A few days of summer so far, and on Tuesday, July 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont.

Tuesday morning, the OFs had the honor to break in a new waitress (new at least to the OMOTM) under fire. When the early birds arrived, the waitress was pretty as a picture; however, midway through taking care of all these OFs, her hair was soon disheveled and the poor girl looked harried.

She probably was thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Though harried, she kept her composure throughout. Good job. After the OFs clear out, it is time for the mirror and a re-do.

The OMOTM are not hicks

The Helderberg Hilltowns are not the biggest towns in the world but that does not mean the city people can come up and stomp all over us, and it is not all city people, but enough to generate a stereotype.

Conversely, there are enough of the people from the hills that don’t understand the rules of the cities and earn the stereotype of “hicks from the hills.” The city folk are stereotyped as the “bullies and know-it-alls from the city.”

When, in fact, neither stereotype is true. We are defending the OMOTM from falling into the stereotypical category of being from the hills. Many OFs are from the hills, but the OFs are definitely not hicks.

Constant care required

An OF inquired of the OFs from the Berne area about the bridge repair in that village. They all agreed it was necessary and has to be done, along with repairing the road through the village.

The OFs were of the opinion that the bridge should be done by late August, and the road is to be repaired to the county line. The OFs who are familiar with construction said, while under construction, there are inconveniences, but people have to work around this while the construction is going on.

If there weren’t any maintenance on our highways and byways, they would become so dangerous that no one would use that particular stretch of road that is falling apart, and, if they did, they would be taking their life in their own hands. The same thing holds true with buildings as small as a tent and up to the size of the largest skyscraper — all of them require constant care.

The OFs from the Berne area said that the state has gone one step beyond because on the signs stating that the bridge is out and detours are in place, there is a notice that the “Berne Store Is Open.”  It is rare for the state to do something like this to facilitate one business.

The Berne OFs said the state sends travelers on basically state roads so their directions are sometimes quite convoluted.  Case in point is heading east on Route 443. The state, the OFs think, is required to use state highways.

In this case the state takes the traveler on Route 1 (Switzkill Road) to Cole Hill Road and back down to Route 443. This is a hike. The “locals” find Irish Hill to Cole Hill, to Route 443 much shorter.

Getting to events going on in Berne is not that much of a hassle using the local connections. If coming into town, particularly east on Route 443, just keep going until you get to where the event is; for instance, if it is at the school or even a garage sale.

Coming from the  west on Route 443, it is necessary to head north on Route 156 at the bridge to Rock Road and loop around to Route 443 and go east back into town.  This is about a four-mile trip from the bridge, and a three-mile trip cutting over Rock Road if approaching Berne going south on Route 156 from Knox.

There!  The OFs hope this helps.

Inventions to come

The OFs were wishing someone would develop a grass for lawns that grows to the height of about 3 inches and no taller. It also would have to be inexpensive, impervious to weeds, and survive during hot, dry spells.

Those who think everything that can be invented has been invented are off the mark. The OFs believe that the kids today have a whole field of inventions to come up with that the OFs haven’t even thought about, and the grass is one of them, only the OFs have thought of that one. 

The OFs included in this part of the conversation the trip to Pluto, and what other plans are in the works. One OF mentioned that the trip to Pluto was done with technology that is nine years old.

Look how far we have come in those nine years. What a time to be six years old — space travel is within their grasp. Beam me up, Scotty!

Those OFs who made it to the breakfast at the Home Front and some brought their space suits, were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Bill Lichlater, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Grippen, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Jay Taylor, Roger Fairchild, Bob Benac (with his brother, Joe Ketzeko), Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Roger Shafer (with his son Michael, and grandkids),  Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Joe Loubier, and me.


Tuesday, July 7, was almost a summer morning when the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. It is fun to watch the OFs pile into the restaurant of the week.

For once, this scribe was early enough to see most of the OFs arrive; when the OFs entered the diner, they were greeted by name with the typical, rhetorical comments along with the, “Good Mornings,” and the “Heys.” Faces light up with the well wishes of the morning.

The OFs who garden were in full bloom Tuesday morning — the basic conversation was on how well their gardens are doing. One topic, though, was a little different and that was how the gardeners are now keeping the deer from using their gardens as smorgasbords.

The new way (and the gardeners claim this works) is special lights. One gardener mentioned that his lights are continually changing colors, and another gardener said his lights were flashing lights set at the height that the average deer’s eyes would be.

This noiseless and no-chemical new gardening gizmo sounds like an effective and harmless way to control the problem. Now all the OF gardeners have to do is discourage the rabbits, mice, voles, and moles.

Beef beefs

The OFs segued from gardens and pesticides to organically grown products, especially beef. The OFs said this (organic beef) is very hard to do unless whoever is growing the beef makes their own grain from their own corn, wheat, and other grains that are also organically grown.

One OF said, “Go ahead and eat the chemicals.  How else are we going to supply food for the world without bumper crops? Eating the chemicals will develop a strain of people resistant to the chemical and become stronger because of it. We can’t be afraid of progress.”

“The people of the world are growing exponentially,” another OF said, “And therefore food has to keep pace. More people, less land, means the world is going to have to go up, not spread out. Organic is not going to cut it. Right now, organic is only for the higher income people because it does cost more.”

Boy, there are arguments on both sides!   

Hot potato

The OFs discussed (and to some it is their home away from home) the new location of the Schoharie County jail. All the OFs can agree with the locals that the location currently under discussion gives no consideration to those who will live in the proximity of the jail, and, as one OF said, it is not just a few, but this particular location will affect many homes and people.

There is much vacant land in Schoharie that is out of the floodplain, and there is no rule that says the jail has to be in town or anywhere near it, just someplace in the county. This is a political hot potato according to the OFs, and that potato just came out of the oven.

One OF ventured money and politics will win out over common sense and the will of the people — it always does.

Stable staffers

The OFs noticed that, at most of the restaurants the OFs visit, the staff remains the same year after year. Either the owners are good to work for, or the pay is good. A few of the restaurants do seem to have a rapid turnover, so the OFs think there is a hitch in the git-along at the establishments with the quick turnovers.

The OFs who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and ate their sausage, bacon, home fries, and eggs with no concern about being organic, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Chuck Aelesio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Jack Norray, Joe Loubier, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Joe Ketzeo, Roger Fairchild, Herb Sawotka, Duncan Bellinger, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.


On Tuesday, June 30, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the “Your Way Café” in Schoharie with 42 OFs at the breakfast.  It was one of the largest groups of OFs to date.                          

When at church or at a meeting at the Lodge, or Legion, the chatter of friends greeting each other as they gather for the meeting is what it is like at the breakfast. There is one exception, though; no one has to shut up because church is going to start, or the meeting is going to get underway.

The OFs can chatter about this or that until each group decides they have had enough, their bellies are full, and it is time for them to go. There are a few OFs who hang around until it is time for lunch. No one is hollered at, chastised, or criticized; they all have had their say, and everybody is caught up, and they are ready for the day.

Now take 42 OFs chattering away with many of then requiring hearing aids but not wearing them, and it becomes a lot of fun with a lot of laughs because many think they hear what is going on but only get half of it and then they pretend they got it all.

No pity party

Anyone who wants to become encouraged about their physical condition or the problems they are having health-wise should come and watch the OFs enter the restaurants and then try and listen in on their conversation.

Yeah, many are with canes and have their problems, but the OMOTM are not a group of pity partiers. One OF came in chipper and ready to talk and, when entering the restaurant, just mentioned, “Oh, I had a heart attack last week, and was in the hospital, for something else and didn’t even notice that I had one.”

The OFs have many credos — one of which is: If you are lame but can move, get up and get out.

Like on June 30, the OFs talked about the two fellows who escaped from the prison in Dannemora. The OFs are glad that both were not shot.

With at least one able to talk, there will be many holes filled in about how they made their escape and who helped and who didn’t. One OF mentioned that, with this type of information, the book and the movie will be much better.

Another OF said, if the movie is made with a high quality director and actors, he would go to see it, especially if it is shot on location like the movie “Iron Weed.” Many of the OFs have been in that part of the North Country and in the small towns up where it is really upstate.

The OFs were hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, climbing the peaks, bac packing, and especially canoeing the lakes and streams. These are big draws to the North Country. One OF mentioned there are some great places to eat in that part of the state also — nothing fancy, just real food, OMOTM food.

When junk becomes collectible

The OFs who go to flea markets often go not for the fleas but to see how much the junk, i.e., collectibles, they have in their barns is now worth. Some of the OFs go to auctions and antique stores for the same reason.

Much of what the OFs purchased to use years ago is now in antique shops. From lamps, to dishes, to picks and shovels, just about any toy and appliance they bought and kept 60 to 65 years ago is showing up in these places.

One OF said he has seen some of the stuff he has in his shed that he bought for one or two bucks is now worth one- or two-hundred bucks if in good shape.

We have mentioned before that, what some consider junk, someone else may consider collectibles. More than one OF comes home with more items from going to the transfer station (i.e. dump) than what he took from home.

One OF came home with a lawn mower that a guy was throwing away and this OF happened to be there and he asked the owner what was the matter with the mower, since it looked brand new.

The owner said, “Nothing is wrong but it mows too high and won’t go any lower.”

The OF looked at it and saw that the mower deck was as high up as it would go. The OF put it on the trailer and brought it home from the “transfer station” along with some other items he picked up there.  He adjusted the mower down, pulled the rope and away it went.

Hmmmm. What you can find at the dump — er –—transfer station, is all a matter of timing.        

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Your Way Café in Schoharie and are each thankful that the wife has not put him in an antique store with a for-sale sign on his forehead, were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Bartholomew, David Williams, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aelesio, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Bob Snyder, Alvin Latham, Jim Heiser, Roger Shafer, Duncan Bellinger, Steve Kelly, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Herb Sawotka,  Joe Ketzko, Gerry Chartier, Don Wood, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Henry Whipple, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Bill Krause, Gerry Irwin, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, and me.

On Tuesday, June 23, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie. The days are now getting shorter and many of the OFs have not really cleaned up from last winter, and supposedly summer is just getting is getting started.

The OFs think it is a lot more fun knowing each day is a day the sun is around a little longer than thinking each day the sun hides a little earlier.

Some of the OFs say it is because we are in the Northeast and right now we are the cool spot in the United States. A few OFs who have friends and relatives around the country are getting reports that it is hot: Florida, 103 degrees; Arizona, 110 degrees.

They can have it, a couple of OFs said, I will take my few days of 20 below, and the occasional blizzard rather than all that heat. So much for the weekly weather discussion.

The OFs gather around the table each Tuesday; on occasion the topic is food. Why not?

Tuesday morning, it was on veal and how some people enjoy that meat, while others consider the source of that meat and don’t understand how it is possible to eat meat of a calf. German Wiener Schnitzel is from the same meat, a calf.

Some thought that just knowing what it was those OFs are eating almost makes other OFs consider becoming a vegetarian. None went as far as a vegan.

Even those who thought eating veal was disgusting still enjoy a nice juicy steak. Then one OF brought up what is the big deal; in some countries, they eat cats and dogs.

Driving in the dark

The OFs brought up what they did when they were “teenagers” again. (This topic that its head out of the din on numerous occasions and it is these discussions that make most of the OFs wonder why they are still here.) This time, the tales were how the OFs drove on moonlit nights with their lights out.

The OFs like to couple no-headlight trips with how fast they could go in the dark and not hit anything. To the recollection of this scribe and the OFs, none of the OFs did hit anything.

The favorite places for these runs was the flats between Middleburgh and Schoharie; the other was the flats between Central Bridge and Sloansville. Just farm boys out having a little fun.

Farm boys of the 1940s and ’50s had lots of practice doing this on the farm, and it started at a real early age, like 10 or 11 years old, bringing in the last load of hay with an old Fordson tractor and that machine did not have lights. The YFs were only doing the same thing they did quite often just by working the farm only a little faster and, instead of the field road, the highway.

Actually, tractors had electric headlights before cars, and the tractors had radios before cars, too.

What if the power goes out?

The OFs regularly bring up the question: What will happen if there is a major power interruption and the power is off for many days? Those in the country could manage but what about all the people in the large cities?

The OFs say many city folks don’t know how to change a light bulb, and have no idea where water comes from; some think it miraculously flows from the tap. The question would be, if there were some kind of holocaust and this was not going to be just a short-time event, what do these people do?

Food, sanitation, water, medical services, transportation, the OFs wonder if there is any type of survival plan in effect to handle the situation if it ever came about. Like the OFs say: Just wondering.

Bumpkins rule

Even though, in the country, the OFs don’t make a ton of money, and quite often the work is hard and the people in the cities with their noses in the air have a tendency to look down on those who live above Route 84 as country bumpkins, the OFs say they don’t mind.

The OFs would rather be country bumpkins, than city slickers. As one OF said: It is the city slickers who want to take our guns away, and make all the rules that shut the farmers down.

One OF suggested that they are going the wrong way with guns. He thinks it should be a law everyone has to carry a gun, and it does not have to be concealed.

That way, if a robber or mugger tries anything, he should know the victim can shoot back.  Another OF said, if they are able to eliminate all guns, and even the police could not carry a weapon, the wackos would still find a way to commit mayhem.

Many people do not realize how easy it is to make a gun and a projectile, or Molotov cocktails, or pipe bombs. A complete wacko could charge into a public place with a machete.

How are you going to stop the attacker if no one has a weapon of some sort? The world has gone crazy, one OF said, and the wackos are winning. 

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Country Café in Schoharie and were eating regular food, like eggs and bacon, or pancakes, or French toast, and letting the strange stuff remain in the country of origin, were: Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, George Washburn, Bill Bartholomew, Chuck Aelesio, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Mark Traver, Otis Lawyer, Frank Pauli, Jim Heiser, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Ken Parks, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Herb Sawobota, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Duncan Bellinger, Mike Willsey (who turned 89 on June 24, making him the oldest OF at the breakfast), Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.      


Tuesday, June 12, The Old Men of the Mountain met with a classmate of some of the OMOTM for breakfast.  This classmate is Loretta of Mrs. K’s restaurant.  We met with her for breakfast and Loretta is still waiting on these old goats.

It is about time she took a break, but the lady still insists this is what she wants to do. This is her retirement. That was the restaurant of the day for the OFs.

When many of the OFs were younger (and then again not so young), square dancing started at an early age among the farmers of the group, and continued until it became too difficult to raise the arms and keep up. Square dancing, the OFs learned later on, is a good form of exercise; if the OFs knew then that it was exercise, maybe they would not have been so anxious to go dancing.

Some of the OFs still have their square-dance clothes taking up space in the closets, while others unloaded them after they realized they would not be physically able to handle the “sport.”

As the OFs continued with their dancing, they began to realize it started to become quite a fashion show with the ladies. Then, without the OFs knowing it, they became part of the show with matching outfits.

One OF mentioned they found themselves dancing at least three nights a week and maybe more, and some other OFs joined the chorus with a couple saying they traveled all over, dancing on square-dance retreats.  At these retreats, it was dancing morning, noon, and night.

One OF said it must have been fun or we would not have done it. The OFs were wondering how many of the clubs that were around when the OFs were into square dancing are still active.

When plows were horse-drawn

For some reason the OFs started talking about farming with horses again.  It seems to this scribe that we just covered this topic, but what the OFs were talking about is the size of the equipment today and the large farms with the GPS systems on the tractors. These systems actually guide the tractor in making straight rows of whatever is being planted, or harvested like planting large acres of wheat and then harvesting that wheat.

One OF repeated an oft-used phrase by the OFs that we have lived in the best of times. To some of the OFs, that is debatable. Naturally this led to horses and most of the OFs who farmed with horses said how they buddied up with these animals.

They asked the rhetorical question, “How do you buddy up with a tractor?”

One OF said he didn’t really buddy up to his tractors but he did have his favorites, and he did cuss at some of these tractors when they refused to start, or when he would snap his thumb when he hit a woodchuck hole.

The other OFs said they would talk to the horses as they leathered them up for the day, or took the harness off at night. With the tractor, all you had to do was turn the key on or off and the OF was ready to roll.

Gone was the pleasant smell of the horse, and the conversations back and forth with the animal, that was replaced by a nauseating whirr, and clanking of an engine, and the smell of gasoline, and ozone. No comparison.

Cinematic jailbreak

The OF discussed the topic of local and national news and that was the escapees from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannamora. Along with everyone else, the OFs had opinions on where these characters could be.

The thoughts of the OFs ranged from hiding in the woods, to being in Vermont, or Canada, or even Mexico by now. One OF even ventured that the smart thing to do would be to double back and hide in the prison until everything cools down.  One of them could shave, the other grow a well maintained beard, and, because they are so average looking, they could dress up casually and walk out when the timing was right.

Some of the OFs said they know this is going to be a movie; it has all the makings. The planning, the love affair, the execution, the manhunt with the end still to be written.

The OFs said that, if these guys weren’t such bad people and their crimes weren’t so hideous, it would almost be possible to root for them but, because of what they did, the OFs want these guys rounded up in a hurry and placed in a prison where the light does not shine.

If they had committed an innocuous crime that did not include violence and knocked off some casino where their business is robbing people anyway, the OFs would be cheering them on, but not these guys.

Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, and glad they are not part of the group hunting for the escapees, were: Miner Stevens, John Rossmann, Roger Shafer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Chuck Aleseio, Don Wood, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Bill Krause, Jay Taylor, Herb Swabota, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Carl Walls, Duncan Bellinger, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.


Labor of love: Volunteers, including some from the Old Men of the Mountain, construct a bridge at Mine Kill State Park in Schoharie county. The new bridge is wide enough to accommodate ATVs and foot traffic, too.

On Tuesday, June 9, The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and did they meet! There were 35 OFs there and still some others did not attend because they had more pressing plans than gathering at the Middleburgh Diner.

It is a good thing that this group is totally ad hoc, and the organization plan and bylaws were scrapped long ago. Those were an unwieldy set of rules anyway, especially the rules that showed how the OFs were to deal as a body when problems with the wife and the police came up. However, when it is deemed necessary, that five-pound rule book is hauled out, dusted off, and used.

The OFs were glad to see the rain, but not all the damage that came with it. Of course, the OFs discussed the weather — it is a good conversation starter.

Along with the weekly weather reports, some of the OFs reported frost on June 7. The OFs who said they had frost, said it was not a killing frost and it came early in the morning. The ones concerned about the frost are the gardeners, and all reported that the tomato plants and pepper plants made it through.

The bridge-building OFs were at it again, building quite a span at Mine Kill State Park for hikers of the Long Path and others. This bridge is 40 feet long and 8 feet wide.

An OF who is a planner for some of these bridges had to build the bridge for ATVs. The OF said he constructed it wide enough so a 60-inch wide machine would make it across while the driver could still have a hand to handle his beer and there would still be plenty of room to navigate across the bridge. These people are all volunteers who maintain the path and repair the bridges.

Many organizations exist on the goodness of scores of people who volunteer for what interests them. These good people fall into groups that have similar likes, hobbies, or crafts. One OF thought that, if someone were to calculate all the hours good people put into volunteering, it would total more than work hours. This OF may be right.


Proud of their product: Nine bridge-builders pose for a portrait when their work is done.


Kidney stones no fun

Interspersed with the bridge discussion (and photographs of the progress of the work being done while it was under construction) was a discussion on kidney stones. Those OFs who have produced these nasty things are more than this scribe thought, and this scribe is one of those OFs who has manufactured these pointy rocks on more than one occasion.

This experience is not what anyone would place in the fun category.

An OF related a story of a kidney stone he had that was 3-1/2 inches long. The doctors had to remove two of his ribs, take the kidney out, and then cut the kidney in half to retrieve the stone.

They then stitched everything back together and returned the kidney to where it came from. This OF sent this scribe photographs of some of his stones. These photos will not be shared.

Lamenting rhubarb prohibition

The OFs found a common vegetable that they were told not to eat, and it was rhubarb. One OF explained that it was the oxalates in the rhubarb that was the culprit.

The OFs who had rhubarb taken off their foods to eat were disappointed because they all like rhubarb. Rhubarb-strawberry pie, or rhubarb-peach pie with vanilla ice cream — gone; no longer can this group of OFs enjoy these culinary delicacies.

One of the OGs mused, “Why is all the good stuff bad for you?”

This was just a rhetorical question — no one has the answer. One OF thought that is what Hell would be like for him — passing one kidney stone after another for eternity.

Shades of honey

Our honey expert brought in two jars of honey for show and tell. Tuesday’s breakfast was a good morning for interesting show and tell — one topic was the bridge, and the other was the honey.

What the honey OF had in one jar was honey the bees produce from May flowers, and then honey from later on in the season in the second jar. This is raw, unadulterated honey.

The May flower honey was almost clear while the late-season honey was much darker. The late-season jar appeared like honey on the shelf in the store, while May flower honey was almost like water.

The OFs thought that, if they saw the May flower honey on the shelf, they would leave it there because it appeared to be watered-down honey.

Some mornings with the OFs it is like going back to school as the OFs who have expertise in a particular matter give a little talk on what they do. These are not stand-up lectures but just discussions with the people who are within earshot of their table.

Those OFs who ambled into the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh and there were many, so that you know who they were, they were: Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Bill Bartholomew, George Washburn, Don Wood, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Roger Chapman, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Herb Swabota, Duncan Bellinger, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher,  Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gill Zabel, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Warren Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me.