The Old Men of the Mountain by John R. Williams

This Tuesday, July 16th, the Old Men of The Mountain met at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh and the day already started out hot. What can anyone say about a day, like Tuesday, in the Hilltowns. For most of the OFs it was another day with routine chores to be done, normal doctor visits, trips to the store, haul the wife around, and, of course, breakfast with the Old Men. Then the few that watch the news to get the weather see all that is going on in other places on Tuesday and say, “Thank goodness we are on the hill (or in the valley of Schohrie for the most part) just leave us alone.” The OFs will take their aches and pains, and their problems and handle them themselves. These OFs are not whiners and they do not complain “Why is everybody always picking on me?” “Take your lumps and man up,” the OFs say, “This makes you a better person all around.” Oh yes, it was Tuesday the 16th of July.

The OFs starting talking about memories and how far back they could remember, really, on their own, not by being prompted by some suggesting they did something together, such as ‘hey, do you remember when we did such and such, or this and that.’ The question was just cold-calling memories and how far back could anyone recall. It wasn’t that far back, not when the OFs were 2 to 6 years old, but after 6 years of age sometimes fuzzy thoughts would come about a specific recollection. Then that old adversary – time – entered in, and this might have altered the actual memory of what happened according to the OF.

Not many of the OFs could actually dredge up childhood memories. The OFs could remember events, and about the time these events might have occured, but by now the OF was at least in school. The memories were general, like no one knew they were poor because the OFs were all poor. The OFs have covered that topic before, but the memories, which were accurate, were inclusive in nature. As the OFs became teenagers, or close to teenagers, the recollections became more vivid. The OFs do not know how true this is with others but cold-calling memories from really young ages without being coached is not a thing most of them could do.

Speaking of memories, when the OF’s were young men some memories are very vivid especially for those that were in WWII ─ those memories will linger. This was brought up by one OF mentioning that there are only 4 WWII veterans left in the town of Berne. This OF mentioned that something is being planned by the town of Berne for the vets of this era, but he did not elaborate. Whatever the plan is we think it should have some music of the Big Band era included, along with a USO type show.

On a totally unrelated topic one of the OFs has had a recent encounter with ground bees. This OF reported that fortunately he was close to water and was able to jump in. The OF said they were all over him but he did not report if he was able to get into the water quick enough so he did not receive too many stings ─ if any at all. This brought out bee stories again, and it seems many of the OFs have disturbed these little critters from time to time and had their tales of escape. Which raises the question ─ would you rather have, a tiger on your tail or thousands of bees chasing your butt? The OFs said the tiger, because at least you could shoot it, but with bees even if you have a double barrel shotgun it would be impossible to stand and shoot at a swarm of bees mad at you. That would be like kicking the ocean because you are mad at it. One OF said you would be lucky to hit one bee. Another OG said that if you didn’t have a gun your goose is cooked no matter what. Then another OF jumped in and claimed that at least he could wrestle with the tiger and something might happen in his favor, but how the h— are you going to ward off thousands of ticked off bees?

Tis the season and the OFs started talking about ticks again and how the OFs prepare to mow the lawn. Of course there is always one OF that has the ultimate answer, and his was, “Hey, the ticks are winning. I just don’t mow the lawn anymore, I have sheep and they do it for me.” “Yeah right,” was the reply. Some OFs bundle up from head to toe, others spray themselves with Deet, others (and this was recommended no matter what protection is used) said that they check themselves thoroughly when done, either using mirrors or having the wife look at their backside.

Going back to the memory item, where and when did this all start? The OFs do not remember ever worrying about things like ticks and bees. The OFs ran around barefoot, put in hay hatless and shirtless, and quite often in shorts. They would lie in the grass or hide in the brush along hedgerows to shoot woodchucks, and some even had the occasional tussle in the hay. Nobody even heard of Lyme disease and, as far as the OFs know, nobody ever had it.

The OFs are OFs, and as a rule do not like a lot of the changes that are going on, and think many of these changes are not forward steps, but backward steps. They love their kids and grandkids but now think they coddled their kids too much, and that the kids today are overly coddled. Times they are a-changin. The OF’s parents thought we would never amount to much with the ducktail haircuts, Elvis, the jitterbug, rock and roll etc. The coup de grace was spending too much time on that new fangled thing ─ the telephone. Tying up the party lines forever. So one OF said, “What’s different now?” “Not much,” another OF answered, “But at least we had manners, even if we had nothing. Now the kids have, or want everything, but what they don’t have, and don’t even seem to want is manners.”

Those OFs that made it Mrs. K’s Restaurant, in Middleburgh on a nothing Tuesday in July, but hey put a knick in the post all the OFs at Mrs. Ks were: Roger Chapman, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Steve Kelly, Bill Bartholomew, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Roger Fairchild, Jay Taylor, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Harold Guest, Ted Willsey, Duane Wagenbaugh, Bob Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Carl Walls, Miner Stevens, Don Woods, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Lou Schenck, Ken Hughes, Don Moser, Jim Rissacher, and me (and that makes it a very important day indeed.)