On the Popularity of Firemen by Finley Peter Dunne

“I knowed a man be th’ name iv Clancy wanst, Jawn. He was fr’m th’ County May-o, but a good man f’r all that; an’, whin he’d growed to be a big, sthrappin’ fellow, he wint on to th’ fire departmint. They’se an Irishman ‘r two on th’ fire departmint an’ in th’ army, too, Jawn, though ye’d think be hearin’ some talk they was all runnin’ prim’ries an’ thryin’ to be cinthral comitymen. So ye wud. Ye niver hear iv thim on’y whin they die; an’ thin, murther, what funerals they have!

“Well, this Clancy wint on th’ fire departmint, an’ they give him a place in thruck twinty-three. All th’ r-road was proud iv him, an’ faith he was proud iv himsilf. He r-rode free on th’ sthreet ca-ars, an’ was th’ champeen hand-ball player f’r miles around. Ye shud see him goin’ down th’ sthreet, with his blue shirt an’ his blue coat with th’ buttons on it, an’ his cap on his ear. But ne’er a cap or coat’d he wear whin they was a fire. He might be shiv’rin’ be th’ stove in th’ ingine house with a buffalo robe over his head; but, whin th’ gong sthruck, ’twas off with coat an’ cap an’ buffalo robe, an’ out come me brave Clancy, bare-headed an’ bare hand, dhrivin’ with wan line an’ spillin’ th’ hose cart on wan wheel at ivry jump iv th’ horse. Did anny wan iver see a fireman with his coat on or a polisman with his off? Why, wanst, whin Clancy was standin’ up f’r Grogan’s eighth, his son come runnin’ in to tell him they was a fire in Vogel’s packin’ house. He dhropped th’ kid at Father Kelly’s feet, an’ whipped off his long coat an’ wint tearin’ f’r th’ dure, kickin’ over th’ poorbox an’ buttin’ ol’ Mis’ O’Neill that’d come in to say th’ stations. ‘Twas lucky ’twas wan iv th’ Grogans. They’re a fine family f’r falls. Jawn Grogan was wurrukin’ on th’ top iv Metzri an’ O’Connell’s brewery wanst, with a man be th’ name iv Dorsey. He slipped an’ fell wan hundherd feet. Whin they come to see if he was dead, he got up, an’ says he: ‘Lave me at him.’ ‘At who?’ says they. ‘He’s deliryous,’ they says. ‘At Dorsey,’ says Grogan. ‘He thripped me.’ So it didn’t hurt Grogan’s eighth to fall four ‘r five feet.

“Well, Clancy wint to fires an’ fires. Whin th’ big organ facthry burnt, he carrid th’ hose up to th’ fourth story an’ was squirtin’ whin th’ walls fell. They dug him out with pick an’ shovel, an’ he come up fr’m th’ brick an’ boards an’ saluted th’ chief. ‘Clancy,’ says th’ chief, ‘ye betther go over an’ get a dhrink.’ He did so, Jawn. I heerd it. An’ Clancy was that proud!

“Whin th’ Hogan flats on Halsted Sthreet took fire, they got all th’ people out but wan; an’ she was a woman asleep on th’ fourth flure. ‘Who’ll go up?’ says Bill Musham. ‘Sure, sir,’ says Clancy, ‘I’ll go’; an’ up he wint. His captain was a man be th’ name iv O’Connell, fr’m th’ County Kerry; an’ he had his fut on th’ ladder whin Clancy started. Well, th’ good man wint into th’ smoke, with his wife faintin’ down below. ‘He’ll be kilt,’ says his brother. ‘Ye don’t know him,’ says Bill Musham. An’ sure enough, whin ivry wan’d give him up, out comes me brave Clancy, as black as a Turk, with th’ girl in his arms. Th’ others wint up like monkeys, but he shtud wavin’ thim off, an’ come down th’ ladder face forward. ‘Where’d ye larn that?’ says Bill Musham. ‘I seen a man do it at th’ Lyceem whin I was a kid,’ says Clancy. ‘Was it all right?’ ‘I’ll have ye up before th’ ol’ man,’ says Bill Musham. ‘I’ll teach ye to come down a laddher as if ye was in a quadhrille, ye horse-stealin’, ham-sthringin’ May-o man,’ he says. But he didn’t. Clancy wint over to see his wife. ‘O Mike,’ says she, ”twas fine,’ she says. ‘But why d’ye take th’ risk?’ she says. ‘Did ye see th’ captain?’ he says with a scowl. ‘He wanted to go. Did ye think I’d follow a Kerry man with all th’ ward lukkin’ on?’ he says.

“Well, so he wint dhrivin’ th’ hose-cart on wan wheel, an’ jumpin’ whin he heerd a man so much as hit a glass to make it ring. All th’ people looked up to him, an’ th’ kids followed him down th’ sthreet; an’ ’twas th’ gr-reatest priv’lige f’r anny wan f’r to play dominos with him near th’ joker. But about a year ago he come in to see me, an’ says he, ‘Well, I’m goin’ to quit.’ ‘Why,’ says I, ‘ye’er a young man yet,’ I says. ‘Faith,’ he says, ‘look at me hair,’ he says,—’young heart, ol’ head. I’ve been at it these twinty year, an’ th’ good woman’s wantin’ to see more iv me thin blowin’ into a saucer iv coffee,’ he says. ‘I’m goin’ to quit,’ he says, ‘on’y I want to see wan more good fire,’ he says. ‘A rale good ol’ hot wan,’ he says, ‘with th’ win’ blowin’ f’r it an’ a good dhraft in th’ ilivator-shaft, an’ about two stories, with pitcher-frames an’ gasoline an’ excelsior, an’ to hear th’ chief yellin’: “Play ‘way, sivinteen. What th’ hell an’ damnation are ye standin’ aroun’ with that pipe f’r? Is this a fire ‘r a dam livin’ pitcher? I’ll break ivry man iv eighteen, four, six, an’ chem’cal five to-morrah mornin’ befure breakfast.” Oh,’ he says, bringin’ his fist down, ‘wan more, an’ I’ll quit.’

“An’ he did, Jawn. Th’ day th’ Carpenter Brothers’ box factory burnt. ‘Twas wan iv thim big, fine-lookin’ buildings that pious men built out iv celluloid an’ plasther iv Paris. An’ Clancy was wan iv th’ men undher whin th’ wall fell. I seen thim bringin’ him home; an’ th’ little woman met him at th’ dure, rumplin’ her apron in her hands.”

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