Fourteen’s Fiery Horses.
AN ENGINE COMPANY THAT CAN TURN OUT IN SIX SECONDS.
[From the New York Sun, December 23d.]
Around a red-hot stove in a saloon in Twenty-fourth street, near Third avenue, four or five men sat a few days ago talking—as is the custom in that resort—of horses. The conversation turned upon some of the trick animals that had been exhibited in Gilmore’s garden. Suddenly a puffy-faced man who had not said much, took off his velvet jockey cap and slapped it upon his knee, and said, with the air of one who knows what he is talking about:
“While you are talking about tricksters, you want to just remember that the besttrained three in this city, or out of it, are chewing hay at this minute in Fourteen’s engine house—unless they are at a fire now ;” and the puffy-faced man put his velvet cap back upon his head and looked around as if ready to answer questions.
“ What are they doing there, Dan ?” asked a thin man, who now and then pulled his finger joints so that they snapped.like a whip crack.
“ Doing ? why, they’re the team.”
“ Somebody was saying that they could beat six seconds,” said the man behind the bar, as he mopped the shiny wood with a towel.
“They can. That’s the truth. I’ve seen ’em do it, and that puts ’em away ahead of any team in the country’,” said the puffy-faced man. “They work like a clock. They don’t: take a step too many, and they jump exactly j j into their places.”
“ Yes,’’ continued the first speaker, ” its just j got around what they’ can do. At first a good many of the teams wouldn’t believe it. But they do now. Capt. McCabe has all he can do, when he isn’t busy, showing ’em off. And it’s gone through the country among the Firemen that there’s a team in New York that can beat six seconds.”
The Sun reporter crossed over to East Eighteenth street and Fifth avenue and there saw several men standing in front of No. 14 Engine. Captain McCabe, the foreman, had just gone in. and it was believed that he would give his famous team a little practice, and for i this the throng waited. But there were no signs of it as the reporter entered. Away-back, fifty feet from the street, three horses stood in their stalls, eating hay. A fireman was singing the chorus of the “ Mulligan Guard,” and as he began, “ Then it’s march, march, march,” he kept time with the pitchfork that he was using to spread the hay about evenly. Another fireman was tilted back in a chair reading a newspaper by a very dim light. Capt. McCabe sat in the little space that was fenced off, looking over his record book.
“ Captain,” said the reporter, “ are you going to practice this famous team of yours now?”
“ Well, no, I didn’t expect to just yet; but I’ll willingly do it for the Sun.”
“Can they really beat six seconds, captain ?”
“ I don’t know about their beating it. They can do it in six seconds, easily. You can keep time and see,” and the Captain took a little clock from a shelf and handed it to the reporter.
“Now,” seizing a hammer, “ I will strike the gong, and then you count the seconds until you hear the driver say, ‘ Ready.’”
“ But, captain, where is the driver ?”
“ Oh, he’s up stairs play’ing billiards with the men.”
“ Then you don’t need to warn them ?”
“ Why, no ; the same signal answers for the horses and the men.”
The reporter heard the click of billiard balls up-stairs, the horses were quietly munching hay, the Fireman who had been reading was drowsy and nodding, at imminent danger of j falling out of his chair, and the merry Fireman who had been singing was looking at the gray horse’s hoof.
“ Now, watch sharp,” said Capt. McCabe, as he stood with the hammer lifted over the gong. “ Ding, ding, ding, click.”
Bedlam let loose. There was a terrible din, a rush of air ; flying horses and flying men : the click of buckles, and the snort of a horse. Tick, tick, tick,tick, tick, ti—. “ Ready 1” the doors are open, the men on the engine, and horses out, the truck lighted, and in an instant the steamer would have been breathing fire along the avenue.
“ Hold on !” shouts Capt. McCabe, and the men see that it is only practice.”
“ What was the time when the driver shouted j ready?” Capt. McCabe, asked the reporter.
“ Ready and the sixth second came together.”
“ Now look around and see whether the horses are harnessed in all right.”
Every strap and buckle was in its place, and every man in his position.
“ Now we’ll do it over again and see if we can beat six seconds,” said the Captain.
The horses were unhitched, and at a signal trotted back to their stalls. This time the men were in their places, but the shadow of an instant less than six seconds was the only difference that ‘they made in the time.
As the reporter had timed the team, he had been able only to hear them make the remarkable time, and on the third trial Capt. McCabe held the clock so that the work could be seen ; but the effect on the eyes was even more confusing than it had been to the ears. There was an indiscriminate mingling of man and horse, and, in six heart beats, perfect order out of a chaos of steamer, hose cart, blue-shirted firemen, and snorting horses.
Since the introduction of steam fire engines there has been constant effort to reduce the time between the fire signal and the getting upon the street, and of late years some remark-t-fable time has been made. But the most sanguine fireman never dreamed that, with the present arrangements, it would be possible to do it in six seconds. In New York and Cincinnati it has frequently been done in from ten to fifteen seconds, and one team has made it in a trifle under eight. No.714 has claimed for some weeks to be able to do it in six, but this has been received rather doubtingly until an official inspection, a few weeks ago, proved that No. 14 could do it. This puts that company’s team at the head of all teams in the countrj.
“ It has required most careful and patient training of the horses, said Capt. McCabe, as he stroke the gray horse’s mane. “The slightest mistake of any of the three horses would cost two or three seconds. One of them slipped one day when the floor was wet. It didn’t seem to delay him any either, but we found that it made a difference of nearly three seconds. 1 suppose the reason of our succsss is that we have splendid animals.