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Well, it is Tuesday the 25th day of October, and the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Apple Barrel on Route 30 between Schoharie and Central Bridge, just where the new intersection is that shoots Route 30 up the hill and 30A continues on to Route 7 and Old Central Bridge, and then Central Bridge. Central Bridge is really not new Central Bridge — it is just about as old as old Central Bridge. It is like a set of twins where one has to be older than the other, unless it was one large birth canal and there was a tie.

       To those who have never plowed a field or mowed hay with a tractor (an old tractor before power steering) probably will not understand this, but it is no fun hitting a woodchuck hole while doing these standard field chores on any farm. That little surprise has broken, or caused, a baseball thumb on many a farmer’s young and old hands. The steering wheel is spun right out of the OF’s hand, and the OF driving has to do a fast foot dance to clutch and brake at the same time to get things back under control because the steering wheel now has a mind of its own.

          This conversation came about as a continuation of the conversation about coyotes from last week. The OFs have noticed a decrease in the population of squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and woodchucks. This, the OFs say, is normal and will take a few years to cycle back.

One chore that was a fun job was when the OF’s dad would say, “Boys, take the gun and get rid of the woodchucks in the ten-acre lot out back, we are going to pasture the cows there in a few weeks.” The process for removing the chucks was simple.  The woodchuck could be whistled out of the hole and when the chuck popped up to look around, well, that was the end of the tunneling varmint. Then the OFs would go and fill in the holes so that the cows or horses, when in that field to pasture, would not step in the chuck hole and break a leg.

          This brought a story of one OF saying when he went out on the tractor he carried a little ring barrel gun to do just that, and he was able to take care of the critters on a routine basis.  Another OF commented that he thought the critters knew when he was carrying a gun and hid. This OF said that when he was just out on the tractor, or working in the field, all kinds of critters came within spitting distance, but as soon as this OF ventured out with a gun there was not a critter to be seen.

Along with all the critter talk it was brought up by some of the OFs that the deer they have seen recently are so dark they are almost black. We were just talking because the OFs who mentioned this phenomenon were not hunters and they did not know if it meant anything. Something like the wooly bear caterpillar, predicting the winter with the dark brown and light brown variations of the hairs on its little wooly back.

That nasty four letter word crept into the OF’s conversations this morning and it was the word snow. This is the northeast and we do get snow in October, but for many of the OFs it is always a blow when the first snowfalls come, because winter is long and the OF’s bones get tired of it about half way through. The OF’s started talking about the October snow storm of ’87, and with some areas where the trees are still hanging onto their leaves. the OFs hope we are not headed for snowfall like that again. As one OG said we will just have to wait and see.

               Another topical matter was mentioned and that was talking on the phone while driving. What a dumb and serious thing to do. This OF said he was stopped at a “T” intersection waiting to go onto the Thompson Lake road because a car was coming. That car decided to turn onto the road the OF was on. The vehicle did not have its signal light on that it was going to make a left hand turn, and no wonder.  The woman driver was on the phone, so unless she had three arms and hands there was no way she could hold the phone, steer, and turn on the blinker. She turned her car and the OF said she did not practice anything like the square turns we were taught because she cut that corner and headed right for him. “This is it,” the OF said he said to himself, as he saw the look of surprise, or fright, on her face. She whipped the wheel to the right and just missed him but was heading for the ditch. The OF said it wasn’t a bad ditch and she snapped the vehicle out of it and headed across the road. The OF said he looked in his mirror and said to himself if she goes in the ditch on the other side she can just stay there and use that d… phone to call a tow truck.

One OF said he wouldn’t mind if a cell phone is in a car if there is a piece of electronic equipment that would be activated as soon as the engine starts and it would disable the phone. The phone would only work in a car when it is not running. One OF said OK, computer geeks, there is something to work on. To which another OF said he bets this knowledge is already here, but the geeks want to use their phones so it never will be installed.

              Those attending the breakfast at the Apple Barrel in Schoharie and all finding their way there were: Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Henry Witt, Carl Walls, Roger Chapman, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Miner Stevens, Willard Osterhout, Mike Willsey, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, and me.