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On Tuesday, February 3rd the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown.

There were two things that were on the special side of this morning’s breakfast. One is that they (whoever they are) say that the rodent in Punxsutawney saw his shadow. The eyes of that animal have to be pretty sharp to be able to see his shadow through all the snow and sleet which was in that area on Tuesday. One OF said how can he not see his shadow with all those TV lights glaring from the stations covering the event. The second thing was (as one OF put it) only the hardy OFs showed up for this morning’s breakfast. That may or may not be true. The OFs that did make it found the roads in good shape, but it was cold in the valleys. One OF reported they went through 12 degrees below zero, and another said that when he left his home on the top of the hill it was plus two degrees, and at the bottom of the hill it was minus five degrees. Other than that the road crews are to be commended on the conditions of the roads in the Hilltowns and surrounding environs. All the cars the OFs encountered (with the rare occasion of some jerk probably late for work) were moving about 40 miles an hour and they kept at safe distances from other vehicles. At least where the OFs were headed ─ Princetown ─ it was not that bad, just a normal Northeast winter morning, zero degrees, and snow.

The hiking OMOTM were discussing bridge building again. The new bridge they were talking about covers quite a span. The beams for the bridge are 40’ so the OFs were discussing how to tackle a job of this size. This bridge is to be located at Minekill which was developed years ago as part of the Gilboa hydro-electric project. Many of the OFs have visited the Minekill State Park, and the Blenheim-Gilboa visitor’s center at Lansing Manor. Like Thacher Park, this Park also has many interesting events going on and in the summer it is worth the trip. The winter may be a little hairy unless the OFs don’t mind driving winter roads through the mountains. Check it out on the net, and see some of the areas that the hikers of the OFs help maintain.

The OFs talked about solar panels, and one of the OFs explained how he has covered the south section of his roof with solar panels. This OF clarified that he rents the panels for a certain amount of money a month, and the installation cost him nothing. He has not received his first statement yet to see how he is doing, that is how new the system is. If this scribe can decipher his notes, the OF rents these solar units at a certain price for a given period of time. I believe the OF said 20 years (the OF hopes he makes 20 years. The secret to long life is to set goals far away into the future then try to make it) and he gets to use all the electricity for free. What he saves in his power bill should either pay for all his utilities or come close to it. This OF made a good pitch for those with south facing roofs.

The OFs also talked about Schoharie, including those counties and towns that were affected by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and how these places are still feeling the punches that storm wrought. One OF mentioned this is similar to the tremendous ice storm that hit Plattsburgh and the small towns in that locality many years ago; the damage was still visible years later. Even now some of the OFs that travel that way say a few repairs are still not made. This was brought about with a discussion on the Parrott House, which precipitated from a discussion on how many people were are in Schoharie with the murder trial going on at the Court House that was brought there as a change of venue from Oneonta. (Boy, how conversations tie seemingly unrelated events together.)

The Parrott House was built in 1870 and was known as the Eagle Hotel. A fire that same year that destroyed several buildings, started in the hay barn here, and the proprietor was William Parrott, Jr. The OFs can’t quite remember that far back (1870) but they do remember when the Parrott house was more or less the place to see and be seen, with the bowling alley in the basement where, as youngsters, some of the OFs set pins. Square dances at the House, Christmas parties held there, and all sorts of special events were at the House. Sometimes over the years the food was great and other times not so hot. That all depended on the owners and who was in the kitchen. Now the Parrott House just sits there looking so sad, waiting for a buyer. Hence the discussion of the flood.

The winter weather came up again, and many of the OFs remembered how they didn’t mind the snow and the cold a few years back. The winter activities were fun and invigorating. Ice skating was one activity particularly enjoyed and the village of Schoharie came up with a new lighted ice skating rink. The OFs remembered shoveling snow off the pond, and making places to skate. They recall having bon-fires and hot chocolate and skating. Ah, the remembrances of tobogganing ─ the OFs don’t know if tobogganing is done much anymore. Skiing with long wooden skis held on by the OF’s farmer boots, with felt liners and wool socks and toasty feet, and just springs for bindings. We were towed up to the top of the hill with a rope tow wrapped around a tractor tire. One OF thought we had more fun that way than kids do today with their fancy expensive outfits and more concerned about how they look, than having fun and learning to ski.

The OFs that made to the Chuck Wagon in Princetown, by not being scared by the weather guys, and appreciating the hard work by the road crews, whether they worked for the town, county or state, were: Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Robie Osterman, Mace Porter, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, John Rossmann, Harold Guest, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Harold Grippen, Gil Zabel, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.