On May 5, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the “Your Way Café” in Schoharie.  Years ago, there was a “My Way Café” on Route 9 around Clifton Park. This particular café was all done up with Frank Sinatra paraphernalia; however, the one in Schoharie has no such motif.

It is a clever name implying how you might want your food prepared, but, on the other hand, this may lead to some discussion between patron and cook.  There was none of that discussed with the OFs; everything came in large portions, and just as ordered.

The OFs for the most part are grandparents, and a few are great-grandparents, so, when the OFs start talking about their own grandparents, the conversation is going back a ways. That is what some of the OFs were doing Tuesday morning.

They were remembering what they did with their grandparents, and what type of people they were and what they talked about.  For instance, say the OF is 80, and the grandparent of the OF was 80, and the OF is remembering when he was 7 to 10 years old, and the grandparent was remembered when they were 25 to 30 years old. Now the OFs are talking of events around 128 to 130 years ago. That is getting back there.

Even though this has been mentioned many times before, we spoke again of how the parents of the OFs went from horse and buggy to men on the moon. Some OFs’ parents went from the Great Depression, to the Regan era.

Most all of the OFs’ parents went from farming with horses to tractors that drive themselves. One OF mentioned that we could see the progression of time then, and even when the OF was in the work force. This OF continued ruminating that now the progression of time is so fast that what is new today is obsolete tomorrow.

One OF said, “I love it.  I would like to be 6 or 7 years old now and just see what the world will be like in another 60 to 70 years.”

Another OF chimed in, “Yeah, if this old planet is still here and we haven’t blown it up by then.”

New cars for old hands

How the OFs segued into new cars from this previous conversation is almost understandable, because one OF just purchased a new vehicle for his wife (yeah, right).  This might have been the reason for the discussion that followed.

It was brought up that some of the new cars do not supply even a “doughnut” for a spare tire. The vehicle comes with a can of “Fix-a-Flat.”

“That stuff does work,” one OF said. “But it’s a mess, and what if you sliced your tire on a piece of angle iron, how is ‘Fix-a-Flat’ going to fix that flat?”

The OFs remember when cars came with two spare tires, one in each front fender. A couple of the OFs noted cars came with a parts book, and even tools for the parts that required specialty tools.

Along with that, the cars had lines; each make and model was different, and it was possible to tell which model was which. One OF said, when a bank robber was making his getaway years ago, the witnesses could say the car was a 1935, black, four-door Buick custom sedan, and the police would know what they were looking for.

Today, all they can say is, “It was a gray car, Officer, or maybe it was a pickup truck.”

The witness might be able to identify a red SUV. That’s about it. If it was a Honda, or Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Chevy, hey, they all look alike!            

When the OFs were YFs, they used to play a game on trips called “name that car.” When a car was spotted coming at them, they would start calling out the name and make of the car when it was just a dot on the horizon.

“Plymouth Coupe,” someone would shout, and everyone else would say, “Oh nuts,” because the friend or sibling spotted it first. It would be rare that somebody else would call a different car.

Plastic tractors

After reminiscing about cars, the OFs talked about tractors, especially lawn tractors, and mentioned the new ads they have seen from Cub Cadet. There was a time when International made the Cub Cadet and it was made like a tractor, now it is made by MTD, and just as tinny.

Only it’s really not “tinny” and an OF implied the tractors are all plastic and that stuff doesn’t last five or six years before it starts to crack, and things loosen up.

Another OF said, “You can’t hammer dents out of plastic, and you can’t weld a stiffer piece onto where you have a problem.”

“Not made to last, like lots of other equipment,” one OF opined. “We are a throw-away society, planned obsolescence, tough and long lasting is a joke.”

Another OF asked, “Have you ever tried to get a part for something older than five years?”  This OF said, “If an OF buys something they really like, they should buy two of these products. That way, you can start up the second one when the first one goes bad, and then the first one can become a parts machine.”

“Not a bad idea,” one OF replied.

The frog that got away

Now for a completely unrelated story (and it’s too bad the OF did not have a camera for this one). The OF said that he was out getting the garden ready and he saw a snake trying to eat a frog.

The snake had half the frog in his mouth and the half of the frog that wasn’t in the snake’s mouth was holding on a stick trying not to go down the snake’s throat. The OF relating this tale said that he did not know how a snake could eat something that large.

He also said he got a stick and struck the snake so the frog got away. The OF did not elaborate on how long this took, or how it happened, but that is what he said anyway.

Those OFs who made their way to the “Your Way Café” in Schoharie and inaugurated their first breakfast in a familiar building with the new name were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Dave Williams, Dick Ogsbury, Otis Lawyer, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Karl Remmers, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Don Wood, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Bill Krause, and me.

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Sometimes Tuesday rolls around so fast, and at other times it seems like it will never get here. Tuesday, April 28, seemed like it was the day after the 21st; it was here in a flash. On the 28th, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Country Café in Schoharie.

One of the OFs mentioned he needed new semi-dress pants so the OF bought what was his size, or at least he thought it was his size; when he tried them on at home, the button came nowhere near the button hole. The OF was not ashamed to mention the size he purchased, which was “Dockers 40” x 30”. So the OF looked at the size of the jeans he had on and they were 38” x 29”, and fit perfectly.

In order to get a pair of Dockers to fit, the OF said he would have to go to 42 or maybe even 44. The OF continued complaining that, if he purchased jeans that size, there would be room for another person.

Then an OF mentioned there is the same problem with shoes. He tried on a pair of 10W and they were so tight, they curled his toes — he looked at the shoes he had on and they were 10W.

What is it with shoes and clothes? Don’t they know how to read a ruler?

“If I am building a shed,” one OF said, “and I need a 2x4 cut 50 and 1/8 inches, by golly, it had better be 50 and 1/8 inches.”

How can there be such discrepancies in wearing apparel?  38” is 38” — no ifs, ands, or buts.

The OF with the shoes said he tried 10W by the same manufacturer, only a different style, and that one slipped up and down on his heel, and looked as big as a small swimming pool yet it was marked 10W, on the box, and in the shoe.

The question the OMOTM are asking is: How in the world do manufacturers size clothes?  If they screw up sizing simple men’s clothing (which is basically just shirts and pants), what in world do they do with women’s clothes and shoes?

This must be some sort game with these people to see how many trips people will have to make back and forth to the store, or how long they can keep them shopping in the store so they will purchase other items. The question still remains: How can there be such discrepancies because reading a ruler is not that hard?  

New bulbs

We have gone from the incandescent lamps and bulbs to those new energy-saving bulbs that can catch fire, and now the OFs say we are into the age of LED lighting. The OFs don’t seem to mind this new type of lighting. Light-emitting diodes seem safe and use very little power.

The OFs still haven’t adjusted to the energy-saving bulbs. These things do not always fit the fixtures, or the lamps. Some of the OFs say they think that the light from the energy-saving bulbs gives them headaches. One OF wondered if there has been a study done on this phenomenon.

Concerns over the fate of fox kits

Switching to another topic, we hear that some of the OFs have spotted red fox around with their kits. Foxes are neat animals to have around.  They are timid and not at all aggressive.

“Foxes,” one OF said, “are like snakes.  They keep the rodents and other unwanted pests down.”

The first OF said the fox that hangs around his place had four or five kits, which is about average for a litter of fox pups. But the OF said, in the last couple of days, he hasn’t seen the kits, or heard them and he is afraid some other animal has got them (like a cat or bird) because, when born, they are very small, only about four ounces or so.

One OF suggested it might even be a coon that got them because in the same area they have spotted a couple of coons.

Draft could fix brats

The Navy guys were at it again.  This time was on how well most sailors eat.

Apparently the cooks in the Navy are well trained, because this has been brought up before. This scribe thinks that a cook aboard ship had better get it right; the cook has no place to run and hide, particularly on the smaller ships of 120 men or less.

When the OFs were YFs, there was a thing called the draft. Everyone was given a draft number and, if that number came up, that was it — you were off to the military.

For many guys, it was the best thing that happened to them (when the OFs were YFs, it was guys; girls did not get drafted — they could enlist but were not drafted).  The camaraderie and the stories of events that happened in this period of the OFs’ lives continues well into the senior years to bring people together who have had the same, or similar, experiences.

Some OFs think there should still be a mandatory draft to teach some of today’s spoiled, bratty kids discipline and respect. The back talk and sass some of the kids give their parents and teachers make the OFs cringe, and sometimes it is the way their own grandkids treat their parents.

One OF said, “Should you back talk or sass just once to some tough, old drill sergeant, you wouldn’t say or do that again to anybody.”

One OF had a kid in his unit who was a real wimp, and who couldn’t even ride a bicycle, but during basic training he toughened up a bit and was assigned to a tank division. He became a tank driver, and in two to three weeks he was putting a Sherman tank through its paces as a tank commander. There is a young man who will go home a completely different person.

Those OFs who made it to the Country Café on Main Street in Schoharie, and were all dressed in clothes that seemed to fit, were: Roger Shafer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Chuck Aleseio, Dave Williams, Miner Stevens, Dick Ogsbury, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Roger Chapman, Steve Kelly, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, (who got a hug and a kiss from the waitress who is his granddaughter), Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Mace Porter, Duncan Bellinger, Jim Rissacher, Gill Zabel, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, and me. 

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On Tuesday, April 21, the Old Men of the Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh where the OFs (who the wives kick out of the house so they can have some peace) gather to complain.

One item that has been on the OFs’ agenda for complaints is burning barrels in the country. In most towns, there is a ban on burning barrels

Middleburgh had a prime example of why the banning of burning barrels is important, and necessary. Just south of Middleburgh is Huntersland and on Sunday, April 19, a fire in a burn barrel got out of hand, and 80 acres of woods was eventually burned because of it.

It would have been far worse if the fire departments responding did not get that blaze under control.  It took 12 fire companies to complete the task of corralling this fire.

Some of the OFs, particularly those who actually live in Huntersland, were with the second truck there. These OFs spent the whole day fighting that fire; the wind made this quite a challenge.

At one time, they thought they would have to evacuate a couple of homes on top of the mountain but all the work these people did in fighting the fire and the extreme effort these volunteers put out had it under control and it was not necessary to evacuate anyone.

The rains of Monday night were a big help all the way around. The woods were becoming prone to fires because they were so dry. One OF reported that, while Conesville was aiding in fighting this fire, they had calls that two fires had broken out in their own fire district.

This is a good example of first responders, and volunteers in “volunteer” fire companies demanding much more respect than is given by many people. These “volunteers” don’t demand anything, they are our neighbors, brothers and sisters, and it is just what they do.  Some day, the family they save may be their own.

Serendipity

It never ceases to amaze this scribe at what transpires around the breakfast tables when the OMOTM are gathered. One OF who we have mentioned in previous columns has a serious health problem and is unable to walk.

With his insurance running out, he will not be able to remain in the facility he is in where he is getting the physical therapy he needs. This OF has a full-size van as a vehicle, which was his means of transportation before his problem set in.

OK!  That sets up the following scene.

Some of the OFs go and play cards with the OF who requires the therapy and they were discussing his plight of transportation while playing cards and the probability that he will require a lift van to get in and out to go to therapy. They were talking with the OF in the facility about the possibility that he might need another van, or else try to obtain one of those lifts that goes out the back installed in his current vehicle.

When this conversation was repeated at the breakfast Tuesday morning, one OF pipes up, “Ya know, I have one of those lifts, brand new and complete with wiring, in my garage.  If someone here knows how to install it, he can have it.”

You never know when the OFs who collect things are going to have just the thing another OF will need. If one OF needs a siren, another OF will have one.

This scribe has mentioned these types of scenarios before, but this has to be one of the better ones. Who would expect someone to require a wheelchair lift, and another one who happens to be in on the conversation to have a wheelchair lift just lying around. Go figure!

The follow-up will be to see if all this comes to pass. This will be a win-win for all involved.

The OF who needs the lift will have a lift and his life may be much better for it. The OF who has the lift (for no apparent reason other than the opportunity came up) was given it while he was picking up other items he bought at an estate sale.

The OF who now has the lift will have more space to store his unusual, and so far, great finds. To many of the OFs, the Lord has his hand in the pot from who knows when to wind up who knows where when it will be needed.

Keepers and chuckers

At another location at the same table, there was a discussion on the blood connection of a couple of the OFs. The OFs had just discussed cemeteries, and now they are on the same hallowed ground only with a different take — this was taking names from old burial records and matching them to tombstones. One OF brought in the records and it included the genealogy and photos of tombstones and the burial records.

The OFs for the most part are the type of people who respect what has gone on in the past and who the OFs are and how they got here. Most are the keeper type. Then there are the type of people who, if they don’t need or use it in 10 days, out it goes. There is no junk, or collectibles here, but the OFs have found that quite often the early chuckers depend a lot on the keepers, or pickers, or the “some day I will have a use for that’ type of OF.

The OFs believe in the barter system, and, if you have nothing to barter with — neither stuff nor time nor talent — you are in trouble in this group.

The OFs who found room at the tables in Mrs. K’s Restaurant, in Middleburgh, were: Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Dick Ogsbury, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Steve Kelly, Henry Witt, John Rossmann, Miner Stevens, Karl Remmers, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Otis Lawyer, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Don Wood, Warren Willsey, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Harold Grippen, Jim Rissacher, and me.

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Ah! Tuesday, April 14, was finally a decent day. The Old Men of the Mountain who were gathered up by their designated drivers for this particular Tuesday wound up at the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh.

As time goes by, and the OFs become older OFs, those who were hard of hearing years ago are now more so. When three of the older OFs who are hard of hearing are seated together, there is a lot of staring off into space because all these OFs hear is the “Peanuts” speak of the TV shows, where Charlie Brown’s Christmas and the adult sounds are wah, wah, wahha, wa, wa.

That is what these OFs hear, because their hearing aids are on the dresser or in a drawer in the kitchen. Those things only work one on one, and only when it is relatively quiet. This scribe speaks from experience because he is one of the three sitting together.

Milk glut

In the column from a couple of weeks ago, the OMOTM mentioned the security of having a job with a farm in the family. Farmers who are involved with the OMOTM shared recent news of there being a glut of milk in our area of the Northeast; the co-op that handles the milk from some of these large dairies in the area are not going to take their milk because they have too much milk.

This became quite a discussion with these OFs. The OFs harkened back to many of the OFs’ heritage that of being farmers.

This is very shortsighted on the part of the co-op because many times when there is an over abundance of any commodity that is used on a regular basis and the powers that be decide to cut back, instead of cut down, eventually the abundance is used up and they have to gear up to meet the new demand.

After the farmers who were in the co-op are forced to sell all their cows because they can’t afford to stay in business, the OFs ask: Now what? It takes awhile to grow a cow.

One OF wondered, who is running this co-op? He asked, “Isn’t a co-op formed just to prevent this type of happening, and shouldn’t it work on behalf of those in the co-op?”

Another OF said, “The final outcome of the problem is still in the air as of this Tuesday.”

There may be a resolution to resolve the problem in the works as this is being typed.

Then some of the OFs got on the doomsayers of the press as they waddle in the mud of doom and gloom. So much for that!

Doom and gloom

Speaking of gloom and doom, the OFs entered into the conversation by speaking about how many of the OFs are having breakfast on a cloud in the sky. The OFs traveled back in time to the beginning and found the group on the cloud is larger in numbers now than the group at the Middleburgh Diner.

The OFs started to include other groups they are familiar with or were part of. One OF mentioned a photograph taken of the department where he worked, and said there were about 40 employees at that time; when he retired, there were five left.

This department kept the photo, and, as individuals left, they crossed off their head in the photo. That is an interesting concept, and a great way to remember those who are gone.

The OMOTM are fortunate because of the introduction of new blood. Many of the OFs had friends when they were still working and when the OF retired many of these friends come and have breakfast with the friends they had while they were working and who retired before them. Those newly retired friends also now have friends that are still working, and you guessed it — the show goes on.

Double urns

Like many conversations, whether it is OFs or not, the above discussion led to death and burials. This conversation was also prompted by the passing of Ted Pelkey, a loyal OF who was cremated and his memorial service was April 10.

The talk of double urns came up and was thought of as a neat idea. This way, one doesn’t have to invest in a huge burial plot, and is a good way to beat that “until death do us part” bit. This way, you can be buried together.

One thought: What about a great big urn with many compartments — then it would be possible to have the whole family with you.

One OF who was a Navy man said he isn’t going to need a burial plot; he is going to be cremated and his ashes spread on the sea.

Another OF thought that, as a gun enthusiast, he is going to instruct his family to find someone who loads their own bullets to stuff his ashes into some shotgun shells and shoot them off into the woods. Cool idea.

However, the ideas came quickly after that; some are not reportable.

Those OFs still on this side of the sod, and able to make it to the Middleburgh Diner in Middleburgh, were: Roger Chapman, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Chuck Aleseio, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Frank Pauli, Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, Otis Lawyer, Henry Witt, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Don Wood, Bob Fink, Bob Benninger, Bill Krause, Jim Rissacher, Gil Zabel, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Henry Whipple, and me.

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On a very damp, raw day for April 7, the Old Men of the Mountain headed up the mountain to the Hilltown Café, in Rensselaerville to meet and eat.

Much of the chat this morning was quite repetitive of chats that have gone on before, i.e., worms; honey; honeybees, where is spring (with the desire for that spring enthusiasm); and finally, a few new — not really new but different — takes on some old topics. 

One OF who used to do his own maple syrup said he hasn’t made any syrup in the last few years, and was telling about all the work involved in processing the sap into syrup. One reason for his not processing the syrup is because at one time he boiled the sap evaporator too long, and somehow the OF scorched the evaporator.

The OF then explained that he took the evaporator to George Gobel to have it repaired. The other OFs had a quizzical look on their faces as he was telling this story because they equated the name George Gobel with George Gobel, the well-known comedian, and not the George Gobel who lives in the Hilltowns and has a welding shop.

For the under-50 crowd, George Gobel was a very funny comedian who had his own show on T.V. George Gobel had a “crew cut” or “flattop” hairstyle, which stemmed from being a pilot in World War II.

“Well, I’ll be a dirty bird” was a George Gobel euphemism that was a very popular catchphrase in the 1950s and ’60s.

WhytheJapanesedidn’tconquerOklahoma.wmv is a very funny clip with George Gobel, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, and Bob Hope. In this clip, keep your eye on Dean Martin.

George Gobel died in 1991 after undergoing heart surgery.

Anyway, getting back to the OF and his syrup, the OF said that Gobel Welding repaired his evaporator to a like-new condition. This OF said he is thinking about making syrup again but it will be a lot of work digging all this equipment out from where he stashed it a few years ago.

To the OFs now, that is the key (it will be a lot of work).  If it involves a lot of work, the OFs now back off.

Winter water woes

Because this winter, while not the worst we’ve seen, is right up there with one of the worst, the OFs were talking about water problems. Not only have some of the OFs had water problems but we hear stories about a lot of others who have been in the same predicament.

Some water problems were not of the winter’s doing but just parts of their water systems decided to wear out and repairing them now became a winter situation. One OF who lives in the village and uses village water had the snowplow break the valve off at the line going into his home from the main line.

So the OF is without water, and the Department of Public Works decided to move that valve further back so the plow and valve would not come together again. Now the OF’s lawn is all torn up.

Another OF had to change a water pump that went bad, and the pump-repair person was standing in snow up to his knees for hours while doing the job, but at least the well was away from the house. Read on.

Another OF told of a friend who drilled his well and then built the house around it, concluding that this was a smart idea because the well would never freeze. That is true, but pumps do go bad from things other than freezing, and this one did.

The OF said, in order to pull the pump from the deep well, they had to cut holes in the floors and through the ceiling to facilitate the process.

Pranks of old

From last week we talked about pranks we pulled as YFs and these are pranks of old. Continuing this conversation, we noted the occurrences took place more than 50 or 65 years ago.

This particular prank is a classic and it was not revealed for over 50 years because it was done by one person who never mentioned it or told a soul until a class reunion some 50 years in the making. This prank the whole school knew about, and the whole community of Schoharie did also when it happened.

The OF in question just happens to be a classmate of an OF who eats breakfast with the rest of our distinguished group of OFs. In order to perfect this prank, the OF in question (when he was a YF) disguised his voice, which was not hard for him to do since he had lost the high-pitched voice of adolescence when he was in third grade.

This YF called the Schoharie Stone Quarry, which was directly behind the school, and ordered in the name of the school maintenance superintendent, two loads of stone. The YF directed the quarry where to dump the stone, giving the reason that the school was going to repair the drive and it required the delivery first thing in the morning. This way the school could have the job done by the end of the day.

The quarry did as directed; not knowing that, by dumping the stone where they were told to dump it, the stone would block all the school busses from getting out. And it did. In panic mode, school had to be canceled, and parents notified. 

In this case, no damage was done, no one hurt, just a bunch of ticked-off school officials, and the stone was used to repair the bus area, and the test that the YF was trying to get out of was given the next day. So there, the school won, and the YF had only one day’s reprieve.

Condolences

Once again, The Old Men of the Mountain must offer condolences to family and friends of another member who has passed away. Ted Pelkey entered into the final, resting peace we all must venture into some day; there is no escaping it.

Teddy was 96 years old and he often said he had been on this planet long enough.

The OFs who hauled their creaky frames up the mountain to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville for their candlelight breakfast with enjoyable repartee were: Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Robie Osterman, Karl Remmers, Miner Stevens, Dave Williams, Bob Snyder, Jack Norray, Lou Schenk, Mace Porter, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Chuck Aleseio, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gil Zabel, Ted Willsey and his daughter Sally, Bill Krause, and me.

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