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The Old Men of the Mountain by John R. Williams

It’s me again Margaret, and I met with the Old Men of the Mountain on Tuesday 9-11-12, and I also met with these OFs on a very infamous Tuesday 9-11-0l. This day was brought up at the breakfast this morning with many varied opinions as to the way our country should have handled the attack we received on 9/11, and how we should still handle it. This scribe will just leave these as the opinions of the OFs because for the most part they are not pretty.

The OFs sat in the Middleburg Diner, in Middleburg, on a beautiful morning and one of the topics was the up-coming winter. This was brought up because some of the OFs reported frost, and even ice, this morning when going to their cars. The OFs feel we are going to be in for a doozy of a winter. One OF said he could already feel it in his bones and dem bones, dem bones, dem old, old, bones are pretty good prognosticators. Many of the OFs said that when we were younger…about seventy…we didn’t mind winter. Now the OFs hate to see winter come. Some of the OFs are not supposed to shovel because they have stents in their hearts, or have multiple bypasses. Some have poor eyesight and driving is hard. In the summer, at least, the OFs say they can see in the daylight and the summer has much more of that. Driving at night is tough.

Why hang around here a few of the snowbirds asked? The OFs answered that we are tough old goats and can winter it out. Coming right down to it that is just an axiom one OF said. Some of the OG’s don’t have the wherewithal dollar and cents wise to leave, and others are not travelers, and do not want to be away from their friends, and/or doctors. They grumble but are mentally comfortable on the hill. Some worry about their homes while they are away e.g., pipes freezing because the furnace goes out, break-ins because people will know they are gone, or paying house sitters while they are away. The OFs came up with some bona-fide reasons why they feel they should tough it out on the hill.

For those who think they have memory problems and are bordering on dementia the OFs say they are not. They are just getting old. Case in point. As the OFs were discussing the winter that is heading our way one of the OFs made a poignant observation. A little later on in the conversation this scribe said, “Hey you OF, just a little while back you mentioned something about staying on the hill in the winter and I thought it was pretty good but I didn’t jot down a note to remember it. What was it again?” “I did?” was the reply, “I said something profound. Quick let me call my wife and let her know.” Then the OF’s brow furrowed and he searched his mind and couldn’t remember what it was, and this was only a couple of minutes back. This scribe couldn’t remember it, and neither could about six other OFs that were in on the conversation. None of us could come up with what the OF said including the OF that said it. And as this scribe sits at the computer it still has not sifted its way through the gray matter to land somewhere in a memory bank where I can haul it out and write it down so it has to be left out there in mind-space leaving all to wonder what the heck it was.

Along with the coming of winter (and we haven’t even had Halloween or Thanksgiving yet) the OFs talked about the flight of time, and how it has seemed to go from planes with props, to jets and maybe even rockets. Time to the OFs is not standing still, it is just flying by at such a rapid rate that the OFs are having trouble hanging on. What happened to summer? How come the OFs have so much left undone? The OFs want some time back, so they can finish at least a few more of their projects. The OFs want a “do-over” starting with last April.

Some weird plants grow all over the world, and in our area we have our share. The OFs talked about poison ivy, and poison oak, but there are others like poison parsnip, and even others that have names none of the OFs can remember. The oil from these poison plants can leave an assorted series of rashes and lumps that really itch or burn, and some even leave serious welts. One OF wondered why we never see this condition on our animals. This OF said he has seen his cows walk right through the stuff and they do not develop an itchy rash. Another OG said, “That’s right. I have never noticed my cat or dog with poison ivy symptoms.” One OG said he was out trimming brush and jumped back because he thought he had come in contact with a cluster of nettles. He said he knew what nettles were and what they looked like but he didn’t see any around. That evening he broke out in a rash that itched like the devil. (That is a colorful term; there could be a place in hell where all you do is itch and it never stops, or goes away and your hands are like mittens so it is not possible to dig at it which gives you an eternity of itching). After a couple of days he went to the doctor who could not identify it, and sent the OF to a dermatologist.

The OF said he put on gloves and cut some of this weed out of the brush, placed it in a plastic bag, and took it with him to the dermatologist. At the dermatologist’s office the doctor took one look at what was in the bag and said, rather anxiously, “Get THAT STUFF out of here!” and he gave it to a nurse and told her to put it in the hazardous materials container. “Whoa!” the OF said, “What had he gotten into?” This stuff grows wild on the hill. The OF said he still can’t identify it, and now he goes nowhere near the area where this nasty little piece of vegetation has taken up residence. “The brush can grow all it wants to in that spot,” this OF said. He is not messing with it.

Those OFs that attended the breakfast at the Middleburg Diner in Middleburg, and not getting the mackinaws or galoshes out just yet were: George Washburn, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, Joe Loubier, Duane Wagenbaugh, Bob Ssome, Ted Willsey, Don Wood, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Jack Norray, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Arnold Geraldsen, Don Moser, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me.

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