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.

Diet advice

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.

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— Photo by John R. Williams

The ambience at Altamont’s Home Front Café, said owner Cindy Pollard, is based on her memories of her mother’s kitchen during World War II. The place is filled with memorabilia, and many veterans congregate there.

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.

Travelers’ perspective

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.

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Eating at the Chuck Wagon Diner is like going back in time. The restored diner was wheeled across the state to its current home in Princetown.

 

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.

Distinguishing eggs

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.

Fickle time

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.

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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.        

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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.

 

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