On Tuesday, Aug. 6, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Duanesburg Diner, and the OFs filled up the back room. In the good ole summer time, our numbers are growing, but in the throes of winter the OMOTM group is smaller, and understandably so.

It is early August and already the OFs reported seeing one tree turning color.  One OF said it is not turning color — it is just one stressed-out tree. Then someone else said he thinks, because of the wet spring this year, the trees are all done, and the fall color will be early this year. 

These hardworking trees need to take a break from all that photosynthesizing. When leaves change color from green to yellow, bright orange, or red, you'll know that trees are beginning their long winter's rest.

A healthy portion of the OFs are members of the Berne Masons, and they did a lot for our recent event concerning the C-130 plane that is often seen in the Hilltowns. Now these OFs are involved with the history of the Hilltowns, and who else would know the history of the Hilltowns other than those who have lived here 80 years or so and have seen things go from horse and buggy to jet planes and men on the moon, to talking picture shows.

My goodness!  The wonders the OFs have seen.

On Saturday, Aug. 24, these Berne OFs are going to be part of a History of Berne Festival and the OFs who come to our Tuesday breakfasts, and who are Masons, along with other Masons are going to put on a breakfast at the Masons’ Lodge in Berne. This is another open-to-the-public event; all are welcome to come and see what else will be going on in Berne.

Wondrous happenings

From breakfast to breakfast, it seems like not much happens, then, as the OFs start talking, we realize that quite often a lot really does happen in those seven days from one week till the next.

We have one OF who is building a new home, and on some Tuesdays he brings in a progress report, complete with pictures on his phone. Another OF is planning a trip, and still another is planning a major life move.

The OFs are conditioned to watching a particular group of OFs arrive at the breakfast, and we know who they are as soon as their vehicles pulls up.  Sometimes we see a different automobile and then all of a sudden the same group starts piling out of a different vehicle driven by the same OF.  This denotes another change.

Kids move, grandkids and great-grandkids are born. The days between breakfasts are not stagnant because wondrous things are happening all the time.

Where are the bugs?

The OFs talked about how few bugs are around this year. It used to be that, when leaving a light on by the porch door, one would attract all kinds of millers, moths, and flying insects. This year, the OFs are saying, “Where are they?  The bugs are not here and it’s possible to get in the house in the evening with the light on and have to deal with only a few nasty flying things.”

There are a lot fewer swallows chasing what few bugs are around, one OF noticed.  The same with the size of the robin flocks. When this OF used to see 20 to 30 robins in a group, now he is seeing only 10 or so.

Then there is the snake.  One OF said he has not seen a snake around his house in two years; some said they have seen a few but nowhere near what they used to see.

Where are they? Where are birds? One OF wondered out loud, could it still be Irene, and Lee.

This scribe offered that it could be that pesticide use has caught up with us, and another OF said it may just be a local thing, maybe all these critters have moved somewhere else.

One thing we do have on the Hill, at least in the northeast corner of Schoharie County and southwest corner of Albany County, is rabbits — we do have rabbits.

Changing landscape

This conversation prompted this scribe to e-mail one of his many nephews.  This particular nephew is a professor at Keuka College, which is located on the shores of Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

This nephew’s doctorate was presented in the area of the OFs questionings. Taken from his reply are some answers to the OFs’ queries and wonderings. The OFs did not take actual notes, but did take notice, and were using recollection of their observations.

The professor said, “I wish more people took notes on changing habitats.” A lot can change in 80 years.

He goes on to say, “The landscape has changed dramatically since the OFs were young.” (And, boy, has it, especially in the Hilltowns where many of the small farms have disappeared and the grazing land and pastures have turned into brush and wood lots.) “There are more trees and taller trees, which generates a different composition than 50 years ago. That change has brought a change to the critters that live in it.”

Continuing with his reply, he suggests that pesticides in the smaller “critters” have had some effect, and he suggests that there are similar reasons, all of which are related to people, knowingly, or otherwise, changing the environment to the detriment of the animals in it.

“These are too many and too common to list but certainly could be part of the problem,” he said.

He stated the OMOTM might recognize the increase in other animal populations, such as bear, moose, and porcupine that were not around 20 years ago, like they are now. Ravens are breeding all over the state, and some other animals have increased in abundance, all due to the changing landscape.

In the end, Professor Brown also suspects the general abused conditions of the environment have not changed that dramatically in the past few years, it is just that the OMOTM are starting to catch up with it. This change is natural due do plant succession from field to brush, from brush to forests, and therefore the critters are going to change with it.   

Guys and gals and implanted chips

The next topic (really not next because these things are chosen at random; sometimes this scribe has trouble reading his notes) was on driving. Driving is a common discussion with this group, but this conversation was about the accident that was on the news recently, and the driver had 10 or so violations, and his license was revoked.

One OF said revoking and taking away a license doesn't mean a thing to a lot of people; they will just hop in another car and take off, and, if they get caught again (driving without a license), they will do the same thing. We have to do more than that.”

“Well,” one OG said, “We can't lock them all up — we won't have enough cells to hold them all.”

One OF said, “All cars should have a chip in it, and it would be activated when the offender would have a corresponding chip implanted in his shoulder so that, once the car detects that chip, it won't start.”

Another said, “That won't work, the guy will just go and have the chip removed from his shoulder.”

Then there was a response from the original OF who suggested the idea, and this OF said the chip could also be programmed to notify the issuing police department that the chip has been tampered with and the cops can go and round him up again.

Then from nowhere came this statement, “You guys are saying guys all the time.  Are guys the only ones driving without a license?  Not on your life — the gals are just as guilty.”

That led to another discussion on guys being all inclusive — kind of genderless, so to speak. So the OFs were off on a completely different tangent.

Those OFs that made it to the Duanesburg Diner, in Duanesburg, and making us guys genderless, like “youse guys better clean up your act,” were: Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Bill Krause, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Art Frament, Herb Swabota, Jay Taylor, Roger Fairchild, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Ken Hughes, Henry Witt, Duncan Bellinger, (with guest Alex Cipperly) Frank Pauli, Don Moser, John Rossmann, Bob Giebitz, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Bob Lassome, Duane Wagenbaugh, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Cartier, Harold Grippen, and me.

The day of July 30, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Café in Schoharie. It might be the weather, but many of the OFs are getting up earlier, and earlier.

As mentioned before, the original meeting time was 9 a.m. or so. Then, as the group grew larger, more of the OFs had things to do other than lay in bed and go to eat in the middle of the morning, so some OGs started coming earlier so they could get things done.

Now it almost seems that some should have keys to the restaurants so they can open it up and at least get the coffee ready.

This is a good thing!

It shows the OFs are out and about with projects to get done, and not rocking-chair bound. However, some of the OFs do show up not shaven, and look like they just tumbled out of bed, met their ride, and made it to the breakfast. This scribe wonders how many of the OFs are going to crawl back in bed when they get home from the breakfast.

What’s in a name?

Many parents agonize over what to name their kids. The parents, and their grandparents interfere; friends make suggestions. The new parents purchase books on names.

Some parents make sure the initials don't come up with something really screwy, or obscene. Most of the OFs have gone through this (as did their parents for them), trying to get the name right.

One OF mentioned that names can affect a person into adulthood and beyond; some names are a hindrance for getting ahead in life no matter how smart or talented the kid is. Then there is always the pressure to name them after Uncle Charlie, or Aunt Sarah.

One OF said he has two friends that changed their names for just that reason. The parents of these two tried to be too cute and hung a moniker on one of them that plagued him all through school.

This man said he changed his name as soon as he was legally able to do so. To get away from these memories, he joined the military. Now that his name was legally changed, everything had his new name on it and that is how everyone knew him. His life changed immediately and for the better.

One OF mentioned that he was in the third grade before he knew his name was John, and not Jack.

The names reported on the bottom of this little report carries some OFs’ names that, if you went to look them up in the phone book by the name listed, you would never find them, but that is the name they go by and people know them.

Another OF said that, when he was young, all he knew was the name his grandparents called him, and subsequently his own parents, and, when he went to school, the teacher called him by his real name and he did not answer because he thought it was somebody else. After all the names were called he told the teacher she didn't call him.

The teacher then asked him, “What is your name?”

He told her the name he went by and was used to; the teacher put two and two together and never called him by his real name again. Good for her.

Another group of OFs were talking about the exploits of a common friend and it was assumed that maybe they were talking about two different people.  However, once the conversation was sorted out, it turned out they were talking about the same person after all.  The person in question had one name that was given as a first name, but he went by his second name.

Yet another OF has a relative that has the real name of “Hugh,” but no one used that name; they used his middle name. When this young lad went to school, again the teacher called him by his given name “Hugh,” and at first the young man did not know who she was talking to. (Similar to the above scenario.)

But this teacher continued to call him Hugh, enough so that the kid was not too happy about going to school. When the mother noticed this reluctance to go to school, she asked him why.

The little boy said, "That teacher won't call me by my name she keeps calling me ‘Few’.”

So his Mom went and had a talk with the teacher, but by that time the kid had decided that "Few" was OK and when his mother told him she had a talk with the teacher, he told her, “That's OK, because I told the teacher it was OK to call me "Few" if she wanted to.” 

One OG said, “How about people with only one name? Look at Liberace or Cher, and a whole wagonload of others.”

This prompted the scribe to look these two up, and with a name like Wladziu Valentino Liberace or Cherilyn Sarkisian, the scribe might also have decided to go with only one name.

One OG mentioned that, when he was younger, he didn't mind being called Johnny, but, when he got older and in the service, he hated being called Johnny, and wanted to be called John.

Another OF said that happens a lot — Ron and Ronnie, Sam and Sammy, Ted and Teddy. To this OF, a “y” sound at the end of your name sounds like people are calling the cat.

Still another OG said, “That’s not so bad. How about Johnny Carson or Sammy Sosa? Some even called President Regan ‘Ronnie’.”

Then there are nicknames.

One OG said, “For the most part, we have no control over that. The use of initials is something else we have no control over.”

TJ, and BJ, and JB, are some friends of his and now this OF has to think hard to remember what their real names are. It is a wonder anyone can keep track of us.

Now one practical OG had to chime in, “No matter what we call ourselves, or what other people call us, the IRS will find us no matter what we are called.”

Fair time

It is fair time, and the OFs were talking about the fairs in the area — like the Sunshine Fair going on right now in Cobleskill. The problem is that this fair and the Saratoga fair are a little early for produce to be shown because much of it isn't ready yet.

The OFs say the term “country” has gone out of a few of the fairs. Cobleskill is the closest fair that still caters to farmers.

It is the opinion of the OFs the Altamont fair, located in Albany County, is definitely not farm friendly.  The OFs feel that those in charge seem to want to turn all the land in the county into housing developments, and they are doing their best to make it hard on farmers who will eventually give up and leave the farm and then the developers can take over.

Many of the OFs now go to the fair to eat grease. Fair time equates to the stomach growling and rumbling to the beat of "feed me grease, feed me grease," and it keeps doing this until it is satisfied with a fair-made sausage and pepper sandwich, followed with fried dough and a Coke.

One OF said he goes and spends a ton of money to get into the fair, and then he spends twice as much on a sausage-and-pepper sandwich (which has grease running out of it and down his elbows) as it is worth, and then asks himself, “Am I having fun now?”  He answers himself, “Well, now it is a habit, but 10 years ago it would have been loads of fun, and back then I wouldn't need the Prevacid.”

Those OFs who made it to the Blue Star Café in Schoharie, and not eating sausage and peppers for breakfast, were: Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, (and me) with our guests ( Art Williams, Hugh Williams, Jarrett Williams), Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Glenn Paterson, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Miner Stevens, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Jay Taylor, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Herb Swabota, Bill Krause, Ken Hughes, Don Moser, Lou Schenck, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Don Woods, Duncan Bellinger, Duane Wagenbaugh, Bob Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Gerry Chartier,  and Steve McDermott.

Before anything starts, this scribe has some old business to attend to. The scribe had an important date last Tuesday and left the breakfast a tad early, so now he must report that there were two attendees that arrived after he left.

So these men do not get into any trouble at home, or by some legal or illegal circumstance, please take note that they were at the breakfast on July 16. These OFs were Mike Willsey and Harold Grippen whose names did not appear on the roster of those in attendance last week.

The Old Men of the Mountain met this Tuesday, July 23, at the Country Café in Schoharie. The breakfast Tuesday morning had one of the largest number of OFs packed in any of the restaurants we frequent, and the names this time should total 35 plus one guest. (The poor waitress — she was not the guest).

With this number in attendance, one OF found a place in Cobleskill that would make the baseball-style caps with an OMOTM logo that the OMOTM wear on occasion. The OFs have had caps like this for awhile but many have been lost, or have gotten so cruddy they are not fit to wear in public, so this OF took orders for those who want to replace them, and for those who had never had one in the first place.

This OF could not have had a larger contingent of OFs to make his pitch to as he took this order — he sure wasn’t missing many OGs. 

At one time, an OF took the time to glue pins to the back of the New Hampshire quarter which depicted the "Old Man of the Mountain" as its centerpiece. This OF brought in enough of these "Old Man of the Mountain” pins to hand to all the OFs.

Many of the OFs took the pin and pinned it to the cap. Some of the OFs still wear this combination on their heads, especially if they go somewhere important. 

Maybe it’s a good thing that enough of these quarters were minted because the "Old Man of the Mountain" will be remembered for a long time especially in coin collectors’ collections.  Now, sadly, the face on the mountain is gone and it’s just a pile of rocks at the base of the cliff.

Neighborliness is a two-way street

One of the conversations we held was on good neighbors versus pain-in-the-butt neighbors. It was stated that this is a two-way street, and basically came down to this point — if you mind your own business, and respect those around you, then the OFs think things should turn out all right.

One problem that sets neighbors off is animals — especially dogs. That is one problem that the OFs can understand. Many people have dogs (including the OFs) but some people have curs, and therein lies the problem.

Yankees in the cellar?

A brief topic of conversation was about the Yankees; some OFs thought the Yankees are going to wind up in the cellar unless they somehow learn to hit the ball.

The OFs realize that the team is made up now of some triple-A players and, when they run out on the field with a name that is completely unfamiliar, and they don't look old enough to shave, the OFs slap their foreheads and say, “Oh no, where did he come from — has he graduated high school yet?”

Then some other OFs say to have faith because there is a lot of baseball left to be played, and the next Nick Swisher might be in triple-A and running out on the field.

Corn as high as an elephant’s eye

Remember the wet weather we had just a little while back? The OFs said this rainy weather was tough on their gardens; it is still the case, except for the corn.

As one OF said, “Boy, has that corn shot up. The local sweet corn may already be ready.”

The OF noticed much of the field corn tasseled out overnight. One OF mentioned that, when the farm stands open and the local fresh vegetables and fruits are ready, that is good eating.

The store-bought tomatoes are bright red, uniform in size, and taste like cardboard. A fresh local tomato, lumpy and off color, is a tomato and has a tomato taste.

One OF said a simple grilled-cheese sandwich with a fresh local tomato on it is better than a fifty-buck dinner in some fancy restaurant.

Another OG said that a couple of ears of local sweet corn, and a hamburger or a hotdog, some watermelon, and a cold beer — now that's a meal to write home about.

“All power”

Many of the OFs have an ongoing conversation on how the government is sticking its nose in our business. The original intent of government at its most basic level was to protect the people from threats, both within and without.

“Well, that has sure gone by the boards,” one OF opined.

Another OG added, “Now it seems you can't go to the bathroom because the government wants to pull down your pants, and allow you only two pieces of toilet paper.”

“It’s all power,” one more OF said, “and power is all a bully wants.  Power over a group, or an individual.”

You get the idea where this is headed but that is enough of that.

Those OFs who made it to the Country Café and just about filled up both rooms were: Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Mark Traver, George Washburn, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Bill Krause, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Duane Wagenbaugh, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Roger Fairchild, Herb Swaboda, Jay Taylor, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Maynard Porter, Tom Filkins, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Duncan Bellinger, Ted Willsey (and guest Denise), Elwood Vanderbilt, Bob Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Jim Rissacher, and me.

Location:

This Tuesday, July 16, the Old Men of The Mountain met at Mrs. K's Restaurant in Middleburgh and the day already started out hot.  What can anyone say about a day, like Tuesday, in the Hilltowns?

For most of the OFs, it was another day with routine chores to be done, normal doctor visits, trips to the store, haul the wife around, and, of course, breakfast with the Old Men.

Then the few who watch the news to get the weather see all that is going on in other places on Tuesday and say, “Thank goodness we are on the Hill (or in the valley of Schoharie for the most part); just leave us alone.” 

The OFs will take their aches and pains, and their problems and handle them themselves. These OFs are not whiners and they do not complain, “Why is everybody always picking on me?”

“Take your lumps and man up,” the OFs say. “This makes you a better person all around.”

Oh yes, it was Tuesday, the 16th of July.

Mining memories

The OFs starting talking about memories and how far back they could remember, really, on their own, not by being prompted by some suggesting they did something together, such as, “Hey, do you remember when we did such and such, or this and that?”

The question was just cold-calling memories and how far back could anyone recall. It wasn't that far back, not when the OFs were 2 to 6 years old, but, after 6 years of age, sometimes fuzzy thoughts would come about a specific recollection. 

Then that old adversary — time — entered in, and this might have altered the actual memory of what happened, according to the OFs.

Not many of the OFs could actually dredge up childhood memories. The OFs could remember events, and about the time these events might have occurred, but by now the OF was at least in school.

The memories were general, like no one knew they were poor because the OFs were all poor. The OFs have covered that topic before, but the memories, which were accurate, were inclusive in nature.

As the OFs became teenagers, or close to teenagers, the recollections became more vivid. The OFs do not know how true this is with others but cold-calling memories from really young ages without being coached is not a thing most of them could do.

Speaking of memories, when the OFs were young men, some memories are very vivid, especially for those that were in World War II — those memories will linger.

This was brought up by one OF mentioning that there are only four World War II veterans left in the town of Berne. This OF mentioned that something is being planned by the town of Berne for the vets of this era, but he did not elaborate. Whatever the plan is, we think it should have some music of the Big Band era included, along with a USO-type show, like those put on by the United Service Organizations.

The buzz

On a totally unrelated topic, one of the OFs has had a recent encounter with ground bees.  This OF reported that, fortunately, he was close to water and was able to jump in.

The OF said the bees were all over him but he did not report if he was able to get into the water quick enough so he did not receive too many stings — if any at all. This brought out bee stories again, and it seems many of the OFs have disturbed these little critters from time to time and had their tales of escape.

This raises the question: Would you rather have a tiger on your tail or thousands of bees chasing your butt? The OFs said the tiger, because at least you could shoot it, but with bees. even if you have a double-barrel shotgun, it would be impossible to stand and shoot at a swarm of bees that mad at you.

That would be like kicking the ocean because you are mad at it. One OF said you would be lucky to hit one bee.

Another OG said that, if you didn't have a gun, your goose is cooked no matter what.

Then another OF jumped in and claimed that at least he could wrestle with the tiger and something might happen in his favor, but how the h--- are you going to ward off thousands of ticked-off bees?

Ticked again

’Tis the season and the OFs started talking about ticks again and how the OFs prepare to mow the lawn. Of course, there is always one OF who has the ultimate answer, and his was, “Hey, the ticks are winning.  I just don't mow the lawn anymore. I have sheep and they do it for me.”

“Yeah, right,” was the reply.

Some OFs bundle up from head to toe; others spray themselves with Deet; others (and this was recommended no matter what protection is used) said that they check themselves thoroughly when done, either using mirrors or having the wife look at their backside.

Simpler times

Going back to the memory item, where and when did this all start?  The OFs do not remember ever worrying about things like ticks and bees. The OFs ran around barefoot, put in hay hatless and shirtless, and quite often in shorts.

They would lie in the grass or hide in the brush along hedgerows to shoot woodchucks, and some even had the occasional tussle in the hay. Nobody even heard of Lyme disease and, as far as the OFs know, nobody ever had it.

The OFs are OFs, and as a rule do not like a lot of the changes that are going on, and think many of these changes are not forward steps, but backward steps. They love their kids and grandkids but now think they coddled their kids too much, and that the kids today are overly coddled.

Times they are a-changin’. The OFs’ parents thought we would never amount to much with the ducktail haircuts, Elvis, the jitterbug, rock and roll, etc. The coup de grace was spending too much time on that new-fangled thing — the telephone. Tying up the party lines forever.

So one OF asked, “What's different now?”

“Not much,” another OF answered. “But at least we had manners, even if we had nothing.  Now the kids have, or want, everything, but what they don't have, and don’t even seem to want is manners.”

Those OFs who made it Mrs. K's Restaurant, in Middleburgh on a nothing Tuesday in July, but, hey, put a nick in the post all the OFs at Mrs. K's were: Roger Chapman, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Steve Kelly, Bill Bartholomew, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Roger Fairchild, Jay Taylor, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Ted Willsey, Duane Wagenbaugh, Bob Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Carl Walls, Miner Stevens, Don Woods, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Lou Schenck, Ken Hughes, Don Moser, Jim Rissacher, and me (and that makes it a very important day indeed.)

Location:

High-flying cake: Inspired by an Old Men of the Mountain column, the Masons in Berne held a gathering celebrating the C-130, which featured this cake, designed by Dana Sherman’s daughter, Debbie, the bakery manager for Price Chopper. She researched the planes, and Price Chopper made the photos into something edible and delicious, according to the OMOTM scribe, John R. Williams.

On Tuesday, July 2, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. Up in the Helderbergs, as the OFs imagine around most of the Hilltowns, driving can be a challenge at times.

Tuesday morning, the OFs complained about the drizzle and the fog with one OF missing his turn because he could not see through the patch of fog and he became lost for a spell. Most of the OFs ran into the same situation — fog, drizzle, rain, clear, then repeat, then repeat the repeat. Still in all, many made it to the Hilltown Café and filled it up.

The banter was fast and went from one topic to another, starting with barn cats and farm animals; to how many miles waitresses and waiters put on their shoes, running back and forth to kitchen cabinets and countertops; to airplanes; to the sugar-added coal tar called syrup, and the real stuff from the maple tree; to gardens, hearing aids, snakes and turtles, whales and dolphins; to the design of the newer cars; and getting old. Now all this scribe needs to do is expound on these without getting wordy.

The OFs who had farms had barn cats — lots of barn cats, and no mice, or, if there were any, they didn't last long. Sliding back the stable door in the morning — especially in the fall, winter, and early spring — a farmer saw all the animals would start to stir with the sound.

The cows lying down would start to stand and the cats that would sleep on a particular cow, generally at the back hip or right on top, would jump down, and the others would show up from their own hiding places in the barn, and gather for their morning ration of warm, fresh milk.

One OF mentioned that he couldn’t remember ever feeding the cats anything, just the morning and evening milk. Most of these cats were untouchable; a few were friendly and could be petted.

Sometimes, one OF said, his mom would pick a couple out for pets, and they were house cats but again not fed anything like cat food — they ate what the dogs ate: scraps and mice.

The OFs also discussed the way the cats were taken care of when they became injured, or had distemper, or how most of the animals that became incapacitated were dealt with. It was humane, and done with a considerable amount of sadness, but in many cases prevented the spread of certain diseases. Today every farmer would be arrested.

Reptiles know where they want to go

In the spring and in the fall, the turtles migrated from one place to another. Many of the OFs have watched some of these migrations for years.

A couple of OFs said they have pictures of snapping turtles that must be 14 to 16 inches across but they are not going to monkey with these things to find out if they are 14 and 3/4 or 16 and 1/2. Two of these critters are so old they are green with mold on the top of their shells.

One OF said that there is one that crosses the road going from a winter swamp to a summer pond, and this sucker is huge. The neighbors and this OF have stood on either side of the turtle and stopped traffic until it is able to complete this part of its journey. The turtle ambles halfway across the road and has to stop before continuing on; the road crossing takes at least 15 minutes.

Trying to alter the direction of a box turtle, or any other turtle, is fruitless.  They just turn around and proceed in the direction they chose.

One OF said he saw a turtle head toward a swampy area, and the turtle was out in the blazing sun so the OF picked it up and took it to where he thought it was headed in the swampy area and put it down and left it. He came back, he said, in a couple of hours and there was the same turtle in the blazing sun a few feet from where he picked it up still headed in the direction of the swampy area. Go figure.

The OFs don't know how much of this is just coincidence in each separate encounter with these creatures or if that is true with all of them because one OF said he found the same thing happens with snakes — not just one but quite a few.

This OF said his wife did not like snakes up around the house and he said he did not want to kill them because they were so helpful to the environment, so he would gather them up, put them in his pocket, or in a backpack, and take them about a mile or so away and let them go in a hedgerow. The OF said, no matter how many he hauled away, they still had snakes.

One day, the OF saw a snake head for the stone steps leading to his house, so he grabbed at it and missed. On the second grab, he was quite a ways to the back of the snake and the major portion of the snake was in the hole.

The OF said those suckers can pull, but he pulled harder and the tail broke so now the snake had a Z-shaped tail. The OF took it and let it go where he generally let the others go.

Two days later, what is going down that same hole?  The snake with the broken tail.

“No wonder I couldn't get rid of them,” the OF said. “They just kept coming back.”

Countertop conundrum

The OFs talked about countertops, and the new craze of granite or stone or concrete countertops. All the OFs who were in on the discussion advised against using this type of countertop.

Two of the OFs said, not only did the contractor advise against it when remodeling their kitchen, but so did the supplier.

One OF said, when they were doing their kitchen, they were at the supplier looking at the granite displays they had and the kitchen designer hesitated, and said she would gladly sell the OF the granite because it was a lot more money but she did not think the OF would be happy with it. In this case, the contractor said the same thing.

One OF said they were advised against getting these glass-top stoves, by, again, the contractor and the supplier.

Hmm.  Do they know something the rest of us don't?

One OF said his countertop is tile that he installed himself, with his own design, breaking pieces of tile, and grouting them in. Some of the OFs are more talented than others.

Those OFs who attended the breakfast at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and always attempt to find their way home, even from Rensselaerville, were: Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Bill Krause, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Jay Taylor, Herb Swabota, Steve McDermott, Roger Fairchild, Dave Williams, Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Ken Hughes, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Bill Rice, Henry Whipple, Duane Wagenbaugh, Ted Willsey, Bill Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Gerry Chartier, and me.

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