Los Angeles Fire Department
By CAPT. H. J. GRIFFIN, Retired
"Blackie" is my name, to me belongs the honor of being the last fire horse. Today I am at home in Griffith Park, whetting my appetite on green grass with hay and oats as dessert. Just a life of ease for me, no more do I race and sweat down hardened highways pulling fire apparatus with clanging bells ringing in my ears, but my memory lingers on, of days when in a clean stall in a fire station called the marble palace I spent many happy hours, bedded down at night for a rest in clean hay with a breakfast of oats and drink of cooling water, and a valet to comb my sleek coat of hair, wash my mouth, clean my feet and attend my every need. If I felt ill a Doctor gave me the best of his skill to put me in the pink of condition. By a standing chain in front of my stall, I was ready to spring into action at the toll of the bell, taking my place under harness, where my Pals in blue dropped a leather suit on me, jerked a collar around my neck, snapped reins to my bridle, as out into the street I ran, pulling behind me a shiny red wagon, with smoke eaters hanging on the sides. Down dry, wet or slippery streets in the dead of night or in bright sunshine I ran with all my strength, I had a duty to perform, maybe it was saving a life or some one's home. I must get the men to the fire quickly. People used to stop and look as I passed by, and as I stopped at the fire, white with sweat, would offer me something dainty to eat, but I had to get my breath first, but, alas, my driver would spoil it all, drive me away back from the fire, hitch me to a post, and cover me with a blanket, thinking I might catch cold. Sometimes my shoes that were of steel and rubber came loose from my feet, but never did I stop, just running on in my bare feet. Of course I have been injured, many a fall have I taken cutting my flesh, breaking bones, and was I nervous and anxious to get on duty when my superiors made me rest up from an injury? Yes, I used to look with angry eyes when one of those steel gasoline autos passed me by, and tears came to my eyes as my comrades in the station whispered into my ear, "It looks like Blackie will soon be no more, the new gasoline fire apparatus will retire you." Yes, I can still feel the tug at the reins my driver R. J. Scott gave to me, and many who are now Officers in the Department rode upon the shiny red wagon which I was proud to pull. And can I remember the day they took me away from the home and comrades I loved dearly, I saw tears in the eyes of many, as the boys said when the new apparatus took my place. "Well" it may be faster and more modern, but they never can fill the place of our human Pals, the fire horses.
Soon I will be gone to my place in horse heaven, where all my Pals have gone long ago. I just stand and look at the green hills, occasionally petted by a passing man or woman and dream and dream of memories of long ago. Sometimes I am honored by being taken to the noise and bustle of the City, where I am afraid of the speed of traffic, and hear some child ask it's Mother as I pass, "Mother" what is a FIRE HORSE?" could the younger generation have seen and heard the praise, "Oh, those human beasts look so beautiful as they rear and tear to a fire." You don't hear it now-a days as a steel thing goes past with a siren sounding, they are not as sweet as the bells of long ago.
Of course I am grateful that those that I served so faithful have given me a life of ease. But could I live again those days of old, my sleek coat of hair has grown to be long and shaggy, my teeth are not as sharp, no one to play valet to me now, but the Honor is still mine, "BLACKIE" the only living fire horse of the City of Angels. I hope some day that a statue will rest in a City Park to remind the children of tomorrow of the Human Heroes of yesterday. The FIRE HORSES. The deeds of which is history.
This article appeared in the March 15, 1937 issue of THE FIREMAN'S GRAPEVINE.
Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved.