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The Old Men of the Mountain by John R. Williams

The end of April and another cold day. The Old Men of the Mountain met at the Home Front Café in Altamont on Tuesday, April 30th to have a hot breakfast and to warm up. Jack (you all know Jack ─ he is the husband of Cindy, who is the real boss of the Home Front) dropped off a gift bag of some of the gifts he received on his recent eightieth birthday. Jack said that the Old Men could go through and take what they wanted. (Talk about re-gifting)! However, this scribe does not know if there were any takers on Jack’s generous offer. The scribe suspects not because the OFs don’t want nor do they need any more junk. Well that might not include all the OFs, the OMOTM do have a few junk collectors in their midst. For these few OFs their motto is, “If it is free, it is for me.”

Over the years, and there have been a lot of them, the OMOTM have covered many topics, and some are beginning to resurface. The re-worked topic today was how when we were YFs, we worked. Much of the work was considered normal and just had to be done. Now the OFs realize how hard and stupid this “work” was in the way we went about it when we were younger, but at that time we didn’t know any better. It was just how it was done. The subject this morning related again to felling trees and cutting them up. We discussed how many of the OFs were hurt doing this job, and how many friends we knew at that time that never had the chance to become OFs because of working in the woods.

The OFs talked about how this type of work is an art, and people who know what they are doing should be doing it. The OFs also confessed that now they are a little jealous of the professional tree cutter’s equipment. Their chain saws start with one effortless pull. The same saws cut smooth and straight. With most of the OFs the first fight is to get the dumb saw going, and next thing is to get it to cut. One OF said he doesn’t think the same saws that are in the hardware stores are the same saws the professionals use even though the ads say so.

Now that winter is over (we hope) the OFs mentioned how even though it was cold, it hasn’t been that cold. The OFs can tell this by how much frost is in the ground. In the past couple of years there hasn’t seemed to be that much frost in the ground. The OFs say they can tell this in a couple of ways; one is that the snowplows are digging up more of the lawn than usual, and then how fast the frost leaves in the spring. One OF mentioned that even over some of the transvaps (septic system) the ground is not frozen at all on the “discharge end.” Then one OF said with the amount of his oil bills you couldn’t prove it by him that it hasn’t been cold. Another OF said he can understand that because he had just received a load of oil and the price was $3.999 a gallon. “Wow,” an additional OG answered because he had just received oil also and his price was $3.769. The OFs could not understand how the disparity of equal products could be so different. “A delivery of oil now,” said an OF, “requires me to take money from my savings account to pay just the one bill. People do not have 600 to 700 plus dollars hanging around to pay the oil man.”

At one time the OFs were discussing how much their power bills were and that varied also. However, one OF is on 100 percent wind power and this OF pays a premium for that and his power is much more expensive. One OF said that going green is only for the rich ─ average or poor people can’t afford it.

The OFs at this scribe’s table started talking about drinking coffee, and how much drinkers of this brew alter the taste of the stuff by what they put in it. A couple of OFs at the table drink it black, and the others just added a little sugar and half and half. It is what these OFs see and know what friends and relatives add. One OF said some have a little coffee with their sugar, or flavor their milk with just a touch of coffee. Some insist on regular milk, not skim, or 2 percent, but the whole milk. Some won’t drink it hot, but want it served hot, while others drink it so hot they must have cast iron burner plates in their stomachs.

Now one OF commented that he is going to watch how everyone drinks their coffee and what they add. None of the OFs could understand Starbucks and paying 6 or 7 dollars for a cup of coffee. “Golly,” one OF said, “Have a cup of coffee at Starbucks, then go purchase a pack of cigarettes and you have spent as much as I used to make in a day.”

Those Old Men of the Mountain that made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont and enjoying the morning cup of coffee no matter how they doctored it up were: Roger Chapman, Roger Shafer, Harold Grippen, Harold Guest, Bill Rice, Bill Krause, Jim Heiser, Jim Rissacher, Henry Witt, Henry Whipple, Miner Stevens, Frank Pauli, Don Moser, Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, Arnold Geraldsen, John Rossmann, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Jack Norray, Steve Kelly, Mike Willsey, Ted Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.