Donnie Mattingly was my best friend in the early 1940’s. He lived next door and we went around town looking for scrap iron that sold for a penny a pound in those days when it was still scarce following the War. (A nickel bought a coke or candy bar in those days.)
Donnie was a good kid but got in trouble with Bill about as often as I did with my own father. When Bill called for him to come account for some misdeed, Donnie just ran the other way,
something I wouldn’t dare try. Bill would pull his knife out to cut a tree branch and Donnie would wise up and come back.
Bill raised a couple hogs and every Fall would kill one and boil it in a big black kettle over a fire in the backyard. We ate cracklins, the lard was rendered, the bacon and hams hung in his
meathouse and a good time was had by all.
We had indoor plumbing before the Mattinglys did and their outhouse was on the target list every Halloween for the boys around town. You see, “trick or treat” had real meaning in New Haven. Your windows got soaped, your fence gate wound up atop a telephone pole, and Bill’s outdoor privy got overturned, every year. Ned Bell was never able to solve that crime.
One year, we opened our door at the knock on Halloween and our slop bucket got slung into the living room. Well, you see, we kept a 5 gallon bucket hanging on a tree trunk outside the kitchen for food scraps which we gave Bill for his hogs. Bill complained from time to time about broken glass in that bucket but nobody ever did that deliberately.
Bill’s day job was at a distillery in New Hope, a town even smaller than New Haven, a few miles
away. His wife was a fastidious woman who made her kids take their shoes off before entering
her house. (It’s an interesting curiosity to me that many, many years later my daughter adopted
this practice in her own home.) Anyway, Beatrice was a fine wife to Bill and mother of their many kids. One day I was required to go over and apologize to her when it was learned by Mama that Beatrice had overheard me make an insulting remark about her.
Decades later I was back in New Haven on a short visit and I happened to speak with Beatrice
and Donnie there. But Bill had died many years before. And since that visit, I learned that Donnie has died too.