The Rock Wall
"There's a particularly mean looking one... Tattoos. Beer. Something
metal hanging from his belt. Tell Callahan I may have to go out there."
There's a long rock wall down at the bottom of the valley dividing our
farm from Stanley's. Seen from the Farmhouse, it begins off to the left
on very high ground, dips down behind the riding ring, and continues
off and up toward the right, behind the pond. On the other side of the
rock wall, which is about a quarter mile from the front porch of the
Farmhouse, the land dips down sharply, toward Stanley's house and barn.
You can stand on Stanley's side of the rock wall and be only as tall as
a person kneeling on the Long View side of the same wall, and so the
rock wall provides natural camouflage and cover for people coming from
Stanley's who might want to
on Long View.
"Stanley," I said, "you can't let people onto your property. You
understand what will happen. People are coming from all over the
country trying to find out how to get to Long View. They'll come across
your land in droves, trying to make it to the rock wall. The wall is
within a rifle shot of the porch at Long View, and that's too close. Do
you understand what I'm trying to tell you, Stanley? Besides, they'll
trample your hay and hassle your cows and maybe set fire to something.
You've got to listen to me, Stanley, you just don't know what you're up
against." Stanley looked at me for a moment, spat, and spoke.
"Would'a been eighty-seven today, Bessie would'a. Typhoid took her away
in the winter of '44, leavin' Jeb with those six kids of hers, and not
the brains God gave a green apple. Never much good, Jeb."
Stanley always knew how old a lot of dead people would have been had
they not died when they did. That's loyalty to a frame of reference
like I've never seen before.
"Stanley," I said, "what does that have to do with the Rolling
I'm simply asking you to close off your road, for God's sake. You don't
know what you're dealing with." Stanley changed his mind before he was
done, and closed off his driveway with piles of hay bales and wouldn't
let people walk across his land toward ours, and that helped a lot.
But on this particular Sunday afternoon, early on during the stay of
the Stones at Long View, Stanley was doing nothing to help. Visitors
would get as far as the roadblock at the bottom of Stoddard Road, argue
in vain with the officers on duty, and generally be shunted on past the
reservoir, toward Stanley's. And at the spot where Stanley's driveway
met the road, there was a really good view of Long View in the
distance, up on the hill, and so it's here that the cars would slow to
a halt, and usually park. We could see them easily from the Farmhouse
at Long View see them roll up their windows, lock their cars, and
casually walk up Stanley's long driveway, toward us, until the driveway
ended. Then they'd set out across the field, generally in groups of
two's or three's, heads bobbing up and down as they ducked from one piece
of natural cover to the next, edging ever closer to the rock wall, to
Long View, and to the Rolling Stones. We had several pairs of
"There's a particularly mean looking one," said Bob Bender, Stones
security man, cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, peering
intently through the glasses, toward the east. "Tattoos. Beer.
Something metal hanging from his belt. Tell Callahan I may have to go
Although Jim Callahan was chief in charge of security for the Stones,
his main concern was the bodily safety of the stars, not logistics or
perimeters. Bob Bender was more interested in the perimeters, and crowd
control, and so was I.
"I'll go down there," I said to Bob. "I need some exercise,
and I know where not to step. It's wet in places. Just give me a few
minutes to finish my drink."
That was fine with Bender. He'd much rather stay up by the swing,
smoke cigarettes, and play with Robert, Kathleen's three year old son. Robert
and Bob Bender got along famously. They would imitate each other. So I
swilled down the end of my screwdriver and ambled down toward the pond,
where I'd cut across over to the wall. From there I would see what was
happening, and maybe talk some people into leaving. I had my boots,
jeans, shirt and tie, and the black pin-striped jacket that Cat
Stevens gave me just before he left.
My standard countryside rock mogul get-up.1
More activity now, it seemed,
as I got closer. More frequent bobbing up and down of heads at the wall itself.
First over to the left, accompanied by a puff of smoke indicating not
artillery, but probably a joint being passed around. Then off to the
right, punctuated by a howl of some sort. Some kid attempting to sound
like an Indian, was the best you could make of it. Then right down in
front, not one head bobbing, but all of a sudden six of them. There was
clearly something going on on the other side of the wall, now just a few
steps in front of me, on the top of the rise.
A few moments later I was to realize as never before the extent of our
security problem at Long View; one second I was making my way toward the
rock wall, listening to the birds cheeping, and even a bit lost in
deep-country reverie, the next second I had reached the rock wall and was
looking over it, first to the left, then to the right, and into the eyes of
scores of Stones watchers, all crouched up against the wall, sometimes two or
three deep. They had binoculars, joints, beers, infants-in-arms, girlfriends,
and an occasional walkie-talkie. These people were of all ages, and they were
all looking at me. Intently. I glanced nervously over my shoulder, and back
toward the Farm. I could see Bob Bender on the porch, looking at me through
his glasses. He waved one arm over his head. The little lump down and to his
right had to be Robert. All of a sudden, I wished I was back up there.
"Well, looky-here," a nearby voice said. I wheeled around to confront
a young kid who looked about fourteen. He was obese from beer, and on his
upper lip he had a dirty-looking peach fuzz, which was apparently under
cultivation. He wore a plain white tee-shirt, which was sweat stained and
soiled with the dirt of the land. It strained around the spare tires of his
fat, adolescent stomach. Only a corner of the shirt was tucked into his
jeans, which were also filthy. He wore a wide, black belt that had silver
studs or bolts in it, or something. This kid was mean, and not much fun to
"Well, wadda we got here? Da Stones in dere?" he spat at me.
"You got da Stones up dere?"
"Yes," I said. "The Rolling Stones are in there, and let me tell
you, they're madder'n hell. Mad that they've come all this way for some peace
and quiet, and that they get this, instead." I waved my arm in a grand
flourish, encompassing all those crouched by the wall, smoking joints, and
laughing at me.
The kid spat again, then moved toward me, smirking. He was flanked by two
urchins who were obviously much younger still, and who were trading playful pugilistic
shots at each other, yelping, and occasionally bumping into the
filthy jeans of the bigger kid.
"Hey," the big one said. "You a banker?"
"Let's play wit da banker," the little one on the left said.
"You wanna play, big shot?" spoke the little one on the right.
The fourteen year old obese one was still smirking, and now had his barrel
chest and peach fuzz lip only a few inches away from the buttons of my Cat
Stevens jacket. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman Stones watcher off
to the left old enough to be my mother. She was crouched behind the wall,
in a good position, and she was shaking her fist at me. Shouting something,
too, but I couldn't hear quite what. Then I figured it out. She was booing
me. And then suddenly some others started booing me, too. The boos traveled
quickly along the rock wall in both directions, to the left and to the
right, until I was hearing good stereo.
"All right," I said, in my most calm and measured tones. "But it's
simply not going to work. They're not going to come out of the house
with their six security guys and dogs and whatnot and come down here to
the rock wall to sign autographs. The fact is, Mick's in New York, and
Keith has just crashed after being up for three days, and everybody
else is asleep, too. You'll be here a couple of days before anything
stirs up there, and I can guarantee you they're not going to play
tonight in the barn, so you're just wasting your time and getting cold
The boos had now subsided somewhat, and a few people were actually
listening to me.
"And I'd be happier if you just up and left. It would make our job
easier. You ought to think of us once before trampling over our land
with your beer cans and binoculars and getting people all paranoid and
up-tight. John Lennon was shot last December, and he's dead now. Can
you imagine what's going through their minds up there at the Farmhouse
when they look down here and see puffs of smoke, walkie-talkies, and
guys with tattoos and too much to drink? They start talking 'security,'
that's what they do, and that comes down hard on us. So why don't you
go home and warm up? Maybe they'll play tomorrow night, who knows?"
"But that's Monday," I heard someone growl, and I realized with some
relief that Monday
the first day of school for most schools
"Yeah," the fat kid said. "Dat's Monday."
Bob Bender was still up on the swing, with Robert, looking at me
through his large binoculars. I waved back at him this time, forced a
smile in the direction of this rag-tag bunch of Stones watchers who
were now in some visible disarray, not knowing what to do whether
to go or to stay.
"Listen," I said, "you do what you want. Just don't count on seeing any
Rolling Stones, 'cause it's not going to happen. Not today, at any
rate. I'm going back up there. You do what you want."
Already I could see one or two groups along the edges gathering up
their things, kicking at the rock wall, and preparing to leave. The
lady old enough to be my mother was muttering something, but she wasn't
booing me anymore. The fat kid suddenly seemed at a loss for words. I
wasn't going to get socked, after all. Must have been what I said about
Mick being in New York. Or about Keith having crashed. Invoking the
word and image of the Rolling Stones produces results. Interesting, I
thought. These people were going to go away because Mick was in New
York, and because Keith was asleep.
had something to do with this charade, too. Gil
Markle honest broker in the service of superstars. That fat kid
hadn't scared me a bit. I straightened up in my boots, wheeled about,
and headed back toward the Farm, feeling quite satisfied with my
performance, and useful for a change. It occurred to me that if we got
through this weekend, and school actually started, we'd have it made.
How many times more do we have to hear that Cat Stevens gave him that
suit jacket? The fact is, Cat Stevens couldn't stand the thing, and he'd just
sent the girl who gave it to him off in a limousine, back to New York, in
tears. That was in 1977.
"Here," he said to Gil, "you keep this stupid thing. It'll
probably fit you."
Gil makes out like it had been presented to him in a box, or something. B.S.