It was Tuesday, April 5th, and the Old Men of the Mountain found their way to the Home Front Café in Altamont.

For many of the OF’s all they have to do is get out of bed, walk to the edge of the escarpment, roll down the hill, and they are at the Home Front. This sounds easy and fun, however, like going down all hills eventually the OF has to go back up. Wouldn’t life be fun it everything was down hill, only where would the challenge be? The challenge is going up hill.

The cars we OF’s USED to have in order to make it up Manchester hill out of Gallupville in high gear was a challenge. Going fast enough around the curve in front of the barns was challenge number one, and then there was trying to make the rest of the hill without shifting down. Those showoffs with big V8’s would do it without having to put the car on two wheels around the corner at the bottom. It is all about making it up the hill.

Now that the conversation was time-jumped to the past, the OF’s started talking about taking care of cows. Many liked hauling out the manure and spreading it on the fields. This was not a job that was handed to a greenhorn; it had to be done right.

Lesson number one: don’t spread manure on a real windy day. If the wind was blowing the manure could be spread in only one direction and it cost money to run the tractor back and forth with work being done in only one direction.

Lesson number two: the manure fork had to be lifted high and twisted with a flick of the wrist so the manure was not dumped in clumps but actually spread. Hence it is called spreading the manure.

Lesson number three: when spreading manure in the spring the water content of the soil had to be analyzed so the weight of the spreader did not make ruts in the field. If the field was scheduled to be plowed that did not mean much, except it was no fun getting the tractor stuck with a full load of manure behind it.

With farmers lucky enough to have automatic manure spreaders it only took one guy to spread nature’s fertilizer, then came liquid manure and all the glamour of manure spreading was gone…well, except for the manure that is spread every Tuesday by the OF’s.

Next came a natural progression of thoughts along the same line. Another fun job was to be the one (or ones) to go and get shavings from lumber yards or factories that used wood in whatever they manufactured. For the farmers fortunate enough to have had access to shavings to be used as bedding for his cows, the shavings worked much better coming off the back of the manure spreader than straw or bad hay. Wood shavings didn’t get tangled in the beaters of the manure spreader.

The OF’s added doing this to the challenges of going up hill. As a rule, one beat-up old truck with a large carrying capacity, (volume not weight) was assigned to pick up the shavings. Fenders were hung on with baling wire (some trucks had doors, some not). Some OFs were able to see road kill as it passed under the truck because the floor boards were full of holes. In a number of these trucks it was possible to see the universal joint spinning around through the bottom of the floor. No power steering (some might have had hydraulic brakes) and off the OF’s would go with the farm plates flapping in the breeze. One OF said the government, and the EPA have taken all the fun of living away.

Somehow the conversation shifted, or drifted, to OF’s being outnumbered by older ladies at retirement parks in the warmer areas of our country. One OF said that he likes to be by himself. This is hard to explain because he doesn’t want to be joined at the hip by any one person, but he still likes being with people and the OF says it works very well until at some of the parks the ladies find out he is single, has a few bucks, a valid driver’s license, and is completely ambulatory. When the rainbows of colors on the ladies hair start swirling around like sharks he knows it is time to retreat. Once the heads of blue, white, jet black, and bright red all start moving ever so slowly in his direction it is off to the parking lot. One OF said, “Hey you old goat, when you were younger if a sea of younger girls were headed in your direction, you would be the first in line to greet them.” My, age does some strange things.

At the breakfast one OF thought that the flowers on the table were artificial; by each vase of flowers were bowls of cut up melon for the OF’s to enjoy while waiting for the breakfasts to come up. This OF reached out to check these flowers because they looked so real. Oops! These flowers were genuine, and as the OF touched just one all the petals fell off, right into the bowl of melons. Did that bother the OF’s? Nope. The OF’s just reached in and brushed the petals aside and helped themselves to a slice of melon.

Those OFs that met at the Home Front Café, in Altamont, and who had no complaints about petals in their melons were: John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Arnold Geraldsen, Don Moser, Frank Pauli, Ted Pelkey, Robie Osterman, Henry Witt, Mace Porter, Garry Porter, Lou Schenck, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen and me.

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