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The Old Men of the Mountain by John R. Williams

Tuesday, the 17th of September, The Old Men of the Mountain met on a beautiful morning at the Country Cafe on Main Street in Schoharie. Constant reminders of the floods of two years ago in Prattsville, Middleburgh, and Schoharie are around today. With what the people in Colorado are going through right now it seems like the world is full of one disaster after another.

At one time Colorado must have thought it was the end of the world with the fires around Colorado Springs, and now the people around Boulder are looking for Noah and his boat so they can get on board. One OF who went through the flood of Irene said he would rather have a fire than a flood. The way this OF looked at it was that after a flood people had mountains of cleanup to do and they tried to salvage this and that. In a fire, if the house burns to the ground it is not necessary to worry about any of that, everything is all gone ─ just shovel up the ashes and start over. How easy to say, how hard to do. Then again, one OF said, “Stuff is stuff and it is possible to get more stuff, but mementos, keepsakes and memories are impossible to replace.”

When going into the Country Cafe, on your left is a black sign with white letters mounted on the wall and a line on this sign marks the height of the water as it coursed through the village ─ that mark is shoulder high.

Continuing on with the water topic the OFs discussed the righting of the cruise ship Concordia that hit the rocks off the coast of Italy. The raising of this ship was quite an engineering feat, and cost quite a bit of money to boot. One OF suggested that they should have used that money and made a tourist attraction of the ship on its side with possibly a plate glass walkway under the water like Bush Gardens has the plate glass walkway at SeaWorld. They could charge admission and people could see the fish swimming in and out of the ship, and they could possibly put on a water show to go with it. One OF thought that would be gross because 32 people died in that accident and he didn’t think that would be appropriate. Funny how two people can look at the same thing and view it 180 degrees apart.

This talk about the Concordia re-floated the conversation on the aircraft carrier, and smaller ships like frigates. How these ships were constructed in the 1950s and how they are made now. Just more of last week…same words just strung together differently.

There was other banter back and forth as ideas come and go, like any ad-hoc get together. Some points were dwelt on more than others; one of these points was hunkering back again to the memories of when the OFs were YFs. This was the way life was then with the smells of new mown hay, the orchard in fall, fresh turned soil, a brisk early fall day with the fog on the ponds and coming off the creeks, the smell of horses and the horse barn, the hay mow, and the cows in the barn. These aromas were better than any florists, greenhouse, or seventy-five dollar an ounce perfume.

“Each house,” one OF said, “Had its own smell and each barn had its own smell.” Another OF said, “Yeah, especially when the cows first hit spring pasture.” Well, not all the smells were pleasant. One OF mentioned how no one seemed to mind at school if someone showed up with a little barn smell if they were running late. As a matter of fact many of the farm kids did run late and the smells were not only accepted, but for the most part, in the one-room schools or the bigger schools with two rooms and two teachers, the farm smells were natural and no one (even if they noticed) paid any attention.

Even today each house carries its own character and smell. Some people try to hide the natural aroma of their home by burning candles and using all sorts of air fresheners. One OG then remarked, “Ever notice in the stores how much aisle space is used on changing the odor of the air?”

One OF said, “I can understand that if fish is being cooked, or some other highly aromatic food is being prepared it is good to open the doors, and windows and add a little scent. With all the sulphur water on the hill it’s good to add some scent to cover up the sulphur smell when the water softener goes bad or the aerator does not work.” “That is true,” another OG replied, “Like the other OF said, not all smells are sweet and what some think are sweet, others think are rotten.”

One OF said his apple and pear trees have so much fruit on them this year that they are bending over with the weight. That was going to be his project for today after the breakfast. He was going to go and pick the apples and pears. This OF is not the tallest member of the group and the OG said he will pick only what he can reach. Which is smart because we don’t want any of the OFs falling off ladders and out of trees. What this OF needs is a rambunctious Billy goat and he should try and get the goat to butt the trees and shake the apples out. This OF is only going to go and make applesauce and cider anyway. Maybe the OG can con his wife into making some apple pies and freezing them.

Going back to smells ─ the baking, and cooling ─ of an apple pie in the house is a great smell. So are bacon and eggs, hash browns and an English muffin with honey and cinnamon. These are great house smells in the morning. They make candles with all kinds of fragrances like essence of heather, or bloom on the lilacs, and stuff like that. The OFs want to know why to don’t make scents that make sense like ham and eggs, sizzling steaks, hot coffee, spaghetti sauce, pizza, or essence of hot cocoa. Now there would be candles worth buying to improve the aroma of any home.

Those OFs attending the breakfast at the great smelling Country Cafe in Schoharie and all enjoying the breakfasts coming out of the kitchen (when a mechanic comes home from work he smells like gas and oil, but when cooks come home they smell like bacon and eggs) were: Steve Kelly, Dave Williams, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Roger Shafer, Bill Bartholomew, Frank Pauli, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Lou Schenck, Ken Hughes, Mace Porter, Gary Porter, Don Wood, Henry Whipple, Bill Rice, Mike Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Duane Wagenbaugh, Rich Donnelly, Joe Liebier, Bill Krause, and me.

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