Cadets Compete, Kid Gets Breakfast
By Coulter Fussell
In celebration of March Madness, I’ll publish a Wagner letter about North Carolina and basketball. In this letter, John Henry, son of Daniel Wagner, is a teenager off at Bingham School in North Carolina. He’s writing home to his little sister Jessie. He describes a great day for some guy name Fora and a very low-scoring school basketball matchup between the native North Carolinian cadets and the cadets from all the other states. Best though, is this mysterious little hungry child that wonders into the mess hall and gets treated like a king. Unfortunately, this letter is only a draft (there was no envelope and it is unfinished) so we never know what happens with that kid.
Orange Co. N.C.
March 14, 1886
My Dear Sister Jessie,
Received your most welcome letter yesterday and was very, very glad to hear from you and as I have nothing to do this afternoon, I will try to answer it.
There is such little that happens here that would interest a little girl that I hardly know what to write. Oh! I remember now, I will tell you about the holiday we had last Friday.
About twelve o’clock eight of the best “rats” or recruit gymnasts began to compete for the recruit medals. It was just splendid and they entertained the boys for about three hours. The first medal everyone knew was going to a large boy by the name of Adams, but the second lay between two boys whose names were Fora and Ray. Fora had the good feelings of the entire crowd for whenever he would do anything the whole house would applaud. It was the closet contest I ever saw but when the second medal was awarded to Fora, the boys just yelled and went down and carried little Fora on their shoulder down to his room. Every one was glad that Fora got it for Ray was such “big headed” kind of boy.
Well after we had eaten dinner, there took place a game of basketball between the state (North Carolina) and the states. A great deal of intensity was evinced and when the game came off and the score was 9 to 17 favor of the states there was some tall hollering by us that were from the states. But this was only the first of three games that are to be played and the N.C. stand a chance of beating us yet.
I wish you could have seen a little boy this morning. When we started to go into breakfast he stood out in front of Mrs. Bingham’s dining room looking at us. He is only about five years old and when we got in our dining room and had began to eat, he came walking in just like he belonged there. All the boys began to laugh at him, I expected him to cry but instead of that he walked right up to the mess hall looking all around him. Capt Grinnan saw him and took the little fellow to his place & then ordered a servant to fit the little fellow with an extra place. When this was done he sat the little fellow up by him and let him eat his breakfast. The little fellow seemed to be perfectly happy and would laugh and talk to Capt. Just as nice as could be.