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This Tuesday the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon in Princetown. We are missing the snow birds, and today we are also missing those that work at the polling places and were noticed by their absence. Most of the OF’s at the breakfast either voted before or after they ate, and even though it was a day of politics not much of politics was heard around the tables.

A couple of the OF’s have built one bridge for the Long Path, and repaired another. The new bridge was built the same way as the original (in sections) so it could be transported and assembled easily. This bridge was built to replace an existing bridge that was built quite a few years ago by Camp Cass out of hemlock that eventually decayed. With tropical storm Irene the bridge gave way and was washed down stream. The OF’s built their bridge out of pressure treated lumber which should last longer against the elements than the older bridge. Unlike the first bridge that had a creek bank on each side this bridge had only a bank on one side so the OF’s had to build a pier on the other side out of cinder block and concrete.  When these guys build something they do it right. The OF’s also make these bridges troll proof so no hairy little troll is going to try and grab anyone crossing and pull them under the bridge. What do trolls do once they drag you under the bridge anyway?

The bridge the OF’s repaired was hit by something in the swirling water, so the OF’s straightened it out and reinforced it using bolts and fish plates, and it is back in service.

The Hilltowns, like all small towns and villages throughout our country, have in their own histories a section of compounded time and place, which eventually gets woven into the historical quilt of our country. The historical quilt of any country is made up of good and bad fabric, thread and patches. It is not like a quilt that grandma made, or a quilt which is sewn by quilters at a quilting bee where the bad thread is not used, and if the fabric does not match the pattern is discarded.  No, any nation’s history is probably more flawed fabric than good.

To augment this the OF’s had a visitor this morning who is attempting — along with others — to put together old photographs of the Hilltowns, specifically Knox, Berne, Westerlo, Rensselaerville, and he can’t forget our international airport in South Berne. There are some pretty good books already out there with old photos of the Hilltowns, authored by our own Willard Osterhout. Willard assembled a series of four books which are fun to look at (especially to the OF’s) and anyone else who is our general age bracket but is not an OF. These people may not only recognize many of these places but probably lived in some, or helped build them.

Another fun book of the history of the Hilltowns and beyond is the book Tin Horns and Calico by Henry Christman which is about the anti-rent wars. Reading Tin Horns in combination with Willard’s photo journals puts some of the places Willard shows in his books and the places described in the Tin Horns and Calico book into perspective.

This gentleman who visited the group this morning had two photos that he was trying to identify but no one in our group could place them, and  at the breakfast this morning there were some OF’s there that have lived on the hill for 65, 70, and even 85 years. Like it is well known this group was around when God was thinking about how to make dirt and even asked the OF’s hanging around for suggestions. One OF suggested that why doesn’t He just get the plants started, let the leaves die off, or the plant itself die and make their own dirt. “Good idea” God said, “that will save me a ton of work and people won’t have to rake their lawns, just let the leaves rot and they will make more dirt.” He slapped the OF on the back, and said, “If you guys get any more ideas just let me know.” See, I told you we are OLD.

If anyone in the Hilltowns have old pictures that they want to share in a book they can contact John Elberfeld at 872-2082, or if you have access to a computer he can be contacted at JElberfeld@aol.com.

The OF’s are not too concerned about history right now; what the main concern is, is still the flood, and the damage left by the two tropical storms. Much help is still needed; many jobs that were started with very well-intentioned people are left (in some cases) not even one-quarter of the way along. The OF’s mentioned that the helpers also have lives to live but for the most part the people who were devastated, are still devastated. The OF’s brought up an idea that might help many of the flood ravaged communities, i.e., if anyone wants to take a trip to the little shops in these areas for Christmas shopping they would be the places to go. One OF mentioned that Schoharie and Middleburgh are so close to us locally the OF’s naturally go there, and many OF’s shopped these communities even before there was a flood, but there are places in Vermont and Massachusetts and all around the tri-cities that were also hit by these storms and there are shops there that can use whatever help they can get. So keep them in mind when preparing your Christmas list.

Those OF’s attending the breakfast at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and planning to do what Christmas shopping they can in the flood-ravished towns were: Glenn Patterson and Mark Traver (Bridge Builders), Ted Pelkey, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Robie Osterman, John Elberfeld, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, and me.