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Hill Country Living

Girlfriend Won’t Write, But Old Bear Looks The Same

By Coulter Fussell


Some of my favorite Wagner letters are the ones that John Henry’s classmates at Binghman School sent him when they are all out for break in their various hometowns. Looking into the mind of teenaged boys is equal parts fascinating, predictable, and disturbing; the threats of violence….the pretending to not care about girls who obviously have zero interest…the binge drinking. As the mother of two boys, I consider this opportunity to look into the minds of teenaged boys a true gift that I hope will come in handy once my boys get to high school. I mean, there has got to be a greater good to come out of me having to read all this.

Clarksville, May 26/84
Dear John,
Your long looked for letter was received yesterday & I think you need a beating to take so long to answer my letters when I answered yours so promptly. You are the only correspondent I have that I answer so promptly & I think you ought to do the same…
Am awful sorry to hear you will not be up to TN, know you would have a great time, I would run around with you if I did not get drunk, but judging from your last letters you had not entirely recovered from your dissipation the night before. The boys went on a hell of a big drunk the other night but as I have reformed I did not go with them. I wish it was so that you could come up as we are going to have a banquet.
Well I will close for this time hoping I will hear from you again, I remain, Your brother, CHL

Oaksville, NC
May, 18th/84
Dear Wagner
Your welcome letter came to hand a few days since, and as usual was very glad to hear from you. We are all well except my father who is a good deal better. We are having some beautiful weather, but are right much in need of rain.
I am getting on very well with my farm. Have finished making tobacco hills, and nearly done weeding corn. My cotton has come up very pretty, and I shall commence chopping next week.
You say you are going home on the 23rd. Well, I hope you will have a pleasant trip and find the home folks well, and lively. But while you are at home having a good time with the girls you must not forget to write to your old friend.
If you ever come down this way and don’t call in to see me I will catch up with you and give you a good frailing.
I haven’t heard form Linda since I left school. I wrote to her last and if she don’t choose to answer it she can let it alone; It don’t make a darn bit of difference with me if she don’t.
Bob Armstrong wrote to me some time back and said that some boys put a calf in Egleston’s room, and it scared him right bad. Now such things as that don’t hack me, but it makes me mad, and the man that did such a thing as that to me, would have to be better man that I am, didnt he would get whipped!
…Many good wishes, Your true friend, Rodwell
P.S. I saw old Bear out yesterday and he looked like the same old Bear.

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