Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive



  By Estelle Lawton Lindsey

  "This is Dewey, the 'only' horse in the fire department.  Ain't he a beauty?"  Lee Beeson, who drives truck No. 2 when there is a fire in or about Los Angeles, hit the dapple beauty a smart smack on his sleek sides and Dewey awoke suddenly from his morning nap and blinked at the world.
  "Dewy is center rush when that truck goes out," continued his driver, "and nothing can touch him on the run."  He threw an arm affectionately over the curved neck and invited me to come up and make the acquaintance of the namesake of one of America's past popular idols.  We were conversing in the city fire department headquarters, 217 S. Hill st.
  "He's the baby of the service," continued the young man, "and he's what we call a dapple bay.  See them dapples?" The dapples, irregular golden circles, were very evident, as was the affectionate disposition of Dewey.  I had been trying for several minutes to sidestep an exceedingly moist kiss form my newly made equine friend, when I was startled by a soft nose in the hand farthest from Dewey.

  "It's Bill horse" laughed Lieut. Baker at my shoulder; "he don't want to be neglected."
  "Apparently neither of them does," said I, dodging the persistent attentions of the well meaning animals.  To be kissed by two horses at once, one on each side, is a little embarrassing.
  "They are haunting candy," the young man explained as I was being nosed and butted about.  "All the ladies who come in here bring them candy and sugar."
  "I am sorry, old fellows," I said, "but I'll be more thoughtful another time if you will leave my pockets on my jacket."
  "Here, let us show you something," said the young men, and the two horses were led back to their places and the alarm sounded.  Like a flash they were in their places under the harness.

  "Fooled you that time," said their driver.  "Now, come and be rubbed.  How long does it take to teach 'em that?  Depends entirely on the horse;  there are blockheads among horses the same as among people.  Dewey learnt it in no time, and he is proud of his job.  Once he was sick and I shut him up in a box stall back there.  A fire alarm sounded and that rascal almost broke the stall to bits trying to get out.
  "At a big fire they get up so close you would think they would get hurt;  I've seen them stand by the fire where the heat melted the paint on my helmet and never flinch." broke in the lieutenant,  "Horses have sense; it's my opinion they have souls, too.  It makes me crazy when anybody is mean to them.
Sometimes when they first come here they want to play, and when the alarm sounds they will run around the truck before they go under the harness.  Of course we have to whip them a little, because that bit of fun may cost somebody's life;  but I sure do hate to hit 'em."
  Passing from the side of the engine house devoted to the truck horses, Lieut. Baker escorted me to the pavement to make the acquaintance of Joe, Chief Eley's horse.

  "He has thoroughbred blood in him," said the young man.  When the chief is just driving around Joe don't bother to hurry, but let him hear that gong on the front of the wagon and all the blood of his Kentucky ancestors wakes up.  It would do your soul good to see him run."
  I was next delivered into the hands of Mr. Jadwin who was affectionately combing out the thick white mane of Tom.  Mr. Jadwin drives Engine No. 3 and Tom helps pull it.
  "Look at the mane," admonished the driver.  "Did you ever see anything like it?  It takes work to take care of a mane like that.  Now, with a horse like Dewey over there all you got to do is to brush the mane a little, but Tom's got a mane, 'Haven't you, Tom?' And Tom loves me--just watch."
  Tom demonstrated his love with a series of equine caresses that were convincing and his driver went on talking about his pets.

  "That's Gyp over there; he can tell the difference when the telephone rings on private business and for a fire;  if it is a private call he pays no attention to it, but if it's a fire---well--
  "Here, lieutenant, show the lady your bunch back there."  A smiling lieutenant who said he had no name continued the exhibition.
  "That's Grandma," said he, pointing to a sleepy looking white horse in a nearby stall.  "We call him Grandma, because he's so sleepy.  He's got a grouch now because you haven't noticed him and have noticed the others.  He thinks all ladies have candy and all these horses are jealous.  Yes, honest they are.
  "That fellow there, the big bay, is Jack.  He's famous for his appetite; eats anything on earth.  One of the fellows took a live rat over to show to him once and Jack ate it up.  Don't go close--or, it's all right; your hat's a sailor.  If it had fruit on it I'd tell you to stand back.  He ate all the vegetables off two or three peach basket hats.  Nome; it don't hurt him, but it does the lady's feelings."
  As I left four smiling young men called after me.
  "Don't mention us: but say everything good you can bout the horses.  They can't talk and they have four legs, but they are among Los Angeles' best citizens."

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