On Tuesday, September 6th, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville (along with everyone else).

 This was another breakfast where the waitress really had to work because there were so many people were in the restaurant. Could it be the weather? The OF’s said they didn’t think so.  There were 26 of us (and we are OFs) and another table of 8 semi-OFs plus the counter and another table all full. Early on there was one of the distaff side at the counter but she left early, then another fellow came in so the restaurant was full of OFs.  The feminine gender was not represented at all except for the waitress and the people in the kitchen. Is it that the ladies are all home enjoying their time alone in their housecoats, with a cup of coffee and the paper, and the TV on their early morning show and all the OF’s are out of their hair?

          The flood was still on every OF’s mind and all were telling stories of their own situation or situations of others all around them. One OF related a story about another OF who comes to the breakfast and they both come on a regular basis. These OFs live close to each other and one lived on higher ground than the other one.  The one on the higher ground asked the other one to come to the breakfast with him, but the other OF said he would be OK so he stayed where he was. Bad move. He wasn’t OK and was flooded. His new car was also flooded after the one OF told him to get his new car and himself up to the higher position.

          After the water receded the OF said to bring to car up to him and they would dry it out. The other OF refused and said he would take it to the shop in Cobleskill and have the shop do it so it would be done right. The first OF said he did not think this would be a good idea but the other OF headed to Cobleskill anyway, wet seats and all.  Well, the OF did not make it to Cobleskill because on the way the car caught fire. Now his new car is completely gone and this OF is ticked off and depressed. It doesn’t pay to be bull-headed.

          The OFs that were in the restaurant first were watching all the OFs that came in later and checked them over very carefully to be sure none of them had started to grow gills, and if not gills to check to see if they had on really large shoes, or boots, to hide their web feet.

          Not all OFs fared well with just cellars flooded (which are bad enough depending what was down there). One OF not only went through that but had his home knocked off its foundation and part of it sits in the yard. That is enough to spoil anybody’s day and everyone that is going through this must be heart sick.  As one OF said, most of us right now are running on adrenalin and the magnitude of what has really happened has not caught up with us.

          Those of us who worked in Middleburgh or Schoharie, or elsewhere, and handled the damaged items in the homes and dragged them out to the street were being careful not to fall down walking on the slippery mud.  At our ages a broken hip is nothing to look forward to. Smelling the smells, cutting up perfectly good rugs to haul them out, the list goes on and on.

          Many of the OFs who have lived on the hill or in the Schoharie valley all their lives (for some it is 80 to 90 years) have never seen or been through anything like this. The OF’s know that sometimes the creek can get really nasty but this time it was more than nasty, it was downright angry.  

          One OF mentioned another very hard fact.  Who is going to want to purchase your home if the owner is disgusted and puts it up for sale? What if your home is condemned and has to be destroyed and the owner still has a mortgage on it?  How do the little people fight the insurance companies who can drag out negotiations for months, even years? The OF asked the rhetorical question, who can withstand this? Now is the time for the elected officials and the state to take the reins and take care of the people who have paid their taxes and insurance premiums for years and never argued or had a claim.

          As usual the OFs have the solution to everything.  One OF said now is the time to get some small, strong rope and haul insurance agents and heads of insurance companies that attempt to weasel out of their contracts and hang them by their thumbs from the big tree alongside of the Heritage House in Schoharie. All the other OFs said, “Amen to that brother.”

          Another OF suggested that not be done but all the damaged items and the muck and mire should be hauled to their homes and dumped in their cellars and yards (and also in the lobbies and offices of the offending insurance companies).

          Then one other said the OF’s are being too nice.  This OF said they should all be arrested for false advertising, and breach of contract and brought to the valley and made to help clean it up and  repair the homes.  This would be done along with a sentence of 2 to 5 years on a work release program from jail.  However, the Schoharie county jail wouldn’t be big enough to house them.

          The OG’s were on a tear, but in defense of some of the agencies we have heard only a few horror stories so far. “Maybe,” one OG said, “some insurance companies are negotiating in good faith and will take care of their customers.” So far none of the OF’s have heard of any including FEMA, and the state.

          The OF’s sound like they were being glib, but they were not. Too many have been in the middle of the flooding, too many friends have lost everything. Normalcy is not in the short term, normalcy to the OF’s will be measured in years, many years. The OF’s say that pictures do not tell the story, parking areas should be set on the outskirts of the town and people taken through in buses so they too can cry, and maybe viewing the devastation they will make arrangements to help or contributed in some fashion because many of the people living in these historic, and at one time beautiful towns, now have nothing. That is nothing with a 0.

          This column could go on and on, but you get the general idea of the thinking of most of the OFs who gathered at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and the whole collection of OFs were: Mark Traver, Glenn Paterson, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Joe Loubier, Duane Wagenbaugh, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Miner Stevens, Rich Donnelly, Roger McDermitt, Jim Watson, Jack Norray, Harold Grippen, Jim Rissacher, Willard Osterhout, Mike Willsey, Ted Willsey, Gerd Remmers, George Washburn, and me.