"We listen generally 'til dawn, the missus and me, talking about the old days, and the farm back in Leominster before the superhighway came through."
The Cutrumbeses were farmers — real farmers — and had been for years, working their dairy spread in the town of Leominster, some fifty miles to the east of North Brookfield in the direction of Boston. But those fifty miles make a difference in our part of Massachusetts, and the sad fact was that the Cutrumbeses had not been happy in Leominster for some time. All the farms adjacent to theirs had been sold to developers years earlier, and the Cutrumbeses' spread was surrounded by suburbia. Two-car families, asphalt driveways, parking lots, shopping malls, the works. The last straw came when the superhighway came through, bisecting the Cutrumbeses' farm into unequal sections, filling the air with diesel exhaust, and somehow spoiling the taste of the milk given daily by the Cutrumbeses' herd of cows. The cows seemed sad — sadder than usual — and Jack Cutrumbes, 41, decided to take action.
West was the only way to go, and in June of 1981 Jack Cutrumbes bought the Mogul spread in North Brookfield — 125 acres of quiet beauty just a stone's throw and holler outside the center of town, and only a few yards from Long View Farm. Six weeks later, the Rolling Stones came.
"Hold on, Jack, I can't hear you."
It was that single-engine Cessna again, this time only a hundred and fifty feet overhead. Jack looked up at it, dreamily, elbows resting on the white fence just outside his barn. I pulled the Cadillac off the road. I wanted to have a word with my new neighbor, and see how he was weathering the storm.
Jack was still leaning on the fence, pipe in hand, but he was no longer looking at the Cessna, which was now describing lazy circles over Long View. Cutrumbes was pointing in the other direction instead, at a fast approaching helicopter owned by Channel 3, Hartford. They had wanted to land the thing on the top of our big hill, "just for some long shots of the Farm and barn," but I had refused.
"Well, we're going to do a fly-by then," the pilot announced. "Not much you can do about that."
And there wasn't much I could do about it either, except duck, here outside Jack Cutrumbes's manure pile. The helicopter roared overhead, tilted crazily, and headed back toward Hartford, leaving an obnoxious trail of noisy thuck-athuck-thucks. Its side door was open, and I could see a man, canvas safety straps, and a large TV camera.
"Jack," I said, "I don't know how to apologize, or what to say. This isn't my idea, I can tell you that."
A swirl of loose hay and dust engulfed us as two carloads of Stones watchers swept by, followed closely by Harvey Thomasian in the North Brookfield police cruiser.
"They'll be back," chawed Jack. "They'll be back. Come by once, find out that that's Long View, then they'll go down the bottom of the hill, turn around, and make another pass. Bothers me more when they come from down below, cruising by your place, then turn around here. Not so much the noise and the beer cans. It's more the matches and the cigarettes I'm worrying about. Could set us all afire, what with the hay just in off the fields."
"I know what you mean," I said. "I've got people watching out for fire down there 24 hours a day. Should see what I have to deal with up in the loft. Roadies putting butts out everywhere but in the ashtrays. No hay up there anymore, of course, but lots of dry wood. You getting any sleep?"
"Nope," Jack said. "Makes the windows rattle up here when those fellas play. So we got no choice. We listen generally 'til dawn, the missus and me, talking about the old days, and the farm back in Leominster before the superhighway came through."
"I don't know what to say, Jack, except that I'm sorry. I didn't think it'd be this crazy. Can't continue on too much longer."
"Aw, they've got a right to their livin', too," Jack allowed. "Talked to one of 'em just yesterday. Came jogging by here, he did, all out of breath, face redder'n a beet at Thanksgiving. Stopped here, just where you're standin'."
"Can't make it another step," he says. "Ran all the way around the block. Five miles, must be. Left the owner behind way back by the reservoir."
"You one of them Stones?" I asked him.
"Yup," he said. "Sure am."
"Found out later it's that fella Mick Jagger everyone's tryin' to get to see. Nice guy. Don't know what the fuss is all about."
"Well, Jack, I'm glad there's been some compensation there for you. I'm going to talk to Harvey and we'll get the road closed off on the weekends. That'll help some. These cars are just too much. You just moved here, and you don't know, but we generally get only two or three cars a day on this road, including the milk truck."
"Look out!" Jack shouted, as he grabbed me by the arm just as the same two carloads of Stones watchers roared by again, now in the opposite direction, Harvey still in seeming pursuit. The air now smelled of exhaust.
"Stopped answerin' the phone." Jack continued. "Had to. Reporters, radio stations. One fella from Los Angeles called every hour on the hour, starting at midnight, mind you. Wanted to know what tunes they were playin' in the barn. Couldn't tell 'em anyway. All sound the same to me."
"It might make a difference if you'd come to a rehearsal one night, Jack. Maybe I could speak to one of the people in charge, and see what they'd say."
"Already invited," Jack said.
"You're what? I can't even get up there myself whenever I want. Are you sure?"
"Yup " Jack said. "Already invited. Unless that fella wasn't Mick Jagger after all."
Jack was laughing as I slid back into my car, and I can remember thinking as I headed back down toward Long View that Jack Cutrumbes and his family would probably make it through with no additional help from me. He'd been invited to a rehearsal by Mick Jagger.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.