By Dan Graves Daily News
Greensburg Daily News
---- — I never thought it would come to this.
For years I’ve been aware of select groups of, shall we say, older gentlemen who gather on a daily basis at one of the local fast food joints for a couple of hours of fellowship and casual conversation. On numerous occasions I had been invited to join them, but since I did not consider myself old enough to qualify for the popular title of “geezer” I politely declined. Besides, when they told me what time they normally gathered in the morning, I would tell them that I wouldn’t get up that early to judge the Miss Nude America contest. However, with the passage of time things have changed.
For years on a regular basis a friend and I would meet at his place of business for a cup of coffee and jaw for an hour or two on what we did the previous day and voice our opinions on local and national politics. Even though nothing significant had happened since the last cup of coffee, we could blow the simplest subject completely out of proportion to its importance. For instance, the matter of a flock of pigeons that kept the sidewalks and the occasional head decorated could take an hour to solve. Shotgun ‘em, poison ‘em, put steel spikes on the window ledges of the court house. Make a little spending cash by dressing ‘em out and selling fresh squab ready to bake.The good part was, he and I seldom met before 10 a.m. Then he told me he had been meeting the “guys” at one of the local cholesterol factories for quite a while and invited me to join them. “We’re normally there before 7 a.m.,” he said.
The next morning I fell out of bed at 6 a.m. and headed for my first encounter with the Over The Hill Gang. There are gangs that meet at a couple of other joints in town, but before I made a choice I would check these guys out and decide to either stick with them or move in with another group, say local business men or a bunch of lawyers. After getting a cup of coffee at the geezer discount, I sat down among a few familiar faces who were dressed in worn coveralls and ratty cowboy hats that they had undoubtedly received as Christmas gifts on their 16th birthday, threadbare jackets with the logo of the company they used to work for, and no introductions to the fellows I didn’t know. A stray dog accepted into the pack.
During that first session I sat and listened to get an idea of what subjects were being discussed that I could join in with. I don’t know diddly about hog farming or the union situation at Acme Manufacturing, so I followed the old dictate of “an idiot should be seen, not heard.” The next morning I tumbled out of bed and didn’t bother to brush my teeth since everyone else also had bad breath. I wasn’t going to do something to make me an outcast this soon. Thank heavens for small favors when someone brought up the subject of dogs, especially the hunting variety.
Now, here was a subject I thought I could sink my teeth into alongside the best of them. For thirty minutes one breed or another was dissected for its merits or shortcomings. One of the older gentlemen related his younger days of hunting with a muzzle loader behind Ol Blue. The others claimed he was old enough that a club was a modern weapon back then. When a break in the action came I decided to offer my two cents worth.
“I used to have a cocker spaniel that kept the birds shooed out of our cherry tree”. You would think I had just called Eisenhower a boot legger. It got real quiet while the others inspected the ceiling tiles and I shrank down into my seat. Thank goodness it was time to disband for another day.
One morning, one of the gang started relating his latest fishing adventure. That’s like popping the cork on a jug of moonshine in a chain gang. When that happens, the normal church going person will fold his tent and head for the door because the only subject that generates more lies are dog stories. If you’ve never been in a group of eight or nine fellows, some of whom were probably involved in the civil war, and the subject of fishing comes up, you haven’t experienced one of the gaudier facets of life. Best types of rods, killer baits or lures, best places to fish and enough monster fish to make even the Japanese blush with envy. Then in a slight pause in the action I made another supreme social blunder.
“I fish only with fly rods for trout, bass and pan fish”. It got real quiet. You would have thought I had just insulted their mothers and claimed that anyone who drove a pickup was a low I.Q. hillbilly. I might as well have been wearing lace around my neck and on my shirt cuffs. After a long silence I tried to back peddle by explaining that I was just kidding and that I really use the rod for catching shiner minnows to use as bait on my trout lines. I don’t know if they bought it, but the conversation slowly fell back on the advantages of pond fishing and whether chicken guts were better than hog guts for cat fishing.
I kept going back for a while, hoping they would accept me as a genuine geezer. I stuck to dog stories and stopped trying to impress them with lies of big trout caught on flies with names like Humpy Hairwing and Wooly Booger. I even tried a spinning rod baited with chicken entrails and ten pounds of lead sinkers. After all, social acceptance is an important part of life if you expect to be a member of the early morning geezer gang.