On Tuesday, April 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh where the OFs (who the wives kick out of the house so they can have some peace) gather to complain.
One item that has been on the OFs’ agenda for complaints is burning barrels in the country. In most towns, there is a ban on burning barrels
Middleburgh had a prime example of why the banning of burning barrels is important, and necessary. Just south of Middleburgh is Huntersland and on Sunday, April 19, a fire in a burn barrel got out of hand, and 80 acres of woods was eventually burned because of it.
It would have been far worse if the fire departments responding did not get that blaze under control. It took 12 fire companies to complete the task of corralling this fire.
Some of the OFs, particularly those who actually live in Huntersland, were with the second truck there. These OFs spent the whole day fighting that fire; the wind made this quite a challenge.
At one time, they thought they would have to evacuate a couple of homes on top of the mountain but all the work these people did in fighting the fire and the extreme effort these volunteers put out had it under control and it was not necessary to evacuate anyone.
The rains of Monday night were a big help all the way around. The woods were becoming prone to fires because they were so dry. One OF reported that, while Conesville was aiding in fighting this fire, they had calls that two fires had broken out in their own fire district.
This is a good example of first responders, and volunteers in “volunteer” fire companies demanding much more respect than is given by many people. These “volunteers” don’t demand anything, they are our neighbors, brothers and sisters, and it is just what they do. Some day, the family they save may be their own.
It never ceases to amaze this scribe at what transpires around the breakfast tables when the OMOTM are gathered. One OF who we have mentioned in previous columns has a serious health problem and is unable to walk.
With his insurance running out, he will not be able to remain in the facility he is in where he is getting the physical therapy he needs. This OF has a full-size van as a vehicle, which was his means of transportation before his problem set in.
OK! That sets up the following scene.
Some of the OFs go and play cards with the OF who requires the therapy and they were discussing his plight of transportation while playing cards and the probability that he will require a lift van to get in and out to go to therapy. They were talking with the OF in the facility about the possibility that he might need another van, or else try to obtain one of those lifts that goes out the back installed in his current vehicle.
When this conversation was repeated at the breakfast Tuesday morning, one OF pipes up, “Ya know, I have one of those lifts, brand new and complete with wiring, in my garage. If someone here knows how to install it, he can have it.”
You never know when the OFs who collect things are going to have just the thing another OF will need. If one OF needs a siren, another OF will have one.
This scribe has mentioned these types of scenarios before, but this has to be one of the better ones. Who would expect someone to require a wheelchair lift, and another one who happens to be in on the conversation to have a wheelchair lift just lying around. Go figure!
The follow-up will be to see if all this comes to pass. This will be a win-win for all involved.
The OF who needs the lift will have a lift and his life may be much better for it. The OF who has the lift (for no apparent reason other than the opportunity came up) was given it while he was picking up other items he bought at an estate sale.
The OF who now has the lift will have more space to store his unusual, and so far, great finds. To many of the OFs, the Lord has his hand in the pot from who knows when to wind up who knows where when it will be needed.
Keepers and chuckers
At another location at the same table, there was a discussion on the blood connection of a couple of the OFs. The OFs had just discussed cemeteries, and now they are on the same hallowed ground only with a different take — this was taking names from old burial records and matching them to tombstones. One OF brought in the records and it included the genealogy and photos of tombstones and the burial records.
The OFs for the most part are the type of people who respect what has gone on in the past and who the OFs are and how they got here. Most are the keeper type. Then there are the type of people who, if they don’t need or use it in 10 days, out it goes. There is no junk, or collectibles here, but the OFs have found that quite often the early chuckers depend a lot on the keepers, or pickers, or the “some day I will have a use for that’ type of OF.
The OFs believe in the barter system, and, if you have nothing to barter with — neither stuff nor time nor talent — you are in trouble in this group.
The OFs who found room at the tables in Mrs. K’s Restaurant, in Middleburgh, were: Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Dick Ogsbury, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Steve Kelly, Henry Witt, John Rossmann, Miner Stevens, Karl Remmers, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Don Wood, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Harold Grippen, Jim Rissacher, and me.
Ah! Tuesday, April 14, was finally a decent day. The Old Men of the Mountain who were gathered up by their designated drivers for this particular Tuesday wound up at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.
As time goes by, and the OFs become older OFs, those who were hard of hearing years ago are now more so. When three of the older OFs who are hard of hearing are seated together, there is a lot of staring off into space because all these OFs hear is the “Peanuts” speak of the TV shows, where Charlie Brown’s Christmas and the adult sounds are wah, wah, wahha, wa, wa.
That is what these OFs hear, because their hearing aids are on the dresser or in a drawer in the kitchen. Those things only work one on one, and only when it is relatively quiet. This scribe speaks from experience because he is one of the three sitting together.
In the column from a couple of weeks ago, the OMOTM mentioned the security of having a job with a farm in the family. Farmers who are involved with the OMOTM shared recent news of there being a glut of milk in our area of the Northeast; the co-op that handles the milk from some of these large dairies in the area are not going to take their milk because they have too much milk.
This became quite a discussion with these OFs. The OFs harkened back to many of the OFs’ heritage that of being farmers.
This is very shortsighted on the part of the co-op because many times when there is an over abundance of any commodity that is used on a regular basis and the powers that be decide to cut back, instead of cut down, eventually the abundance is used up and they have to gear up to meet the new demand.
After the farmers who were in the co-op are forced to sell all their cows because they can’t afford to stay in business, the OFs ask: Now what? It takes awhile to grow a cow.
One OF wondered, who is running this co-op? He asked, “Isn’t a co-op formed just to prevent this type of happening, and shouldn’t it work on behalf of those in the co-op?”
Another OF said, “The final outcome of the problem is still in the air as of this Tuesday.”
There may be a resolution to resolve the problem in the works as this is being typed.
Then some of the OFs got on the doomsayers of the press as they waddle in the mud of doom and gloom. So much for that!
Doom and gloom
Speaking of gloom and doom, the OFs entered into the conversation by speaking about how many of the OFs are having breakfast on a cloud in the sky. The OFs traveled back in time to the beginning and found the group on the cloud is larger in numbers now than the group at the Middleburgh Diner.
The OFs started to include other groups they are familiar with or were part of. One OF mentioned a photograph taken of the department where he worked, and said there were about 40 employees at that time; when he retired, there were five left.
This department kept the photo, and, as individuals left, they crossed off their head in the photo. That is an interesting concept, and a great way to remember those who are gone.
The OMOTM are fortunate because of the introduction of new blood. Many of the OFs had friends when they were still working and when the OF retired many of these friends come and have breakfast with the friends they had while they were working and who retired before them. Those newly retired friends also now have friends that are still working, and you guessed it — the show goes on.
Like many conversations, whether it is OFs or not, the above discussion led to death and burials. This conversation was also prompted by the passing of Ted Pelkey, a loyal OF who was cremated and his memorial service was April 10.
The talk of double urns came up and was thought of as a neat idea. This way, one doesn’t have to invest in a huge burial plot, and is a good way to beat that “until death do us part” bit. This way, you can be buried together.
One thought: What about a great big urn with many compartments — then it would be possible to have the whole family with you.
One OF who was a Navy man said he isn’t going to need a burial plot; he is going to be cremated and his ashes spread on the sea.
Another OF thought that, as a gun enthusiast, he is going to instruct his family to find someone who loads their own bullets to stuff his ashes into some shotgun shells and shoot them off into the woods. Cool idea.
However, the ideas came quickly after that; some are not reportable.
Those OFs still on this side of the sod, and able to make it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, were: Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Frank Pauli, Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, Otis Lawyer, Henry Witt, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Don Wood, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Henry Whipple, and me.
On a very damp, raw day for April 7, the Old Men of the Mountain headed up the mountain to the Hilltown Café, in Rensselaerville to meet and eat.
Much of the chat this morning was quite repetitive of chats that have gone on before, i.e., worms; honey; honeybees, where is spring (with the desire for that spring enthusiasm); and finally, a few new — not really new but different — takes on some old topics.
One OF who used to do his own maple syrup said he hasn’t made any syrup in the last few years, and was telling about all the work involved in processing the sap into syrup. One reason for his not processing the syrup is because at one time he boiled the sap evaporator too long, and somehow the OF scorched the evaporator.
The OF then explained that he took the evaporator to George Gobel to have it repaired. The other OFs had a quizzical look on their faces as he was telling this story because they equated the name George Gobel with George Gobel, the well-known comedian, and not the George Gobel who lives in the Hilltowns and has a welding shop.
For the under-50 crowd, George Gobel was a very funny comedian who had his own show on T.V. George Gobel had a “crew cut” or “flattop” hairstyle, which stemmed from being a pilot in World War II.
“Well, I’ll be a dirty bird” was a George Gobel euphemism that was a very popular catchphrase in the 1950s and ’60s.
WhytheJapanesedidn’tconquerOklahoma.wmv is a very funny clip with George Gobel, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, and Bob Hope. In this clip, keep your eye on Dean Martin.
George Gobel died in 1991 after undergoing heart surgery.
Anyway, getting back to the OF and his syrup, the OF said that Gobel Welding repaired his evaporator to a like-new condition. This OF said he is thinking about making syrup again but it will be a lot of work digging all this equipment out from where he stashed it a few years ago.
To the OFs now, that is the key (it will be a lot of work). If it involves a lot of work, the OFs now back off.
Winter water woes
Because this winter, while not the worst we’ve seen, is right up there with one of the worst, the OFs were talking about water problems. Not only have some of the OFs had water problems but we hear stories about a lot of others who have been in the same predicament.
Some water problems were not of the winter’s doing but just parts of their water systems decided to wear out and repairing them now became a winter situation. One OF who lives in the village and uses village water had the snowplow break the valve off at the line going into his home from the main line.
So the OF is without water, and the Department of Public Works decided to move that valve further back so the plow and valve would not come together again. Now the OF’s lawn is all torn up.
Another OF had to change a water pump that went bad, and the pump-repair person was standing in snow up to his knees for hours while doing the job, but at least the well was away from the house. Read on.
Another OF told of a friend who drilled his well and then built the house around it, concluding that this was a smart idea because the well would never freeze. That is true, but pumps do go bad from things other than freezing, and this one did.
The OF said, in order to pull the pump from the deep well, they had to cut holes in the floors and through the ceiling to facilitate the process.
Pranks of old
From last week we talked about pranks we pulled as YFs and these are pranks of old. Continuing this conversation, we noted the occurrences took place more than 50 or 65 years ago.
This particular prank is a classic and it was not revealed for over 50 years because it was done by one person who never mentioned it or told a soul until a class reunion some 50 years in the making. This prank the whole school knew about, and the whole community of Schoharie did also when it happened.
The OF in question just happens to be a classmate of an OF who eats breakfast with the rest of our distinguished group of OFs. In order to perfect this prank, the OF in question (when he was a YF) disguised his voice, which was not hard for him to do since he had lost the high-pitched voice of adolescence when he was in third grade.
This YF called the Schoharie Stone Quarry, which was directly behind the school, and ordered in the name of the school maintenance superintendent, two loads of stone. The YF directed the quarry where to dump the stone, giving the reason that the school was going to repair the drive and it required the delivery first thing in the morning. This way the school could have the job done by the end of the day.
The quarry did as directed; not knowing that, by dumping the stone where they were told to dump it, the stone would block all the school busses from getting out. And it did. In panic mode, school had to be canceled, and parents notified.
In this case, no damage was done, no one hurt, just a bunch of ticked-off school officials, and the stone was used to repair the bus area, and the test that the YF was trying to get out of was given the next day. So there, the school won, and the YF had only one day’s reprieve.
Once again, The Old Men of the Mountain must offer condolences to family and friends of another member who has passed away. Ted Pelkey entered into the final, resting peace we all must venture into some day; there is no escaping it.
Teddy was 96 years old and he often said he had been on this planet long enough.
The OFs who hauled their creaky frames up the mountain to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville for their candlelight breakfast with enjoyable repartee were: Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Karl Remmers, Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, Bob Snyder, Jack Norray, Lou Schenk, Mace Porter, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Ted Willsey and his daughter Sally, Bill Krause, and me.
The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont on the last day of March 2015 and early in the morning it was not too pleasant. The air was cold and the wind was blowing, and the OFs queried, “So what else is new?” At least the Home Front was warm, and had the wake-up smell of breakfast in the air.
Quite often, it is noted how the OFs arrive at the restaurant of the day and what type of transportation they’re using. Tuesday morning, one of the “gang” (as a couple OFs have noted the OMOTM have been called by some of their younger friends) showed up with his passengers in a new Nissan Leaf — a zero-emission car. That alone takes years off being an OMOTM just by the jump into today’s technology.
This vehicle is fully electric, can be charged at home overnight (we don’t know how much that costs in electricity) and it is ready to go the next day provided it is just running around town. At least there are no gas or oil changes to contend with.
There is one question though: How much of the battery will it take to operate the heater and air conditioner? Those two things are energy sucker-uppers.
The body ages faster than the mind
The OFs began discussing how old they are. This topic does not come up often; it is not something the OFs think about much — only when they get up in the morning and have to get the body cranked up.
After that, it is a personal thing and, once the body gets going, age by the numbers is basically gone, and age by the mind takes over. The age on getting up says, “Boy, my 80-year-old body creaks like an old pirate ship in a stiff breeze.”
Once going ,the mind thinks the OF is a 50-year-old. That can get many OFs into trouble because that sack of grain the OFs used to lift (still 100 pounds) now weighs a ton to the OFs of 80 years. Eighty vs. 50 takes over now.
Listening to the OFs say their ages Tuesday morning around one end of the table lets all the OFs know why we are the OMOTM number-wise, but 50 mind-wise.
The age discussion worked its way into retirement and retirement plans. When the OFs were young, retiring, and retirement plans were not even thought of. Many worked on the farm; at that time, the job security was perpetual, from father to son or daughter, and so on.
Somewhere along the line, that changed. The OFs thought it was a byproduct of World War II. A lot of the people of the era before World War II are having tough times now because they are older and body parts are wearing out.
The cost of keeping these people wired together is going out of sight. Many OFs have been retired 20 or more years, and have really learned to manage their money because there is not much money coming in now.
Cemeteries from on high
The OFs went from age, to retirement, to cemeteries. Now that is a progression that is fitting for OMOTM.
One OF mentioned this is the time of year to look for old cemeteries from a low, slow-flying plane like a Piper J3, or some home-built aircraft. From the plane — and some of the OFs have done this — the OF is able to see stone-wall fences meandering through the woods to nowhere.
You might even see the stone fences and old cemeteries by driving down the highway now, because it is possible to look deep into the woods where there are no leaves on the underbrush.
These old family burial plots contain many of the names of the people of the Hilltowns and may fill in the blanks of much of the history of the area. These same cemeteries (location and history) could also explain the reason for some of the stone-wall fences, and why they are where they are.
It was also mentioned that some old cemeteries are abandoned because the family has died out, or those connected with the cemetery have left and moved away. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the town to maintain these plots.
But they can’t do that if they don’t know where these places are. An OF was wondering if it would be a cool project to locate, catalogue, and map as many of these old burial grounds as could be found.
That also may facilitate finding the reasons for all the ghost stories of the hills, maybe even spot a few ghosts. They are around, you know.
“The old barn,” writes John R. Williams who painted this picture, “is akin to many older people. They’re like old barns out in the field left alone to collapse, taking all their knowledge with them.”
Lonely old barns
Without realizing what is going on with the barn in New Scotland by the golf club, the OFs talked about the demise of so many older barns in the hills. The farms are gone, and the barns sit so lonely and no one pays any attention to them.
There is no preventative maintenance and no immediate damage repair — the barns take the brunt of it. Finally, the poor things just give up and collapse.
The reason the OFs can relate to these old structures, with all their history, is because the old barn is akin to many older people. They’re like old barns out in the field left alone to collapse, taking all their knowledge with them.
The OFs did discuss how individuals are restoring a few of the structures. The old post-and-beam barns held together with wooden pegs have been battling the elements for centuries and one OF said many are still as square as when they were built.
One OF thought that these abandoned buildings may still be teeming with life. There are birds finding refuge in their rafters; squirrels, chipmunks, and field mice roaming freely in their stone foundations; and snakes might be raising their young under the old decaying floor boards.
This painting by John R. Williams depicts Jacob VanArnum, a Revolutionary War captain, by his family’s cemetery in Guilderland, southeast of Altamont. The old Dutch barn still stands on Brandle Road as does the cemetery.
Even after collapsing, the old barn will still offer shelter to all these field critters. One OF said: Don’t forget all the bugs and beetles that will feed off the barn’s decaying structure, then the skunks come and coons, and that decaying barn becomes a world unto its own.
An OF concluded with it being a good thing we at the breakfast table are old barns but we sure are being well-maintained and nourished — look at some of the breakfasts these OFs are packing away.
Those OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont, and who may not still be square, but who have not fallen down yet, were: Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Henry Witt, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Lichliter, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Bill Krause, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey (2), Jim Rissacher (2), and me.
The Old Men of the Mountain gather on Tuesday every week at a roundtable series of restaurants. The OFs refer to this as spreading the wealth.
These restaurants are spaced throughout the area like a clock and, as the OFs rotate through the clock, they are able to tell where the next breakfast will be if they miss one or even two. This Tuesday, which was March 24, the OFs gathered at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown.
Any OF that missed the breakfast this past Tuesday will know where the next one is by this constant rotation. Why is this important? The reason is the OFs can’t remember a thing so it is necessary to keep it simple. Read on.
Two OFs planned a trip off the Hill to go to the doctor. The price of gas has gone down but the OFs remember when gas was 29 cents a gallon; now $2.55 a gallon still seems excessive to the OFs so this prompts them to accomplish as much as they can into one trip.
The doctor’s appointment was going to be coupled with grocery shopping, getting the car washed, and a couple of other errands the OF could not remember. However, the main reason for the trip was to go to the doctor, and, when the OFs arrived at the doctor’s office, they found they were there at the right time but the wrong day.
Another OF who has to make real plans to go anywhere (because he requires transportation) also was planning trips around a doctor’s appointment, only this OF not only had things to do but also had time constraints thrown in. This OF thought (and the key word here is thought) that his appointment was for his annual physical, with a prostate check included for good measure.
This OF was all prepped mentally for his appointment for the “oil and filter change” (as the one doing the tattling put it) only to find out that it was the wrong kind of physical he was expecting and the wrong doctor. He was supposed to be at the eye doctor for a checkup with the retina specialist, and again, as the tattler told it, the wrong area of the body was going to be poked.
We OFs have to be saved from ourselves — in many cases, it is a good thing there are people watching over us.
Remembering Iwo Jima
We, as a nation, have just celebrated the 75th anniversary battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. That is the battle where the iconic photograph was taken of the Marines raising the flag, which is now also a very famous statue.
The OFs have a member who was on that island immediately after the initial attack; there were still pockets of resistance from the enemy. This OF was a bulldozer operator and does not talk about the war much.
This scribe has known this OF for a long time. The OF is a licensed plumber and electrician and this scribe has used his services on a number of occasions and only knew he was in the service. That was it.
At the breakfast Tuesday morning, there was another OF who had to tattle. All one of the OFs mentioned to this scribe was, “You know the OF that was the licensed electrician and plumber was in the battle of Iwo Jima” and that was all the OF said.
That was enough to make this scribe ask the OF that was in the battle about any recollections he might have. This OF that was asked said he was there about a month and what he still remembers is the smell, and the smell was of dead bodies because part of his job was to dig trenches where all the dead bodies were placed and then he had to cover them up.
Although not spoken out loud, but implied, it was more or less a joint burial of American and Japanese. Warriors of two nations joined in a final everlasting peace, resting side by side in a communal hole in the ground. That kind of experience is something not many of us would want to remember or talk about either.
The pranks the OFs pulled in their early days would today have us in prison, or at least fined. One OF told how, in his one-room school, they caught a skunk and put it in the schoolhouse, and the skunk, in panic, sprayed the whole place.
This OF said it was days before they could get back into that schoolhouse. This OF did not relate if the parents got together and had school held at one of their homes. Apparently not, because the OF would have mentioned it.
Another OF told of how they tied a chicken to the steering wheel of a car and two of the young OFs laid down on the front seat and one operated the clutch, brake, and gas while the other leaned across him and steered.
Two other young OFs sat in the back seat and told the other two where to go. This setup gave the appearance that the chicken was driving the car. They drove the car through the village of Gallupville, and then drove up to West Berne, and Berne, where the drivers would again duck down so it would look like the chicken was driving the car.
If this had any impact or not, the young OFs never knew. No one ever said, “Hey, did you see the chicken driving the car through Gallupville yesterday,” or something to that effect, but it was fun to tell the story in school the next day.
Once this olive was out of the jar, many more stories along these lines were told. This scribe will save those for a later date, when the scribe’s notes from a breakfast are boring, but that is rare with these OFs.
Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon and getting a little too old to pull many pranks (and nowadays some of the OFs’ tickers could not even handle a good prank) were: Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Lichliter, Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Jim Rissacher, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Harold Guest, Warren Willsey, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.