Today is the day of the week many of the older gents of the Hilltowns and their environs look forward to. This day is looked forward to by many of the ladies of the Hilltowns and their environs also. The day is Tuesday! The older gents, now known as OFs, look forward to Tuesday because that is the day they get out of the house and the ladies are glad they are gone.
So this Tuesday, the 26th of August, the Old Men of The Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. The Diner is right on Route 20 where Giffords Church road runs into Route 20 at Princetown. The OFs remember when Route 20 was THE east/west road, prior to the Thruway being built. There was a time after the Thruway was built that Route 20 had only the occasional local car or truck on it, and was like a back country road, but now it seems to be making a comeback with more travel being noticed, and with much of the traffic being travelers and not locals.
This column has mentioned many times what a wet spring and summer this has been, and how few bees the OFs have seen. Some of the OFs that have grape arbors say that there is nary a grape on any of their vines. One OF mentioned that it is not only the cultivated grapes but the pesky wild grapes (the Hilltowns equivalent to Kudzu) that have no grapes. The OFs say it is the lack of bees and no pollination, except one OF explained these grapes were not stressed out so the plant wasn’t worried about reproducing. (There is always one with that different view.)
Contrasting to the lack of grapes, was the abundance of the tree frogs. Those little critters are all over the place. One OFs says that when he is on his tractor mowing the lawn he is now scouring the grass ahead of the mower looking for these small frogs hopping in the grass so he doesn’t run over them with the mower. This OF says these frogs like mosquitoes, and mosquito larva, so he wants them around. Another OF answered, “Yeah but these frogs are food for snakes,” and this OF doesn’t want any snakes around. Then another said “Yeah you do, because not only are frogs on the snake’s plate, but so are mice and moles. I would rather have the frogs for snakes, and the snakes for controlling the mice. Snakes don’t carry diseases or ticks and other nasty things, they are quiet, and do not eat the wiring in the house that can cause a fire. Give me a snake any day, keep those frogs coming.”
This scribe does not know how to approach this next topic, but it is interesting. This was not any of the OFs making wise remarks to the waitress in any way, but in the normal routine of refreshing the coffee some of the OFs
without looking at the waitress (or even breaking a sentence, if speaking) would say “Thank you”, or “Thank you ma’am”, or “Thank you young lady,” to which one OF picked up on and said, “Right ─ the lady part for you must be a few years away.” To which the waitress just answered as she kept pouring coffee, “Not too many” and kept right on going.
This simple, exchange of routine banter led to a discussion on how far back in time would a particular OF want to go if they could go back. Would they go back to 40, 50, 18 years of age? This scribe was surprised at the answer. None of them wanted to really go back although some said maybe go back to when they were 50 or so. One OF said that except for the aches and pains, and the doctor visits, he likes the age he is now. This OF said if he could go back it would be maybe to 50 or 60 years old but he would like to know what he knows now. This OF said what he did maybe even prior to 50 was the “git ‘er-dun” approach. Now the OF has learned to be patient and do things right. The OF said he now knows he is not the only one on the planet and there are tons of really deserving, and needy people out there. This OF has learned to see and listen and it means a lot to him. The other OFs nodded in agreement but didn’t say much.
The OFs discussed how they are surprised by animals: ducks, fish, birds, dogs, etc., on what they can do, and it all seems to be natural, to the animal anyway. The OF mentioned fish coming out of the water to feed ─ these were not weird, exotic fish but regular carp. The occasional left-handed duck, and birds that eventually realize they are not going to be hurt and can almost be touched. Skunks that adopt a house and hang around for a long time, years even, and leave no smell. The OFs wondered why a few animals have these seemingly unnatural quirks, but most animals don’t. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be like Dr. Doolittle, and talk to the animals? The OFs think in many cases we do, and are not smart enough to know we are doing it.
The OFs were eating in a diner, the Chuck Wagon Diner, so the OFs began to discuss restaurant food and hot coffee. The OFs have a round robin of restaurants that are in the gun sights of the OFs. We do this to spread the wealth (yeah right). Let’s say that in all the restaurants on a Tuesday the OF would order French toast. One would expect the French toast to be basically the same ─ well it is not. Each restaurant is different. French toast at A is completely different than French toast at B. Coffee at restaurant A is completely different than restaurant B, and A’s coffee might be so hot it is necessary to let it cool down before drinking, and B’s coffee may be drinkable right away. One OF said his theory on this is that the cup (and not the coffee) determines how hot or tepid it will be. It looks like the coffee is made on the same machine. Just like a home, each restaurant has its own aroma; most are inviting. Oats are oats. How can oatmeal taste different in so many different places? Not that the OFs are connoisseurs or anything like that. The OFs do not sniff the wine and comment on how delicate it is. Most OFs think the wine out of a cardboard box is great stuff but they do wonder at times how the same thing can be so different.
Back to the French toast, an OF said some restaurants take a couple of slices of regular bread, slap it in some batter, throw it on the grill, then put it on a cold plate and serve it, while others take the thicker bread, place it in the batter, put it on the grill, add a little cinnamon, place it on a warm plate, sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top, some even add a little garnish, then serve it. The funny part is that both places charge about the same.
One OF said everything is like the guys who come to clean your furnace. One is covered in oil with old oil-covered work shoes, while the other comes and is clean, puts on plastic shoe covers at the door and then goes about his business, and both charge about the same. An OF said, “Yep, one cares about what he is doing, and to the others it is just a job.” “It is true in anything,” the OF went on, “From your mechanic, to the doctor that has to chase the cat off the examining table.”
Those Old Men of the Mountain that were at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown and did not have to chase any cats off the table were: George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Shafer, Roger Chapman, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Andy Tinning, Henry Witt, Art Frament, Bob Benac, Roger Fairchild, Herb Sawotka, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Harold Guest, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Duncan Bellinger, Duane Wagenbaugh, Rich Donnelly, Joe Loubier, Jim Rissacher, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Gerry Chartier (with guests who were not frightened the last time and will be headed back home, Olga Zeir, and Mario Schneider,) and me