Haven in a storm: On a dark and snowy Tuesday morning, the glow of neon warmly welcomes the Old Men of the Mountain to breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner.

On the last Tuesday of year 2015, Dec. 29, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. This was the first day that the OFs have even had a hint of winter driving.

Early in the morning, the roads to the Duanesburg Diner had some snow, and it was sleeting by the time the OFs who made it to Duanesburg and were fed. When the time came for the OFs to head home, it was not bad at all.

This scribe discussed the column with a published writer who reads the column but lives waaaay out of the area; he said he understands the problem of writing the column with a semblance of freshness because of the redundancy of conversations the OFs must have. Which, to the OFs, are not redundant, but variations of topics that have been covered many times before.

This makes reporting the fodder fed to the scribe by the OFs difficult. However, it is not unique to the scribe because he, too, is an OF and it all seems relevant and new to him.

One point the scribe failed to bring up in the conversation with the author, is that much of the chatter of the OMOTM is on aging and the problems that tag along with getting older and how the OFs cope. The scribe was taught many years ago the best way to learn anything and retain it was through repetition.

In that regard (and the scribe cites this as an example) the discussion of ticks in different ways, and repetitively, should help those who read the column (and the OFs themselves) to know what to do, how to realize they have been bitten, and how to avoid and understand the world of ticks.

Beaver pelts worthless

Now to the conversations of Tuesday morning.

One OF reported that he was called to remove some beavers from a pond where the beavers were causing a lot of trouble, and property damage. After obtaining the proper permits, the OF harvested five beavers from the pond.

The OF said the beavers were very large and he was glad he had help in getting them out. This OF told the other OFs that, now that Russia is mad at us and not buying the beaver pelts, the bottom has fallen out of the beaver pelt business.

The Chinese demand has not picked up the slack so it is hardly worth the gas money to mess with these animals. That may be way they are proliferating to the point where they really are becoming a nuisance.

Bourbon honey?

Our resident beekeeper reported that one of the honey people he knows is buying used bourbon kegs and filling them with honey.  This fellow is going to leave the honey in the kegs for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time.

The prototype apparently showed that the honey will absorb some of the bourbon flavor from the kegs. The alcohol will be long gone so only the flavor will be left and the theory is he will have bourbon-flavored honey.

He hopes this will catch on. It might with the “I’m going to hire a wino to decorate our home” crowd.

Water scarcity

The OFs discussed the reality that more homes being built in some areas of the Hilltowns are affecting the water tables. Residents of some homes (as other houses are being constructed around them) have noticed their well levels have gone down to the point where some have run out of water, or their wells have taken a longer time to recover.

These OFs report that wells that previously delivered 10- to 12-gallons-a-minute water flow are now in jeopardy.

Fish tales

The OFs progressed from this type of water to local streams, and lakes, specifically Warner Lake, and Thompson’s Lake and the stocking of fish. Some of the OFs were pretty sure the process of restocking is still going on, while a few others were not so sure.

An OF mentioned some state hatcheries have been closed and the only reason they could think of was state budget restraints.

The OFs started their fish tales on the size of some of the fish they have in their ponds, or ponds they know of, especially the size of some of the carp and catfish. These two aquatic scavengers do keep the OFs’ ponds clean. One OF mentioned that he has grass-eating catfish in his pond and they are pretty good sized and do gobble up some of the algae.

Name changes

The OFs talked about name changes and some of the OFs’ names are not their real names. The OFs told stories that, when their parents emigrated, quite often their names would be changed at Ellis Island to a more common name so they would be able to find work more easily.

One OF mentioned his father’s name was changed from what it was to a more “Americanized” name so he could do just that — take employment. This OF said that one of his father’s brothers also changed his name and it was different than the one his father took, again for the same reason. His other uncles did not have to change their names because they stayed on the farm.

Social Security and birth records must have a grand time with all this. Anyway, “Hey, you” works for anyone and is gender neutral.

Those braving the weather and making it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and sitting in the warmth of the diner with hot cups of coffee were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Gerry Irwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, and me, and that’s it.        


Tuesday, Dec. 22, the morning temperature at 5:30 was 43 degrees; it was cloudy, and still dark.

The Old Men of the Mountain congregated at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh as is the tradition of the breakfast before Christmas. Loretta, as usual, put on a buffet with all kinds of goodies, plus meat and cheese platters, crackers, pickles, and homemade fruitcake.  This was a real Christmas spread for the OMOTM to start with, and then the OFs ordered breakfast.

More than one of the OFs is musically bent (meaning they have talent and they are not shaped like the G cleft symbol).  One of these OFs has a small group that played for the party at Mrs. K’s.

It is only fair to mention the members of the group, starting with Roger Shafer who is the OF, then Debbie Fish, and, rounding out the trio, Tom White. Many of the OFs are talented in other ways and the OMOTM as a group is quite lucky to have all this knowledge and talent sitting at the same table.

The group played such rousing songs as “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and one that espoused the fact the OFs do not really enjoy the view they get of themselves without clothes in front of the mirror — “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore” by Errol Gray. 

One OF mentioned he needs a GPS system to follow the wrinkles to find his toes so he can cut his toenails, and then he needs to fire up the chainsaw to do it.

The OFs would like to thank Roger for bringing this little group to the breakfast Tuesday morning and getting the OFs in the Christmas spirit — snow sure is not going to do it this year.

Spring in December

Speaking of snow, many of the OFs reported on how the weather is so much like spring that one OF has a sporadic growth of the yellow flowers of his forsythia blooming, and another OF said that his lilacs are beginning to look green. Still another said that the maple trees by him have the red cast of budding, and one tree, he thought, even had a few green leaves.

A couple of the OFs said the birds are not visiting the feeders either; the birds are around, they noted, but the seed is still there uneaten. One OF said he thinks the birds are getting their fill of what they like best and only come to his feeder for dessert.

The OFs may have reported this before but some have stated they have spotted a few farmers getting the jump on spring plowing. These thrifty farmers might just as well take advantage of the weather, and fuel while it is relatively cheap.

There is a chance come spring the price of fuel will go up or, as one OF said, “It could also go lower.”

To which another OF said, “Don’t count on it. If I was still farming, I would be out there doing the same thing. There is still going to be cold weather so then I would still have time to catch up on repairing equipment, and barn maintenance. Spring might then not catch me by surprise and I only have half my winter chores done.”

Getting dressed

A group of OFs at the end of the table near the kitchen was talking about how they have to get dressed now, and the way they get dressed.

One OF said, whether he is barefoot or has socks on, even when putting on his shorts, quite often a foot becomes caught in one leg or the other and he almost topples over. The other OFs knew exactly what he was talking about because they have the same problem.

Another OF said he has to lean against something now to put on his socks, shorts, and pants. Yet another OF said he pulls his pants halfway up and almost takes a header because invariably he is standing on his suspenders. Another round of grunts and yes-es in agreement.

Next comes the process of putting the OF’s arms through his sleeves.  One OG said he can get the left arm in the sleeve then he can’t even find the hole in the sleeve to get the right arm in. He said he is there flipping and flopping the shirt, or sweater, or coat all over the place trying to get the right arm into the sleeve.

Another OF said he has the same problem but solved it somewhat by not pulling his shirt up high before putting his right arm in. Then he hunches his back and kind of flips it up to his shoulders.

Clothes for kids and for the OFs take a beating; it is amazing fabric and thread can be so tough. In the movies, where some seductress rips the shirt off a guy’s back, the shirt must be prop. Tain’t that easy, Magee.

Some OFs said they have seen guys get part of their clothing caught in a gear, or spinning drive shaft and it does not tear. Many farmers have been seriously hurt with loose fitting clothing getting caught in unguarded whirling parts.

Those OMOTM attending the party at Mrs. K’s in Middleburgh and offering their thanks to Loretta and her staff for all they do on the Tuesday before Christmas were: Robie Osterman, Steve Kelly, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Henry Witt, Jim Heiser, Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, Karl Remmers, Alvin Latham, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Don Wood, Wayne Gaul, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Jim Rissacher, Marty Herzog, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Cartier, Henry Whipple, Harold Grippen and me.



— Photo by John Williams

The Old Men of the Mountain gathered at the Your Way Café last week. “The OMOTM do not frequent the fanciest of places, only the good ones,” said scribe and photographer John R. Williams.

The Old Men of the Mountain were fortunate enough on Tuesday, Dec. 15, to meet at the Your Way Café in Schoharie.

The OFs were a little nervous because the member who was on duty to call the restaurants ahead of time and warn them that the OFs were coming had received no answer when calling the café. Panicsville erupted.

The caller contacted two other OFs and found out that the café was closed that day so the staff could have its annual Christmas party. Whew — can’t blame them, they are entitled some time off to have fun.

The OFs found out that the staff really had a party; it was a two-day affair. On Sunday they headed to the Turning Stone Casino, had their party and stayed over and returned Monday.

Monday, the OFs are assuming, was the “clear the head day” to get ready for the work week, not knowing until they saw the note on the door that the OMOTM would be there in a few hours. Welcome back — now get to work.

The etiquette of illness

One topic of conversation was keeping track of those OFs who have been ill, or are ill. Sometimes an OF will report on another OF who has missed a few gatherings and the rest of the OFs find out the OF has been really sick, and may have even been in the hospital, or just got out of said establishment.

To some OFs, it is like they are gossipers and don’t want to dwell on other’s misfortunes, while others like to know what’s going on so they can see if there is anything they can do to help.

Other OFs say they have problems with visiting the sick or those who are having real problems health-wise.  A few OFs declared they don’t know what to say, and are not much for chitchat, and maybe the OF in the bad situation just wants to be left alone.

One OF said that the OFs who are having problems should not be dropped or deserted. It is good to know (especially when one is under the weather) that people are still thinking of them, whether they are OFs or not.

It is good that the OFs who really know the OFs who are hurting, and will bring this information to the group so the OFs who want to respond in whatever way they feel comfortable can react. None of the OFs are vultures just waiting to feed on others’ misfortunes; it is just the opposite.

Coffee customs

This scribe notices that, at the breakfast, the waitresses keep the coffee cups filled up and hot. The OFs, in their conversations as they sit at the tables, sip their coffee (some do not take coffee) as the conversation rolls on.

When they have reached their fill, they will say, “I’m good,” or, “I’m fine,” or, “No thanks,” but that comes after a considerable amount of the hot, black, liquid has been consumed. When with friends and in pleasant conversation, the sipping of the liquid is not realized, and the OFs wonder why they have to use the restroom when they get ready to leave.

This is another scribe’s, “Well, duh.” The OFs’ bladders tain’t what they used to be.

Ticked off

Many of the OFs are outdoor people, and the problem with ticks comes up time and time again. This time, they were discussing that the warm weather is keeping these buggers active.

Some OFs have reported they are still coming out of the brush with a good number of ticks on them. Most of the OFs say the ticks are on their clothes, not on their bodies, because they are using string or rubber bands around their wrist and ankles, and their collars are buttoned tight.

Droning on

The popularity of a new fad (which the OFs think is more than a fad) came up and that is the use of drones. Like radio-controlled airplanes, these devices can be a lot of fun, and are inexpensive enough for beginners to get into the hobby.

Again, like RCs, once hooked, the hobby can become a lot more expensive and competitive. But the OFs said, like everything else, irresponsible users will spoil it for everyone by making it necessary to develop laws, rules, and regulations to control the hobby.

One OF mentioned that this is already being done because the drones are interfering with planes. Then another OF said that some of these drones are cheap and have cameras that take beautiful pictures, and might be taking pictures that interfere with people’s privacy.

Others, an OF said, could be carrying things like paint bombs the operator could drop on his neighbor’s lawn furniture and think it was funny.

One OF said that, if one of those things flew over his property, he would wait for it and, if it flew over a second time, he’d let it “have it” with his 12 gauge. Another OF said he could see where these things could cause a lot of trouble.

Fun gets complicated

The OFs think we have a hobby that very innocuously is causing problems and that is the use of laser lights in Christmas displays. One OF said he has heard the problem with these lights is, because they are visible from a considerable height in the sky, pilots are confusing them with airport lights, especially the navi lights (red and white lights) that tell a pilot if he is coming in too high or too low, or if his approach is right on.

“Boy,” one OF said, “What seems like normal fun is sure getting complicated.”

Those OFs who made it to the Your Way Café in Schoharie, and seeing that the café was ready for them with just a few hours notice, were: Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Dave Williams, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Chuck Aelesio, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer (who carries a complete tool box in his pocket), Karl Remmers, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, and me.


Photo by John R. Wiollimas

Bathed in light on a dark morning, Mrs. K’s beckons passers-by.

On the first day of December 2015, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.

With the short days of winter upon us, the OFs arrive at the restaurants at dawn. The sun is just coming up, and in Middleburgh the trees that line the main street are still lit with the lights of the season

The OFs get out of their vehicles and walk to the restaurant, and the aroma of bacon and breakfast mingles with the scents of the early morning air; at that moment all seems right with the world. So begins December 2015.

The OFs’ conversation of remembrances permeates most every breakfast of the Old Men of the Mountain at one time or another. Tuesday morning, it was how the OFs graduated from pitching hay by hand to balers, from outhouses to indoor bathrooms, from heating with stoves to central heat, from cooking on woodstoves to cooking with gas or electric, from homemade bread and pastries to sliced bread and Freihofer’s chocolate-chip cookies, from sucking it up with bad teeth to modern dentistry.

The question was asked, “Would you want to go back?” The answer was not qualified.

Some of the OFs would go back so they did not have the stress of today. Many of the OFs say they seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. One OF said he could not wait to die and get off this d--- planet.

That hit the crux of the problem as some of the OFs see it. Life was hard and tough when the OFs were young, and most of the OFs were poor. Not poor by today’s standards but most of the OFs were in the same boat and did not notice that they were any different than anybody else.

What was not around while the OFs were growing up was the rapid dissemination of news, gossip, and calamities. Some of the OFs’ radios were crystal sets back then. Few of the OFs received the newspaper. The farms did receive in the mail Grit, and the Farm Journal with the cartoon “Peter Tumbledown.”

Today, worldwide information is immediate, and the newspapers and news stations live on gore, disharmony, dissention, and mayhem. To the OFs, all this does is add stress, and more gore, disharmony, dissention, and mayhem.

“Yeah,” one OF said, “I will take the work, and get away from all the rest of it.”

“Nah,” another OF said. “Give me today. I like hot showers, indoor plumbing, and no toothaches.”

This OF does not watch the news, or get a paper. This OF maintains that, if you pick up a paper from 1915, and one from 2015 (except for the price of things), the news would be interchangeable. Nothing changes except all the political correctness. (Enough of that.)

Hunting misgivings?

The OF talked about hunting, duh — it is hunting season, so why not. An OF said he was out one day and part of another over the holiday and saw nothing, but his kids saw at least 10 deer in the same area.

This OF confessed that he has hunted almost all his life and recently had a deer in his sights and it would have been an easy shot, and the OF said he couldn’t pull the trigger. He just watched the deer.

The OF feels his hunting days may be over because he just couldn’t kill the animal. Maybe it was a good thing he didn’t see anything because it might reinforce his lack of desire for the kill.

The opposite of that was one OF showed a picture of a bobcat that his son had just shot. The hunter was holding the cat by its hind legs and the feline was almost as tall as he was.

Mountain lions and fishers

This picture returned to conversations the OFs have had before on the sighting of mountain lions in the Hilltowns. One OF reported that a relative of his recently saw either a pair or one of each twice (or the same one four times).

Another OF has photos of a pair of bobcats in a willow tree in his backyard not 60 feet from his home.

Then one OF said that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has introduced fishers back into the wild and they are vicious critters, and very secretive. One OF said this may explain all our conversations on the absence of squirrels, rabbits, woodchucks, and other little animals that scurry about.

New knee is worth the agony

One OF mentioned that he has a knee that suddenly started to really hurt, and it has subsided a little but has not really let up, so he called the orthopedic doctor to have it checked out. This OF was sitting directly across from two OFs that have had knee replacement surgery and they said, if it is to the point where it is necessary to have it replaced, then have it replaced. The OFs also said it may just need a shot of lubricant.

In either case the OFs recommended it be taken care of. The OFs told the other OF that it is two weeks of hell but worth it.  These OFs do not charge for their advice.

Those OFs who braved the nostalgia of a beautiful late fall morning with its fresh air smells, coupled with breakfast cooking in the kitchen of Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, were: Bill Lichliter,  Harold Guest, Henry Witt, Mark Traver, Chuck Aelesio, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, David Williams, Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Wayne Gaul, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Jim Rissacher, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Roger Shafer, Henry Whipple, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Bill Rice, Harold Grippen, and me.


— Photo submitted by John R. Williams

The Middleburg Diner lacks the "h" that the town of the same name ends in. The eatery is a regular stop for the Old Men of

The Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh was visited by the Old Men of the Mountain on Tuesday, Nov. 24. With Thanksgiving then just a couple of days away (and in our area we have had no snow to speak of) the OFs and thousands of other people are lucking out this November.  We’re not even having cold weather! The ski people may be a little ticked though.

The OFs, one would think, are far enough away in age to not remember a lot of things of long ago but as these little reports show that is not the case. Most of what the OFs remember are good things but there have been some bad things that the OFs think they have shaken off but deep down have not.

The topic drifted to whom the OFs hung with when the OFs were young. A lot had to do with where you lived. The kids in town had their own little cliques, and the farm boys rattled around on the outside. In middle school, then junior high, many dies were cast, depending on age; the farm boys, along with some of the town kids, were not in the in crowd and the teachers unknowingly (at least it seemed) played into the circle of the in-town kids. 

The OFs said they were quite often judged by what their siblings did.  The teachers would never admit it outright but an OF said that one teacher told him his brother was a lot of trouble “so I am going to keep my eye on you.”

The OFs who went on to college said that for them no one there knew what their brother or sisters were like, or even what their family was like because there was no family history tagging along.

One OF said, “We were all strangers on a level playing field.”

Then another OF said that he had to shake off the feeling of being on the outside even though he had a lot of friends and did not consider himself a dork. In college he was able to select the people he wanted to hang with, and they accepted him because they were in the same boat.

Some OFs said that is why college reunions, and high school reunions are 180 degrees apart, and for some reason the high school reunion seems more important, because quite often the OF can go back to the jerks in high school and say, “Ha, I drive a Maserati, and you are still driving a Dodge Dart.”

Tech talk: Preserving pictures

The OFs started an interesting conversation on computers and one OF brought up some points about saving your pictures for posterity. It seems the best thing to do is make prints of the ones anyone really wants to keep

One OF said he places them on the computer first, then he puts them on a flash drive, and then on an external hard drive. Then he makes folders of ones that pertain to particular subjects, or ones that the OF really wants to keep and puts those on a compact disc.

The OF said that none of these will last. The major problem is that in a few short years there will be nothing that will read them. The best way to make sure they will be read at least in the foreseeable future is to purchase a cheap computer and never use it.

Never hook it to the ’net, and use it only to read what you have, like the pictures or documents you have now.

Another OF said that even prints fade. Then an OF suggested that if it is a person you really want people to know about in the future have their portrait painted, or drawn. Those have been known to last for centuries. The same thing applies to the old homestead: Have it sketched.

Perils of talking

The OFs had a short discussion on talking and driving, and it was found out that some of the OFs cannot do both. Many of the OFs say they have been in the middle of a conversation and driven right past their own driveway.

“Not only that,” one OF said, “it’s worse when you’re gabbing and miss a turn you know you should take and you have taken it many times.”

When the OF comes to and realizes he has missed the turn, he looks around and has no idea where he is, and then it becomes scary.

One OF said he doesn’t have to be driving; it takes a lot of concentration for him to carry on some conversations and in the middle of talking he could even walk into a wall.  Another OF said that could lead to a serious problem if you happen to be yakking and come to a set of stairs going down.

Oil trumps wood this season

The OFs and this scribe must say again, redundancy is an OF trademark, but the OFs talked about outside furnaces. Some of the OFs have used this method of heating their homes and their hot water for years.

“Now,” one OF said, “the price of oil has gone down some, but the price of wood has not.”

This OF opined that 100 gallons of fuel oil and one full cord of wood heats about the same. Unless anyone who has one of these outside furnaces also has their own woodlot right now oil is the way to go.

Another OF said he still thinks the outside furnaces are OK because they will burn anything, while a stove should only burn dry hard wood (which ought to be used); otherwise, the risk of a chimney fire is great.

The OFs with the woodlots say that is true and the outside furnaces do burn anything. According to the OFs with the woodlots, they take only trees that are down or standing dead; rarely do these OFs cut a live tree.   

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and not having the cold weather blood circulating yet, were: Dave Williams, Frank Pauli, Jim Heiser, Robie Osterman, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Henry Witt, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Don Wood, Wayne Gaul, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.