The war started, as wars often do, over a very small thing. Out at the Bluehorn mansion, caretaker Joe McCreary looked out across the manicured 10-acre lawn from his pickup truck on Further Lane and noticed that one of the workmen from the Black mansion next door was using a leaf blower to noisily blow stacks of newly fallen leaves across the property line and onto the Bluehorn property. The leaves were in a pile beginning to form a line from the lane down to the dunes at the ocean, a distance of a quarter of a mile. As they were blown, they fluttered into the air and resettled themselves down, moving slowly westward. McCreary sized it all up. It would be a huge job to get them off.
Though the sound was tremendous, McCreary could now hear the barking of the two German shepherds from somewhere inside the Bluehorn mansion. Then he heard the bang of the big dog door and there they were, racing toward the swirling pile, their teeth bared, growling and snarling. As he watched, the dogs ran into the pile angrily, then, in moments, emerged to run back toward the house, covered with leaves, whimpering.
McCreary got out of his pickup and walked briskly toward the leaf blower operator now trespassing on the Bluehorn’s property with his leaf blower. When he got to within 50 feet of him, he shouted at him to stop. The man ignored him. He couldn’t possibly hear him. He was wearing earplugs. McCreary returned to the truck.
Picking his cell phone out of the holster on the dashboard, he called Mariano, who headed up the crew of workmen he’d hired to blow the leaves off the Bluehorn property.
“Mariano, better get down here fast,” he said. “We got trouble.”
“Yes sir,” Mariano said. They both hung up.
Fifteen minutes later, Mariano’s blue pickup came roaring down Further Lane. He was coming just in time. The roiling mountain of leaves was now 10 feet high and closing in on the mansion. You couldn’t even see the leaf blower guy in there. But McCreary could tell where he was. The leaves moved in waves of furious sputters. He was behind the sputters.
McCreary walked over to Mariano as he brought the pickup to a halt. Three of Mariano’s men leaped down from the back, and, with their backpacks on and their blowers at the ready, ran over to McCreary for instruction.
McCreary pointed. He didn’t have to say a word. The three men, along with Mariano, turned their blowers onto screech and ran single file toward the pile. They’d drive the leaves back. Soon the leaves were going the other way, fluttering up in the air as they went back. It was three against one.
At that moment, McCreary’s cell phone rang with its special ring. It was Mr. Bluehorn, at his desk in the corner office of the 53rd floor of the glass-and-steel Bluehorn office building on Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue.
“What the hell is going on out there?” Bluehorn shouted.
“What, sir?” McCreary asked.
“I flipped on the surveillance camera here on my desk to enjoy my serene summer house and what do I see? My dogs running away. Oceans of leaves. A monsoon of leaves. What is happening?”
“We’ve got it under control,” McCreary said. “The dogs came back. The leaves are going back.”
“They’re from Black’s property?”
“That son of a bitch. I beat him to the Winslow purchase. Then I leave him with his pants down with the Jackson Martin purchase.”
“It’s all right, sir.”
“Are you kidding me? Look. Can’t you see it?”
“It’s a company of leaf blower commandoes running out in single file, coming right at you.”
“I can’t see them. I’m on the ground, sir.”
“Out of Black’s garage. Get them. Get them.”
“How many of them are there?”
“Eight so far.”
McCreary took the phone away from his mouth and yelled toward the tornado where Mariano was conducting the operation from the rear.
“Mariano! We’ll need a second crew.”
Mariano waved and nodded. He ducked low and retreated toward the Bluehorn mansion so he could be heard ordering the necessary reinforcements on his own cell phone.
Bluehorn could hear the conversation. “Get ’em, McCreary.”
Bluehorn jumped up and down in his corner office, rattling the floor and knocking a row of scrimshaw off a glass shelf at the back of the rolling bar.
“Yes, sir,” McCreary said.
Soon the four men in the second crew arrived and brought the leaf war to a stalemate. Billows of leaves on the left flank of the Black property would go over to the Bluehorn property. Then billows of leaves on the Bluehorn property’s right flank would be thrown back to where they came from.
“Atta boy, atta boy,” Bluehorn shouted into the phone. He’d sat back down in his executive chair. And then his secretary poked her head in the door.
“We have Mr. Black on line three.”
Bluehorn punched up Black. He took a deep breath. But before he could speak, Black did.
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, whoooo,” Black screamed, then hung up.
Out at the Bluehorn estate, McCreary looked down the road, hoping to see still more of Mariano’s backup crew. Instead, he saw two unfamiliar pickup trucks, full of leaf blower people, turn into the Black driveway and head toward the mountain of leaves.
“Dammit,” he said to nobody in particular.
“I heard that,” Bluehorn said.
Now the tide was shifting again, and the leaves moved again further onto the Bluehorn property. The noise was almost unbearable.
When teams of police cars arrived 20 minutes later, the officers found oceans of fluttering leaves getting blown hither and thither, not just on the Bluehorn and Black properties but on the adjacent neighbor’s property whose caretakers had gotten into the fray with their own leaf-blowing crews. Soon, leaf-blowing crews up and down Further Lane, Hither Lane and Middle Lane roiled the whole area in a full-scale battle.
Reinforcements from neighboring police departments were called in, but chaos continued. Soon, as a last resort, the police telephoned the backup brigade of potato farmer marksmen wielding potato bazookas. By noon, they were firing at every leaf blower they could find and bringing them to the ground.
Two hours later, the situation was finally brought under control. Twenty-two workers were taken to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital with potato bruises on their bodies, nine potato farmers were brought in suffering leaf burns, and two police officers suffered minor injuries. All were released after treatment, on their own recognizance.
By evening, nine dogs were reported still missing, the online noise complaint totals went through the roof at the East Hampton Airport, and when the reporters and media people arrived, all they were able to report seeing were leaves scattered everywhere, even on the swimming pools and tennis courts where they had originally fallen one month before the leaf blowers arrived.
“It was a remarkable scene,” a blogger said in a video posted on YouTube. “Like before the hedgerow people came.”
Late that night, down at the police station, McCreary and O’Hara, the two caretakers at Bluehorn and Black respectively, were booked and held without bail, as were 35 other caretakers and 57 leaf blowers. Seventy-one leaf blowers and fourteen pickup trucks were also confiscated.
Next Thursday afternoon at the VFW Hall in Amagansett at 3 p.m., 17 potato farmers are to be given bronze medals for bravery in putting down what very nearly was a full-blown town-wide civil war. The farmers had nipped the situation in the proverbial potato bud at the very last minute to save the day.
“This was our first action since the surfcaster incident five years ago,” said potato farmer Benjamin Yastrezmski. “The brigade worked like clockwork, and I am proud of each and every one of them.”