Darn, darn, and darn again — it is still cold. At least the cold was still around on Tuesday, March 25, when the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. The OFs think the town of Rensselaerville should petition the state to repair the roads into Rensselaerville (especially Route 85) and through the village to the bridge headed up the hill towards the Hilltown Café.

That stretch of highway is so full of holes that it is necessary to change lanes to miss them, and, if a car is coming, the common-sense thing to do is to stop so your vehicle isn’t in a pothole so deep it will have to be extricated by a crane. When you’re finally out of the hole, the highway guys will have to deal with four to seven really ticked off OFs.

One OF suggested that this may all be deliberate to control speed — like nature-made speed bumps.

“Well,” one OF said, “I would hate to be in an ambulance with a punctured lung and have them go over that stretch of road at any speed faster than 25 miles per hour. Faster than that would bounce me off the gurney even if I were strapped down.” 

The OFs coming from Schoharie County do not have to deal with that; they have nice roads right up to the Hilltown Café.

The OFs have mentioned before (in this little weekly report) that the Hilltown Café and the Rensselaerville Post Office are in the same small building just outside the village, off the road heading up the hill. The OFs who live in the town of Knox take advantage of this to purchase stamps, and take care of other post-office business because the post office in the town of Knox is no longer available.

The OFs complain about this all the time.

The OFs in Knox have to trot either to East Berne or Altamont to transact any routine post-office business they may have. For some OFs, this is a 20-mile round trip. ’Tain’t fun, Magee, when the alimony is due and there is a blinding snowstorm.

The town of Berne is about 60 square miles, and the town of Knox is about 42 square miles and the population in each town is about the same — 2,700 souls, and the town of Berne has two post offices. The town of Rensselaerville is about 60 square miles with 1,800-plus bodies running around, and it has a post office. Something doesn’t add up here, so the OFs still complain and are wondering whom we have offended.

Slow boat

One OF just returned from a cruise in the Caribbean and the OF reported he had a good time.

This OF said the boat was loaded with older OFs, most older than he. This OF said he thinks that, outside of the crew, he was about the youngest passenger on board.

He reported that there were so many on oxygen and in wheelchairs that it took forever to disembark at ports of call, sometimes over two hours just to get off the boat.

Rock solid

The OFs talked about the mudslide in the state of Washington, and one OF mentioned that, in our area, we complain about the rock but, when things like this happen, the OFs are glad it is rock and not mud.

One OF said he doesn’t think the rock is going anywhere. Another OF said the rock doesn’t move even when we want it to.

The OFs felt so bad for those caught in the mudslide.

An OF said, from what he read, the Army Corps of Engineers reported quite awhile ago that the area was no place to build because the land was unstable. Forewarned should be forearmed, and the OFs guessed in this case no attention was paid to the warning.

Suspicions confirmed

In the category of suspicions confirmed, many of the OFs have said all along that the missing Malaysian plane is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. The theory of some of the OFs seems to be playing out.

These OFs surmised that something catastrophic occurred on that plane and the pilot attempted to turn around and return to the airport but it was too late and all perished at the same time. The autopilot took over and the plane flew straight over the Indian Ocean until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea.

The one open end to this train of thought the OFs have is the loss of communications from anyone on board, or the plane itself. To which one OF theorized it could be a new technological problem that may occur when electronic equipment is confronted with serious and rapid decompression.

Some of the components in these devices could also decompress enough so they fail. Could be.

One OF still says this plane is inside a UFO headed to another universe in the cosmos.

Budget whiners

The OFs also discussed single-interest budget whiners, for example, schools wanting more money, and how we pay the most for education than any state, yet the kids are still falling behind, and it is not, emphasize not, the fault of the teachers.

The teachers quite often make diamonds out of clay with the students they have.

The OFs also talked about jobs and working (two different things), maple syrup, Easter, wood, deer, black flies, and others topics of specific interest.  

We OFs do chatter on and those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville regardless of all the potholes were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Mark Traver, Andy Tinning, Lou Schenck, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Bill Krause, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Gerry Chartier, and me.

Tuesday, March 18, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont. Our luck is holding out; although it was cold, there was no freezing rain, blinding snowstorm, fog, drizzle, or blizzard winds to keep the Old Men of the Mountain from making it to the Home Front from over the mountain, and then down off the mountain to a hearty breakfast.

Of course, the OFs talked about the missing Malaysian plane, and the OFs are like a microcosm of the general population who has more questions and no answers. One question (though not answered) was, with a planeload of mostly Chinese passengers, there must have been at least 200 cell phones on board. Did they all go dead at the same time? Maybe they were not supposed to use them on the plane.

That rule was relaxed in this country and the OFs did not know about other countries.  However, the OFs thought this was a good question.

Some OFs still think the whole plane was sucked up by a UFO.  That would explain all forms of communication being cut off at the same time.

Collectors or hoarders?

Some of the OFs talked about collecting old stuff — big stuff like cars, tractors, graders, and items like that.  The OFs were definitely not talking about salt and peppershakers.

This is a continual conversation with some of the OFs.  They know what OF has what, they know what an OF is looking for, they know what an OF needs to complete a repair and what another OF has that will do the job.

To other OFs, this is nothing but junk, and, to these OFs, the OFs that collect old hat pins are collecting nothing but junk. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or, as one OF put it, one OF’s junk is another OF’s treasure. (Boy, has that phrase been used to death.)

That is why there is such a proliferation of antique shops, flea markets, and swap meets.

One OF has a motto, “Don’t throw anything away – someday it may become valuable.” It sounds like the OFs are beginning to condone hoarding.

Engine aficionados

This same group of OFs began talking about starting old engines and how OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) would not approve of the design of the old farm equipment, or the fabricating machines in the old fab shops.

“The construction machines and methods that this country was built on,” one OF said, “would scare the heck out of OSHA and most people required to work with them today. Back then, what the heck,” the OF said, “We just did it, and, if we got hurt, nobody sued anybody.”

One OF wondered when they stopped calling electric motors and piston-driven machines engines.  An electric motor was a motor, and a steam engine, or gas engine, or diesel engine, were engines.

Now a motorboat is powered by an outboard motor. To this OF, it is not a motor; it is an engine. But calling it an engine boat just doesn’t sound right. The OF was just wondering.

Play ball

Baseball season starts in a little while, and, if spring doesn’t hurry up and get here, they will be shoveling snow off the fields at many of the ballparks to play the games.

The catcher better have warmers and extra padding in that glove. Catching a 90-mile-an-hour fastball when the temperature is 30 degrees is really going to smart

One OF said it doesn’t have to be a baseball; anytime his hands are cold and they are inadvertently whacked, they hurt.

Play ball, put on a hoodie, and let’s go.

Over the river and through the woods to the Home Front the OFs go, the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, and all the OFs loaded in the sleigh were: Roger Chapman, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, Andy Tinning, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Jim Heiser, Kenny Parks, Lou Schenck, Ken Hughes, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zable, Harold Grippen, and me. 

On Tuesday, March 4, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie, and it was another cold morning. This scribe generally does not mind winter, but enough already.

This scribe has enough information in his little notebook to cover three weeks of columns. Notes like wacky weed, lungs, bears and bees, finding money, animals and cold, scams, computer time, eBay, running out of wood, medical proof, egg yolks, mirror on the wall, bats, lime and cloves, and one more this scribe can’t read because the scribe tried to squeeze it in and now can’t figure out the dumb word, and then this scribe really ran out of room.

Needless to say, only a few will be expanded upon.

The first one will be the mirror because it is a short anecdote. An OF sometimes will see himself in a mirror at a mall, or even reflected in the glass of some of the stores in the malls and he is taken back because the OF doesn’t recognize the person he is looking at.

He says to himself, “Who is that OF in the window?”

It takes a little time for it to sink in, but it is the OF. Some of the OFs say they sometimes jump at the reflection and become scared because they think it is their old man.

Scams foiled

The OFs started talking about these phone scams that are a big problem. The OFs thought that these problems were in large metropolitan areas. Not so. Two of the OFs have been approached in two separate instances and both were radically different.

One OF reported that the phone rang in his living room and his wife answered it. The person on the other end of line said that they were calling from Georgia, and that their granddaughter (and they gave her name) was in jail in Atlanta from being at a party.

They said that someone from the attorney general’s office would call at a certain time the next day. They had all the particulars, but did not ask for money.

The next day, at the time they said they would call, they did call. The man said he was from the attorney general’s office in Atlanta and that they needed $2,000 to take care of their granddaughter’s expenses, and that she recommended the OFs, who were her grandparents, because she did not want her mother and father to find out.

The OF said it all sounded very professional except that he could tell it was a foreigner on the phone because he did not sound like he was from the Atlanta area, or anywhere else in the United States.

The OF told the gentleman calling that he would have to make arrangements to get the money and he would contact them when he did. The OF was given a phone number in Atlanta to call.

The OF said he hung up and called his granddaughter on her cell phone and she did not answer. So the OF became concerned and called her parents.

The parents told him where she was (she was in school) and she was probably in a class and this school does not allow cell phones in the class. Sure enough, a while later the granddaughter called and said she was in class and could not use her cell phone.

By the way, the granddaughter and her parents live nowhere near Atlanta. So a happy ending with no money being sent to a fake address to a fake attorney general and, when the OF told the fake that he recognized a scam, the fellow hung up on him.

The other OF related his very recent encounter with the same type of scenario only this one was by e-mail. The OF received an e-mail saying one of their friends (and it named the friend) was in trouble in Indonesia.

These friends of the OF are world travelers and are now living in the West and this was plausible. Without going into the whole e-mail, the OF was asked by his “friend” if the OF could e-mail $2,000 (note the similarity in monetary request) to a specific destination so their friends could get out of their predicament.

The OF’s wife did not go any further. The OF’s wife fired off a letter to the friend by snail mail, because the OF did not want any electronic connection to their friend. A few days later, the OF received a phone call from the friend who said that, up to that point, 17 people had reported to them they had the same electronic communication.

The friends of the OF wondered how the people who sent the scam obtained the OF’s e-mail because the OF was not on their e-mail list. The conclusion was that, not only did they work on the friends of the OF, but the friends’ friends list, and the OF must have been on one of theirs.

This is getting too scary. From what the OFs understood, in both situations, there is no way yet to catch these guys or round them up and stop them — these scams are worldwide. One OF thought we have no jurisdiction in other countries and that might be the reason these types of scams continue. The other thing we noted is that Berne, Knox, Middleburgh, and Schoharie are not metropolitan areas, but that doesn’t seem to count anymore.

Mosquitos foiled?

 Spring may get here with the black flies, then summer with its mosquitoes. The OFs have a trick to keep mosquitoes at bay when eating out in the backyard.

This tip came from Georgia. Take a lime, cut it in half. Take some cloves and, at each joint in the lime, stick a clove there. Then brace it up in some water so the flat side is up, place it at the center of the table, and voila — no mosquitoes.

Of course, none of the OMOTM have tried this to see if it works because it isn’t summer yet, and maybe by summertime the OFs will forget all about it — forgetting is a common trait amongst the OFs. But the OF who played Heloise on this one said his daughter swears it works. 

The OFs who met at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie, and who can’t wait to see if the lime-clove mosquito chaser works were: John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Andy Tinning, Roger Shafer, Miner Stevens, Jim Heiser, Robie Osterman, Dick Ogsbury, Mark Traver, Glen Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Henry Whipple, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Ken Hughes, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Bill Rice, and me.

Location:

All the Old Men of the Mountain who ventured out Tuesday morning wound up at the Country Café in Schoharie. This scribe wondered why, early on, the original cast of characters picked Tuesday as the day to get away. That was many years ago.

This past Tuesday the breakfast was Feb. 25.  (It is about 40 weeks until Christmas; better plan now.)

One OF made a normal statement that many of the OFs make and that statement was: “Believe me.”

This started a conversation on “trust” and “believe.” The OFs came to the conclusion that whenever the words “trust me” or “believe me” are said in a sentence, the warning antennas should pop up like on My Favorite Martian.

“Trust me; would I lie to you?”  Whoa, back up, because now is the time to listen carefully.  Generally, a fib is hidden there somewhere.

The other expression the OFs mentioned was: “Believe me, this is going to work.”

This should have “Danger, danger, Mr. Robinson” stamped all over it.

One OF said, if it is necessary to ask for trust, then it is a good indicator that the person or persons have not been too trustworthy in the past, or they are using the word “trust” as a word shield to hide some real hanky-panky tucked in there someplace.

“Yeah,” an OF said, “real trust comes when someone says it for you. For instance, ‘You can really trust Joe Blow — he doesn’t say much but, when he does, he knows what he is talking about.’”

Another OF opined, “My frustration is hearing the words, ‘Believe me.’ Too often. I have been told ‘Believe me, that is not going to work,’ and so many times I back off and don’t finish the project I started. Then, later on, I try it my way again and the project works just fine.” The OF continued, “Why did I listen to the OF who told me it wasn’t going to work in the first place?”

“Well,” one OG said, “I guess forewarned is forearmed but I bet we all will make these same statements at one time or another.”

Tough OGs

Most of the wounded OFs have returned to the breakfast, and rather quickly this scribe may say.

The OFs — by virtue of being OFs — are tough or they wouldn’t have made it to being OFs. Even at the ages of this group of senior citizens they still maintain that degree of toughness.

It stands to reason that the OFs discussed their recent bouts with the knife and subsequent body repairs and one OF reported that his blood work showed he was low on iron.

So the OFs bantered on about iron pills and foods high in iron and finally one OF said that low iron was not even mentioned when he was a kid.

To which one OF replied, “When you were a kid, they didn’t even know what blood was.”

Undaunted, the OF continued, “We had a woodstove in the kitchen and there was a fire in that stove even in the summer.”

The OF pointed out his mom cooked in cast-iron pots, and in cast-iron skillets, and the top of the stove was cast iron.

“Ya know,” another OF said, “we did the same thing. I bet you are right, you OG; when we were young, we got real iron right from the pots and pans, and veggies from the garden, not processed. And our own butchered meat and chickens, none of this chemical feed stuff.”

“How about what we hunted and brought home and ate,” another OG said.

“That’s full of lead, you OF, not iron.”

“Oh, yeah,” the OG said.

Beating cabin fever

Some of the OFs say that getting out to the breakfast is a good break from cabin fever. Cabin fever seems like it is a problem this winter with all the cold.

The OFs are beginning to add cold to their litany of complaints, especially this winter. One OF mentioned that he has learned to live with many of his aches and pains, plus not being able to do what he used to do. The OF said this year he has to add the cold weather to not being able to do what he used to do.            

This OF liked to cross-country ski and snowshoe, but now with the cold air, both of these activities have had to be curtailed. This OF wants to hang in there until March 20, the vernal equinox, when spring is supposed to start.

That is only a few days away and, to this OF, it looks like it is going to be, “Spring?  My foot.”

According to the weather guys, it appears that, in our little section of the world, the thermometer will still be registering in the 20s until late March.  These guys can be wrong quite often and we might only make the high teens in that period of time.

One OF said, “They can be wrong the other way, too. We can be in the high 30s.”

“Well, let’s hope so, I am running out of birdseed.”

The OFs who grumbled all the way to the Country Café because of the weather were met by a cheerful young waitress with coffee carafes in hand saying “Good morning, gentlemen, regular or decaf?” and those OFs who answered her were: Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Dave Williams, Frank Pauli, Karl Remmers, Robie Osterman, Andy Tinning, Miner Stevens, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Jim Heiser, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Roger Chapman, Dick Ogsbury, Don Wood, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Garry Porter, Bill Krause, and me. 

Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh.

Right off the bat, this scribe must report that he was not there, but assistant scribes were assigned to gather names — one OF for the early birds and one OF for the late arrivers. When this happens and the appointed scribes do not accrue much information, this scribe is forced to go to his little red, or black, or blue book and look up old notes on conversations that were deemed too racy, too redundant, or, in this scribe’s opinion, not too interesting.

Sometimes, the problem is too many notes (all good) but they would fill half a page of the paper if this scribe used them all. That would make the OFs rather boring, so this scribe eliminates some of the varied conversations.

Occasionally, the OFs talk about upstate-downstate and how there is such a large difference in the two sections of the same state. In the all-knowing Times Union (ooh, my cheek hurts) there was an article of a movement afoot about having two New Yorks. Wow!  What a novel idea.

This has been mentioned on and off for many years, and quite often by the Old Men of the Mountain. The OFs, as a rule, when discussing this issue, use Route 84 as the cutoff point. The TU mentioned Westchester County as the cutoff point. The OFs feel there is more money in 10 houses in Westchester County than all of Montgomery County, and the OFs think this is also another electric railroad debacle.

The OFs wonder if those in Westchester County, and New York City, and Long Island even know what the rest of the state goes through in the money department. To the OFs, many feel that downstaters think $1,000 is like $10 to those of us above Route 84.

One OF said that many of them have no idea where milk, meat, eggs, and veggies come from. This OF thinks that they imagine it all comes from the grocery store and “they” (downstaters) have no idea how it gets to the store. This OF assumes that many believe the items just sprout on the shelves.

 Another OF thinks New York City is nothing but one big sponge that sucks up all the state resources to keep it going, and leaves nothing for those of us upstate.

Another OF took the opposite tack and opined that upstate cannot stand on its own. This OF feels that we need New York City in order to keep the state solvent.  For instance, this OF feels there is not enough tax money upstate to support our portion of the state’s transportation department, or the university system, or maintain the Adirondack Park, and support our portion of the State Police. To this OF, the idea of a separate upstate-downstate sounds good, but he doesn’t think it would ever work and he feels confident enough to say it can’t work.

No fancy funerals

The OFs have an undertone conversation that crops up often. This time, it was on the number of people that the OFs know who have passed on in the last few months. It seems the wave of life the OFs are on is beginning to crash upon the shore.

This time, the OFs mentioned the type of funeral they would like, but the cost of dying is like everything else — getting out of hand. Many OFs say, “Just stuff me in a pine box or the crate the fancy coffins come in — that is all I need.”

One OF said, “Me too, and have the funeral from my living room, with family and friends gathering afterwards right in the house.”

Another OG said, “For me, no organ music.  Those dirges sound like you are at a funeral.”

To which two OFs in unison said, “You OB, you are at a funeral, and it is yours.”

The OF that started this little part of the conversation said, “You know what I mean.  Play some good old country music, like Hank Williams Jr.’s song ‘There’s a Tear in my Beer,’ or the song by Garth Brooks, ‘Friends in Low Places’; that’s my kind of funeral music.”

Another OG said that he is not going to have a funeral; he is donating his body to science, and bypassing “Digger Odell” altogether.

“Come on,” one OG said. “Science is not going to want your saggy old body; it is all used up. What will they have to experiment with? You are nearly blind; you can’t hear with or without hearing aids; one shoulder, one hip, and two knees are nothing but metal. You might just a well sign yourself over to the scrap yard at the port.”

“Look who’s talking,” the OF answered. “When they place your lard butt in a coffin, they won’t be able to get enough pallbearers under it to pick it up.  A hearse will be out of the question for you; they will need a pickup truck and a crane.”           

This same topic has been covered before, and will be again, but the scenarios change sometimes from the same OFs. One OF mentioned awhile back that he was going to be cremated, and his ashes put on the manure spreader and spread on the fields of the farm.

Another OF told him that would be a good idea because at least, for once, he would be doing some good.

“Like we just talked about a couple of weeks back,” one OF interjected. “Once we are gone, we won’t have a clue as to what goes on. We will be gone. The family may join in the funeral one-upsmanship, just like weddings, no matter what we want.”

“I can just hear the kids saying, ‘I don’t care what the OF wanted, my dad isn’t going to be buried in a pine box,’ and the kids will go for a casket that costs as much as a car.”

“Not my kids,” one OF said, “I may have a preplanned funeral, and they will take that money, and then wrap me in a sheet, get a shovel, dig a hole and dump me in, and that will be it.”

“Smart kids,” came a remark from a corner of the table.

All the OFs who are still breathing came to the breakfast at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and they were: Henry Whipple, Andy Tinning, Roger Shafer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Jim Heiser, Otis  Lawyer, Steve Kelly, John Rossmann, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Don Woods, Ted Willsey, Harold Guest, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Garry Porter, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, and not me — but I am still breathing.

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