On Feb. 4, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. For a brief few hours in the morning, the sun shone and the OFs enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, though it was short.

The weathermen, with their voices full of glee, were broadcasting a winter storm warning for later on that Tuesday evening into Wednesday, Feb. 5. The OFs are happy they made the trip Tuesday morning up to Rensselaerville and the Hilltown Café.

This cute little place, which was once an old school (and the school bell is still in the restaurant) is perched about 1,650 feet up in the Helderbergs.

Energy scam?

The OFs were ready to chew nails and spit rust over the bill increases from National Grid. The OFs say everyone should smell a scam from the beginning. (They can.)

We have had much worse winters, and, when Niagara Mohawk supplied our electricity, none of this happened. Under Niagara Mohawk Power, the prices were high, but in line with other utilities, and we had no ridiculous price hikes like what is going on now.

“Yeah,” one OF said, “and, with the ridiculous hike, comes the ridiculous lame reason.” 

A second OF opined, “One real reason is because Niagara Mohawk was an American company, and this National Grid company is English and they don’t give a rat’s patootie about the customers.” 

Another OF said that, coupled with the false claim of no product, National Grid can push through the hydrofracking by claiming, if they had more product, they would not have to raise prices. 

“BS,” he added.

Then, one OF said that the state isn’t saying anything because it is in cahoots with National Grid. The whole thing is a scam.

Still another OF believed that the natural-gas suppliers have learned well from OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), and how the oil people carry on their scare tactics and false shortages to get the prices of oil up. Now, with the price of oil joining the ridiculous category, it is causing the price of everything to skyrocket, and the government seemingly goes right along with it. 

“You got that one right,” one OF said, “because, when things cost more — and taxes are a percentage based on the selling price right down the line — the state and federal governments rake in big bucks and they don’t care if gas is ten bucks a gallon, or a tire is five hundred dollars, or a crooked, knotted, two-by-four is twenty bucks.”

“We are in a Catch-22,” one OG added. 

However, this OF thought we always have been in situations like this one way or another. This OF said the country has gone through this type of “spin” as long as he can remember, only today the numbers are higher, which makes this time around more alarming.

This OF continued that this might cause people to think about driving and building huge houses with four bedrooms for two people, and more bathrooms than a football stadium. 

“Think that one through, Buddy,” said an OF. “You’re saying that then only the rich people can go see Aunt Tillie whenever they want and the poor people would really have to plan, and maybe not be able to afford the trip if Aunt Tillie kicks the bucket.

“The National Grids, the oil companies, and many banks don’t care about the people getting by on darn little, and throw in day care for families where both parents work and therein lies a bigger problem than I can get my little pea-pickin’ brain around,” said the OF. 

One OF said (and this scribe knows this has been said before) the OFs have lived in the best of times. This OF thought we should bring back Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton — these guys knew what they were doing.

Going back to the power price hikes, the OFs did agree they think this whole power situation is phony — there is no shortage. It is just a way to increase pricing and exploit the hydrofracking situation in favor of the gas business and to heck with the environment, or any other damage it may cause to people’s lives.

Wow, this scribe wondered: How many sides can there be to a discussion?

Dressing habits

The OFs are of an age where they can just hang around the house if they want to — and, many times, that is what the OFs do.  So what do the OFs wear while doing this strenuous activity?

Some don’t even bother to get dressed until noon. One OF said that the invention of sleep pants is great; they are nothing more than a heavier fabric pajama, which doesn’t look like pajamas.

“Heck, I even wear them out,” one OF proudly stated. 

“I like sweats,” one OG said. “A sweatshirt, and sweatpants and I am all set,” he said “Put that together with not even bothering to shave and the day is great,” the OF continued.

“Well,” one OF answered, “I hope you bothered to shower but, knowing you, probably not.” 

“Showering is one of my favorite things, wise guy.  I make sure there is heat in the bathroom, and the hot water heater is up to snuff.” 

“Maybe so,” the other OF came back with, “but I have been in your bathroom and all the towels are gray.”

“I like gray,” the OF retorted.

The OFs have talked about getting dressed before, and they consider this to be their daily exercise, but this time the OFs were talking about how they are finding they can put on one sock easier than the other and putting on socks is the hardest part of getting dressed.

One OF said he finds he has to sit down now to put on his shorts and pants because, when he raises his right leg to stuff it into his pants, he feels like he is going to fall over, and he can’t raise the leg high enough, or it may be that he can’t bend over low enough to the right. Going to his left is no problem; he can slide that leg right in. 

This was strange because many of the OFs go through the same thing, only describing different body parts they are forced to use.

One OF said, when he puts on his coat, it has to be on his left because, if it is on his right, he can’t get it on.

Another OF said he has a similar problem with gloves. If he puts on the right glove first, he has trouble getting the left one on, so he takes the right glove off, puts the left one on, and then puts the right one back on.

This scribe pondered, are we all that weird?

What happened to the rat farm?

A few of the OFs talked about the rat farm that used to be in Altamont.  One of the OFs said he worked there, and another OF said his dad worked there, and another OF said his mother-in-law worked there.

One OF said he thought some outfit in Ohio bought it but he really doesn’t know what happened to it after that. One OF questioned if the new owners just opened the cages and let all the rats out. 

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Hilltown Café, in Rensselaerville, and finding out that some other OFs got twisted around taking short cuts to find the restaurant (like an earlier car load did once) were: Miner Stevens, Andy Tinning, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, Jim Rissacher, and me.

Location:

The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont on Jan. 28, and the OFs are becoming a little bit tired of this cold. Thank goodness we are almost through January and, when The Enterprise hits the newsstands, it will be February. The OGs are just about ready to start complaining.

The OFs had a discussion Tuesday morning on something they are quite familiar with since some (not all) of the OFs were around when there were dinosaurs. Some of the OFs were on a personal basis with these creatures; many of the OFs were here to show God how to make dirt.

Quite a few of the OFs were farmers and had firsthand knowledge of how to make good dirt because to feed those dinosaurs was going to take some fast-growing plants, and plants like this need good dirt.

This scribe made a note on the dinosaurs and is scratching his head to try and remember how the OFs started talking about these ancient animals, amphibians, and birds in the first place. Of course, the more well known beasts of these periods came up. T-Rex came up, so did the Pterodactyl, and, of course, the long-neck Barosaurus.

The OFs wondered how many bales of hay it would take to feed one of those long-neck monsters if these creatures were around today and if it would take a whole cow to feed a T-Rex. One OG thought that, if a Pterodactyl flew over and pooped on your shoulder, like a seagull, it would probably knock you to the ground.

It is hard for the OFs to conceive how Adam was able to name all the animals, and did he speak Latin? Were there even cows, as we know them, in the Triassic or Jurassic periods?

Who called the first cow a cow, and a dog a dog, and why aren’t dogs still called wolves, and then there is the whole cat enigma, and did Adam’s descendants speak Latin.

It seems the OFs should know these facts because, of course, they were there. The OFs are getting in rather deep here.

On Jan. 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner, and it was another cold Tuesday morning. Most of the OFs left home and found zero, or a tad below, was the morning temperature — not a good way to start the day.

As this scribe renders this report to the computer screen, it is not any warmer. This scribe also wonders what the future generations will do to keep warm in the cold climates when the fossil fuels run out. They are not infinite, you know.

Speaking of the future generations, the OFs began talking about making plans from when they exit this world and go to the next. One OF said he wonders how many times we have done that.

Another OF said he may have been walking this planet as a cow, and, when that cow died, he came back as a fly, and, when the fly died, he came back as this OF. Whoops! The OMOTM’s first whacko.

In reality, the OFs were talking about how they will leave their personal information like wills, or no wills, things that they would like to see passed on, and to whom.  They need to have the next of kin know where they have their personal papers in case the wife has already passed on, or they should both be killed when their motorcycle went off the road.

Some of the OFs haven’t done a thing because it is too scary to think about and these OFs don’t want to do it.

Others have everything organized and explained to the kids so there will be as little of a hassle as possible for them when the OF kicks the bucket and his toe doesn’t hurt. A couple of the OFs have their plots and headstones bought and paid for.

One OF had the kids come and put stickers on what they want, and let them hassle it out now before the OF is gone, and what they don’t want can be auctioned off, or sold at a garage sale, or hauled to the dump.

The OF said, “I’m dead so how can I care?  I won’t even know if they speak good or bad, for crying out loud, I am dead, no skin off my bones what they say.”

Another OF said, “I can add to that, my kids can’t even get along while they are alive; their squabbles are a pain in the butt. I am going to leave everything so screwed up that it will take those two years of hassle just to straighten it out. And I don’t care if they wrap me in a sheet, put me on the manure spreader, and spread me over the field.  Like you say, I’m dead — I won’t know.”

Knox, RIP

Talk about dead — that is what the town of Knox is. What it was just a few short years ago, and what it is like today; there is a big difference.

The OFs from the Hill all remembered Si (Stevens) and the gas station, the country store, and going to the post office, all gone now, and so far replaced by nothing. One OF commented the only thing in the town of Knox now is the church.

 “But,” said one OF, “There is still the town park, the fire department, and the Taj Mahal-Town Hall.”

The OFs were remembering Si and the gas station, and the people visiting on the porch covering the day’s events and some of the OFs joining in. They mentioned Si and the penny candy and how she scooped out the ice cream and hand-packed it.

One OF mentioned how Si went to the garage to get kerosene for them and you couldn’t help her with it even if you wanted to. “Don’t you touch it,” she would say, “I will do it.”

What happened?  Did it all just find a sinkhole and disappear?

The OFs said what they have said many times: “We think we have lived through the best of times.”

One OF said that what the town of Knox needs is four large tombstones with “RIP town of Knox.  Beware of the Ghost of Years Gone By.”

One OF said, “Don’t be too hasty.  Towns and cities have ways of coming back, just like the movie The Lion King where the moral of the movie is the circle of life.  Again we can’t improve anything by being negative.”

“Spoil sport,” was the retort.           

Wish on STAR

The OFs had some conversation on the STAR [School TAx Relief] program, and in this group almost all are qualified for this program. The forms, though they are short and do not ask for much information, are quite confusing to the OFs.

There is one rule in the third paragraph of the Renewal Application which states:  “All owners, including nonresident owners, must attach a copy of either their 2012 federal or state income tax returns (if filed). (Tax schedules and tax form attachments are not routinely required.)”  Duh. Which is it? Must attach, or not routinely required? Another duh. There appears to be something left out here. Or maybe the OFs are old and have lost the art of reading between the lines.

This scribe checked, and the answer is, yes, send a copy. The second part about “not routinely required” is for all the extra stuff that goes with many tax forms; all they want is the front page. They are just looking for proof that whoever is applying made under 80-some thousand dollars. Not to worry for most or all of the OFs.

Some of the OFs who watch the news remembered hearing discussions about people taking advantage of the STAR program and were wondering if the new forms were an attempt to plug some of the holes. The OFs just didn’t know and there wasn’t any cover letter explaining the forms.

The forms looked the same, but to some of the OFs read differently.

One OF remembered his brother-in-law telling him at one time that, when people did not understand his directions, or instructions, it was not their ability about understanding — it was his inability to communicate the instructions or directions sufficiently enough so there would be no misunderstanding. It is not the hearer’s or reader’s fault; it is the communicator’s fault for not being clear.

“Amen to that,” the OFs said.

Those attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, and getting out on another cold day were: Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aleseio, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Bill Krause, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Andy Tinning, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.

On Jan. 14, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie. The contingent of Old Men that attacked the Blue Star was large in number.

The OFs thought it was the good weather that brought so many to the breakfast, or maybe it was just timing. One OF started counting backwards the last three or four Tuesdays, and recounted the temperature for those Tuesdays, and it was zero or below.

Tuesday was 40 degrees when most of the OFs started out. This OF, too, may be right — it could be the weather.

The OFs started talking about how the concern for our country’s past is quickly being lost by many of our young people because of the desire for the dollar.

So much of the country is being bought up and torn down to build this mall or that mall, or this housing development or that development, or this parking lot or that parking lot; soon all the young people will have to remind them of their heritage will be photographs.

The OFs said that many developers will destroy a historic building to build a mall when two miles down the road is a mall that has been abandoned. The OFs can’t understand this, and the thinking of the town fathers that let it happen.

“It all comes down to greed, and greased palms,” one OF said.

“And who owns what,” another added.

The OFs mentioned two barns that are in good shape coming down. The key word here is “good” shape. The OFs agreed that, if something is ready to come down around its ears, tear it down before someone gets hurt and replace it with something useful. So often that does not seem to be the case.

Maybe it is because the OFs are antiques themselves that they are concerned with preserving antiquity. It is thought that thousands of people travel thousands of miles to countries abroad to see, touch, and feel buildings, streets, and communities of old, and here, in many cases, we bulldoze the same things down.

Moldy material

The OFs discussed the newer composite decking material that was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. Some of the OFs who have used the material say there is, in a short period of time (depending on location), mold that appears quite quickly on this material.

These OFs said that, once the mold does occur, the material becomes very slippery. One OF went so far as to purchase a pretty good-sized pressure washer to wash the mold off.

One OF also said, the older the material is, the quicker the mold reappears. None of the OFs knew why this happens or if it is something they missed in the instructions.

For instance, should their deck be located where it receives a lot of sunshine?  One OG said the stuff is expensive, and he is stuck with it now.

“Oh well, live and learn,” one OF pined.

 Better doesn’t always win

One OF mentioned that his kids gave him a new iPod. (This scribe thinks this is right.) And, if this scribe understood the OG right, this new piece of technology does not work with the other computer equipment he has, like printers and scanners.

Kodak found that having a proprietary product does not work, and so did Beta way back when. Beta had the better product but it only worked with Beta.

The OFs think that there should be ways that, if some company comes up with a great product, that company should allow for connections to all the other products that pertain to that product instead of making it so the purchaser of that product has to go and buy another printer, scanner, or whatever to work with that product. This would make the connections and compatibility universal.

“Nah, too simple,” one OF said.

Eventually, in many cases, the better product will go the way of the Dodo bird just like Beta.

Tapped out

Most of the OFs have received their power bills and were ready to take what muscles they have left and attack the power company.  Of course, this would not be a fair fight because the power company employees wear hard hats.

Then the bills came from the fuel oil companies with their outrageous price for home heating oil.

“No wonder,” one OF said, “couple these charges with the taxes and anyone can see why so many are leaving the state.”

One OF said, “When the last one leaves, will they please close the door and turn out the light?”

One OF commented he hears one legislator wants two billon dollars for this, and another wants a billion for that, and yet another wants a billon so his yacht club can have another ramp.

The OF chuckled and said, “I just made that last part up.”

But, by golly, the scribe bets it is true and this money could be hidden somewhere in all these billons of dollars.

The same OF said he remembers when a hundred bucks was a lot of money. The OF continued with the key issue, “Where in h--- (fill in the blanks with letters of your choosing) do they think the money is coming from?  I am already tapped out just from paying those ridiculous power, heating, and gas bills, let alone my meds. And I am getting tired of eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with a cup of soup day in and day out; there is nothing left in my pockets but lint!”

(What is a billion?  This number gets thrown around like chump change.  A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive and the Roman Empire was in full swing.  A billion hours ago, we were in the Stone Age.)

Those attending the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie and becoming really concerned about the health of some of the OFs and their wives were: Kenneth Parks, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Andy Tinning, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Dick Ogsbury, Roger Chapman, Chuck Aleseio, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Bill Rice, Don Moser, Don Wood, Henry Whipple, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.

On Jan. 7, the Old Men of the Mountain’s first breakfast of 2014 was at the Country Café in Schoharie, and it was cold. The OFs were talking about how cold it was and that most of the OFs have experienced colder weather than this but, for some reason the air on Tuesday, was cold.

One OF remembered the real temperature, not this wind-chill thing, on the Hill was about 20 or maybe even 30 below. This, the OF thought, was in the mid 1980s to early ’90s. (With the OFs, time is so irrelevant that they may say something happened a couple of years ago when, in fact, it would by more like 10 years ago. So the ’80s or ’90s could be a tad off. )

Back to the conversation.

“At that time,” the OF said, “the coldest temperature in the nation was announced on the radio to be in Canajoharie, N.Y.”

This OF said, on that particular day, he was supposed to go to Utica, N.Y. and, as he drove up the Thruway towards Utica, the OF noticed the highway was like a tractor-trailer parking lot.  All along the Thruway, the big rigs were brought to a standstill by the fuel gelling, even with additives.

This OF said he got off at Canajoharie just to see what the coldest temperature in the nation would be like. The OF reported it was no different than the 20 to 30 below on the Hill.

When it gets that cold, cold is cold!

However, this same OF said that the cold walking up the sidewalk in Schoharie to the Country Café, was cold and he noticed it. Some OFs wondered if it was because back then the OF was about 45 years old, and now he is 80.

“Well,” the OF said.

Then another OF said, “We are not used to it; we have not had a real cold snap like this in years.”

“Whatever…” the OF was sure glad to close the door behind him as he went into Country Café.

News stays the same

This scribe is reviewing his notes taken at the breakfast, and the list runs from bottom to top, cars, kids, stories, pigs, cows, health, who you know better than what you know, and reporting the news. Much of that is redundant like cars, kids, pigs, cows, and especially health, which leaves the talk of who you know better than what you know, and reporting the news.

A little clarifier here, many of the OFs do not watch the news, but, when they do, they find that the news doesn’t change. One OF mentioned that, if he catches the news one day, and then does not watch it for a couple of weeks, and happens to catch it again, it is the same news; just the names and locations are different.

Another OF said, if something really spikes his attention, he will become interested and watch it until that event plays out. This OF mentioned the 911 attack on our country, and another news episode was the landing of the plane in the Hudson River.

One a disaster, the other a miracle, and that is about it.

One OF said that he gets really ticked when he does catch the news and can understand why people who watch it on a regular basis are so stressed out.

Another OF made only one brief comment.  He claimed that so much of the news is slanted one way or the other and the newscasters act like they are holy. Whichever way the station is bent, they think they have the solution to the problem, when, in his opinion, they are the problem.

“Conversely,” an OF commented, “I watch the news all the time. How do you guys know what’s going on? How do you know what the weather is going be?”

“You believe those guys; I just look out the window,” said another OF.

Give me a newspaper any day, get one paper leaning one way and another paper leaning the other and somewhere in the middle they just may be right and there is always the funnies to balance it out. Any way the paper bends the news, “Pickles,” “Pearls,” and “Speed Bump” are great stress relievers.

Getting somewhere

Many of the OFs think this is too true. You might have the solution to solving the most demanding problem going, like curing cancer, or a propulsion system that does not require fossil fuels, and, if you do not know the right people, it goes nowhere.

One OF asked the rhetorical question: How many of the OFs got their first job from someone they knew, or someone told you that so-and-so was looking for somebody to do a certain job?

It was interesting how many wound up working at a job that, in their formative years, the OF was not even trained to do.  Because someone recommended the OF and the someone the OF was recommended to had a matching karma, that OF turned out doing really well at whatever it was.

In college, it is quite often said, the contacts made are better than the education.

“Yeah,” an OF said, “but, even then if you are a wise guy and a slacker, that trait will come through and the contacts will not be worth anything because that is how you will be remembered.”

“You’re right,” a second OF said. “I guess the real approach is to try and do your best all the time.”

This OF said he wound up working at a position that was nothing like what he studied for and did very well. One thing the OF did in college was learn to adapt, and to study, and to retain what he studied. Life is funny that way.
Those gathering at the Country Café in Schoharie and having the Hungry Man Special, which should hold anyone for a week, were: Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.                                  

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