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The Old Men of the Mountain by John R. Williams

On July 17th, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and in getting there we noticed that the powers that be still haven’t fixed Route 85 from about one to two miles out from the Huyck Preserve all the way to town, and then to the bridge going up the hill. As one OF put it, anyone in the alignment business around Rensselaerville has got it made.

The OF’s were ready for the day, and the breakfast. The day was to be a tad on the warm side, because the weather guys said so. “Why?” one OF asked, “Are we taking their word for it now when most of the time we argue is what they do is throw darts at a large spinning wheel of weather conditions. The weather for the day is whatever the dart lands on.” “Well,” another OF chimed in, “I can sense it is going to be a hot one just by the smells.” Another OG said, “Does anyone check on you guys when it is bitter cold, or burning hot? No one checks on me and I am elderly.” In unison the rest of the OF’s said, “Well, we aren’t elderly, we are just well seasoned.” One OG said, “I come to these breakfast just to be friendly but I am not really old enough to be associated with the rest of you guys.” This proclamation was made by an OF who is eighty-one.

Maybe family members are checking on the OGs and some of the OF’s check on some of the other OFs and the OF being checked on doesn’t know that that is what is being done. The OF’s just think it is normal because it goes on when the weather conditions are just regular weather conditions, heat and cold has nothing to do with it per se; it is just a subtle way of others to check on the OGs.

Some of the OFs figure that summer is on the way out when Saratoga racing season starts. The racing season starts with the fair, and the fairs equate to the beginning of the end of the growing season. The end of the growing season, means to the OFs, getting ready for winter, enough wood in the wood shed, hay piled around the house, stalls all buttoned up and ready for the horses, pipes checked and insulation inspected for the water to the barn so it won’t freeze. All that work to get ready for long months of cold weather; this hot weather will soon be forgotten. An OF said “We get ready for winter, but summer just comes.”

One OF said “It seems like summer just comes but we used to spend a lot of the winter months getting the wagons ready and making sure all the hay equipment was in good working order, but you are right some how, summer just seems to show up.”

This summer the woodchuck seems to be making a comeback. One OF said, “They have gotten a lot smarter. Instead of burrowing their holes out in the field they are getting under old barns, chicken houses, and old sheds.” “No matter where they hole up,” one OF maintained, “They are still a nuisance of a rodent.”

There were some other subjects discussed before the OF’s got to this particular one and then the dialogue changed to how long we hang onto stuff that should have been chucked ages ago. One OF claimed he was still wearing shirts from the sixties, and seventies. Another OG said he was too, but yet another OF said that he can’t get into his shirts that are a five years, never into something that old. The first OF said, “You are talking about clothes that are fifty years old!” “Why not?” another OG said, “These clothes are still wearable and who am I going to impress…besides they are back in style.” Then another piped up, “Clothes like that are what prop people want for plays, they are antiques, and probably smell like old antiques too.” “Nah,” another OF said, “They smell more like moth balls, or cedar.”

One OG said that old good-working hand tools are not something that should be discarded. They are irreplaceable so why chuck something that later on you go to an antique store and hope to find another one to buy back — but all you find are old clothes. “Finally,” one OF said, “If we go by the criteria that if it is old chuck it…then our wives would have chucked all of us out long ago.”

Those attending the breakfast at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville and being glad they can go home and have not been chucked out were: Messer’s Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Jay Taylor, Art Frament, Carl Slater, Roger Fairchild, Jim Watson, Duane Wagenbaugh, Joe Loubier, Bob Turk, Miner Stevens, Glenn Paterson, Mark Traver, Jim Heiser, Rich Donnelly, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, and me.