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Hill Country Living

Chickens Get Lawyer, Unlucky Man Needs Pants

By Coulter Fussell

It’s a Wagner Letter Week and although I have literally thousands of letters sometimes I am left in want of a little more information. Here are a few examples of letters that just lead to more questions. Questions such as: Was a lawyer really necessary in the “chicken affair”? Was the fish fry with Topsie as super fun as I imagine it was? Am I the only one that thinks that man might have been naked when he wrote that? How does one respond to a deranged teenage stalker in 1888 and who did she kill?

Philadelphia, Penn.
Oct 29, 1888
Dear Sir,
We have placed your “chicken affair” in the hands of Ernest H. Davis (512 Walnut St.) who is an active smart lawyer and who will give it his attention.
Very Truly Yours,
Jno. W. L

June 4th 1888
I shall be happy to attend the fish fry tomorrow with you!
Your friend,

Clarksville, Tenn
Sept.17, ’88
Mr. Jno. Wagner:
Dear Sir;
Remembering as I do the fact of the kindness of your offer to give me a pair of pants, I take this opportunity to ask that they be forwarded at the earliest convenience, I also ask for any other article of apparel that you can spare as I stand in need of much owing to the fact that my suit has been recently stolen.
Yours Truly,
Jasper Watson
PS. I must tell you of a disastrous accident that befell me which shall render the 11th of July ever memorable to me. I was run over by a horse which affected my weak eye so seriously that it was compelled to be removed.
PS. Tell Mr. Gallatin to send the overcoat and I will send the money immediately.

Maury Institute,
Oct 15, 1888
My friend,
How often in this life do we repent hasty rash words and wish that they might be recalled? John, forget what I have written, I see my folly now. But then I was so miserable! I longed for a friend! One whom I could trust. I thought of you John and the vows that we had made and that there still exists a tie between us which time cannot sever. Am I wrong? Promise me that you will never mention that letter to anyone!! Forgive me I should not have asked that for I respect your honor too highly. Perhaps even you could not have comforted me and my distress and it was best that I did not see you. Yet I am so unhappy. And why should I have appealed to you, the one who has entirely forgotten me, notwithstanding the sacred vows that we promised. If I ever see you I will tell you ALL. My secret cannot be written, I could not trust it on paper. I can trust you with it but not myself to write it. All I can realize is that you said, “Hattie, If you ever need a sincere friend call on John Wagner.” I have recalled those tender words to memory so often and wondered if you had forgotten them…As I write this I have all your old letters before me. See how long I have preserved them? Some of them are very much soiled and worn from use and now I am thinking with what a light heart I used to answer them. My happiest moments were writing to you, how different I am writing tonight. Thinking of my past pleasures, of the little discordances which I thought were terrible then, they would be pleasures now. I feel that I am never to be happy again in fact I can almost hear the never, never whispered by the phantom of coming years and in a voice with ceaseless echo saying “it might have been.” I am so miserable. And to think I am so young, just 16 but I feel every day of 25. Someday I will tell you ALL. Goodbye, Remember that I TRUST you implicitly!
Sincerely, HMR

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