On June 10, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie. Interspersed throughout much of the morning conversation at one corner of the restaurant were discussions on what Schoharie was like in the 1940s and ’50s.
This was prompted by three or four of the OFs who were sitting by the window of the restaurant, which looks out across the street to the courthouse, and the Parrott House. The OFs remembered the movies in the street, setting pins in the bowling alley, and, at that time, the Parrott House was the place to be seen.
A couple of the OFs remembered the Glass Bar, but that will be that — let it be said that there was a place called the Glass Bar.
The village has changed, the Parrott House has changed, and the times have changed, but really nothing has changed.
The OFs are still sitting and eating, getting out of their vehicles, and walking within the same five thousand or so square feet of the planet they did umpteen, ump years ago, even though most have been all over the country, and some all over the world; here they are just like salmon, back to the same dirt on the bottom of their shoes that they had there when they started their travels.
Our discussion on the history of Schoharie (as the OFs remember it) only goes back 60, or maybe 70, years ago. Not a history like history books, nonetheless, first-hand accounts of the past.
The proposed work that is going to be done at the intersection of routes 443 and 156 is what prompted the next conversation. The hamlets of Knox, Berne, West Berne, and Gallupville were bustling little communities with hotels, stores, gas stations, restaurants, and tourist destinations like White Sulphur Springs in Berne, most just memories now.
The OFs mentioned that this was the year of the dandelion. Now, at least in the valley of Schoharie and the Hilltowns, it is also the year, so far, of green and phlox — these wild flowers are everywhere.
The OFs do not know how many remember the ice cream destination of “Dutcher’s.” This was a place outside of Altamont on Route 158, not far from the reservoir, where the proprietors of Dutcher’s made their own ice cream. It is now the home of The Elegant Touch catering service.
Many of the OFs remember going there in the 1950s and ’60s and the amount of ice cream that was dished out. One OF remembered the banana splits, and claimed that was a meal. It wasn’t only the quantity — but the quality — similar to the Bears restaurant, one OF said. Dutcher’s still remains one of the many gone-but-not-forgotten places that were pluses in the realm of the OFs.
Advice for kids
The topic that comes up quite often with the OFs is our grandchildren. One OF has a relatively new grandchild and it his first.
It was obvious how tickled he is; however, he sat across from another OF that has 18 grandchildren! The new grandfather has a lot of catching up to do.
Talking about kids, one OF noticed how another OF came in and sat down. This OF sat down with a plump — he just dropped into the chair. This was not because the sitting OF wanted to, but, with OF knees, hips, backs and legs, many times this is the only way to accomplish the maneuver. Getting up out of the chair is not much easier either; there has to be a darn sturdy table at the ready to push on in order to become elevated.
The OFs remember telling their kids to sit without plopping into a chair or couch. They remember telling their kids the furniture is not a trampoline. One OF mentioned he remembered his parents telling him the same thing that he harangued his kids for. Now that the OF is of the age he is, he has a tendency to fold and plop, and then hope he can get back up.
Some of the OFs discussed the horse race at Belmont (and the rant about the Triple Crown that came up after the race). The OFs are in agreement with the co-owner of California Chrome, but not quite how he handled it.
One OF mentioned that the owner was not one of the high-class horse-owner mucky-mucks. He seemed to be more of a people person just like the OFs are who speak their minds (while not always politically correct) yet they are more honest most of the time.
The OFs also covered another current topic — chickens and chickens as pets! Chickens make good pets, and are better as a teaching tool for your kids than cats or dogs.
Chickens make far less noise than some yappy little poodle that barks all day. Clucking hens are very relaxing similar to a purring cat.
Who hasn’t been startled out of bed by a cat fight right outside your bedroom window? Talk about noise!
Any pet takes a lot of care no matter what it is, even if it is a pot-bellied pig, or miniature horse, they all have to be looked after. One OF said he has a large pet that needs a lot of looking after, and nobody complains about that. It is called a wife.
Those attending the breakfast at the Country Café in Schoharie and really filling up the place with good old Hilltown and Valley dirt were: Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Roger Chapman, Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Herb Sawotka, Miner Stevens, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Jim Rissacher, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.
We are now into June, and the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh on June 2 as a few more snowbirds returned. This scribe may be forced to join this migratory group. The operative word here is forced; joining that flock remains to be seen.
The OFs for the most part have been a very productive group. Here we have two categories. One is what many OFs have accomplished, and two is adding to the continuation of the species of homosapiens.
It is this second subject that came up, showing how proud the OFs are of their kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. Every now and then, an OF will bring in something reported in a newspaper that the offspring of the OF has accomplished.
It is interesting to the OFs to hear these reports, which in turn means the OFs will listen to you when you bring up something that your brood has done that is noteworthy.
The OFs raise their eyes to the sky when the age of some of the OFs’ kids is brought up in conjunction with these spontaneous reports — the age of these kids brings a form of wonderment to the OFs.
“How old?” is the common question.
When whatever OF is telling the story says a number like 50, or 60, and some reaching retirement age and beyond, it hard for the OFs to believe this.
One OF said, “I never thought I would reach that age, let alone the age I am now.”
A second OF replied, “It’s all the good food we get at Mrs. K’s and the other restaurants that got you here, you ole goat; you should leave a bigger tip.”
“Hey I get d--- good food at home, too, don’t forget. I know, because you keep coming over right at supper time to mooch.”
Reaching back to “accomplishments” (as previously mentioned), the number one-accomplishment would be the hobbies the OFs have that this scribe has cited on other occasions. The OGs are quite proud of these, too.
At Mrs. K’s, there is a clock on the wall completely handcrafted by one of the OFs; there is also a painting in the same restaurant handcrafted by another of the OFs.
Some of the OFs have more to do than they have life left. One OF has a restored horse-drawn grader, while others have enough antique tractors around that, if melted down, would at least make a naval destroyer.
Others are really active, and hike and maintain hiking trails — some of their activities have been referred to in the newspaper. Others collect, whatever, even if it is just belly-button fuzz, while some still think they can collect women.
“Old men will dream dreams”
The other OFs call them dreamers. It is stated in the Bible that “your young men will prophesize, and your old men will dream dreams.” The second part of that statement is the OFs. See, the OFs are just doing as they are told.
The OFs sometimes wonder how much of what they do is predicated on genes, or how the OFs behaved when they were young, or their diet, or their work environment. The OFs think that any one or combination of any is the reason some are not able to do much, and some are able to do 10-mile bike rides and consider that too short.
The OFs’ advice to younger OFs (who will be OFs sooner than they think) is: Take care of yourself now or pay for it later, and paying for it later is no fun.
One OF was presented with a World War II ration book, which happened to have been issued to the OF it was given to during the war. Many young people will have no idea what this is or how important they were.
During World War II, many things —such as gasoline, tires, sugar, butter, meat, and cars — were rationed. Gas was strictly controlled, as was a host of other items.
If anyone is interested, it can be checked out on the net. One search engine on Google (World War Two rationing) is good. It has pictures of the books, the ration stamps — the whole ball of wax.
Because people were all affected by this conflict, together they worked hard to make sure their labor was not in vain. Victory gardens were quite common to supplement the supply of food and much of this food was shared with others.
As with everything, there were some bad apples and the OFs said, once the rotten ones were found out, sometimes the law was taken by the hands of citizens and the bad apples wished they had never started to rot.
Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and who are still making sure they take care of each other, were: John Rossmann, Bill Bartholomew, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, David Williams, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Henry Witt, Don Wood, Art Frament, Jay Taylor, Herb Sawotka, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.
The 27th of May, may be our one day of summer! Mark the calendar — it reached 87 degrees, and we had a hot day later on with high humidity.
On Tuesday, this day in May, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburg Diner in Middleburgh. The Middelburg Diner and the Duanesburg Diner in the Duanesburg are the only two restaurants the OMOTM travel to that have their locations in their names. All the others do not; however, some hint at it.
Anyone who is unaware of where the restaurants would be have to google the location, or ask a friend, or use a GPS system, but most of the OFs are a little suspect of that.
The OFs began discussing personalities; we each have one to some degree or other so the OFs then talked about the degree of personalities. This scribe must point out the OFs have rather high degrees of personality. The OFs state their opinions without rancor and that places them in a class of personalities that makes for harmonious conversations even with divergent opinions.
The OGs continued the conversation of yards and yard work of the last couple of weeks like there were no days in between the Tuesday breakfasts. These chats were much alike (we are OFs and the same stories told over and over are expected and normal, and to the OFs with short attention spans, even though the stories may be old, to them they are new) but keeping equipment going was the topic this past Tuesday morning.
Another aside about being OFs is just that many of these OGs lived through the Depression, World War II, and the times when there were enough possessions but still everyone was poor by today’s standards. Nobody knew they were poor because everyone was poor.
That little tidbit of information leads to why the OFs keep old machinery running and just don’t run out and buy new when something starts giving the OFs fits. Tinker with this old paraphernalia and get it going again is the OFs motto.
The magic screwdriver
One OF mentioned that he has a number of old lawnmowers a weed whacker, chainsaws, and equipment with other small engines. Somehow they had all decided they were tired of working and so they decided to quit.
A couple of OFs are geniuses when it comes to small engine repair, and one of these OFs was working on one of the lawnmowers, and he wasn’t quite done fixing it.
The OF who had all this equipment was like many other OFs who don’t know a thing about small-engine repair; sometimes, if they do know a few things about repairing them, they find they do not have the patience to mess with them.
One day, this particular OF took a small screwdriver and said he would try adjusting one of the mowers because it wasn’t running anyway. The OF adjusted a screw, pulled the rope, and brraaapp, son of a gun, it started.
“Holy cow,” the OF said. “I guess I will try another.”
So, he took the magic screwdriver and adjusted another motor that wouldn’t run and brraaapp, away it went running like clockwork. The OF said he then looked at the screwdriver in his hand and tried fixing a chainsaw that hadn’t run.
He turned the screw to what he thought was right, pulled the rope, and, slap your butt, there was another brraaapp, and it was purring like a kitten.
The OF said, “Now that is what I would call a good day.”
To have all the lawn equipment up and running is essential to many of the OFs. The OFs have manicured lawns, and they look good, but to show off is not the reason for having these types of lawns. Most of the OFs live in the country, and the OFs maintain their lawns to keep the creepy-crawlies down and away from the house.
Mowing the lawn keeps these critters down because they breed and live in tall grass. One OF said, not only the crawly things, but the little flying critters, too. Another OF said we should keep plants and shrubs away from around the outside of the house because they bring the unwanted guests into your home also.
There were quite a few “Oh no’s” from some of the OFs now that it is the beginning of the political ad season. Now is the time, at least with the big-position politicos, that the politicians who have the most bucks will bombard the radio and TV with ads “to try and convince the 10 people who haven’t already made up their minds,” one OF said.
A second OF opined, “The media loves this. Look at the bucks it reels in for them.”
In one OF’s opinion elections nowadays are not won, they are bought.
“Well, weren’t they in the old days also?” retorted one OF. “Only back then they handed out five-dollar bills, and cigars.”
“To which ‘back then,’ ” another OF said, “five bucks was worth something. Now you might just as well give a guy a quarter, and that won’t even buy a pack of gum — a lot of votes that’ll getcha.”
Changes in bathing
The OFs dropped that subject and went back to discussing bathrooms and how our bathrooms have changed over the years.
An OF said that he can understand that because he has trouble lifting his leg over the side of the tub to take a shower. It seems to be that, at our ages, a house does need two bathrooms — one with a tub for the soakers, and another with a walk-in shower for the OF who wants to be rained on.
In the good old days, the OFs took a bar of homemade soap, and went to the creek or pond.
One OF said, “You OGs have to remember we were YFs then.”
“What did our parents do?” an OF asked. None could really remember.
Those OFs who have lots of wrinkles from all that lye in the homemade soap and who had breakfast at the Middleburg Diner, in Middleburgh, were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Steve Kelly, Duncan Bellinger, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Andy Tinning, Miner Stevens, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Jack Norray, Jim Rissacher, Ken Hughes, Bill Krause, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Roger Chapman, and me.
On Tuesday, May 20, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and noted that Route 85 has still not been fixed. The OFs swear the highway department must be in cahoots with some fender and body shops in the area.
’Tis the season for just about all the outdoor activities of the spring and summer months to start. One of these many activities is gardening.
Last week, the OFs touched on this subject but a new twist was mentioned this week. This new detail is in regard to raised beds, or complete gardens being raised, so the OFs don’t have to bend over so far to maintain them.
Bending, as anybody over 60 will attest, is not the easiest body motion to do. One OF suggested using cinder blocks and another mentioned using old railroad ties. The last OF was jumped on because there is creosote in the old ties.
To which the offended OF said, “Hey! When we were kids, we chewed the stuff. On a hot day, we would peel it from the telephone pole and chew it, and we are not dead yet.”
Another OF wondered out loud who makes up all the rules saying that “creosote was the best wood preservative going and now it is bad; get around it and you will die.”
Another OF thought that there was a new item that came on the market and the company wanted to sell it, so, in order to make a place for it, the government had to say the creosote was bad, just so they could sell the new wood preservative, and the new preservative is not half as good as creosote.
“Just wait,” another OF added. “In a few more years the new preservative will be found to be hazardous to the tsetse fly and we won’t be able to use that either.
“Give me the good old creosote, oil-based paints, hey, even white lead — these new paints offer as much protection as food dye in tap water.”
This scribe often wonders how we get from gardens to the tsetse fly, to creosote and paint all in a matter of minutes.
Year of the dandelions
Without any fertilizer, or even planting in raised beds, the OFs say this is the year of the dandelions. Everywhere you look, the dandelion’s yellow flower is dotting the landscape at least on the Hill, and in the valley of Schoharie, and maybe Altamont and Rotterdam have the dandelion yellow carpet also.
Some of the OFs remember their mothers gathering the young dandelion leaves and using them as greens in salads and garnishes. One OF mentioned that using what pops up in lawns and fields, picking it, then using it to cook with is becoming a lost art.
Another OF said he used to do a lot of that — collecting mushrooms, dandelions, burdock, and other plants that the OF has forgotten about.
One OF mentioned that he thinks he still has a stash of dandelion wine in the cellar. The OF added that, if he went out today to forage in the forest, he probably would come home with plants that would kill a horse in minutes, or a least give the OF the trots.
Encounters with angels
The OFs started talking about a subject that was both a little sad and a little scary. This topic was how much it hurts the OFs when their kids become seriously ill.
“Why them — why not me? I am at the short end of the ruler,” was a general consensus. Many of the OFs have gone through this type of unwanted anxiety and have the same thoughts.
Somehow this started a few of the OFs talking about angels and how some of the OFs have had encounters with these beings.
The OFs did not seem to be talking about the type of angel that has been perpetrated by humans as comely visions with golden hair and white feathered wings flying off floating through the air, but the OMOTMs’ angels are people, known and unknown, that just seem to pop up and disappear.
When the OG is in trouble, one can be a friend who for some unknown reason has the time to help. The OGs began relating a few stories where a particular event would take place and help would come from out of the blue.
This scribe thinks that we are all angels and, when the time comes for us to be used, we will be used and not even know that we are being used that way.
Let sleeping cats lie
The OFs mentioned how unsafe it is to disturb a sleeping animal, especially a cat.
“Yeah,” one OF said, “disturbing a sleeping cat is not the smartest thing in the world to do, not if you want to maintain your eyeballs.”
“Not only a cat, but have you ever been kicked by a normally gentle horse?” a second OF asked.
“If you come up on the wrong side of the animal while it is sleeping, that is a half a ton of flying hoofs that are flaying at anything within reach and that to the horse could be a bear, mountain lion — or you. The horse also is not thinking, ‘Shoo, go away’; the horse’s kicking is meant to harm, disable, or bring whatever startled the horse to an untimely demise.”
The OFs think that the old adage to let a sleeping dog lie is a good one to heed around anything that has left this conscious world and, if you can see its chest is still heaving, leave it be.
Those OFs who were at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and having no intentions on disturbing any sleeping being (especially the wife) were: Bill Krause, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Harold Guest, Carl Walls, Robie Osterman, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Miner Stevens, Andy Tinning, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Lou Schenck, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bob Lassome, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, and me.
This scribe looked around the Home Front Café in Altamont on Tuesday, May 13, and again noticed that the restaurant was full of men. The only member of the distaff side was the waitress. This scribe thought that, as often as this happens, the ladies’ time out and about must be later on in the day.
The OFs talked about mowing the grass (not hay). This is almost like the conversation of last week only now the OFs are already complaining about cutting the grass. Once started in the spring, the OFs say, it is like pulling a cork out of a bottle.
The grass (also known as weeds in some yards) continues to grow and once one corner or section of the yard is done, it is necessary to go back and start all over right away. This little circus goes on until late June and, in August, when the OFs are able to catch up with the growing cycle of the grass (AKA weeds) the grass takes a break in the hot weather.
Another typical discussion was that of the OFs’ medical operations. The OFs were not talking hangnail type operations but the real thing, like heart bypasses, knees, shoulders, hips, hernias, some cancers, and having metal plates placed in the head.
One OF has just had his hearing repaired in one ear. The OFs don’t know if this is a hearing aid or not. Half the OFs have those things, and the other half need them.
But this OF had an operation on his head. The doctors placed something in his head just behind the left ear. Then they gave the OF a round object about one inch in diameter, and one quarter inch thick. Attached to that object is a little box about one inch square and one quarter inch thick. This unit snaps to the metal plate inside his head with a magnet.
When the OF clicks this unit to his head he can hear. It sure is different than a hearing aid, and also different in price — about two to three times more than a pair good hearing aids.
The OFs who have had other operations all seemed to have them do whatever they were supposed to do in one degree or another. Some of the OFs have no pain while others, at times, have a little discomfort.
A few of the OFs have problems with some of their joints and they could be operated on, but the advice from the doctors is “leave it alone and live with it.” The OFs wonder why this approach is taken at times and, at other times, the knife is already in the air.
Some of the OFs have had their operations done at the hospital in Cooperstown and say what a nice place this is. It is a small hospital with only 164 beds but the OFs who have used the facility say it is a good hospital and they felt safe there.
Cooperstown is a town in central New York, and one OF had a three-way bypass done at this facility. After the bypass surgery, he was sent to Sunnyview rehab in Schenectady for his (you guessed it) rehabilitation.
This OF was transported by ambulance to Sunnyview. This is quite a ride, and the driver apparently knew his way around Cooperstown, but got lost with the OF in Schenectady.
The OF said the ambulance driver drove all over the place trying to find the hospital. Some of the OFs could understand this because of the one-way streets, and it is not the easiest of hospitals to get to even if you were from Albany and had an inkling of Schenectady.
The OFs assumed the driver must have been male because he could have asked for directions. The OF in the ambulance said he did ask for directions but they seemed to be of no help.
No one asked if the ambulance had a GPS, which would have been a help. This was a few years ago, because most of the newer ambulances today are equipped with a GPS system. A few of the OFs are EMTs and one said that the GPS systems works pretty well if you are a good speller and know how to spell where you are and where you want to go.
One OF had a knee replaced recently and is getting around great but the hospital stay was another thing. We will save that for another time.
Those OFs that made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont and who would make a good support group for those contemplating an operation, or for reassuring those just coming out of an operation, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bill Krause, Dave Williams, George Cove, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Andy Tinning, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.