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The Old Men of the Mountain by John R. Williams

The Old Men of the Mountain’s marching orders were to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburg on Tuesday the 18th of September and foul weather caught up with the OFs, but we need this weather. Not the OFs — they need a lot more than foul weather to catch up to them, but we need rain for the parched ground of our locality. The sages of the group say that if we get driving rains with the ground as hard as it is it will just run off. Anything will be of some benefit these same sages say, but it won’t be as good right now as three days of a slow drizzle. This, the OFs say, will soften the ground and the water will sink into where it is needed, including the wells that have gone dry. All the OFs nodded their heads in agreement and added their two cents because the conversation was a discussion on what most of the OFs (Old Farmers) knew.

The discussion continued on to not only how dry it is on the hill, but the OFs suppose in many other places…like half the country. Some OGs were talking about their gardens and digging down to harvest and/or plant trees, and they were getting dust at twenty to twenty-four inches down. That is dry.

The same conversation on weather and gardening turned to the specific planting of tomatoes. According to the OFs they either have them in abundance or not at all. One OF said that his are great and good size but seem to have scars on them, and another one said he can’t tell because the deer ate them all, and with another it was woodchucks. One OF said all his are volunteer tomatoes and another said he had fifty-fifty percent volunteer, and fifty percent were planted. (Volunteer tomatoes are the ones that come up by themselves from last year’s crop). It seems though, that by the OF reckoning there is enough tomatoes among them to go around.

Then what continued was a discussion on Farmers Markets and there are a few on the hill, and in the valley of Schoharie where according to the school song (history tells a tale). The Hilltown markets are basically home-grown produce and the OFs take advantage of these markets and in the fall make use of them to get their corn, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, beets, and items like that. Most are so fresh that they are still covered with dirt, and the corn might still have the morning dew on it.

Many OFs see people take a nice ear of corn and peel it back and if there is a corn borer at the top they put the ear back, or throw it away. That little worm does not affect the corn…just whack off the little piece on the top where the borer is and put the rest in the pot. When discarding that ear of corn (because of the corn borer) the OFs say that ear may be the best one of the lot. Some people cook the corn with the husk on in the microwave, which the OFs say is the best way to do it…that little borer will get cooked to a frazzle. The OFs say go ahead and eat the whole ear and get a little protein with your starch.

What fit in nicely, and followed this discussion on food and its preparation (you guessed it) the OFs started talking about buying clothes and how many of them are in a class called “portly”. The OFs are portly because just like glass we are not a solid and as the OFs age they settle. What once was a large manly chest is now a (well still in the male gender) gut. What used to be muscle on the arm has now got a little swing of flab to it so the OFs have to purchase clothes that are the same style but of a different cut. The OFs mature…really mature…figure requires this fuller cut. Slim is out, regular is out, portly is OK; thank goodness none of the OFs need the fat size. There are some OFs though, that are of the big and tall gents sizes.

At the breakfast the OFs start filing in anywhere from around eight a.m., to nine a.m. On this particular morning an OF showed up without his normal counterpart. After this OF sat and joined the group he was asked, “Where is your traveling buddy, is he OK?” The OF answered that his traveling buddy called and asked “Whose turn is it to drive?” The OF said, “It’s my turn.” Then the traveling buddy said “OK, then I’m not going!” Well now that should tell you a lot. Talk about taking the wind out of your sails. No one ever said the OFs are subtle.

Those OFs that made it to Mrs. K’s Restaurant in the middle of Middleburg and came no matter who was driving were: Harold Guest, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Miner Stevens, Steve Kelly, Bill Bartholomew, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Frank Pauli, Don Wood, Carl Slater, Dave Williams, and guest Bill Williams, Duane Wagenbaugh, Bob Ssome, Joe Loubier, Don Moser, Lou Schenck, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Carl Walls, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, and me. At this breakfast a few more of the OFs said their goodbyes until next year as they flew the coop for warmer winter climes.