— Photo from John R. Williams
A soldier’s salute: With a plastic pail for a helmet, Cowin Wilbur built an aircraft carrier on the table at his mother’s eatery, which entertained the Old Men of the Mountain. Glenn Patterson is hidden behind the carrier, and Mark Traver is smiling at the far right. “He is a loquacious young lad, where as his sister is very pleasant but quiet,” noted John R. Williams of the children on school vacation. He went on about Cowin’s construction project, “It is supposed to be aircraft carrier, and, doggone it, it looks like an aircraft carrier. Notice the little green soldiers he has placed around. Trying not to lose our youthful imagination takes conscientious effort. Daydreaming helps.”
Tuesday, Feb. 17, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville.
Rensselaerville is perched approximately 1,600 feet in the air so, for the OFs, it is all up hill to get there even though some OFs start out at 1,400 feet but those OFs have to go down and then up again.
The OFs expected more snow but nope, the snowfall looked just like the snow that fell at 1,400 feet or 680 feet. However, though the winter has been a tad nasty, the roads in the Hilltowns have been pretty darn good, and so it was on Tuesday morning.
The weather doomsayers on TV and radio would have us all hibernate. The OFs have seen winters like this and have had to go out in it. If an OF has a medical problem where the cold air will affect him; it is best to stay indoors; otherwise, bundle up and get out, but don’t be stupid about it.
The OFs commend the road crews, the firefighters, the emergency medical technicians, the power company repair crews, the public works repair crews, and the farmers. The OFs also think those who have to go to work in hospitals, and those who work with or volunteer for the homeless shelters in this cold should also be commended. There are many others who just get out and about in the cold.
Snow — that is another story. The OFs say, if it is unessential, stay off the roads so the road crews can clean things up. A big joke to the OFs are all the TV stations’ reporters being in the “do as I say, but not as I do” class of people. Here they are telling the OFs to stay off the roads and where are they? They are on the roads and in the way.
Drones could be a valuable tool
The OFs talked about drones and the new knee-jerk rules that are being applied and other rules or regulations being bandied about concerning these drones. The OFs think that TV and radio stations should have licensed pilots and drones on hand for accidents, weather, fires, and other instances where publicizing emergencies would be of benefit to the general public.
The use of drones, the OFs think, would be a valuable tool and people wouldn’t have to go thousands of feet up to do it. The operators of the drones would not be in harm’s way.
The OFs noted that the newer cameras, along with the cameras on phones and tablets, are exceptionally good. Couple this with the drones and, to the OFs, it seems natural for them to be used by the police, news agencies, and hospital and medical staff, to name a few.
This scribe added: How about emergency responders with a drone flying ahead with a mounted remote TV camera and a receiver in the emergency vehicle? The EMTs would be able to see pending trouble spots and maneuver around them. How slick would that be?
A few of the OFs have been Radio Controlled (RC) airplane flyers, and think the development of drones in many cases is a plus; however, the OFs also realize there are those who are going to use this new technology for nefarious purposes and spoil the sport for everyone else including some with legitimate use.
Look how all the hackers have spoiled the Internet. Hardly anyone trusts the Internet anymore. Some of the OFs never got into using the Internet or computers and they may be the smart ones.
The hacking that has come to light that bothers one OF who takes many medications is where the hackers can now do their thing and hack into your medical records and change your prescription. This OF said he read that the government wants all doctors to use electronic transfer of prescriptions.
These guys are just generating another boondoggle that is going to cause more problems than it solves. This OF can’t understand the logic behind it. This OF wants to use cash, a checkbook, a savings passbook, and have his prescriptions in his hand.
“What in the world is the matter with that?” the OF asked. “How can the government force me to go electronic? Right on our money it says ‘legal tender,’ and, by golly, they had better take it or I will call a cop.”
The rest of this conversation will be reported at a later date.
When to retire?
The OFs are OFs and one of the discussions Tuesday morning was what age is a good retirement age. We have OFs who retired from the military after 20 or so years. That placed these OFs’ first retirement in their 40s, and one is now close to 90 and going strong.
Retirement age to some OFs is not a specified number; some OFs are still working. One OF thought that, if you really like what you are doing, why retire?
Some OFs thought that health had a lot to do with it. If you feel good, and can retire, you should retire and enjoy it.
Why should I retire if I feel rotten and know I am not going to get any better? This OF said retiring and not feeling like getting up in the morning is for the birds; stay working and croak on the job. This OF felt that way he would be less of a burden to the family.
When to go into a home?
Being a burden to the family and then being put in a home is a big concern of many of the OFs. Some of the OFs, though, say: When I become a burden, put me in the home.
Others say that this is easy to say now but, when the time comes, these OFs bet the other OFs will change their tune or a least think twice about being shuffled off to the home.
Again, with the ages of the OFs, this can become a sensitive subject. Some are dealing with it right now. It is not easy.
This scribe says that life’s orchard is not just a crate of apples, but apples, oranges, grapefruit, plums, grapes, pomegranates, star fruit, and mangos — all thrown into the same crate. How it sorts out at the end is different for everyone.
Surviving strange crashes
On a more upbeat note, the OFs talked about the two accidents in the area that were amazing. One accident was where a sport utility went off a bridge, fell approximately 30 feet, landed on its roof, and the occupants crawled out and were basically OK.
The other one was where the driver had a flat tire on a bridge, stepped over the guide rail to avoid traffic, slipped and fell 50 feet to the ground, got up, crawled up the bank back to where his vehicle was, and was hit by a tractor trailer.
The OFs said these people had to be young because the OFs’ bones can’t handle a fall off a step stool. One OF said age has nothing to do with it; it was just not their time.
Tuesday was also a sad day for the Old Men of the Mountain. Those Old Men of the Mountain who could attended the funeral of a faithful member of the OMOTM who passed away.
The OMOTM offer their condolences to the family and friends of Don Moser whose face and folded hands while passing on his wisdom and stories will be missed at breakfast in the morning.
The Old Men of the Mountain who made it to the Hilltown Café, and were entertained by the proprietor’s son because there was no school, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Ted Willsey, Henry Whipple, Otis Lawyer, Bill Rice, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Jim Rissacher, Guest Gary Taylor, and me.
The Home Front Café in Altamont on Tuesday, Feb. 10, was open and welcomed the Old Men of the Mountain with open arms. The proprietor was there with his self-proclaimed ratty clothes, which the OFs could understand very well, as all the OFs are accustomed to the same basic ratty-clothes syndrome.
To many of the OFs, the ratty clothes are the most comfortable, and because they are already ratty it is not necessary to worry about spilling anything on them from mustard to motor oil to paint and turpentine.
The proprietor admitted, though, that the shop is his and the house is the wife’s. A man’s home is his castle — baloney: The home belongs to the distaff side.
In other words, the OFs came up with the right way to label how domestic life really is. The stable is the king’s, and the castle belongs to the queen.
The proprietor admitted that the ratty clothes never make it to the house; he changes in the mudroom. That is not a bad idea. A guy’s clothes full of diesel fuel, or gas, or turpentine or even sawdust can stink up a house royally.
The OFs had to admit that sometimes clothes can become too ratty — hence, dangerous. Wearing oil-soaked coveralls day in and day out, then take the hose from an oxygen bottle of acetylene torch set to blow off some grime, then get near an open flame and — whoosh; there had better be a fire extinguisher handy, or else the local “Digger Odell’s” calendar with the phone number on it should be close by.
The OFs mentioned that we are having a perfect winter for roof ice dams. One OF mentioned that he has already had a problem with water in the living room from backed-up runoff produced by the ice dams.
Another OF said it is how your house is positioned, and the way the wind blows, that causes these icicles. Still another OG advised us to get out early and rake the snow off the roof — that also helps.
That is fine if the OF is physically able to do that, or the house is low enough. If the house is an old country home, two stories tall, that is another thing.
One OF recommended moving downstairs and not heating the upstairs might help to keep the snow so it doesn’t melt from underneath and icicles don’t form. The OFs have been through many winters and all have different ways of handling the weather of the Northeast. Each seems quite different, but all of them seem to work.
This next story concerns an OF who started his Cub Cadet tractor up with the snow blower attachment on it and then he proceeded to clean his driveway. Simple, right?
The OFs do something like this all the time. This OF had the driveway cleared and was out in the road cleaning it up and the tractor died. That yellow machine stopped right there in the road.
What the @#$%$# is wrong with this thing? The OF got off and checked the tractor all over and then noticed it was out of gas. Duh!
Most OFs check the gas in the lawn mower, chainsaw, weed whacker, and snow blowers before they start out. This OF went to the garage and found he happened to have a couple of cups of gas in the gas can, just enough to get the tractor started and out of the road then back to the garage. Darn good thing this OF doesn’t fly a plane.
The OFs had to advise the OG that it is important to check your equipment before it is used.
This OF said, “Hey, once you fill a snow blower or tractor up with gas that’s it.” He actually said, with a twinkle in his good eye, “You only have to do that once, right.”
Even though it is winter, somehow the OFs began talking about hornets, and bees, and being chased by these critters, and really getting stung.
It was decided among the OFs that the hornets in the ground were the nastiest. They do not like to be messed with. One OF mentioned the honeybees from Russia; they, too, do not like to be bothered.
This same OF mentioned he saw what he believed was a column of bees leaving a series of hives not just one hive. This OF said the column of bees was three to four feet in diameter and reached higher than the trees, which he guessed were 30 to 40 feet tall.
He checked with the beekeeper and he was right — the bees were all gone. The OFs wondered what spooked the bees to take flight and desert those hives. (Scribe’s note, the English language is at time strange. Bees live in hives, and people get hives. Not being too swift on this type of thing, this scribe wonders: What is the connection?)
This conversation prompted an OF to add that the smallest mammal known is the bumblebee bat. Now, what again prompted this? How the mind rattles things around and ties weird parts of a conversation into other weird parts of a completely different conversation. (There the OFs go again: A bat hits a ball, and a bat eats bugs, go figure).
Those OMOTM that showed up at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and in halfway decent clothes except the OF with the battery-acid-eaten pants (and yet another story) were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Henry Whipple, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.
On Tuesday, Feb. 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown.
There were two things that were on the special side of last Tuesday morning’s breakfast. One is that they (whoever they are) say that the rodent in Punxsutawney saw his shadow. The eyes of that animal have to be pretty sharp to be able to see his shadow through all the snow and sleet that was in that area on Tuesday.
One OF asked: How can he not see his shadow with all those TV lights glaring from the stations covering the event.
The second thing was (as one OF put it): Only the hardy OFs showed up for Tuesday’s breakfast. That may or may not be true.
The OFs who did make it found the roads in good shape, but it was cold in the valleys. One OF reported they went through 12 degrees below zero, and another said that, when he left his home on the top of the hill, it was plus two degrees, and at the bottom of the hill it was minus five degrees.
Other than that, the road crews are to be commended on the conditions of the roads in the Hilltowns and surrounding environs. All the cars the OFs encountered (with the rare occasion of some jerk probably late for work) were moving about 40 miles an hour and they kept at safe distances from other vehicles.
At least where the OFs were headed — Princetown — it was not that bad, just a normal Northeast winter morning, zero degrees, and snow.
The hiking OMOTM were discussing bridge-building again. The new bridge they were talking about covers quite a span. The beams for the bridge are 40 feet so the OFs were discussing how to tackle a job of this size.
This bridge is to be located at Minekill, which was developed years ago as part of the Gilboa hydroelectric project. Many of the OFs have visited the Minekill State Park, and the Blenheim-Gilboa visitors’ center at Lansing Manor.
Like Thacher Park, this park also has many interesting events going on and in the summer it is worth the trip. The winter may be a little hairy unless the OFs don’t mind driving winter roads through the mountains.
Check it out on the net, and see some of the areas that the hikers of the OFs help maintain.
The OFs talked about solar panels, and one of the OFs explained how he has covered the south section of his roof with solar panels. This OF clarified that he rents the panels for a certain amount of money a month, and the installation cost him nothing.
He has not received his first statement yet to see how he is doing; that is how new the system is. If this scribe can decipher his notes, the OF rents these solar units at a certain price for a given period of time.
I believe the OF said 20 years. (The OF hopes he makes 20 years. The secret to long life is to set goals far away into the future then try to make it.) And he gets to use all the electricity for free.
What he saves in his power bill should either pay for all his utilities or come close to it. This OF made a good pitch for those with south-facing roofs.
The OFs also talked about Schoharie, including those counties and towns that were affected by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and how these places are still feeling the punches that storm wrought. One OF mentioned this is similar to the tremendous ice storm that hit Plattsburgh and the small towns in that locality many years ago; the damage was still visible years later.
Even now some of the OFs who travel that way say a few repairs are still not made. This was brought about with a discussion on the Parrott House, which precipitated from a discussion on how many people were are in Schoharie with the murder trial going on at the courthouse that was brought there as a change of venue from Oneonta. (Boy, how conversations tie seemingly unrelated events together.)
The Parrott House was built in 1870 and was known as the Eagle Hotel. A fire that same year that destroyed several buildings, started in the hay barn there, and the proprietor was William Parrott Jr.
The OFs can’t quite remember that far back (1870) but they do remember when the Parrott House was more or less the place to see and be seen, with the bowling alley in the basement where, as youngsters, some of the OFs set pins. Square dances, Christmas parties and all sorts of special events were held at the Parrott House.
Sometimes, over the years, the food was great and other times it was not so hot. That all depended on the owners and who was in the kitchen.
Now the Parrott House just sits there looking so sad, waiting for a buyer. Hence the discussion of the flood.
The winter weather came up again, and many of the OFs remembered how they didn’t mind the snow and the cold a few years back. The winter activities were fun and invigorating.
Ice-skating was one activity particularly enjoyed and the village of Schoharie came up with a new, lighted ice skating rink. The OFs remembered shoveling snow off the pond, and making places to skate. They recall having bonfires and hot chocolate and skating.
Ah, the remembrances of tobogganing — the OFs don’t know if tobogganing is done much anymore. Skiing with long wooden skis held on by the OFs’ farmer boots, with felt liners and wool socks and toasty feet, and just springs for bindings.
We were towed up to the top of the hill with a rope tow wrapped around a tractor tire. One OF thought we had more fun that way than kids do today with their fancy expensive outfits, being more concerned about how they look than having fun and learning to ski.
The OFs who made to the Chuck Wagon in Princetown, by not being scared by the weather guys, and appreciating the hard work by the road crews, whether they worked for the town, county, or state, were: Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Robie Osterman, Mace Porter, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Harold Grippen, Gil Zabel, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.
The Old Men of the Mountain went to bed on Monday night, Jan. 26, along with everybody else scared out of their wits, because the OFs thought they were going to wake up to the storm of the century. That is not too hard to do seeing as how we are only beginning the 15th year of the century.
However, what the OFs woke up to was nothing, notta, zilch. Route 88 was dry, Route 7 was wet in spots, and the secondary roads had a tad of snow on them in certain locations. However, as the reader will note at the end of this little report, that news did keep some of the OFs at home; the names of the hardy ones who made it to the Duanesburgh Diner in Duanesburgh are listed here.
Needless to say, the first topic of the morning was the weather, or the non-weather, at least for the localities of the OFs. Some OFs reported hearing the snowplows going by early in the morning with their plows down spewing sparks. The OFs are sure there was a reason for this, and noted that, for one thing, plows are better than an alarm clock to wake the OFs up. One OF mentioned, when the weather people are right, he is glad the plows are out there because if he can get out of his driveway he is sure the roads will be passable.
One OF said he went to Price Chopper on Monday and the place was a zoo. Especially down the aisle for soda and potato chips. Another OF said that it probably had nothing to do with the weather; people were just making sure they had their goodies ahead of time combining the “storm of the century” on its way, and the Super Bowl coming up
“Well, it was packed,” the OF said. “And, when stores are packed like that, I can’t think,” the OF concluded. “It is lucky I came home with anything close to what was needed, and I did forget one of the things I was sent to the store for.”
“You OG, you would have done that anyway, even if it was a balmy, sunny day and only two people were in the store,” another OF retorted. “You are just like the rest of us — you need a list!”
The OFs continued chatting about the weather that didn’t happen. One OF mentioned that weather people don’t make unreliable forecasts on purpose.
What if the next time a storm is really coming and people have a tendency to think back to this one and not take it seriously — go about their business and there are lives lost. What is the weather guy going to do then? Say, “I told you so?”
This discussion was weather-related, especially to us, because so far this has been a cold winter in our area.
The OFs also talked about ice fishing. The way the weather has been, the OFs have noticed a few ice-fishing contests are being advertised.
One thing the OFs noted was that the ice should be thick enough to support a tank. Some of the OFs used to ice fish, and some may still haul out the tip-ups, bundle up, and get out there on the ice.
With all the ice huts that are available now, they are like man-caves out on the ice — comfy and well-stocked. The movie Grumpy Old Men depicted this sport very well.
The OFs talked about the size of some of the fish that were hauled out of the lakes while ice fishing and this led to a brief discussion on Thompsons Lake and Warner Lake. One OF mentioned that fish should have a good place to winter in Thompsons Lake because it is so deep.
This OF said that Thompsons Lake was a kettle, and about 600 to 800 feet deep. In checking this out, it was found that this OF added a 0. Thompsons Lake is about 60 to 80 feet deep. That’s deep enough for fish to winter anyhow.
Some of the OFs were snowplow operators on the Thruway. One OF said that one day the forecast was for a large storm so everyone was called in to get ready.
The storm did not show up — at least initially. The supervisor (to keep everyone busy because the workers were there and many on overtime pay) assumed there wasn’t going to be a severe storm.
He had the operators paint the snowplows. The operators, like good little soldiers, started painting the plows. They were just about finished when the storm hit like a ton of bricks.
Out they went to do battle with the elements; however, many of the plow blades had just been painted. This wet paint came off and mixed with the snow and, when all those anxious drivers who were in such a big hurry passed the plows, their windshields became covered with yellow-painted snow. The OF said many of the vehicles had to have the paint taken off with lacquer thinner.
Weather is what it is
As reported before, most of the OFs are not news junkies, except when the weather people are giving the weather. Once they catch the weather report, most of the OFs then go on about their business.
The weatherman on Channel 6 apparently got it right and said he did not expect that much snow in our area. Again it is “apparently” — the other guys were in panic mode.
“What did we do?” was a rhetorical question asked by the OFs when all we had were crystal sets.
As stated before, weather is what it is — deal with it! Help those who need help, and you should try to be like the ant and not the cricket. The OFs have spoken.
The hardy OFs that made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, on well-maintained roads as good as summertime were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, and me.
Tuesday, Jan. 20, the Old Men of the Mountain charged off to the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie, where the breakfasts are man-sized. One OF who generally orders a la carte enough for two or three OFs ordered just one item from the special board and needed a box to take some of it home; this OF does not have a dog.
As we get older, the OFs (as we get older — wasted words — the OFs are old) have a fear of falling. The OFs consider that fear is one of the best reasons for using Tim Conway steps in the wintertime in many places.
This was brought about by the icy driveways from the one day that the temperature climbed to above freezing and then went right back down. All the driveways and most of the walkways of the OFs were like that — ice under a coating of light snow.
The OFs definitely do not want their feet to skid out from underneath them as they crash to the frozen ground. Two problems are now in place: Either something is going to become broken, or the OGs will be down and won’t be able to get up.
Being down and not able to get up is a problem at any time, and any place. Some OFs carry a cane, not that they need it to walk with, but often times, when the OFs bend down to pick something up, they need something to push on to get back up.
The OFs also talked about all these multi-car pileups all over the country — and this is a big country. The OFs wondered why there have been so many in recent times. There have been icy roads before and nothing like the magnitude of cars that are involved in these pileups.
The OFs had some reasons why this is happening. The best reason is “too close, too fast” and that coupled with distracted driving makes the matter even worse. From the videos, it looks like most of these vehicles never even slowed down.
As one OF’s nephew’s wife said in exasperation (as she was being pressured into getting things ready for Thanksgiving): “What’s the freaking rush?”
That is exactly what the OFs were wondering — what is the freaking rush? Where is everybody going in such a hurry?
One OF blamed it on the new cars. The OFs have mentioned this before, and it seems like the OFs are prophets in a sense.
The older cars required concentration to drive. The OFs had to listen to the engine and know when it began to lug and the vehicle had to shift down. Conversely, as the engine began to rev up and run free, it was time to shift up.
The OFs also had to know how to take turns using speed, slowing down when entering a turn, and adding power halfway through the turn, because there were not many vehicles with power steering.
Today, cars practically drive themselves, the cabins are quiet, and most ride smooth, like old Chryslers or Buicks. Today, after driving five miles, the driver has a tendency to lose concentration, and, to substitute for all this, the drivers today go to their tunes, or phones, or whatever to keep from being so bored driving they might fall asleep.
Looking at those videos of the pileups, the OFs think that many drivers of cars and trucks that kept piling into the mess ahead of them were in that state of mind.
The OFs continued discussing driving.
One of the OFs returned from visiting family in Atlanta, Georgia so many of the OFs who have been to the Atlanta area began to talk about traffic in and around that city.
At times, on the major roads around any big city, strangers who are not sure of where they are going may be in one of the center lanes and see the sign for their exit. Now it becomes a big whoop if the driver can get over to exit at his or her exit.
Traffic may carry the uninitiated driver down two exits before he or she can exit. (Canada has alleviated this problem by installing “collector lanes” that allow one to move over and select his or her exit from the comfort of this lane).
One OF said he thinks it is the time of day because this OF was on one of these roads in Atlanta and in one of the center lanes when he spotted his exit. The OF put on his blinker, and a tractor-trailer in the next lane over slowed up and let the OF in.
To get over into the next lane, a tow truck slowed up and let him in, and to get into the final lane (so the OF could get off at his exit, which was approaching rather quickly) a city bus slowed and let him in the far right-hand lane and the OF made his exit. Just like anything else, at times it is not all bad, but it is scary. Yet it is still too close, too fast.
Hearing about hiking
We have mentioned before that some of the OFs are hikers and we’ve told of some of the work they do to maintain trails and hiking destinations. Tuesday morning, the hikers were talking about their hiking.
It should be noted that this scribe is not a hiker — this scribe is more of a lover, a thinker, and a painter of where the hikers hike.
Apparently, like all enthusiasts of whatever hobbies they have, weather does not deter them and these OFs were talking about hiking, working on trails, and contending with whiteouts. More of the OFs should bundle up and get outside even for a little bit.
These OFs maintain that just 20 minutes or so of good clean air will help keep you fit. Plus the added exercise of donning 15 pounds of clothes just to get out would help in the fitness department too.
Those OFs who put on just enough clothes to make it to the Country Café in Schoharie, and use calories to keep warm, were: Roger Shafer, Chuck Aleseio, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Roger Chapman, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, and me.