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The Home Front Café in Altamont on Tuesday the 10th of February was open and welcomed the Old Men of the Mountain with open arms. The proprietor in self-proclaimed admittance, was there with his ratty clothes to which the OFs could understand very well, as all the OFs are accustomed to the same basic ratty-clothes syndrome. To many of the OFs the ratty clothes are the most comfortable, and because they are already ratty it is not necessary to worry about spilling anything on them from mustard to motor oil to paint and turpentine.

The proprietor admitted though that the shop is his and the house is the wife’s. A man’s home is his castle – baloney – the home belongs to the distaff side. In other words, the OFs came up with the right way to label how domestic life really is. The stable is the King’s, and the castle belongs to the Queen. The proprietor admitted that the ratty clothes never make it to the house; he changes in the mud room. That is not a bad idea. A guy’s clothes full of diesel fuel, or gas, or turpentine or even sawdust can stink up a house royally. The OFs had to admit that sometime clothes can become too ratty ─ henceforth dangerous. Wearing oil soaked coveralls day in and day out, then take the hose from an oxygen bottle of acetylene torch set to blow off some grime, then get near an open flame and…whoosh…there had better be a fire extinguisher handy, or else the local “Digger Odell’s” calendar with the phone number on it should be close by.

The OFs mentioned that we are having a perfect winter for roof ice dams. One OF mentioned that he has already had a problem with water in the living room from backed up runoff produced by the ice dams. One OF said that it is how your house is positioned, and the way the wind blows, that causes these icicles. Another OG advised us to get out early and rake the snow off the roof…that also helps. That is fine if the OF is physically able to do that, or the house is low enough. If the house is an old country home, two stories tall, that is another thing. One OF recommended moving downstairs and not heating the upstairs might help to keep the snow so it doesn’t melt from underneath and icicles don’t form. The OFs have been through many winters and all have different ways of handling the weather of the Northeast. Each seems quite different, but all of them seem to work.

This next story concerns an OF who started his Cub Cadet tractor up with the snow blower attachment on it and then he proceeded to clean his driveway. Simple, right? The OFs do something like this all the time. This OF had the driveway cleared and was out in the road cleaning it up and the tractor died. That yellow machine stopped right there in the road. What the @#$%$# is wrong with this thing? The OF got off and checked the tractor all over and then noticed it was out of gas. Duh! Most OFs check the gas in the lawn mower, chain saw, weed whacker, and snow blowers BEFORE they start out. This OF went to the garage and found he happened to have a couple of cups of gas in the gas can, just enough to get the tractor started and out of the road then back to the garage. Darn good thing this OF doesn’t fly a plane.

The OFs had to advise the OG that it is important to check your equipment before it is used. This OF said, “Hey, once you fill a snow blower or tractor up with gas that’s it”. He actually said, “You only have to do that once, right,” the OF said with a twinkle in his good eye?

Even though it is winter somehow the OFs began talking about hornets, and bees, and being chased by these critters, and really getting stung. It was decided among the OFs that the hornets in the ground were the nastiest. They do not like to be messed with. One OF mentioned the honeybees from Russia, they, too, do not like to be bothered. This same OF mentioned he saw what he believed was a column of bees leaving a series of hives not just one hive. This OF said the column of bees had to attain 3 to 4 feet in diameter and reached higher than the trees which he guessed were 30 to 40 feet tall. He checked with the bee keeper and he was right ─ the bees were all gone. The OFs wondered what spooked the bees to take flight and desert those hives. (Scribe’s note, the English language is at time strange. Bees live in hives, and people get hives. Not being too swift on this type of thing, this scribe wonders what is the connection?)

This conversation prompted an OF to add that the smallest mammal known is the honeybee bat. Now, what again prompted this? How the mind rattles things around and ties weird parts of a conversation into other weird parts of a completely different conversation. (There the OFs go again, a bat hits a ball, and a bat eats bugs, go figure).

Those OMOTM that showed up at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and in halfway decent clothes except the OF with the battery-acid eaten pants (and yet another story) were: Roger Chapman, Robie Osterman, George Washburn, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Chuck Aleseio, Otis Lawyer, Glenn Patterson, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Bill Krause, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, Mike Willsey, Warren Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Henry Whipple, Rev. Jay Francis, and me.