On Tuesday, June 2, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville; we’re wondering who the wise guy is that took summer! The OFs know we went from winter into August with cracked clay and all, but on Monday, June 1, and Tuesday, June 2, the OFs had to retreat to the plastic bins (where the winter clothes have been stored away for the summer) to get something to wear.
The OFs are just commenting not complaining.
The OFs have mentioned many times about what happened to them while in the service. When these experiences are enumerated back and forth, it indicates how many OFs are veterans of different branches of the service and many different campaigns.
One OF veteran mentioned that he was selling poppies in Cobleskill (by the Stewart’s store across the street from the college) when a mother with two little girls about 6 years old said the girls wanted to know if they could hug a veteran. This blew the OF away and the OF said sure, if the mother would, too.
You can’t beat an OF, especially the ones who are veterans, in taking advantage of every opportunity. The OFs learned that in the military.
Domesticated cats and wild birds
The OFs talked about how we really do not domesticate animals; it is the animals that take a shine to us, and we cater to them. Who is the domesticated one, the cat or the person?
The cat gives nothing except an occasional purr and catches the occasional mouse. For that, the cat gets a roof over its head, groomed, fed, vet services, and pampered no end. The cat’s claw marks are even tolerated.
That discussion brought up the topic of wild birds that just fly in and take up residence with whomever. How does the bird know he is not going to wind up on the dining-room table surrounded by carrots, and potatoes?
But on occasion they do drop in, from crows, to wild geese, to ducks, and even wild turkeys. The OFs were talking of ducks and a duck that followed one particular OG around and pecked at his shoes for food; another OF said a clutch of turkeys kept coming to his back yard and he would have to chase them away by going right into them and jostling them to the woods with a little switch.
One OF had a Canada goose just drop in and hang around and come right up to the family members and rub against their legs for attention, and it even made attempts to follow them into the house.
It must be these birds and even some so-called “wild” animals have a sense we OFs don’t know about. They have learned early on how to pick on certain people who are not going to hurt them and they seem to be able to follow this instinct.
Mystified by Jenner’s transformation
The OFs touched a little bit on real current events, one of which was the Bruce Jenner transformation. The OFs are OFs and do not quite understand this.
The OFs remember him/her when he was a he and a great athlete in the Olympics. The OFs just can’t get a handle on this.
The younger generation might understand this better just because of the numbers of people around now. The percentage may be the same as it was in “our” day but the numbers will be greater in 2015 than 1940 or so. Then there is the advent of so much information now being in real time makes what was once hidden now out in the open with little chance to manipulate it.
OFs march on
When many of the OFs were YFs, marching in parades was something many of them did. Some OFs marched because they had to — there was some burly sergeant making sure they did.
But many of the OFs were in their school bands, or they were Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, or some were even in the Grange. Now many of the OFs have to think about putting one foot ahead of the other without the added thinking of which one it was supposed to be, right foot or left foot.
Some of the OFs would still go by hay foot, straw foot marchers. (A note from American Heritage magazine: In the mid-19th Century, the drill sergeants repeatedly found that among the raw recruits, there were men so abysmally untaught that they did not know left from right, and hence could not step off on the left foot as all soldiers should. To teach these lads how to march, the sergeants would tie a wisp of hay to the left foot and a wisp of straw to the right; then, setting the men to march, they would chant, “Hay-foot, straw-foot, hay-foot, straw-foot” — and so on, until everybody had caught on. A common name for a green recruit in those days was “strawfoot.”)
However, there are still a few OFs who do get dressed up and march in parades and for these few this marching happens quite often. Marching is better than going to a gym to keep the OFs in shape. At least in marching there is a change of scenery, plus bringing a certain kind of joy to people the OFs don’t even know, especially the kids.
Gardening on high
The OFs who garden are slimming down. This scribe thinks he knows why; this is called “old backs.”
That may be why those who still get out and plant gardens are doing their gardens in raised beds. One OF said that he has gone to raised beds but not for the entire garden. Then another OF said that all his garden is now in raised beds.
One OF said that he made a series of stepped beds for his wife’s herb garden but the rest of it is still, till the ground, plant the seed, weed the garden when the plants begin to sprout, and then, at harvest time, the garden can feed the deer, rabbits, and mice and what is left over they can put on the table around one of the turkeys that wandered in.
One of the gardeners also made a brief comment on the watering of gardens, saying that rain is better than watering a garden with a hose. The OFs who garden said there are different kinds of “wet water.” Rainwater is better water, and is wetter than water from the sprinklers or the hose. Hmmmm.
Those OFs who made it to the top of hill and the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and are all talk (because at their ages the testosterone level has dwindled to almost a negative number) were: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Bob Snyder, Al Latham, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Jay Taylor, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Ted Willsey, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.
This scribe wonders what life was like when there were no days of the week, months of the year, or even time. We would not know if it was Tuesday or not.
Well, on Tuesday, May 26, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café, where the breakfast hors d’oeuvres were served up by Jack. Now that is an interesting touch but, if there were no indications of days, weeks, months or years, how would we even record that such a miraculous event ever occurred?
The early arrivers talked about the unusual rainbow that was in the southwest sky at about 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. There had to be a shower someplace but where most of the OFs were it was not raining. So many of the OFs observed this rainbow that it let the OFs who had seen it alone early in the morning know they were not crazy and seeing things.
Another OF mentioned seeing on Channel 6 News a story about a girl wrestler from Gallupville who was wrestling in Madison Square Garden. This OF asked the OFs who lived anywhere near the Gallupville area if any of them knew of a girl wrestler (who had a reputation of being a rather good wrestler) living in the Gallupville area.
None of the OFs knew of such a person. Well, there is such a person and she is from Gallupville; her match was with a wrestler from Cuba, and she won. So that is another not crazy OF. Yet.
Then the OFs spent quite a bit of time talking about riding lawnmowers. From this discussion, it was a good thing the OFs are country folk and keeping up with Joneses is not a priority, because most of the lawnmowers used by the OFs are so old and beat up they would be right at home in Bedrock. (Think Flintstones, Yabba dabba do).
One OF said he went to call on a fellow many of the OFs know who repairs small engines and fixes lawn mowers — riding or not. This OF purchased two basically identical riding lawnmowers for a hundred bucks each from him.
He uses the best mower to mow the lawn and the other mower for parts as the mower the OF selected as best starts to fall apart. Keeping these old things running becomes a challenge, and it’s fun to see how long they can keep these old mowers going.
The OF who has to go shopping for another mower because his mower is 17 years old, with so many cobbled up parts nobody could drive it except the OF, not unless they had a complete checkout on the mower’s idiosyncrasies.
No matter how the mower looks, if the blades go around, it will cut the grass just as well as any new, fancy, green and yellow tractor.
One OF reported that he had one of these green and yellow machines and was out mowing the lawn when his wife called. With the ear protectors on and the tractor running with the mowing deck spinning, it is tough to hear anything. The OF turned to holler, “What?” and ran full tilt into a tree.
That did a number on the plastic engine shroud of the tractor and a few other things like lights, and being able to close the hood — just little things. The OF said now the engine is really air cooled because the shroud is somewhere other than on the tractor. The OF did not say whether it was behind the shed or in the dump.
Somehow this drifted into a conversation about how much the riding mowers with the front engine have gone up in price, but the newer zero-turn machines have gone down in price. Then one OF questioned why is he able to get a riding lawn mower with all the attachments for less money than a mattress.
One OF said, “Now we know who is making all the money — the amount of profit in a mattress has to be ridiculous; just look at what goes into making a tractor and the amount of people required to do it. Now look at a mattress, one great big wooden pallet, with a bunch of springs attached to it and fabric, then on top of that is a fabric box stuffed with cotton and maybe some coil of wire or whatever inside that and it is done.”
“Big whoop,” the OF said, “If I had a heavy-duty sewing machine, I could make a mattress in my shop in two or three hours.”
Made in the USA
This led to a brief discussion on merchandise made in the United States of America, and products made elsewhere. These types of conversations can get to be a little political so the points made are short, and don’t go too deep. In this case though, consider that many of the common items most of us use, the average person could not afford if they were made in the USA. This is a sad but true commentary.
This led to another brief discussion, which is common knowledge (at least to the OFs). They feel that New York State is killing off small industries, and the OFs are beginning to think it is intentional. Both of these are debatable.
Those OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont and most being wide awake after a good night’s sleep on a mattress of their choice, but not the few who were kicked out of the house and had to sleep in the barn, were: Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Henry Witt, Dave Williams, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Jack Norray, Gerry Erwin, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Andy Tinning, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, Allen Befazio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Henry Whipple, (Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Daniele Willsey, Ted Willsey, Emily Meduna, and Gerry Chartier, a small part of the Willsey clan; one of the distaff side was a chauffer for one of the Willseys who had recent shoulder surgery; the OFs are tough old goats), and me.
Well, the Old Men of the Mountain made it through another week and were able to make it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown on Tuesday, May 19. The OMOTM reported coming through fog on their way off the Hill.
This scribe does not know how many, if any, of the OFs stopped to vote on a school’s budget on their way to the Chuck Wagon. Generally, unless there is some radical proposal, the school budget and school board members’ election is light, so the OFs would not be bothered by lines no matter what time the OFs stopped anyway.
Some of the OFs were talking about farming equipment that was used when they were young, and what the equipment is like today. The operations are basically the same, mow the hay (i.e., cut the hay), bale the hay, chop the hay, mow the hay away in the barn, (i.e., place the hay in a mow). Mow, and mow, two completely different operations on the farm, yet spelled the same. That’s the English language for you.
Farmers plant the corn, plant the grains, and milk the cows — how that work is done stays pretty much the same, but the way it is done now is where the “wow” shows up.
The OFs started talking about the same story that happened to three of them. In olden days (“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, but now, heaven knows, anything goes” — thanks to Cole Porter). Anyway, in olden days, with a Case baler it took three people to bale the hay.
One person was on the tractor, and two people were on the baler. On the baler, one person poked the wires through the bale, and the one on the other side twisted them together.
Two OFs reported the same type of story. One OF had a neighbor farmer who had a daughter who would come and help with the fieldwork at times, and the farmer’s sons would also go along and help them. One day, the farmer’s daughter was on the baler twisting the wires, the son’s father was driving the tractor, and one son was pushing the wires through the bales. Just a routine summer’s workday on the farm in olden days, only on this particular day the farmer’s daughter suddenly took off running and screaming across the field.
The OF said his dad stopped the tractor and ran after the girl to see what had happened. The OF said he ran around to the other side to see what had happened there, fully expecting to see a hand cut off or something like that. What he saw was about six inches of a large live snake sticking out from the bale, frantically, flaying back and forth with its forked tongue darting in an out and the rest of the snake in the bale. This reptile was in a ton of hurt and not a happy camper.
The OF said, if he had been on the side of the baler, twisting the wires, and he saw that snake coming at him with each lunge of the plunger, he would have been gone too.
The other OF said they had the same exact experience of baling up a snake with parts of that reptile protruding from the bale, again flaying back and forth. This OF did not mention if it was a wire baler, or a string baler but that part is irrelevant — it was the exact same occurrence.
What other critters have had the unfortunate experience to become baled up inside hay bales, or for that matter caught up in the corn chopper and blown into a silo, we don’t know for sure.
However, one OF mentioned, “Well, it is a good source of protein for the cows.”
The OFs looked at this one OG and wondered what kind of farm he had where cows ate meat. The protein for cows comes from grain.
Another OF said that, while they were baling (this again was a normal afternoon of putting in hay) his dad was on the tractor and all of a sudden he noticed a doe charging in front of the baler. The OF said his dad stopped immediately and shut the baler down.
When his father went to see what was going on, he found that there was a little newborn fawn on the apron of the baler just ready to go into the plunger. The OF said his father picked up the fawn and went to put it in the grass and there in the grass was another fawn.
The OF said they stopped baling in that area, and the next day when they went to the field to finish up, there was the deer with the two fawns; it appeared like she was saying thank-you to his father for saving her baby. Farming is hard, dangerous, work but at times can be very interesting.
More buzz on bees and blossoms
The OFs were on a brief nature kick, and, although the OFs have mentioned a couple of these items before, at this breakfast, they were discussing them again as if they were new.
The apple trees, along with other flowering trees and shrubs are loaded with blossoms, and the OFs noticed the lilacs have more flowers than leaves, but there are no bees. One OF said a bee here and there is nothing like it used to be when the apple trees at his place would have so many bees in it that the tree sounded like a factory humming.
Some of the OFs have noticed the absence of woodchucks. One OF who does brushhogging says he hasn’t run into a woodchuck hole in about the same period of time.
“There are a few woodchucks around,” another OF said. “But not many.”
On the other hand, the OFs noticed how many wild strawberry blossoms are around. This is a year for wild strawberries like in the past. The OFs reminisced about how, when they were younger, being sent out by their parents to go and pick them. The OFs said the berries have disappeared for some time but now they seem to be back; however, now the OFs don’t have parents around to send them out to break their backs picking them.
Those OFs who made it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, and who are not about to go out and pick wild strawberries, were: Henry Witt, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Andy Tinning, Harold Guest, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Bill Krause, Duncan Bellinger, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Gil Zabel, and me.
In the merry, merry month of May, the Old Men of the Mountain met on Tuesday, May 12, at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg.
The Duanesburg Diner has a neat way of keeping track of who has regular, or who has decaf, coffee. This restaurant does it with black and white mugs, black for regular, and white for decaf.
This way, the waitress, or waitresses, do not have to keep asking who has the decaf, and, with 20 to 25 guys, that is a lot of coffee to keep track of. Then there is always the orange juice or water guys thrown in to mess things up.
It was a great summer-type morning on Tuesday, and the OF weathermen did not complain about our, so far, two-season weather pattern for 2014-2015 of just a nasty winter, right into 80- to 90-degree summer-type days. The OFs commented but did not complain — yet.
The OFs mentioned all the weather that is going on in the central part of the country. One OF said, “No matter what, weather is going on all over the world. It has to.” What the OF was referring to is the bad weather and tornadoes.
Another OF said, “These things have been going on for years, only now we have instant information in real time brought right into our living rooms, and that seems to make it different. Also, there are more people now than 70 years ago to get in the way of these weather systems. The world stays the same; it is the numbers that change and they change the world just so this old planet has a hard job keeping up.”
All that dialogue sent this scribe to check a few things out and, as usual, the OFs are right. When the OFs were YFs (1940), there were 132 million people in the United States. Today there are 320 million.
The average water usage per person is 80 to 100 gallons a day: 320 X 80/100 is considerably larger than 132 X 80/100. Now we are talking big numbers.
Then there is the irrigation to grow food for 320 million when, in 1940, that was not even necessary. The OF was right — it is the numbers.
China will scare the pants off you when looking at its numbers. The paper wouldn’t be long enough to support all the zeros behind the initial number.
The OFs did their usual time jumping from 20 to 30 years ago, and on occasion dipped into more recent history and coupled that with current times in quite often the same sentence. The subject of this conversation was businesses and farms that are gone from our area and have not been replaced.
The areas included were basically the Johnstown-Gloversville area, and the cities of Amsterdam and Schenectady. The OFs were talking and reminiscing about the places that are no longer here — places and businesses like Coleco, Mohawk Carpets, all the glove factories, and tanneries, and the small knitting mills. Most of them have vanished into our memories.
One OF said that these businesses are gone but a few others have replaced them; however, even some of the replacements of those businesses are gone now, too.
“Times change,” one OF said, “but many times the changing of time is not good.”
Then one OF opined, “Life is cyclical; small towns are all painted up and look good, then for some reason many seem to fall into a slump.” Then the OF continued, “As long as it keeps a viable core and property becomes cheap it has a resurgence. The problem with us is we are too darn old to see the plus side return to some of the small towns we are talking about.”
The OFs mentioned the tattoo craze that is going on right now, and we mentioned how those things fade as people age, and the only color left in the tat is black. Some of the OFs who were in the military, especially the Navy, got tattoos way back when, and some woke up in the morning and there was “Mom” tattooed on their shoulder and they didn’t know how it got there.
Today it is hardly legible and is just a black blob. One OF mentioned it was the stuff they drank from those dark blue tin cups. Not only did the stuff send smoke out of the OF’s ears, it also melted the bottom out of the tin cup.
“Whatever it was,” the OF said, “You could cut off my arm and I would have said thank you.”
From this small talk, we again turned to duct tape. The OFs are beginning to think that the whole world is held together with duct tape, or is it now duct tape because the word “duct” has become so common place for industrial tape that it is now a generic term like aspirin.
Every car, wagon, and tractor should come with its own small roll of 2-inch-wide duct tape — just in case. It is used to hold race cars together at 200 miles per hour, temporarily patch leaks in just about anything, wrap heating ducts, and repair vacuum-cleaner hoses.
Why, some people have even been known to repair a favorite pair of slippers with it. If it breaks, tape it with duct tape.
“There are a few things duct tape doesn’t work on,” one OF said, “and one of those is carpenter bees.”
This OF reported that he has tried taping their holes at night and in the morning there is a bee that has chewed his way through the tape and died, but he had cleared the way for the others.
The other problem? Duct tape does not take to heat very well. One OF said, “Don’t try taping a muffler with it.”
Those OFs who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and missing Red Green (a long-ago TV personality who used to duct tape anything and everything), were: Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Gerry Irwin, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Ted Willsey (sling and all), Jim Rissacher, Bill Krause, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Duncan Bellinger, and me.
On May 5, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the “Your Way Café” in Schoharie. Years ago, there was a “My Way Café” on Route 9 around Clifton Park. This particular café was all done up with Frank Sinatra paraphernalia; however, the one in Schoharie has no such motif.
It is a clever name implying how you might want your food prepared, but, on the other hand, this may lead to some discussion between patron and cook. There was none of that discussed with the OFs; everything came in large portions, and just as ordered.
The OFs for the most part are grandparents, and a few are great-grandparents, so, when the OFs start talking about their own grandparents, the conversation is going back a ways. That is what some of the OFs were doing Tuesday morning.
They were remembering what they did with their grandparents, and what type of people they were and what they talked about. For instance, say the OF is 80, and the grandparent of the OF was 80, and the OF is remembering when he was 7 to 10 years old, and the grandparent was remembered when they were 25 to 30 years old. Now the OFs are talking of events around 128 to 130 years ago. That is getting back there.
Even though this has been mentioned many times before, we spoke again of how the parents of the OFs went from horse and buggy to men on the moon. Some OFs’ parents went from the Great Depression, to the Regan era.
Most all of the OFs’ parents went from farming with horses to tractors that drive themselves. One OF mentioned that we could see the progression of time then, and even when the OF was in the work force. This OF continued ruminating that now the progression of time is so fast that what is new today is obsolete tomorrow.
One OF said, “I love it. I would like to be 6 or 7 years old now and just see what the world will be like in another 60 to 70 years.”
Another OF chimed in, “Yeah, if this old planet is still here and we haven’t blown it up by then.”
New cars for old hands
How the OFs segued into new cars from this previous conversation is almost understandable, because one OF just purchased a new vehicle for his wife (yeah, right). This might have been the reason for the discussion that followed.
It was brought up that some of the new cars do not supply even a “doughnut” for a spare tire. The vehicle comes with a can of “Fix-a-Flat.”
“That stuff does work,” one OF said. “But it’s a mess, and what if you sliced your tire on a piece of angle iron, how is ‘Fix-a-Flat’ going to fix that flat?”
The OFs remember when cars came with two spare tires, one in each front fender. A couple of the OFs noted cars came with a parts book, and even tools for the parts that required specialty tools.
Along with that, the cars had lines; each make and model was different, and it was possible to tell which model was which. One OF said, when a bank robber was making his getaway years ago, the witnesses could say the car was a 1935, black, four-door Buick custom sedan, and the police would know what they were looking for.
Today, all they can say is, “It was a gray car, Officer, or maybe it was a pickup truck.”
The witness might be able to identify a red SUV. That’s about it. If it was a Honda, or Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Chevy, hey, they all look alike!
When the OFs were YFs, they used to play a game on trips called “name that car.” When a car was spotted coming at them, they would start calling out the name and make of the car when it was just a dot on the horizon.
“Plymouth Coupe,” someone would shout, and everyone else would say, “Oh nuts,” because the friend or sibling spotted it first. It would be rare that somebody else would call a different car.
After reminiscing about cars, the OFs talked about tractors, especially lawn tractors, and mentioned the new ads they have seen from Cub Cadet. There was a time when International made the Cub Cadet and it was made like a tractor, now it is made by MTD, and just as tinny.
Only it’s really not “tinny” and an OF implied the tractors are all plastic and that stuff doesn’t last five or six years before it starts to crack, and things loosen up.
Another OF said, “You can’t hammer dents out of plastic, and you can’t weld a stiffer piece onto where you have a problem.”
“Not made to last, like lots of other equipment,” one OF opined. “We are a throw-away society, planned obsolescence, tough and long lasting is a joke.”
Another OF asked, “Have you ever tried to get a part for something older than five years?” This OF said, “If an OF buys something they really like, they should buy two of these products. That way, you can start up the second one when the first one goes bad, and then the first one can become a parts machine.”
“Not a bad idea,” one OF replied.
The frog that got away
Now for a completely unrelated story (and it’s too bad the OF did not have a camera for this one). The OF said that he was out getting the garden ready and he saw a snake trying to eat a frog.
The snake had half the frog in his mouth and the half of the frog that wasn’t in the snake’s mouth was holding on a stick trying not to go down the snake’s throat. The OF relating this tale said that he did not know how a snake could eat something that large.
He also said he got a stick and struck the snake so the frog got away. The OF did not elaborate on how long this took, or how it happened, but that is what he said anyway.
Those OFs who made their way to the “Your Way Café” in Schoharie and inaugurated their first breakfast in a familiar building with the new name were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Dave Williams, Dick Ogsbury, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Karl Remmers, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Don Wood, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Bill Krause, and me.