The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. Ks Restaurant in Middleburgh on Tuesday, Jan. 13, and that is one 13th of the year out of the way with that is not on a Friday. Now we have February, March, and November to look forward to. Not that the OFs are superstitious or anything.                 

Many of the OFs are looking for January to be over. Some of the OFs think that, once February is here, winter is on the wane. Although some say it can be a nasty month, and March can be the month of snow and mud.

Some March days feel like spring has sprung, and these days are then followed by a wintery blast, so that has many of the OFs shivering more so than in January. So much for the weekly weather report. It is what it is — deal with it.

Troopers evolve

Many of the OFs have relatives who are or have been New York State Troopers.  At one time, the OMOTM had a retired trooper who joined in on the breakfast with the rest of us.

With the advent of all the recent notoriety about police and the dangers they are in, the OFs began talking about troopers then and now. As none of us at the table is or was a trooper, the OFs could only relate what occurred with their friends and relatives, and there are some big changes.

Early on, the troopers were treated like soldiers in the army; they actually had barracks. They stayed right there and were away from home. The uniforms, though basically the same color were quite different.

The OFs told humorous stories about the situations their friends and relatives got into as troopers. Some of the OFs told of how they have had to use the troopers, or how the troopers have had to come and see them.

The rural areas like the Hilltowns when the OFs were young rarely saw a trooper; there were not that many and those who were assigned to these areas had a lot of geography to cover. Also, the OFs don’t know when it changed, or even if it has, in fact, changed, but there seemed to be fewer tickets issued back then. It seemed the troopers were part of the community, and really were peacekeepers.

It seemed, as one OF neatly put it, the troopers knew who to cuff and who were just good old boys settling things the mountain way and not bad people or criminals.

The gray uniform still carries the respect it did then and probably will continue to garner the respect that has built up since 1917. One OF added: As long as they keep politics out of it, it will.

Only the good die young

Almost as a continuation of last week, the OFs brought up the health issue again, only this time it was why some people who apparently maintain a healthy lifestyle wind up with some horrendous diseases.

The OFs picked out people who have brain cancer, and pancreatic cancer. People who are active and thin keel over with a heart attack. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for much of it as far as the OFs can understand.

Then there are those, one OF said, who break all the rules and are still chewing on their cigars at 100 years old. One OF thought there should be a percentage chart in doctors’ offices that show what the percentage of not getting a nasty disease is (when the people who play by the rules) as compared to those who do not play by the rules chances of getting some serious malady that is going to do them in. The OFs used examples of smoking, drinking, being sedentary, and constantly at the food trough.

The OFs harkened to when they were younger and there were very few rules on what to eat, wear, drink, and go.

Then again one OF said, “We had little choice of what to eat, wear, and drink, and also a horse didn’t get you very far.”

“We aren’t that old, you old goat,” was the reply, “but most of us did eat from the garden, and butchered our own meat, plucked our own chickens.”

Spotlight on disease

Last week’s disease topic was basically polio.  This Tuesday, the issue was another nasty ailment — Parkinson’s disease.

There are medications for this problem but what was brought out by the OFs was, when someone in the spotlight contacts this or that disease and begins to champion it, what a difference that makes. The OFs brought up how much Michael J. Fox has done for Parkinson’s awareness, treatment, and research.

The OFs thought the people in the trenches and doing the grunt work seem to make little headway, then someone in the limelight gets involved and bingo!  There is that positive spike.

A short comment that this scribe did not pick up at the time (some people think on their feet — right or wrong — this scribe is a mull-it-over type and thinks about it, sometimes for days) and this is the comment, “If we die, do we have things in order so our kids don’t have one giant puzzle to solve?”

That is a good thought but what’s with the “if?”  Shouldn’t that be “when?” The way it was said may be normal, but it sounds like we have a choice. This scribe thinks there is no choice; it is not “if” but “when.”

Those OFs attending the breakfast at Mrs. Ks in Middleburgh and all bringing their rabbit foots (feet?), which leaves a lot of three-legged rabbits running around, were: Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Roger Shaver, Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.

Tuesday, Jan. 6, the first breakfast of the Old Men of the Mountain of the New Year, was at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh. It is now year-wise 2015 (and temperature-wise five to seven degrees) and what does the year hold in store for the OMOTM other than be cold?

By the tone of the chatter Tuesday morning, not much — even the temperature is pretty normal for January.

The OFs have seen so many old years go, and new years come, that, when compared, one to another, nothing much happens. But, when the years are strung together, a lot does change — a whole lot.

This scribe does not want to start listing a multitude of changes here in transportation, communication, medicine, or morality; the readers can do that themselves just by comparing any topic from 1930 to 2015 and noting the changes. From diapers with pins to Pampers, one of the best subjects for changing the scribe can think of.

One sign of progress during that period of time is the small matter of immunization in the medical field. Now the OFs get a shot to ward off this or that.

The OFs were talking about having gotten their flu shot. The media is advising us that the shot we had is not going to handle the type of flu that is out there, but it will lessen the severity of it. Again, every little bit helps.

Polio in our country and throughout much of the world is about obliterated because of a vaccine. The OFs are familiar with this disease because of knowing people who have contracted it.

Tuberculosis is another disease that can be conquered, pneumonia another.  Get a shot and the chances the OFs will come down with these problems are slim. The OFs could go on and on in just this one segment of progress in the 80-plus years they have crawled (then got up and walked) on this sphere.

Decorating minimalists

As the OFs become older, they find they do less and less decorating for the holidays. Holidays here meaning not only Christmas, but Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, or any other holiday the OFs celebrated in the past.

This year, most of the OFs have their decorations down, because not many were put up. When is the appropriate time to put the decorations away until next year?

As far as the OFs go, there isn’t any. Put them up whenever, and take them down whenever, or never take the outside decorations down.

“Why?” the OFs ask. “It just has to be done next year anyway.” 

Over the years, the OFs have accumulated boxes and boxes of ornaments and these boxes are stashed in the attic, barn, or cellars of their homes. Many of the OFs add to their collections just because of good marketing, or because the decorations just look pretty.

Now, instead of one box, many have quite a few boxes and some these boxes now are never opened and never used. One OF said Box Number One, which hasn’t been opened in 20 to 25 years, must have some super collectible ornaments in it by now.

Decorating to one OF is a lot of fun, and the whole family gets into it. This OF has a manger scene he built and painted himself and he still drags it out each Christmas.

OFs’ ingenuity shines

The OFs were wondering why it is that the smaller the tractor, the more the parts cost to fix it when it either breaks or wears out. Some OFs have a small tractor, not a lawn mower-type tractor but a do-it-all small tractor.

It is not only one OF that thinks his tractor is a Cat D7, but most of the OFs fall into this category and they try to pull a two-ton log with a half-ton tractor. That is why things break and the manufacturer is smart enough to realize this is going to happen, so, to make a good profit, it puts a hefty price tag on parts. Or the service shop tacks a good price on the parts that are prone to breakage to increase its margin to pay for parts it has to carry that are probably never going to move off the shelf.

This is where the OFs shine. Over the years, they have developed a little trait called ingenuity.

This becomes obvious when an OF says such-and-such broke and another OF says he had the same problem and fixed it with duct tape and baling wire, and tells how he did it.

If you think this is just a joke, just watch the NASCAR races sometime and see how much duct tape is used after a car has had an altercation with the wall at 190 miles per hour. Sometimes cars finish with two to three rolls of duct tape holding them together. Duct tape is the OFs’ friend. This scribe thinks some of the OFs are held together with duct tape.

Wrong turn

Referring to last week, the OFs who took the wrong turn more than once leaving the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville were followed (unbeknownst to them) by other OFs who left the restaurant but knew where they were going.

This past Tuesday morning, The OFs who knew questioned the other OFs and asked if they got home by noon.

The OFs who knew where they were and saw the other OFs turn right when they should have turned left or gone straight said, “I wonder where those OFs are going; they are going to get lost.”

Yup, they were right.  The right-turning carload of OFs did take quite a circuitous route and wound up about 300 yards from the Hilltown Café after driving for nearly half an hour.

The OFs who made it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, and who did not even worry about the vehicle not starting (that seems to be a thing of the past) were: George Washburn, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Don Wood, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me. 

Put a nick in the post.  Tuesday, Dec. 30, the sky was actually blue and sun was in the eyes of most of the Old Men of the Mountain on their way to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville.  Nearly all of them were catching the sun as it came up, and for “A” people that is the best part of the day.

This scribe found out later that some of the OFs again got lost, not actually lost, but just twisted around on the way home from the Hilltown Café. Really, the restaurant is easy to find, and it’s just as easy to leave, when people stick to the main roads.

However, when many strangers and even some so-called locals try a road less traveled in the Hilltowns of the Helderbergs, it sometimes becomes time to send out the St. Bernards with the jugs around their necks.

The OFs started talking about some of the OFs who are having tough physical problems and the upbeat attitude they have to whatever their problem is.

The OFs are OFs because it seems that those in the group do not have a “woe is me” attitude. The report on the OFs who are in these situations is that they are positive.

One particular OF who is having a tough time became paralyzed and is in therapy — really intensive therapy. This OF cannot walk “yet.” He is making progress but it is slow; however, he has told the OFs who visit him he is going to “walk” out of this place. By golly, the OFs are sure he will.

This type of attitude applies to the others. The OGs have said this before and will say it again: You have to be tough to get old, and it is the personal approach the OFs have to this getting-old bit that helps them get old with attitude.

Smart birds

Many of the OFs have outdoor-type personalities; they are hikers, kayakers, hunters, fishermen — the type that pull on the boots, pull down the earflaps, and head out.

Tuesday morning, they were talking about fishing spots along the Schoharie Creek and elsewhere. These places range from Burtonsville to beyond Middleburgh. There are others but this group of OFs was talking specifically about the areas on the Schoharie Creek because of the eagles that nest there.

This scribe, who spends a lot of time outdoors (but isn’t one of these outdoorsy type of OFs) surmises that the eagles are as smart as the OFs; these birds know where the fish are.

Rest Seekers legend

Traveling back in time again was brought about by current events and how things have changed. The geography covered was basically Warners Lake.

The OFs discussed the absence of some of the eating establishments on the Hill and how those that are left have taken over. The OFs did take in the old Rest Seekers Inn and what a place that was.

They spoke about the Lake and how Zwick’s was on one end and O’Hanlon’s on the other. Both places had boat launches and places to swim in the lake. It was different then, and the OFs were younger, of course, and might be remembering the times and fun from a different angle.

One OF remembers bringing friends from Long Island to Rest Seekers.  At first, they were hesitant to enter, because, instead of eating in the bar like the OF usually did, they went in through the diner door.

To those not familiar with the Rest Seekers design, this entrance was like going into someone’s basement. It was lit with one 60-watt bare bulb screwed into a pigtail, and wired to a cord hanging from the ceiling.

Inside, the place would be full, and the collection of people would be everyone from farmers still with their boots on, to people in fur coats, suits, and ties. The Long Island people were still uncomfortable because, when they sat down at the tables, the tables were at such an angle it took two cups of coffee to get one.

Usually friends from the Hill would stop by and genuinely ask who they were and say things like, “I hope you are hungry,” or, “Order this or that.” The discomfiture finally left and the Long Island people loosened up and were amazed at the quantity, and quality, of the food.

The real kick in the pants came when one of the Long Island people thought he would have a slice of watermelon with ice cream for dessert, so that was ordered. What was served was half of a large watermelon, and at least a quart of ice cream. The Long Island person just stared and then broke out laughing when he found out it was just for him because that is what he ordered. Ah!

The Rest Seekers is gone but not forgotten.

Foxenkill?  Well, that is another story, and it wasn’t on the Hill anyway.

No doomsday

The OFs at this breakfast wished all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year as they left, as the next breakfast will be in 2015.

It seems to most of the OFs that we just left the millennium breakfast wondering what we were going to do when all the banks failed, and the computers went down, and the stock market crashed because we were going into the 21st Century.

Where did all that time go?  The OFs are still waiting for the electronic disaster. There may be tough times somewhere down the line, but doomsday, the OFs maintain, is just a scare tactic to sell products.

Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and who are ready for 2015 were: Karl Remmers, Bob Snyder, Robie Osterman, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Miner Stevens, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Chuck Aleseio, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.

The Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. Ks Restaurant in Middleburgh on Tuesday, Dec. 23, with Christmas just around the corner. This has become an annual event.

Loretta (the proprietor of Mrs. Ks) was a classmate of some of the OFs, so there is no telling this lady any trumped-up stories. Loretta was there and she knows if any of the OFs are blowing smoke.

Not that the OFs do this but, on the rare occasion when they do, Loretta will give them the “look” like, “What kind of far-fetched story are you trying to peddle now!” That puts the brakes on the OFs from stretching a tale too far.

With the spread that Loretta had put out for the OFs it wasn’t necessary to order breakfast, but the OFs did, and then some had the nerve to ask for doggy bags.

There is another side to this that the OFs mention every now and then. How many of us OGs hobble into her establishment and there she is. She has been there since maybe 5 in the morning, ready to wait on us OFs. The OFs wish she would dish up some of her energy on top of the bacon and eggs, or pancakes.

Towns with spirit

The OFs talked about the spirit of certain towns, and how there seems to be a spirit in Middleburgh that is a step above the others. The decorations for Christmas, the candy-cane covers for the parking meters so parking is free during the holidays, the artsy shops, and the plantings around town during the summers are inviting touches — this all makes Middleburgh just seem different.

One OF pointed out that Middleburgh does have the creek running right at the west end of town, and all those beautiful large homes going north along the creek on Route 30, which accounts for a lot of this good feeling.

The OFs are sure the other towns try, but do not have the structure or the landscape to work with. Also, as one OF put it, it is what a town wants and if the town leaders have the finances to work with what the people would like to see.

Some want it quiet and not all gussied up. One OF who used to have a business in a small local town said it is necessary to get people out of their vehicles and to walk the streets and then attract them into your shop.

This OF said that, if there is just a group of destination stores, none of these businesses will make it — his opinion.

Then there is the flood. This unfortunate disaster still raises its ugly head maintained one OF. It isn’t only the flooded towns, said one OG, it is (some) towns in general.  Just ask the OFs.  There is a lot on knowledge in the group — about 1,800 years of it.

“God is in heaven but the devil roams the Earth”

There was a brief discussion on Kenneth White, and the OFs extend their sympathy for everyone involved. Some of the OFs wondered if the situation was the result of being on medication, or the lack of it. The warnings on some medicines heard in ads on TV and radio are enough to scare the living daylights out of anyone.

“We can conjecture all we want but none of us were in that trailer at that time,” said one OF.

A second OF said, “If God is so benevolent and loving, why do things like this happen? Look at all the people’s lives that are screwed up; what is the purpose of it?”

“God is in heaven,” one OG answered, “but the devil roams the earth.”

The OFs were getting a little deep here.

Plucking chickens

The OFs discussed eating and plucking chickens, and the various ways to do both. Some OFs maintain that it is not necessary to dip the bird in hot water to get the feathers off. Some of the OFs said that using a pick and hitting the right spot of the brain the feathers just fall off.

Others said running the chicken through a “defeathering” machine was another way. The machine is just a series of whirling rubber blades that takes the feathers off, explained the OF.

The OFs surmised that there must be some way of removing the feathers other than dunking the bird in hot water because the OFs are pretty sure that Purdue, or Tyson, do not have guys or gals taking chickens and dunking them in hot water tubs then plucking them.

“My goodness, what a smelly job that would be,” said one OF because he couldn’t stand the smell when plucking a chicken. “That smell is worse than cleaning the gutters.”

One OF said, “Think of all the chickens that must be raised on a daily basis just to feed the people that eat them all over this planet. What a number that would be.”

The OFs who came out of the hills to attended the holiday breakfast at Mrs. Ks Restaurant in Middleburgh and enjoy the hors d’oeuvres were: Miner Stevens, Otis Lawyer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Don Wood, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Harold Grippen, and me.


— Photo by John R. williams

White Christmas: The Hilltowns are blanketed with snow while the towns beneath the Helderberg escarpment haven’t retained the white stuff.

Many of the Old Men of the Mountain left the hills of snow on Tuesday, Dec. 16, and made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont. What a difference a few miles and 1,500 feet make in the type weather that the OFs traverse. Not one of the weather people even mentioned Knox, Berne, (maybe Berne once or twice) South Berne, or East Berne and the last two really got nailed with the amount of snow that was dumped on these localities.

Getting to the Home Front, which is at the foot of Altamont hill in Altamont (duh), the OFs went from 20 to 24 inches of snow to practically nothing in a distance of two miles. The other point is that this snow has hung around, and for days now the trees are still laden with snow — a winter wonderland (yeah right).

The OFs assumed the cameras were clicking especially on Saturday when there were about five hours of sun. These same weather people were showing sun and warmer temps, and the OFs are wondering where did that happen, maybe Hawaii.

The OFs haven’t seen much sun lately, and, without the sun, just like old snapping turtles, the OFs are growing moss on their backs.

Short days

There was a brief discussion on the shortest day between sunrise and sunset

This scribe had to check this one out and found it goes minute by minute and is based from Boston for use in the Farmers’ Almanac and it started on Dec. 17 to 26 the to give 9 hours and 2 minutes of daylight for those days; however, sunrise and sunset times vary a tad.

Anyway, we are in the shortest period of daylight hours for 2014. Whoopee.

Experts on doctors

There also was some talk on the age of your doctor. The OFs are now of an age where they can officially be declared experts on types of doctors.

Some of the information comes from self experience, and some for firsthand experience of friends and relatives. Like all experts who expound on this or that, the one item the OFs agree on is: The only thing the expert is an expert on is saying that he or she is an expert.

Some of the OFs think going to a doctor that has considerable gray in his hair — if it is a she doctor, that is hard to tell because they, like many ladies, die their hair — indicates the doctor has seen many cases and probably has seen before whatever the OF is there with.

Whereas a young doctor has less experience and that wart on your nose may stump him, but the older may have had one himself. But the other OFs maintained that the younger doctor may be more up on the new techniques, procedures, and medications.

One OF said he was a little biased: Give me experience over youth any day.

There was a basic school of thought that was on karma. Some OFs said they didn’t care if the doctor wasn’t old enough to shave, or had hair growing out of his ears like me; as long as the doctor and patient got along and could communicate, that was all that the OFs cared about.

Then there was that OG, again, who wanted to start a collection of the distaff side who commented that, as long as the doctor had a pretty receptionist and good-looking nurses, the doctor was good enough for him even if he was a quack. This OF said at least the doctor had good judgment.

Chat on charity

This is the season that many organizations introduce their campaigns for charitable giving. Most seem needy and worthwhile and the OFs struggle at times because the ads and programs make them want to give to them all.

That is a trick of good marketing, or a good advertising agency. These businesses do well in inducing the OFs at times to purchase things the OFs don’t want, or need, and will probably never use. These people are good at what they do, especially going to college for four or six years to learn how do to it.

Most of the OFs do what they can for the charities they are familiar with — some with animals, some for the heart, some for the Salvation Army, some for kidney, some for the Rescue Mission, and others like the Nature Conservancy, volunteer fire companies, civic organizations that affect the local community.

Not only do the OFs do this with money, but also time.  Even though many well-intentioned charitable organizations tug at the OFs’ purse strings, the OFs say: Pick one and stick with it. They also add that dropping something in the Salvation Army bucket doesn’t hurt, and every little bit helps.

The OFs say: Take a lesson from the cable company — jack the bill up a couple bucks at a time and it is not really noticed, but do that with two million people and it is four million dollars.

One OF say he contributes thousands of dollars a year to quite a group of not-for-profit organizations. They are called New York State, the federal government, the town, and the county — and he has nothing to say about it. After contributing to these charitable organizations, he has nothing left for the others.

The OFs noticed that, as the OFs in this group become older, the OFs are requiring more and more medical care, for themselves and their families. This is to be expected and, as one or more of a family becomes incapacitated, this places a lot of stress on the other members of the family.

The OFs have covered this before and there is tons or stress and anxiety placed on the caregivers and the caregiver needs as much support as the one requiring the care. This is where churches, friends, and groups like the OMOTM can fill a really important niche in people’s lives.  (A scribe comment snuck in here.)

The OFs who made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont, which is not a charitable organization, were; Dave Williams, Steve Kelly, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, John Rossmann, Lou Schenck, Chuck Alesio, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Gill Zabel, Elwood Vanderbilt, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bill Krause, and me.