On November 29th the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Middleburgh Diner, in Middleburgh, where one OF pointed out that for years the valley over the hill was rarely mentioned in the media. The weather guys did not seem to even know the Schoharie Valley was there. The valley seemed to be like Brigadoon. Now it is on every newscast, and constantly in the major newspapers, and we go to eat in the Middleburgh Diner just like normal, but it isn’t. Nothing in the valley is normal anymore. Those of us that live here are now part of current history, like the Johnstown Flood. That flood of 1889, was caused by the failure of a dam, and it is the opinion of many in the valley that there was a breach of the dam in Gilboa that caused most of the damage because a sudden surge of water came with such force it moved barns and sheds and knocked buildings off their foundation.
This turned into a discussion of the taxes in Schoharie, and the towns affected. What the OF’s asked was how can you tax something that is either not there or so badly damaged it is beyond repair. “How can anyone in good conscience,” one OF asked, “tax someone who has lost everything, including their home?” Then another OF wanted to know how all the infrastructure that has been damaged can be repaired if the counties and towns do not have the money to repair it.
A different OF said, “Let it go and do a little bit at a time. What did we do when we were younger and did not have all these fancy roads? We got around. What’s the freaken rush? We want to get everywhere in ten minutes, so we should start a little earlier and take the roads less traveled.” Then an OF said, “Hey you old goat. We are not living sixty or seventy years ago. Get with it. I have ridden with you and you think the gas pedal has only two positions — all the way up or all the way down. What is your freaken rush?
The OFs then brought up another item that is interesting. How often do you hear about people who can only trace their lineage back so far because some county court house has burned down and all the records with it? Jump to 2011 and Schoharie County, and the OF said he hopes all those records were duplicated and put somewhere so they can be retrieved, or people living in the county will be in the same situation.
Another OF mentioned how the creek beds have been altered from little babbling brooks, and the small streams, even the larger creeks. On his land the creek bed has been cut out and is nothing but debris, rocks and a few toppled trees. “This is nature.” the OF said, and he is going to let nature take it’s course except for the trees…he is going to cut those up for fire wood. “Why waste money trying to put it back the way it was. Another storm is going to come along and change it anyway. Live with it,” the OF said.
STOMP (insert Monty Python foot) now the conversation turned to something completely different. The OF’s began to talk about who in the world did the first of many things. “Who,” one OF said, “was the first one to discover yeast and say, ‘hey, this is good for baking’ and where did it come from in the first place?” And who said, “Golly, I think I will boil up the sap from this tree and make rubber.” Or who rolled up the first tobacco leaf and said, “Hey, if I light this thing it would be fun to smoke.” Then one OF said, “Boy, did that jerk start something.”
Some of the OFs engaged in the following discussion: “Gee, if I dry out this bat poo, and grind it up. I bet I could blow things up with it.” Who said, “I wonder what would happen if I put silver on a piece of glass and let the sun shine on it, through a pin hole, for a little bit and see what happens?” Why even think of doing some of this stuff. What else is out there to be tried? What would happen if acorns are ground up real fine, put under pressure, and blown through a nozzle. Would the oil in the acorn burn like fuel oil? Just asking.
It seems all the OF’s made it through Thanksgiving and are now ready to do their Christmas list. Yeah, right. Many of the OF’s cringe just thinking about shopping, let alone Christmas. When the OFs were younger one present was generally given to them; now look what is stuffed under the tree and that is for an only child. One OF mentioned he thinks his grandson would be scarred for life if he didn’t out-present his buddies.
Those OF’s attending the breakfast at the Middleburgh Diner, in Middleburgh and willing to let nature take it’s course were: Ted Pelkey, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Roger Shafer, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Gerd Remmers, Steve Kelly, Carl Slater, Roger Chapman, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Dave Williams, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Miner Stevens, Don Moser, Arnold Geraldsen, Jim Rissacher, Willard Osterhout, Ted Willsey, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Gerald Chartier, and me.