Tuesday, April 8, The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh. The OMOTM sat at the tables and watched the tearing down of the old National Automotive Parts Association store across the street from Mrs. K’s. This shows some confidence in the village after the flood.

The Army-Navy rivalry popped up its little head at the breakfast Tuesday morning. One of Mrs. K’s specialties is creamed chipped beef on toast. That tasty combination is — or was — a staple in the Army.

One OF related this fact, as a couple of the OFs were served up their orders of the culinary delicacy. One of the OFs who was doled out the specialty is a Navy man through and through.

He promptly picked up on the slightly disparaging remark and said that the Navy received only good food on board ship. The “real stuff,” the Navy OF said.

The Army OF said they got powdered eggs, but the Navy OF said they had real eggs and real meat. The Navy OF said that they sent to the Army what the Navy didn’t want. For once, the Army OF said he had to agree.

However, the Navy guy wanted to have his bill cut in half because the toast was (in his opinion) burnt on the bottom. All the other OFs said he was nuts and the toast was perfect. The Navy OF was angling for a less expensive bill. The toast was fine. You have to watch these OFs — they are pretty clever.

Ways to skin a cat

This led right into the character of many of the OFs, if not all of them. Because of their age, most of the OFs are set in their ways.

It is my way or the highway, or that is the way it has always been done, or — and this is the best one — it is the way my mother or father always did it so it is the right way, and that is the way I do it — end of argument. If my toast is golden brown, everybody’s toast should be golden brown.

The OFs even discussed sawing a board.  Now, one would think there was really only one way to do that, but the OFs found out differently. Really, no matter how it was done, the board was still cut, square, and it fit.

Washing dishes was another dialogue; this one was typical, especially when it came to washing coffee pots. A few OFs said that they wash the pot thoroughly with soap and water.

The other OFs said no, that ruins the pot, and, no matter how the pot is rinsed, the taste of soap comes through the next time the pot is used and the coffee tastes awful. These OFs insisted that the pot should just be well rinsed and, when the coffee pot or carafe starts turning brown, one should run some vinegar through it and rinse it well. These OFs maintained soap ruins a coffee pot and a cup of coffee.

There are many habits and ways of doing things cultivated by the OFs and, as the years go by, the OFs become more vocal on what they think is the right way to do things. If Dad did it, then that is the way I will do it. If Dad chewed tobacco and spit it out the right side of his mouth, then, by golly, I will chew tobacco and spit it out the right side of my mouth.

One OF related a story that points out how stupid much of this is.

There was a young lady who, before cooking a roast, always cut the end from it. One day her daughter asked why she did that. The reply was because her mother always prepared a roast that way — by cutting off the end.

The little girl went and asked her grandmother why she cut the end off of the roast, and the grandmother said that it was because her mother always cut the end off of the roast.

Fortunately, the little girl’s great-grandmother was still alive so she went and asked the great-grandmother why she cut the end of the roast off, and the great-grandmother said, “I had to, because the pan was too short.”

Now you know how dumb many of these traditions are, and remember there is also Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof touting in song — traditions.

This scribe, as an OF, thinks that all this may be true but there is another side to this story.  Many OFs become freer and the axiom, “When I am old, I will wear purple,” squeezes itself in there someplace.

The OF will go out in public with red sneakers, black socks, white pants that are too short, and a plaid flannel shirt, with a tie, and think he looks fine. This scribe thinks Dad would never wear this outfit (maybe bibs, white shirt, and a tie) but then Dad would be in Central Bridge at the livestock auction — that isn’t that bad.

Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and all properly attired, were: Henry Witt, Roger Chapman, Andy Tinning, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Steve Kelly, Miner Stevens, Bill Krause, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Don Wood, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Mike Willsey, and me.

On April 1, the OFs pulled a great April Fool’s joke just by waking up. Oh, by the way, now that the OFs are here, thank goodness March is gone — in like a lion, out like a lion. Maybe now we will get at least a hint of spring.

It doesn’t have the spring smell yet, and we haven’t heard any peepers. In June, the OFs might be complaining the other way, but, for now, let’s have a little spring before summer gets here.

Tuesday morning, the OFs met at the Middleburgh Diner, in Middleburgh with the usual weather report from the OFs.

Many of the OFs harkened back to when they were in school and there really was no emphasis put on saving for retirement. Saving money, yes, but, for retirement, not so much.

When the OFs were young, many people died before they reached retirement age, so nobody really worried about it. Then came World War II, Hitler, and medicine took off, quickly followed by technology and modern pharmaceuticals and now the OFs are really OFs, and active OFs, and well into our retirement years and wondering what we should have done differently to prepare financially when we were working.

The OFs are here now, so what happens, happens.

The ups and downs

of being an OF

This next discussed item pertains to not only OFs but also to their ladies (unless some are lucky enough to have ladies 20 years their junior) and that is getting down and up.  (We are already up, so it’s down and up for us).

Most of the OFs say they can get down, but getting up — now, that is a problem.

The OFs all have a different way to attack getting up. Some have to have the left foot in back, plus something to push on. Other OFs say that, if they have to get down, and they are away from any hefty object they can grab on to, they then have to crawl to something that is sturdy enough for them to push on to get up.

One OF mentioned that this really gets in the way of routine housework, like cleaning under things, or getting down to put the chair glides back under the chairs. Simple things that used to be so normal now become major projects.

Another OF said that, not only does he have trouble getting down and up, but he has shrunk in stature so that he is finding he can’t reach items on the top shelf even with standing on his tip toes. This OF says his whole range of motion has changed.

The OF says he would rather get down on one knee to pick something up than bend over, as long as there is something solid next to him that will help him get up. Bending over for any length of time makes his face flush and his back hurt.

Ah, the golden years.

The golden years, one OG quipped, is the money the OFs pay the person who comes once a week to clean; they are getting the gold.

Pining for deals

On a completely different topic, the OFs talked about making deals — or not. It seems to many of the OFs that sweetheart deals are always going to someone else and not to them.

One OF mentioned the deal one of his relatives made at an estate sale and, from the OF’s telling, it sounded like this was legalized robbery more than a deal. The OFs all bemoaned the fact that they are never around when these great deals happen or, if they happen to be present when a great deal is to be had, all they have in their wallets is five bucks.

An OF made an interesting observation by commenting how they notice that really good deals are never advertised; they just seem to happen. There was a little mumbling around the table that affirmed the OF’s observation.

It was alluded to by some that the old adage of being in right place at the right time had a lot to do with it. An OG added that being decisive and jumping at the deal is also important. If you are wishy-washy, someone else will run away with your deal.

Dressing from the top

Some of the OFs get dressed by grabbing what is on top of the pile and putting it on and heading out.

“We all do that,” said an OF. “I am not going to stand around to make sure this color shirt goes with this color pant, and these socks match the whole thing. I just grab whatever is clean and on top.”

That was apparent Tuesday morning when one OF showed up in a coat that made him look like he had lost 20 pounds. When questioned the OF said he hadn’t lost any weight and when the OF looked at himself he said, “Gee, I don’t think this is my coat.”

“I guess it isn’t,” said another OF, “unless you have had a sex-change operation — that coat has the buttons on the left.”

“Ah,” the OF said, “it must be my wife’s.  I grabbed it because it was on top.”

Case closed.

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and arrived fully clothed (no matter whose clothes they were) were: Dave Williams, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Roger Chapman, Andy Tinning, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Ken Hughes, Bill Krause, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Harold Guest, Gerry Chartier, and me.

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.