Tuesday, Dec. 9, was not a nice day. The Old Men of the Mountain on their way to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown kept — slip-sliding away, slip-sliding away/you know the nearer your destination/the more you’re slip-sliding away.

Simon and Garfunkel must have known the Northeast well. That’s what it was like getting to the restaurant Tuesday morning, and getting back home was even worse. However, some hardy OFs made it to the breakfast.

The discussion was mainly kidding back and forth, about family living, and friends.

One of the topics was what to get the wife for Christmas. It seems to the OFs that the ladies have more intuitive sense of what to get as presents then the OFs.

It was found out that many of the OFs agonize over what to get for their wives, and they hope it is the right thing. A vacuum cleaner is not one of them.

Jewelry is pretty safe, but will it be right and will she wear it?  Clothes?  That is another area that should be safe but most of the OFs don’t even know what size shirt their ladies wear, and will it have to be a whole outfit because most (not all) of the OFs don’t have a clue to what is hanging in the wife’s closet so matching something is out.

One OF mentioned that we should come right out and ask what she wants, and go and get it. Another OF said he tried that and she said, “Another husband.”

An OF said, at their ages, there is not much they need or want and, if there is something, they just go and check out the stores and buy it.

Last week, an OF repeated his idea: “Just get anything with the return slip because they are going to return it anyway. It doesn’t even have to fit if it is clothes, or whatever, just as long as you spend enough on it — that is the secret. At least I know what kind of stores my wife likes.”

One OF said, “Just haul them off to Kohl’s.”

Fair talk

The Altamont Fair was discussed a lot at Tuesday morning’s breakfast regarding all the changes that have been made over the years. The OFs also said that the current fair manager is retiring, and heading south.

Pretty soon, this ole globe is going to tip over with all the people headed to where the rays of the sun are longer. (As this scribe is typing this column on Dec. 10 and looking out the window at all the limbs down from about an eighth of an inch of ice and 15 to 18 inches of snow, a trip down south does not look like that bad of an idea.)

Quality show

The OFs discussed the craft show and sale at the “Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center” on Ketchum Road in the town of Knox, and some of the artisans there. They mentioned the lady that makes baskets out of pine needles, only these are not pine needles like our northern pine needles, these are pine needles from the south and are about eight to 10 inches long.

Of course, the OFs would pick up on that, and then they brought up the cookie lady.  Again, the OFs would pick up on that also. The OFs thought this was a good quality show.

Collecting vs. hoarding

Then the OFs talked about collections and discussed what is a collection and what is just hoarding. That is a good question.

As it is often pointed out, a collection is when you have more than three of the same type of thing. It could be thimbles, or pickup trucks. Hoarding, the OFs maintain, is when it is just all kinds of stuff that has no rhyme or reason.

Most of the OFs are collectors, and often times discuss their collections, and even have other OFs spotting items for some other OF’s collection, even to the point of purchasing it if the OF thinks the price is in line for the other OF. The OFs go over this topic a lot.

Twice at this breakfast, the subject of women came up and, in this case, one OF who is not a collector of much did say he would like to start a collection of women.

“Three or more is a collection, right?” the OF inquired.

“Yep,” was the reply. “But it is a selective hobby,” the OF was told. “You can’t have one young one, one old one, one thin one, and one fat one.”

The OF countered, “Why not, if I were collecting thimbles, I could have one old one, one fancy one, one plain one, one for thin hands, and one for fat hands.”

The other OFs had to agree; maybe he could pick and choose.

One OF said that OF would have a tough time with that kind of collection; he had enough trouble just getting one.

“I was broke then,” the OF said. “Now I have money and that is a big chick magnet.”

The other OFs said, “That is a collection I would not want to start; I have enough trouble with one.”

“Me too,” was a quick reply from another OG.

Affairs of the heart

Now it was time to talk about affairs of the heart, and who has what in his heart, and who has had some serious repair jobs to the engine of the body.

Many of the OFs have had that organ worked on. Many of the OFs have had heart catheterizations. All but one have had no problems.

The one with the problem had his procedure performed through his arm, and at first things didn’t go right. However, everything is fine now; it was just the problem of waiting it out until the arm got back to normal.

The OFs think that this practice will soon be a thing of the past and they will be able to check the heart out without any invasive procedure.

Those OFs with enough heart to brave the weather, and make it to the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, were: Roger Chapman, Andy Tinning, Bill Krause, John Rossmann, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, and me. 


On Dec. 2, the first Tuesday of the month, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner. The group trickled in slowly, just that it happened that way; there was no particular reason for the trickle.

This was the first gathering after Thanksgiving and the usual questions were asked — and by many: “How was your Thanksgiving?” and, “Do anything special?”

The answers varied from many miles “traveled to be with friends and relatives,” or many “friends and relatives traveled to our place,” or “not much, just a few people came over,” or “nothing special, we had soup and a sandwich; we make it up at Christmas time.”

Then there are always the bah-humbugs. All these holidays are made-up days by the toy manufacturers, the card makers, the costume makers, the flag and bunting makers (an OF interjected: Did you ever notice how many of the American Flags waved on the Fourth of July are made in China?), and whoever else can dupe the public into spending money for things they don’t want or need bandwagon. The next thing you know there will be a bandwagon holiday to celebrate all those who play musical instruments.

Into the future

A subject came up that was a little unusual because usually the OFs go back in time; this time, they wonder what it will be like in the next 50 years. Most of the OFs won’t be around, but the OFs’ grandkids will.

One OF thought that, the way things are going now, in 50 years there won’t be a United States of America as we know it. It is just like someone has let the dogs out, and the barbarians are running amuck, similar to what happened to Rome. This OF feels we are headed for the Dark Ages again.

Yet another OF felt that he would like to be around 50 more years, and see people on Mars, and traveling to other universes. Cancer cured. The common cold beat. No more Third World countries; all countries would be on the same page. This OF thinks the best is yet to come.

Talk about 180 degrees apart. Some OFs conjectured none of us would be around to find out who was right anyway.

Hairy subject

The subject now goes from the sublime to a much lower level, the human hair. An OF wondered why we have hair where we don’t want it and no hair where we need it.

“Yeah,” one OF said, “why does one hair on my eyebrows grow out two to three inches and it has to be cut with a pair of bolt cutters, and all the others grow shaggy and relatively the same length? Where does that one hair get the protein to grow that long?”

“Yes,” another OF chimed in, “I have a mole on my back and it has five or six black hairs growing out of it; how come? They are so tough, those hairs poke through my shirt like pieces of wire.”

One more question an OG asked was, “How come I have never heard of anyone going bald, or even losing hair in their nether regions?”

“Well, who is going to admit to that?” an OF asked.

One more OF said, “People don’t go running around with that region exposed like the top of your head so, unless you have X-ray vision, no one will ever notice.”

“To me,” the original OF said, “it is still a question if hair can continually grow ‘there,’ why can’t doctors take that gene and, through genetic engineering, steer it to your head?”

“Who knows,” an OF answered. “Maybe some bald research doctor is already working on this problem.”

“If he finds the answer,” an OF added, “he will give Bill Gates and that guy from Mexico (billionaire Carlos Slim) a run for their money.”

“What are parades for anyway?”

Some of the OFs are, and were involved in parades, especially those in the military. The OFs began talking about the Shriners and Mummers and how, at many parades, they are a big hit.

The Shriners run around in those little cars, which is quite smart because they don’t have to walk the parade route and don’t have to hire a band. An added bonus to the Shriners’ way of parading is, at the end of the parade, they just hop in their little cars and ride back to where the parade formed up.

The Mummers, on the other hand, have to march the whole distance carrying those elaborate costumes on their shoulders. If it is the Fourth of July parade, they have to be exhausted at the end. 

Some of the OFs march with different fire companies, or civic organizations. An OF wondered, “What are parades for anyway? Who first thought, ‘I guess I will take my horn and walk through the street playing it?’”

One OF thought that, way back in time, it was a way of forming the Army into some kind of organized line to get them to battle.

“Not bad reasoning,” said one OF.

The other OF said, “I still don’t understand parades.”

The wooly bear knows

The OFs have been judging this winter weather, and say that little black and brown caterpillar has been right so far. Those tight black hairs at the beginning of winter indicate we are just in the middle of the beginning. (Whatever that means, but we understood.)

Those attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg and some maintaining that it is winter, and not any different than winters in the past, were:  Jim Heiser, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Karl Remmers, Dave Williams, Miner Stevens, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mike Willsey, Gerry Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, and me.


On Nov. 25, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Scho/Co Diner in Schoharie, and as usual discussed many things. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and most of the time it is the good and the bad — the OMOTM leave the ugly to other people.

The banter at the breakfast does, at times, use gossip that has been bounced about, or rumors that are floating around but primarily for clarification to how much of either is fact, or fiction. Somewhere in the group, an OF has clear information that either refutes, or substantiates the rumors.

The OFs discussed Thanksgiving, and in the process wished each other a Happy Thanksgiving that many could have considering their circumstances. The question arose: What is a Happy Thanksgiving, and what is a Merry Christmas? Are the wishes just words or are they heartfelt?

With the honesty that prevails among the OFs, the words do carry the proper caveat that should accompany the statements. One OF said that knowing a person’s circumstances should not stop anyone from wishing him a happy whatever holiday celebration it is, as best as he can apply it to his situation, or from offering the clerk in the store, or the stranger on the street a Happy Thanksgiving, or a Merry Christmas.

This OF thought, “Bah-Humbug only breeds more Bah-Humbugs.”  Amen to that was the comment.

Media spurs controversy

The problems in Ferguson, Missouri were discussed for a little while, and the surprising thing talked about was not who was right or who was wrong, but the media’s portrayal of the whole set of circumstances, and others like it, including the Ebola situation.

An OF said that the media doesn’t care; they want a riot to break out and actually contribute to the fire that brings things like this to a head. The media hyped this like the World Series, and the Super Bowl, with a rehearsed known agenda to the outcome.

The OFs feel the media is nowhere near the solution — they are the problem. Without some kind of turmoil, the same media cannot sell newspapers, or ad space on the radio, or television, so they do whatever they can to agitate until something happens.

It all comes down to money, not people. This went off on different tangents (as many conversations like this do) until the original points are so obscure much of the time they just become rants from different points of view on a subject that barely resembles what started the original conversation.

Hirsute pursuits

Haircuts!  Now there is a topic that the OFs know.

Much of the hair on many of the OFs is either gone, thin, or going. That is not what the conversation was about.

The OFs have long been resigned to the hairless syndrome and do not even worry about it. The problem with the OFs and haircuts is how much they cost

Again, the OFs are not suggesting that barbers should make whatever they want to. The OFs will choose where they get the best haircut for the best deal.

But the OFs maintain it should be on a sliding scale. Many of the OFs get in the chair and it is zip-zip and they are done — but the OF still pays as much for the haircut as the young buck that climbs in the chair with a huge mop of hair, and a complete set of directions on how he wants it cut.

This guy is in the chair for half an hour or more and pays the same price as the OF who was in the chair for no more than five minutes. Not fair, Magee.

Economics of hybrid cars

Electric cars and hybrid vehicles were another topic we chatted about and how more of these vehicles are now being seen on the road. The OFs are still not too enthused about this means of transportation, especially the trade-in value, and/or purchasing a used one.

The OFs wondered how long the batteries would last. This scribe went to where?  The Internet, of course, to check this out since the net can be trusted at all times. (Yeah, right.)  However, in this case, it seemed very plausible.

The Toyota Prius in California is warranted for 10 years or 150,000 miles; in all other states, it is 8 years or 100,000 miles. Currently, the battery is roughly $3,000 plus installation.

The Ford Fusion hybrid has had a few problems (according to the net). However, the warranty is about the same, and currently the battery is roughly $4,400 plus installation.

The net recommended, if purchasing a used hybrid car, to have the battery life checked and negotiate the price down to replace the battery. Otherwise, they are a good buy. The net has spoken.

This scribe could have saved himself all the work of researching the information on hybrids because a couple of the OMOTM have these types of vehicles and this scribe could have gone right to the source.

The OFs know how to drive

The OFs discussed having to take a driver’s test. Some of the OFs who have driven with younger drivers want to get out of the vehicle.

To the OFs, they drive too fast and too close. The OFs said, when riding in a car that is going 70 miles an hour so close to the car ahead, the OFs can count the hairs on the heads of the people in the back seat. That is too fast, too close.

The OFs, after driving many years and running into all kinds of situations, feel they can still handle a vehicle. Many of the OFs have had experience backing up a loaded four-wheel wagon over a barn bridge and that is a trick many young drivers wouldn’t even attempt. And the OFs having been doing that since they were 10 years old.

The OFs think they might have to go and get a new driver’s manual because they keep changing the rules of the road. Many of the new road signs do not mean diddly-dip to the OFs, especially at roundabouts.

For most of the OFs, the ability to drive is not the problem; it is the book-learnin’.   Some of the OFs give up their license after they bump into five or six things and get tired of paying the collision repair guy.

Those OFs who showed up at the Scho/Co diner in Schoharie in their conventional automobiles were: George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Frank Pauli, Harold Grippen, Roger Shafer, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Karl Remmers, Steve Kelly, Jim Heiser, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Don Wood, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, and me.

Tuesday, Nov. 18, this scribe traveled to the Country Café in Schoharie all alone (boo-hoo) since one of the riders was scheduled for surgery on his elbow. We tried to convince this OF that, because it was elective surgery, it was strictly against the OMOTM bylaws, (Page 6, Article 14, Section E), which specifically states, “Non-emergency surgeries cannot be scheduled on any Tuesday.” The exceptions would be surgeries due to an accident, to repair broken bones, etc.

Page 6, Article 14, Section F also covers funerals. If any OMOTM should pass away, his funeral is not to be scheduled on a Tuesday, with the exception being travel. Relatives that come from considerable distances, and have time restraints, will be taken into consideration and the funeral can take place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Any OF who deviates from these rules without previous permission from the governing board are subject to fines that will be assessed by the same board. Fines will not exceed two weeks’ payments of all OFs in attendance breakfasts’. The scribe was instructed by the sergeant-at-arms to re-emphasize this particular section of the OMOTM bylaws. 

 The other riders were legitimately excused by a rather lengthy section of the OMOTM bylaws that this scribe will not go into at this time.

The OFs looked up and down the table and considered how blessed many of the OFs are just to be able to attend the breakfast. The subject came up because some friends of the OFs are down with this problem or that.\

One OF’s friend just found out he has multiple sclerosis, and he is not that old. Another was developing ulcers on his feet because of not paying enough attention to his diabetes; he will now, the OFs hope.

Even with the OFs’ maladies, the OGs manage to attend the breakfast and do not give in to them. There isn’t an OG at the table who doesn’t hurt in one way or another. 

One OF came to the breakfast all tanned up; he may hurt but it sure didn’t show. This OF just returned from Aruba, just in time for the breakfast and a 20-degree morning greeting.

Old Uhai

The OFs briefly touched on Uhai Mountain in Berne. It was thought that at one time, when the ax factory was going full blast in Berne, that the mountain was denuded of trees. The wood was used for the forges to temper the axes.

According to one OF, the mountain after being clear-cut was farmed. Much of the land around the Bernes and Knox was farmed and planted with grains because of the grain mills in the vicinity of Berne and East Berne.

According to the OFs, the trees were replanted by the Boy Scouts, the OFs thought in the 1930s, and these trees have now all grown to the same basic height so the canopy of the trees appears to have been cut with a lawn mower.

Why not knit instead?

The OFs also briefly discussed the attacks on cigarette smoking and the apparent dangers of puffing on this supposedly ground-up leaf. This was brought up by one community considering banning all smoking.

The OFs do agree that this is a nasty and sometimes deadly habit.  If not putting some six feet under it puts many in the hospital for considerable stays, and is a drain on the family after that.

“However, there are the occasional few,” one OF said, “that puff until they are 100 years old with no consequences. It is a crapshoot.”

“Are you going to be one of the few that can handle it or not?” asked one OF.

The experience of the OFs indicates the odds are definitely against you to be one of the few.

 Now “they” are demonizing tobacco, and replacing it with something just as bad, if not worse: marijuana.

The OFs say we pay high enough medical insurance for taking care of those that smoke and all their lung and heart problems, and now we will have to take care of all those that wind up in mental hospitals, and on harder drugs, which will increase our taxes to pay for the extra police to control that problem.

The OFs feel that the need to do something with our hands is the problem. Hand to mouth with the cigarette, or hand to mouth with the marijuana.

Jingle-belled to death

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. Duh, does anyone need to be reminded about this — especially about Christmas?

The OFs said they are already being jingle-belled to death. The merchants started even before Halloween.

Before you know it, the merchants will start touting their wares on Columbus Day, or even before that. One OG thought that, if merchants start pushing anything electronic that early, by the time Christmas comes around it will old hat, out-dated, and obsolete.

“If I get one,” the OF said of an electronic gadget, “I know I will be stuck with it because they make the new ones so the old one is not compatible.”

“Hey,” another OG said, “they go to school to learn how to do that.”

“Well,” still another OF said, “they can’t outfox me. I do my Christmas shopping on December 24th.”

“Yeah,” was the reply, “we always knew you were cheap; that way, all that is available is leftovers.”

“I don’t care,” the OG said, “because everything I give is always brought back to the store anyway.”

“Ya know, that is not such a bad idea,” an OG chimed in. “Give them some cheap thing you know they won’t like, they take it back and get something they need, or do like, and you are a hero.”

The OF added, “I am going to keep this little trick in mind.”

Show and tell

At this breakfast, we even had show and tell from an OF who brought in items for identification, and the OFs were not faked out this time — many knew what these items were.

This also showed what can be found at rummage sales, and in box lots at the end of auctions. Sometimes there is unknown quality hidden in some of those boxes like what the OF brought to the breakfast.

The OFs who made it to the County Café on Main Street in Schoharie on a January day in November were: Harold Guest, Dave Williams, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Gerry Chartier, and me. (And the fly on the wall was there again, and buzzed it would be the last time until there is a wall free around Christmas time.)


This scribe jumped out of bed at 5 a.m. on Nov. 11 and found it was Tuesday, and time to round up whoever was going with him to the breakfast. Even at 5 a.m., when this scribe and riders arrived at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh, the restaurant was already half-full

What hour in the morning must these OFs get up to be at the breakfast, showered, most shaved, and reasonably dressed? Some must still be thinking they have to roll back the barn door and get ready for milking.

The OFs have been enjoying this fall, and commenting on it at every breakfast. A couple of the OFs have mowed their lawns again; it was Nov. 10 when they were at it

One even commented on a farm putting in third cutting. The OF said that the alfalfa was nice looking stuff, deep green color, but not many bales, which is understandable

It is interesting how the OFs talk about what they observe on farmland as they drive by and sometimes they comment on the other farmers — still farming — just as if the OFs were still in the business. Forgetting they are thinking horses, and the farmers today are using GPS guided tractors, and individual machines that do all the work as they go through the fields. Tain’t the same, Magee.

From the horse’s mouth

The OFs carried on with the discussion of the work being done on the Little Schoharie Creek that the OFs mentioned last week. They are still amazed at the amount of work being done, but the OFs can’t see how what they are doing is going to help.

Loretta and Patty (proprietors of Mrs. K’s) said that the “boys” (their term) working on the project stop in for breakfast in the morning before going to work. Maybe one of the OFs who live in that area should stop in one morning, seeing that these OFs are some of the ones up that early, and get the information from the horse’s mouth by talking to these “boys.”

The expression “horse’s mouth” must be from the racing game where a bettor bets on some swayback nag to win the race and, lo and behold, it does, because the horse told him it was pay for the hay day. That’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

“Thank you, vet, on your day”

Nov. 11 is Veterans Day; it was Armistice Day for the end of World War 1. This armistice was signed on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918.

Some parts of the world call it Armistice Day, and, in others, Remembrance Day. The United States changed it to Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

The Old Men of the Mountain is a group with many veterans in its midst. Not only have they made a major contribution to this country, but to the neighborhoods in which they live now.

The Old Men of the Mountain who are vets should be honored for both of their contributions, and son of a gun they are still are contributing just by being at this OMOTM breakfast.

This scribe wonders if it should be, “Thank you, vet, on your day” instead of, “Happy Veterans Day” because to some veteran it may not be that happy.

Opening day of deer season is a quasi-legal holiday

Deer hunting starts soon and the OFs were discussing this semi-holiday in our neck of the woods. Some were enthused that hunters are now able to use rifles in most of Albany County.

This also alarmed a few of the OFs because the errant shot of a rifle could travel quite a distance and cause unintended harm. Still and all, the opening day of deer season in many households is a quasi-legal holiday.

The OFs remember, when they were working, the opening day of the deer-hunting season was when the hunters and non-hunters were making arrangements to switch vacation times and days off so the hunters could hunt.

This scribe remembers the significant drop-off in hunting permits issued after the Walt Disney movie, Bambi, came out. With just a tiny bit of imagination, it is possible to see the deer all clapping in the woods for the release of this picture.

When racing was real

There was some discussion on automobile racing since NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) really took over. It has changed the sport considerably.

The OFs remembered in the 1950s and ’60s going to Fonda for the races and having to leave the house early to get a seat, and get to the track really early to get a seat where you wanted. It is not like that today. It is possible to get a seat just before the first heat is to start.

Pete Corey was a racecar driver back when the safety rules were simple and races were fun to watch, said The Old Men of the Mountain. — Photo from John R. Williams.


The OFs talked about the older drivers, their cars, which in the ’50s and ’60s were not fake souped-up cars but the real thing — a Chevy coup was a Chevy coup, a Plymouth was a Plymouth, a Nash was a Nash, a Hudson was a Hudson, a Ford was a Ford, and a Gremlin was a Gremlin.

Each team did its own thing from engine work, to set-up. The safety rules were simple — roll bars, automatic fire extinguishers for rollovers, seats, safety belts, and a few others.

The OFs agreed the races were fun to watch, and each race team had its own following and many would sit together in the stands; some of the OFs were part of that crowd. One OF actually worked on them, well, not really “worked” but did some of the lettering on the racecars.

Those OFs who made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and arrived in their own conventional chariots were: Miner Stevens, Jim Heiser, George Washburn, Dave Williams, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, with guest Mathew Pauli, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Don Wood, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Jim Rissacher, Henry Whipple, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, and me. (Plus the little fly on the wall was there again.)