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The Witch of Wall Street

The Greens and How I Never Knew Them......

Hetty Green, called by adoring contemporaries "The Witch of Wall Street," was the sort of woman who wore newspapers for underwear; this, despite the fact she was the richest woman in the world. Her business acumen and personal ruthlessness were known to blanch even the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Huntingtons who barely exceeded her wealth. If not for her oddities, many suspect she might have become the robber baron of all time.

Hetty, however and thanks be to God, vectored in on the trivial enough to distract a grand plan of domination. She would, when pressed, see a doctor; when further pressed she might act on his advice and purchase a prescription. She insisted, however, upon using her own bottle to save the pennies for a new one in order to contain the medicine.Moth breeding within the change purse did cause one – known - family catastrophe. An injury to her son's leg did not receive the prompt attention perhaps necessary, and so the leg was lost. This provided the sparkling relationship with her son that she had, evidently, already achieved with a daughter. Later, in the years after her mother's death, Ms. Green reflected upon a period of time spent at home: "I lived with my mother," she explained. "If you can call that living."

Mother safely entombed (one envisions legions of her admirers leaving deep boot prints around the grave, packing it down...), Junior dabbed his eye, adjusted his wooden leg, stood to his full height of about 6' 4" and dedicated himself to doing just those things that would annoy Mom in life.

Not far from where I grew up, "Colonel" Green (the rich often endowed themselves with military titles, more or less valid) built a lovely mansion at Round Hill, near Nonquitt, Massachusetts. When I was there, a radar station had been built upon the actual hill, and the mansion was a convent. After living a life of excess and, from most accounts, some happiness, the Colonel had passed on, the bequest to the church only part of a will known for its philanthropy. There were, evidently, no children to honor the name of Grandma Hetty.Actually, memory fails; perhaps the church was not the first choice of the Colonel for his mammoth house. It makes a better story if it was so, though. In any case, it became a convent.

The nuns led a secluded and pristine life, enjoying the view of Buzzard's Bay, the Elizabeth Islands, the extensive grounds, the well built and roomy accommodations. For some odd reason, the realtor involved did not call undue attention to the device over the main entrance, which was not a standard item in the Vatican's Decorating Hints. It was a whale's penis (the Colonel thought well of himself). It was, evidently, there for decades, unknown to the Sisters.

Locals, Catholic to a man, were undecided about all this. What had been a bad joke (I still remember various punch lines, most ending with novitiates looking up and screaming "Pasquale!" as they entered Round Hill) was periodically considered to be an obscenity, or at least a mockery of the Sisters, a last jab by a bitter man at all forms of maternal authority. Perhaps not. Aristotle Onassis used the testicles of whales to cover bar stools. The rich are often quite different from you and I. Taste cannot be bought, inherited, or feigned. It takes conscious effort.

If a joke, the colonel may have been disappointed. Such a thing probably bothered, titillated, or concerned the nuns not at all. It was of the utmost unimportance to them, and so did not exist. The local press, many of whom had attended parties at the Colonel's, undoubtedly knew, could see no point in upsetting anyone, and never mentioned it. All these things remained local legends until years after the Colonel died, the nuns moved out, and no Greens remained among us. How odd I recall this on the day Gary Hart called off his Presidential bid.