The Old Men of the Mountain by John R. Williams
First, I have to get the weather and date out of the way. The Old Men of the Mountain traveled to Middleburgh again to have breakfast with Loretta and Patty, at Mrs. K’s Restaurant in Middleburgh, on Tuesday, the 10th day of September. Our area of the country has had a decent stretch of nice weather and some of the OFs are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Pessimists. The OFs also commented that this is the year of golden rod and teasel. The fields are bright yellow with these weeds.
The village of Schoharie had their garage sale days Saturday, September 7th and some of the OFs were there. No matter how old the OFs get it seems they always need something “and want to get it ‘Cheap’.” Why not? How much longer have the OFs got to use whatever it is ─ why buy “New?” Right now this scribe needs four wheels for something he is building; this scribe thought he had some wheels but can’t find them, or they have already been used. So the scribe checked out old lawn mowers at the sale so he could take the wheels off the mower and take the rest of the mower away to the landfill in case some one needs a small engine. Couldn’t find any. Like one OF said, “that is what garage sales are for, aren’t they?” “No,” another OF said, “I use the dump ─ why even spend five bucks for something someone is going to throw away anyway?”
Some of the OFs that were in the Navy sat along side each other and began to tell us what it was like to have been in the Navy fifty years ago. One of the OFs just had a tour of a new aircraft carrier because one of his relatives is now in the Navy and is assigned to the George H. W. Bush carrier. This OF was also on a carrier many years ago ─ the Wasp. So these old navy guys who are now OFs compared the two time periods of then and now. It must be said there is a difference. You can’t stop progress. These OFs mentioned sleeping on canvas bunks that would stretch as time went on, so occasionally they would apparently gather the canvas bunks up, and throw them over the side and drag them through the water. This little maneuver would shrink the canvas so they were tight again and the guy in the bottom bunk wouldn’t have the guy in the top bunk sleeping right on his face.
The new carrier (the Bush) has fiberglass bunks with mattresses and privacy curtains, each separated with a little bulkhead that has two buttons ─ one for heat and one for air. The Wasp was a little over 300 feet long; the Bush is a little over 1000 feet long and carries about 6000 thousand people. The Wasp had no Ladies Quarters; the Bush does. (Now there is a big difference the OFs said.) The Bush has a MacDonald’s, a Wendy’s, and a Starbucks. The Wasp had tin cups and beef jerky. The Bush has two nuclear steam engines; the Wasp had a paddle wheel.
The OF said that the Wasp had F-4U Corsairs and Grumman dive bombers; the Bush has jets. The OF said those flying off the Wasp landed with engines cut and if they missed with the hook the plane flew into a big net and was then pushed overboard. The Bush has the newest jets and the OF said they land full bore and if they miss they just juice it and come around again. One thing the OF said a couple of times is ─ the Bush has no guns. The OF did not elaborate on how the carrier defends itself. It must have something like heat seeking rockets, or something newer. The Wasp had all sorts of guns and gunners, but maybe with the older slow flying prop planes that was sufficient. However, with jets coming at you at 600 plus miles per hour, training a gun on this jet would be a trick. In WWI the pilots would shoot at each other with pistols.
The OFs continued with their then and now conversation on being in the Navy. Being in the military means a lot to some because these OFs wear caps identifying the types of ships they were on.
Somehow the OFs still talk about the floods (Irene & Lee) that happened in Schoharie County in 2011 and they remember so many different stories and how it is still incomprehensible that there was so much water pouring from the heavens. The OFs were talking the water damage done with ponds giving way, culverts and roads being washed out at elevations from 1200 to 2200 feet. It seems that when the OFs attend the restaurants in Middleburgh and Schoharie a memory of the flood comes up each time. Like many of the OFs say, it is hard to realize that we are sitting in a restaurant where at the time of the flood the water would have been over our heads. It still doesn’t seem real.
This prompted talk of unusual high water that the OFs have encountered in their travels in the west and Midwest. Arizona and Colorado were mentioned specifically. One OF said he was caught in one of these “gully washers.” This OF implied that the water comes just like some one turned on the tap because even though it might not have rained where you are, it may have rained high up in the mountains, and the water comes rushing off those mountains and into the gullies. “Some road signs,” the OF said, “tell you to abandon your car immediately and climb to higher ground when water starts building up in these dry gullies.”
High School reunions were another topic brought up. Why, this scribe failed to catch, but this particular topic did come up. Some of the classes seemed to have kids in them with a good group of genes because one OF said his class was missing some members…but not many. Another OF said his class was just the opposite; that out of the total number of kids in his class half are gone. College was not mentioned. Probably because the High School reunions seem to mean more since most of the kids graduated with whatever OF they grew up with from kindergarten. College was a melting pot; friends were made but it was rare that you even knew the parents. Military reunions again are different for the reason that these guys and the OFs went to hell and back with each other and also some had friends who never returned. That makes for a different kind of bond.
Those attending the breakfast at Mrs. K’s restaurant in Middleburgh where the class of 1952 from Schoharie had their reunion ( my goodness that was 61 years ago) were: Robie Osterman, George Washburn, Miner Stevens, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Steve Kelly, Harold Guest, Bill Bartholomew, Dave Williams, Mark Traver, Frank Pauli, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Duncan Bellinger, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Don Wood, Ken Hughes, Gary Porter, Mace Porter, Joe Liebier, Duane Wagenbaugh, Bob Lassome, Rich Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Gerry Chartier, Mike Willsey, and me.