The Home Front Café in Altamont on Tuesday, Feb. 10, was open and welcomed the Old Men of the Mountain with open arms. The proprietor was there with his self-proclaimed ratty clothes, which the OFs could understand very well, as all the OFs are accustomed to the same basic ratty-clothes syndrome.
To many of the OFs, the ratty clothes are the most comfortable, and because they are already ratty it is not necessary to worry about spilling anything on them from mustard to motor oil to paint and turpentine.
The proprietor admitted, though, that the shop is his and the house is the wife’s. A man’s home is his castle — baloney: The home belongs to the distaff side.
In other words, the OFs came up with the right way to label how domestic life really is. The stable is the king’s, and the castle belongs to the queen.
The proprietor admitted that the ratty clothes never make it to the house; he changes in the mudroom. That is not a bad idea. A guy’s clothes full of diesel fuel, or gas, or turpentine or even sawdust can stink up a house royally.
The OFs had to admit that sometimes clothes can become too ratty — hence, dangerous. Wearing oil-soaked coveralls day in and day out, then take the hose from an oxygen bottle of acetylene torch set to blow off some grime, then get near an open flame and — whoosh; there had better be a fire extinguisher handy, or else the local “Digger Odell’s” calendar with the phone number on it should be close by.
The OFs mentioned that we are having a perfect winter for roof ice dams. One OF mentioned that he has already had a problem with water in the living room from backed-up runoff produced by the ice dams.
Another OF said it is how your house is positioned, and the way the wind blows, that causes these icicles. Still another OG advised us to get out early and rake the snow off the roof — that also helps.
That is fine if the OF is physically able to do that, or the house is low enough. If the house is an old country home, two stories tall, that is another thing.
One OF recommended moving downstairs and not heating the upstairs might help to keep the snow so it doesn’t melt from underneath and icicles don’t form. The OFs have been through many winters and all have different ways of handling the weather of the Northeast. Each seems quite different, but all of them seem to work.
This next story concerns an OF who started his Cub Cadet tractor up with the snow blower attachment on it and then he proceeded to clean his driveway. Simple, right?
The OFs do something like this all the time. This OF had the driveway cleared and was out in the road cleaning it up and the tractor died. That yellow machine stopped right there in the road.
What the @#$%$# is wrong with this thing? The OF got off and checked the tractor all over and then noticed it was out of gas. Duh!
Most OFs check the gas in the lawn mower, chainsaw, weed whacker, and snow blowers before they start out. This OF went to the garage and found he happened to have a couple of cups of gas in the gas can, just enough to get the tractor started and out of the road then back to the garage. Darn good thing this OF doesn’t fly a plane.
The OFs had to advise the OG that it is important to check your equipment before it is used.
This OF said, “Hey, once you fill a snow blower or tractor up with gas that’s it.” He actually said, with a twinkle in his good eye, “You only have to do that once, right.”
Even though it is winter, somehow the OFs began talking about hornets, and bees, and being chased by these critters, and really getting stung.
It was decided among the OFs that the hornets in the ground were the nastiest. They do not like to be messed with. One OF mentioned the honeybees from Russia; they, too, do not like to be bothered.
This same OF mentioned he saw what he believed was a column of bees leaving a series of hives not just one hive. This OF said the column of bees was three to four feet in diameter and reached higher than the trees, which he guessed were 30 to 40 feet tall.
He checked with the beekeeper and he was right — the bees were all gone. The OFs wondered what spooked the bees to take flight and desert those hives. (Scribe’s note, the English language is at time strange. Bees live in hives, and people get hives. Not being too swift on this type of thing, this scribe wonders: What is the connection?)
This conversation prompted an OF to add that the smallest mammal known is the bumblebee bat. Now, what again prompted this? How the mind rattles things around and ties weird parts of a conversation into other weird parts of a completely different conversation. (There the OFs go again: A bat hits a ball, and a bat eats bugs, go figure).
Those OMOTM that showed up at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and in halfway decent clothes except the OF with the battery-acid-eaten pants (and yet another story) were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Henry Whipple, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.
On Tuesday, Feb. 3, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown.
There were two things that were on the special side of last Tuesday morning’s breakfast. One is that they (whoever they are) say that the rodent in Punxsutawney saw his shadow. The eyes of that animal have to be pretty sharp to be able to see his shadow through all the snow and sleet that was in that area on Tuesday.
One OF asked: How can he not see his shadow with all those TV lights glaring from the stations covering the event.
The second thing was (as one OF put it): Only the hardy OFs showed up for Tuesday’s breakfast. That may or may not be true.
The OFs who did make it found the roads in good shape, but it was cold in the valleys. One OF reported they went through 12 degrees below zero, and another said that, when he left his home on the top of the hill, it was plus two degrees, and at the bottom of the hill it was minus five degrees.
Other than that, the road crews are to be commended on the conditions of the roads in the Hilltowns and surrounding environs. All the cars the OFs encountered (with the rare occasion of some jerk probably late for work) were moving about 40 miles an hour and they kept at safe distances from other vehicles.
At least where the OFs were headed — Princetown — it was not that bad, just a normal Northeast winter morning, zero degrees, and snow.
The hiking OMOTM were discussing bridge-building again. The new bridge they were talking about covers quite a span. The beams for the bridge are 40 feet so the OFs were discussing how to tackle a job of this size.
This bridge is to be located at Minekill, which was developed years ago as part of the Gilboa hydroelectric project. Many of the OFs have visited the Minekill State Park, and the Blenheim-Gilboa visitors’ center at Lansing Manor.
Like Thacher Park, this park also has many interesting events going on and in the summer it is worth the trip. The winter may be a little hairy unless the OFs don’t mind driving winter roads through the mountains.
Check it out on the net, and see some of the areas that the hikers of the OFs help maintain.
The OFs talked about solar panels, and one of the OFs explained how he has covered the south section of his roof with solar panels. This OF clarified that he rents the panels for a certain amount of money a month, and the installation cost him nothing.
He has not received his first statement yet to see how he is doing; that is how new the system is. If this scribe can decipher his notes, the OF rents these solar units at a certain price for a given period of time.
I believe the OF said 20 years. (The OF hopes he makes 20 years. The secret to long life is to set goals far away into the future then try to make it.) And he gets to use all the electricity for free.
What he saves in his power bill should either pay for all his utilities or come close to it. This OF made a good pitch for those with south-facing roofs.
The OFs also talked about Schoharie, including those counties and towns that were affected by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and how these places are still feeling the punches that storm wrought. One OF mentioned this is similar to the tremendous ice storm that hit Plattsburgh and the small towns in that locality many years ago; the damage was still visible years later.
Even now some of the OFs who travel that way say a few repairs are still not made. This was brought about with a discussion on the Parrott House, which precipitated from a discussion on how many people were are in Schoharie with the murder trial going on at the courthouse that was brought there as a change of venue from Oneonta. (Boy, how conversations tie seemingly unrelated events together.)
The Parrott House was built in 1870 and was known as the Eagle Hotel. A fire that same year that destroyed several buildings, started in the hay barn there, and the proprietor was William Parrott Jr.
The OFs can’t quite remember that far back (1870) but they do remember when the Parrott House was more or less the place to see and be seen, with the bowling alley in the basement where, as youngsters, some of the OFs set pins. Square dances, Christmas parties and all sorts of special events were held at the Parrott House.
Sometimes, over the years, the food was great and other times it was not so hot. That all depended on the owners and who was in the kitchen.
Now the Parrott House just sits there looking so sad, waiting for a buyer. Hence the discussion of the flood.
The winter weather came up again, and many of the OFs remembered how they didn’t mind the snow and the cold a few years back. The winter activities were fun and invigorating.
Ice-skating was one activity particularly enjoyed and the village of Schoharie came up with a new, lighted ice skating rink. The OFs remembered shoveling snow off the pond, and making places to skate. They recall having bonfires and hot chocolate and skating.
Ah, the remembrances of tobogganing — the OFs don’t know if tobogganing is done much anymore. Skiing with long wooden skis held on by the OFs’ farmer boots, with felt liners and wool socks and toasty feet, and just springs for bindings.
We were towed up to the top of the hill with a rope tow wrapped around a tractor tire. One OF thought we had more fun that way than kids do today with their fancy expensive outfits, being more concerned about how they look than having fun and learning to ski.
The OFs who made to the Chuck Wagon in Princetown, by not being scared by the weather guys, and appreciating the hard work by the road crews, whether they worked for the town, county, or state, were: Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Robie Osterman, Mace Porter, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Harold Grippen, Gil Zabel, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.
The Old Men of the Mountain went to bed on Monday night, Jan. 26, along with everybody else scared out of their wits, because the OFs thought they were going to wake up to the storm of the century. That is not too hard to do seeing as how we are only beginning the 15th year of the century.
However, what the OFs woke up to was nothing, notta, zilch. Route 88 was dry, Route 7 was wet in spots, and the secondary roads had a tad of snow on them in certain locations. However, as the reader will note at the end of this little report, that news did keep some of the OFs at home; the names of the hardy ones who made it to the Duanesburgh Diner in Duanesburgh are listed here.
Needless to say, the first topic of the morning was the weather, or the non-weather, at least for the localities of the OFs. Some OFs reported hearing the snowplows going by early in the morning with their plows down spewing sparks. The OFs are sure there was a reason for this, and noted that, for one thing, plows are better than an alarm clock to wake the OFs up. One OF mentioned, when the weather people are right, he is glad the plows are out there because if he can get out of his driveway he is sure the roads will be passable.
One OF said he went to Price Chopper on Monday and the place was a zoo. Especially down the aisle for soda and potato chips. Another OF said that it probably had nothing to do with the weather; people were just making sure they had their goodies ahead of time combining the “storm of the century” on its way, and the Super Bowl coming up
“Well, it was packed,” the OF said. “And, when stores are packed like that, I can’t think,” the OF concluded. “It is lucky I came home with anything close to what was needed, and I did forget one of the things I was sent to the store for.”
“You OG, you would have done that anyway, even if it was a balmy, sunny day and only two people were in the store,” another OF retorted. “You are just like the rest of us — you need a list!”
The OFs continued chatting about the weather that didn’t happen. One OF mentioned that weather people don’t make unreliable forecasts on purpose.
What if the next time a storm is really coming and people have a tendency to think back to this one and not take it seriously — go about their business and there are lives lost. What is the weather guy going to do then? Say, “I told you so?”
This discussion was weather-related, especially to us, because so far this has been a cold winter in our area.
The OFs also talked about ice fishing. The way the weather has been, the OFs have noticed a few ice-fishing contests are being advertised.
One thing the OFs noted was that the ice should be thick enough to support a tank. Some of the OFs used to ice fish, and some may still haul out the tip-ups, bundle up, and get out there on the ice.
With all the ice huts that are available now, they are like man-caves out on the ice — comfy and well-stocked. The movie Grumpy Old Men depicted this sport very well.
The OFs talked about the size of some of the fish that were hauled out of the lakes while ice fishing and this led to a brief discussion on Thompsons Lake and Warner Lake. One OF mentioned that fish should have a good place to winter in Thompsons Lake because it is so deep.
This OF said that Thompsons Lake was a kettle, and about 600 to 800 feet deep. In checking this out, it was found that this OF added a 0. Thompsons Lake is about 60 to 80 feet deep. That’s deep enough for fish to winter anyhow.
Some of the OFs were snowplow operators on the Thruway. One OF said that one day the forecast was for a large storm so everyone was called in to get ready.
The storm did not show up — at least initially. The supervisor (to keep everyone busy because the workers were there and many on overtime pay) assumed there wasn’t going to be a severe storm.
He had the operators paint the snowplows. The operators, like good little soldiers, started painting the plows. They were just about finished when the storm hit like a ton of bricks.
Out they went to do battle with the elements; however, many of the plow blades had just been painted. This wet paint came off and mixed with the snow and, when all those anxious drivers who were in such a big hurry passed the plows, their windshields became covered with yellow-painted snow. The OF said many of the vehicles had to have the paint taken off with lacquer thinner.
Weather is what it is
As reported before, most of the OFs are not news junkies, except when the weather people are giving the weather. Once they catch the weather report, most of the OFs then go on about their business.
The weatherman on Channel 6 apparently got it right and said he did not expect that much snow in our area. Again it is “apparently” — the other guys were in panic mode.
“What did we do?” was a rhetorical question asked by the OFs when all we had were crystal sets.
As stated before, weather is what it is — deal with it! Help those who need help, and you should try to be like the ant and not the cricket. The OFs have spoken.
The hardy OFs that made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg, on well-maintained roads as good as summertime were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, and me.
Tuesday, Jan. 20, the Old Men of the Mountain charged off to the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie, where the breakfasts are man-sized. One OF who generally orders a la carte enough for two or three OFs ordered just one item from the special board and needed a box to take some of it home; this OF does not have a dog.
As we get older, the OFs (as we get older — wasted words — the OFs are old) have a fear of falling. The OFs consider that fear is one of the best reasons for using Tim Conway steps in the wintertime in many places.
This was brought about by the icy driveways from the one day that the temperature climbed to above freezing and then went right back down. All the driveways and most of the walkways of the OFs were like that — ice under a coating of light snow.
The OFs definitely do not want their feet to skid out from underneath them as they crash to the frozen ground. Two problems are now in place: Either something is going to become broken, or the OGs will be down and won’t be able to get up.
Being down and not able to get up is a problem at any time, and any place. Some OFs carry a cane, not that they need it to walk with, but often times, when the OFs bend down to pick something up, they need something to push on to get back up.
The OFs also talked about all these multi-car pileups all over the country — and this is a big country. The OFs wondered why there have been so many in recent times. There have been icy roads before and nothing like the magnitude of cars that are involved in these pileups.
The OFs had some reasons why this is happening. The best reason is “too close, too fast” and that coupled with distracted driving makes the matter even worse. From the videos, it looks like most of these vehicles never even slowed down.
As one OF’s nephew’s wife said in exasperation (as she was being pressured into getting things ready for Thanksgiving): “What’s the freaking rush?”
That is exactly what the OFs were wondering — what is the freaking rush? Where is everybody going in such a hurry?
One OF blamed it on the new cars. The OFs have mentioned this before, and it seems like the OFs are prophets in a sense.
The older cars required concentration to drive. The OFs had to listen to the engine and know when it began to lug and the vehicle had to shift down. Conversely, as the engine began to rev up and run free, it was time to shift up.
The OFs also had to know how to take turns using speed, slowing down when entering a turn, and adding power halfway through the turn, because there were not many vehicles with power steering.
Today, cars practically drive themselves, the cabins are quiet, and most ride smooth, like old Chryslers or Buicks. Today, after driving five miles, the driver has a tendency to lose concentration, and, to substitute for all this, the drivers today go to their tunes, or phones, or whatever to keep from being so bored driving they might fall asleep.
Looking at those videos of the pileups, the OFs think that many drivers of cars and trucks that kept piling into the mess ahead of them were in that state of mind.
The OFs continued discussing driving.
One of the OFs returned from visiting family in Atlanta, Georgia so many of the OFs who have been to the Atlanta area began to talk about traffic in and around that city.
At times, on the major roads around any big city, strangers who are not sure of where they are going may be in one of the center lanes and see the sign for their exit. Now it becomes a big whoop if the driver can get over to exit at his or her exit.
Traffic may carry the uninitiated driver down two exits before he or she can exit. (Canada has alleviated this problem by installing “collector lanes” that allow one to move over and select his or her exit from the comfort of this lane).
One OF said he thinks it is the time of day because this OF was on one of these roads in Atlanta and in one of the center lanes when he spotted his exit. The OF put on his blinker, and a tractor-trailer in the next lane over slowed up and let the OF in.
To get over into the next lane, a tow truck slowed up and let him in, and to get into the final lane (so the OF could get off at his exit, which was approaching rather quickly) a city bus slowed and let him in the far right-hand lane and the OF made his exit. Just like anything else, at times it is not all bad, but it is scary. Yet it is still too close, too fast.
Hearing about hiking
We have mentioned before that some of the OFs are hikers and we’ve told of some of the work they do to maintain trails and hiking destinations. Tuesday morning, the hikers were talking about their hiking.
It should be noted that this scribe is not a hiker — this scribe is more of a lover, a thinker, and a painter of where the hikers hike.
Apparently, like all enthusiasts of whatever hobbies they have, weather does not deter them and these OFs were talking about hiking, working on trails, and contending with whiteouts. More of the OFs should bundle up and get outside even for a little bit.
These OFs maintain that just 20 minutes or so of good clean air will help keep you fit. Plus the added exercise of donning 15 pounds of clothes just to get out would help in the fitness department too.
Those OFs who put on just enough clothes to make it to the Country Café in Schoharie, and use calories to keep warm, were: Roger Shafer, Chuck Aleseio, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Roger Chapman, Frank Pauli, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, and me.
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.
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.