their faces painted, wildly yelling and screaming, outdoors in freezing cold weather — the word “obsessed” comes to mind.
Gardening, stamp collecting, whatever — hobbies are great fun and worth doing if you have the time and resources. When I hear that people retire and then get bored, I simply have no idea how to relate. There is just so much to learn and do. Enjoy your hobbies!
On June 10, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie. Interspersed throughout much of the morning conversation at one corner of the restaurant were discussions on what Schoharie was like in the 1940s and ’50s.
This was prompted by three or four of the OFs who were sitting by the window of the restaurant, which looks out across the street to the courthouse, and the Parrott House. The OFs remembered the movies in the street, setting pins in the bowling alley, and, at that time, the Parrott House was the place to be seen.
A couple of the OFs remembered the Glass Bar, but that will be that — let it be said that there was a place called the Glass Bar.
The village has changed, the Parrott House has changed, and the times have changed, but really nothing has changed.
The OFs are still sitting and eating, getting out of their vehicles, and walking within the same five thousand or so square feet of the planet they did umpteen, ump years ago, even though most have been all over the country, and some all over the world; here they are just like salmon, back to the same dirt on the bottom of their shoes that they had there when they started their travels.
Our discussion on the history of Schoharie (as the OFs remember it) only goes back 60, or maybe 70, years ago. Not a history like history books, nonetheless, first-hand accounts of the past.
The proposed work that is going to be done at the intersection of routes 443 and 156 is what prompted the next conversation. The hamlets of Knox, Berne, West Berne, and Gallupville were bustling little communities with hotels, stores, gas stations, restaurants, and tourist destinations like White Sulphur Springs in Berne, most just memories now.
The OFs mentioned that this was the year of the dandelion. Now, at least in the valley of Schoharie and the Hilltowns, it is also the year, so far, of green and phlox — these wild flowers are everywhere.
The OFs do not know how many remember the ice cream destination of “Dutcher’s.” This was a place outside of Altamont on Route 158, not far from the reservoir, where the proprietors of Dutcher’s made their own ice cream. It is now the home of The Elegant Touch catering service.
Many of the OFs remember going there in the 1950s and ’60s and the amount of ice cream that was dished out. One OF remembered the banana splits, and claimed that was a meal. It wasn’t only the quantity — but the quality — similar to the Bears restaurant, one OF said. Dutcher’s still remains one of the many gone-but-not-forgotten places that were pluses in the realm of the OFs.
Advice for kids
The topic that comes up quite often with the OFs is our grandchildren. One OF has a relatively new grandchild and it his first.
It was obvious how tickled he is; however, he sat across from another OF that has 18 grandchildren! The new grandfather has a lot of catching up to do.
Talking about kids, one OF noticed how another OF came in and sat down. This OF sat down with a plump — he just dropped into the chair. This was not because the sitting OF wanted to, but, with OF knees, hips, backs and legs, many times this is the only way to accomplish the maneuver. Getting up out of the chair is not much easier either; there has to be a darn sturdy table at the ready to push on in order to become elevated.
The OFs remember telling their kids to sit without plopping into a chair or couch. They remember telling their kids the furniture is not a trampoline. One OF mentioned he remembered his parents telling him the same thing that he harangued his kids for. Now that the OF is of the age he is, he has a tendency to fold and plop, and then hope he can get back up.
Some of the OFs discussed the horse race at Belmont (and the rant about the Triple Crown that came up after the race). The OFs are in agreement with the co-owner of California Chrome, but not quite how he handled it.
One OF mentioned that the owner was not one of the high-class horse-owner mucky-mucks. He seemed to be more of a people person just like the OFs are who speak their minds (while not always politically correct) yet they are more honest most of the time.
The OFs also covered another current topic — chickens and chickens as pets! Chickens make good pets, and are better as a teaching tool for your kids than cats or dogs.
Chickens make far less noise than some yappy little poodle that barks all day. Clucking hens are very relaxing similar to a purring cat.
Who hasn’t been startled out of bed by a cat fight right outside your bedroom window? Talk about noise!
Any pet takes a lot of care no matter what it is, even if it is a pot-bellied pig, or miniature horse, they all have to be looked after. One OF said he has a large pet that needs a lot of looking after, and nobody complains about that. It is called a wife.
Those attending the breakfast at the Country Café in Schoharie and really filling up the place with good old Hilltown and Valley dirt were: Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Roger Chapman, Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Herb Sawotka, Miner Stevens, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Jim Rissacher, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.
We are now into June, and the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh on June 2 as a few more snowbirds returned. This scribe may be forced to join this migratory group. The operative word here is forced; joining that flock remains to be seen.
The OFs for the most part have been a very productive group. Here we have two categories. One is what many OFs have accomplished, and two is adding to the continuation of the species of homosapiens.
It is this second subject that came up, showing how proud the OFs are of their kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. Every now and then, an OF will bring in something reported in a newspaper that the offspring of the OF has accomplished.
It is interesting to the OFs to hear these reports, which in turn means the OFs will listen to you when you bring up something that your brood has done that is noteworthy.
The OFs raise their eyes to the sky when the age of some of the OFs’ kids is brought up in conjunction with these spontaneous reports — the age of these kids brings a form of wonderment to the OFs.
“How old?” is the common question.
When whatever OF is telling the story says a number like 50, or 60, and some reaching retirement age and beyond, it hard for the OFs to believe this.
One OF said, “I never thought I would reach that age, let alone the age I am now.”
A second OF replied, “It’s all the good food we get at Mrs. K’s and the other restaurants that got you here, you ole goat; you should leave a bigger tip.”
“Hey I get d--- good food at home, too, don’t forget. I know, because you keep coming over right at supper time to mooch.”
Reaching back to “accomplishments” (as previously mentioned), the number one-accomplishment would be the hobbies the OFs have that this scribe has cited on other occasions. The OGs are quite proud of these, too.
At Mrs. K’s, there is a clock on the wall completely handcrafted by one of the OFs; there is also a painting in the same restaurant handcrafted by another of the OFs.
Some of the OFs have more to do than they have life left. One OF has a restored horse-drawn grader, while others have enough antique tractors around that, if melted down, would at least make a naval destroyer.
Others are really active, and hike and maintain hiking trails — some of their activities have been referred to in the newspaper. Others collect, whatever, even if it is just belly-button fuzz, while some still think they can collect women.
“Old men will dream dreams”
The other OFs call them dreamers. It is stated in the Bible that “your young men will prophesize, and your old men will dream dreams.” The second part of that statement is the OFs. See, the OFs are just doing as they are told.
The OFs sometimes wonder how much of what they do is predicated on genes, or how the OFs behaved when they were young, or their diet, or their work environment. The OFs think that any one or combination of any is the reason some are not able to do much, and some are able to do 10-mile bike rides and consider that too short.
The OFs’ advice to younger OFs (who will be OFs sooner than they think) is: Take care of yourself now or pay for it later, and paying for it later is no fun.
One OF was presented with a World War II ration book, which happened to have been issued to the OF it was given to during the war. Many young people will have no idea what this is or how important they were.
During World War II, many things —such as gasoline, tires, sugar, butter, meat, and cars — were rationed. Gas was strictly controlled, as was a host of other items.
If anyone is interested, it can be checked out on the net. One search engine on Google (World War Two rationing) is good. It has pictures of the books, the ration stamps — the whole ball of wax.
Because people were all affected by this conflict, together they worked hard to make sure their labor was not in vain. Victory gardens were quite common to supplement the supply of food and much of this food was shared with others.
As with everything, there were some bad apples and the OFs said, once the rotten ones were found out, sometimes the law was taken by the hands of citizens and the bad apples wished they had never started to rot.
Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and who are still making sure they take care of each other, were: John Rossmann, Bill Bartholomew, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, David Williams, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Henry Witt, Don Wood, Art Frament, Jay Taylor, Herb Sawotka, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.