Tuesday, the 16th of August 2016, the Old Men of the Mountain were sitting on the benches of the Country Café in Schoharie waiting for the proprietors to open the doors. So often it is said, “You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.” Another take on the saying can be, “You can take the man out of the military, but you can’t take the military out of the man.” Both of the scenarios require both the man and the boy to get up early. So there they are ─ OFs waiting for the restaurant to open.
One OF showed up with a box of new hats for the OMOTM, so you may see more of the gray and black hats with the “OMOTM” letters on them. When you see some OF with one of these hats on be kind to him, because that person will fit the first two letters, Old and Man. This gentleman may be wobbly on his feet (though not drunk) or he may walk into the wall and miss the door because he has only one eye that works most of the time, or he may know you and then again might not, or he may be wandering around the parking lot looking for his car, and then again he might be standing right beside it and not know it. He may even be trying to get into your car thinking it is his and giving you an argument. If you happen to notice he has on one of the gray and black hats with the OMOTM label take it easy on him, the OF is doing the best he can.
The hat advertises that the person under it has eyes that may be a little dimmer, the hearing may be fading a bit, the gait may be slower, but the heart beats with the same passion for living as it did fifty years ago. One OF suggested that there should be a club in school that researches the elderly in the community and help them out with routine chores. One OF thought that there are such clubs, and maybe the OFs are too active for these clubs to notice. However, it would be nice if a club researched and found older people still quite ambulatory but living alone and then these younger folks could go mow their lawn, help with cleaning the house, and even perform some simple routine maintenance like changing light bulbs, give painting a touch here and there, and fix the broken hinge…things like that. In cleaning the house this club would really be a big help because there comes a time in the aging process where the older people may be able to get down but getting up is another matter. Scrubbing the tub and shower is one chore that requires the getting down and getting up. The OFs say it is just a thought, and like one OF mentioned, in many places this type of volunteering may be going on, but it gets no press.
It is fair time and the OFs discussed these country fairs, e.g., what they are now and what they used to be. The OFs can’t relate to the fair as it is now and one OF assumed it’s because we are of another generation, to which this scribe suggested he try another word here because it is likely more than one generation. The OFs are so antiquated that generations is a more likely word. The complexities of the communities have changed from agricultural to suburban. Farms are few and far between, half the people attending the fair (the OFs think) only know a cow from picture books and probably think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
To which one OF told the story of how his brother brought some friends of his from college home to their farm in Schoharie. They were from the CITY, and the OF said his brother had them convinced that this cow story was, in fact, the way it was. This farm had a mixed herd, and some of these cows were Jerseys (one of the smallest breeds of dairy cattle and definitely brown in color). The OF had his father place some cocoa at the bottom of a bucket and then the OFs brother hand-milked a Jersey and the milk turned, you guessed it, brown. In the milk house the OFs brother had a strainer on a milk can with a taped-on sign noting ‘this can for chocolate milk only’. The OF wonders if those two guys still think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
The OFs remember showing animals and bringing produce to the fair. They remember their FFA projects at the fair, having their crafts presented in the 4-H building, and their parents working together with other farmers on their Grange presentations. Spending the week at the fair taking care of the livestock was tons of fun. The OFs hope the fairs keep on going so their grandkids can have the same experiences, most will however it is more likely some of these programs will be offered in different ways.
Things have changed a lot in the generations the OFs have trod this planet. At one point the OFs that are Catholic discussed how they had to behave and how they had to dress at the parochial schools they attended as youngsters. One OF said he doesn’t think that has changed much over the years. The OFs knew that they had to wear knickers, shirts and ties, and boy! when a Nun spoke the OFs listened. The OFs remembered practicing the Palmer method to learn cursive writing. One OF said he does not think that many kids today write in cursive. Another OF said watching the kids today he thinks that over the years the pointer finger and the index finger will turn into thumbs. Another OF added he didn’t think so, the technology of today is moving so fast that the technology of tomorrow won’t require thumbs.
Some of the OFs said that is the way the Fair will go; if it is to maintain itself, it has to cater to the younger generation. The OFs are now out of the loop even though they hope that in some places there will still be the old-fashioned Country Fair.
Along with a lot of people in the area the OFs joined in the discussion on the casino that is being built in Schenectady. Some think it will work fine; others think it is going to bring problems. Some OFs think it will hurt Saratoga, and also the Turning Stone casino. One OF said there is only a certain number of gamblers to go around. One OF added he thinks there will be quite a marketing attack to entice younger people to take up the habit so they can introduce more people to gambling in order to have a larger gambling pool.
One OF said that he has heard that there are some that are going to run river cruises from the NYC to the casino. That, to some OFs, sounded like a neat idea and will probably work, although one OF said that will be more than a day trip to the casino. A boat coming up the river from NY City and that area is not going to be like coming by train or bus. A boat will take awhile, and unless that is one really fast boat, those people will have to stay over.
The OFs were discussing the recent weather disasters, and they really are disasters, bombarding the south with the rains coming from the Gulf, and the fires in the west that are burning up half the state of California. The views they show on the news remind the OFs of Katrina, and our own Tropical Storm, Irene. The water in Louisiana nobody can do anything about. If it is going to rain it is going to rain, but the fires in California appear to have been set. The OFs are not too sure about that yet but the authorities allegedly have an arsonist in custody. If this is proven to be true what damage this guy has done! One OF said they are going to need a small army to protect this character because there are thousands of people who will want to hang him from one of those burned-out trees.
One OF said he wouldn’t want to wade in the waters in Louisiana because he would be afraid of running into a snake or an alligator trying to get to the same high ground as he was.
“That is one thing we don’t have to worry about with floods in our neck of the woods”, an OF added.
“Where does all this water go down along the Gulf?” one OF said, “That area is already at sea level; it can’t run off, it has to sink into the ground or evaporate. I will take a good old snow storm on my mountain any day.”
The OFs sitting on the benches in front of the Country Café in Schoharie added a touch of yesteryear to the streets of Schoharie as they watched a man travel to each hanging plant that lined the streets, watering them. This would be reminiscent of early risers watching the old lamplighter putting out the lamps in the morning. The OFs that gathered there were: Miner Stevens, Bill Lichliter, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Roger Chapman, John Rossmann, Dave Williams, Harold Guest, Bill Bartholomew, Marty Herzog, Chuck Aelesio, Richard Frank, Roger Shafer, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Roger Fairchild, Herb Sawotka, Jim Rissacher, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Gerry Irwin, Wayne Gaul, Duncan Bellinger, Joe Bender, Rich Donnelly, Don Wood, Sonny Mercer, Bob Lassome, Duane Wagonbaugh, Ted Willsey, Bob Benninger, Bob Fink, Elwood Vanderbilt, Harold Grippen, and me.