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This Tuesday morning was one of the mornings to look forward to — crisp, with little wind; a pleasant smell to the air.  It is a good thing to be an early riser on days like today, the first day of November. Many OF’s were up and about this morning to make the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg. Most of the Old Men of the Mountain shake the covers off pretty early, a carry- over from days of going to the barn to milk. The OF’s winter crowd is basically now in effect, since most of the OFs that leave for the winter have flown.

It is noted that some of the conversations of the OFs seem like repeats and they are, only with different takes on a previously reported topic. This time it was on the news and newspapers, and how all of them seem to think they are “fair and balanced.”  They are not. They follow a certain agenda and leanings one way or the other. Some of the OFs have canceled their papers, and some switch off the news just because of that fact. One OF went so far as to say that he believes that there is a takeover of mainstream media by someone who is trying to destroy this country from the inside.  Another OF said, “How do you know that if you don’t watch the news…you must be a closet news watcher.”

The other thing brought up was what they are doing to the price of peanut butter, and just recently the OFs discussed how after shortages that drive the prices up, the prices do not come down once whatever caused the problem in the first place is back to normal. The OFs said this same thing will happen to peanut butter.  Once the price goes up and people get used to paying it, and peanuts are again plentiful. the price will not go back down. One OF said that when the high price is part of the grocery list the peanut farmers and producers will make the same or even more money with less effort because they can just produce less. A different OF said, “You watch — the price will not come down.”

The grocery bills also are now higher for less product. One OF asked if we have noticed how some of the items we use all the time seem to be running out sooner. This OF said it is not that we are using more, it is because the packages are smaller, and have less in them and the price is the same or higher.  Gotcha. Buy one, get one free, seems to be the new mantra, but really half the time the amount of both items is the same as one used to be, so this OF says we are getting nothing free.  It is the same old product at the same quantity for the same price, and this OF questions that price.

The OFs talked about the voting machines. The town of Knox is now broken up into three districts instead of two, and they will only get one voting machine. The town used to have two voting machines one for each district, now the OF’s say they add a district and take away a machine. (That is some slick math one OG said).  None of the OF’s understand the logic of this or what the purpose is behind it, and think it makes no sense at all. One OF said he thinks it is the “powers that be” (?) have a way of cutting down the number of people that will vote. This OF said this way whoever is in control will have a smaller voting bloc and by doing this they will be able to keep it under control because the parties know only the diehards will go to the polls. Another OF said the parties only pay lip service to get out and vote campaigns because this OF thinks that this is the way they want it. This OF’s opinion is that the larger the number of people that vote, the more independent thinking will be expressed, and the parties in power cannot control too much independent thinking.

Around this time of year, and at school voting time, this scribe has to watch the political rhetoric but the above conversations were a-political and threw everybody in the bucket.

To anyone living on the hill (especially the OFs) there was an individual who was a fixture in town that many of them remember and were telling their own stories about.  This person is really missed.  She was Margaret (Si) Stevens who ran the Mobil station in the town of Knox. Many of the OFs wish she was still there. One OF said that it was such a relief to see the lights of her gas station shinning on the sign at night when they were on the road in a blinding snow storm. It was like a lighthouse on a foggy night to sailors at sea.  In the garage next to the house, was the kerosene tank, which Si hand-cranked to fill a kerosene can.  One OF mentioned how she would watch the dial on this tank and when it got to five gallons she would stop cranking and you wouldn’t get a penny over. When the OF got his five gallons of kerosene, he got his five gallons to the 1/100.  The OF’s were also remembering how they aged but Si didn’t.

Off the hill time marched on…serve yourself stations, computerized pumps, modern islands with canopies, fast food stores attached to the stations, and no attendants, just clerks inside the store who didn’t know gasoline from bottled water. Si, with her gas station on the hill was in a time warp. One OF said it was like a Rockwell painting. In the evening locals and relatives sitting on the porch eating ice cream, telling tales of the day (normally known as passing news, and/or gossiping) is more like it one OF said.

One OF mentioned that the station never seemed to close and Si was always there. The OF’s started trying to remember when she took time off, or even left on a vacation and none could remember. All this talk about Si and the station in Knox prompted this scribe to introduce a painting this scribe did of Si and her station to show this was a real place, and a real person.

From cosmopolitan Albany and Schenectady, a short ride into the Hilltowns surrounding the cities is truly rural America, but it is fading fast.

Those attending the breakfast at the Duanesburg Diner, in Duanesburg and many contributing their tales of Si were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, Steve Kelly, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Miner Stevens, Arnold Geraldsen, Don Moser, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Gerry Chartier, Willard Osterhout, and me.