CSotD: Firehorses and Plugs

I like this old photo of a Boise fire brigade racing off to a fire because the firefighters are hanging on, still struggling into their gear, while the horses are at full speed, on the job and having the time of their lives.

As this piece from Merrimack, NH, Fire Rescue explains, the horses that pulled these fire wagons were expensive and carefully trained, but only had a useful life of four or five years.

After that, tradition tells, they would be retired and sold off to whoever needed them, and it was best if that person lived far from town, because the horses loved their jobs and there were stories told of milkmen who bought a retired firehorse and had the misfortune to be on a delivery route in town when the alarm bells rang.


Which is not the origin of the phrase “No use crying over spilled milk” but is the origin of expressions about people responding like old firehorses, and that instinct is why you find old reporters like me leaping into their clothes and grabbing a camera and notepad in the middle of the night when the church across the street catches fire, even with no place to post the subsequent reportage.

We’re not allowed to say it’s “fun” because then people accuse us of enjoying other people’s misery. The horses have the advantage, because nobody minds that they think it’s exciting to race through the streets at full, break-neck speed amid a lot of noise and chaos, doing the thing you were bred to do.

Apparently that instinct doesn’t infect everyone, because yesterday’s Big News would, I’d have thought, sent political cartoonists sprinting to their drawing boards and, judging by what I saw (didn’t see) this morning, I guess we can admire them for keeping the Sabbath.


But not Ann Telnaes, who has been doing Mo on Sunday nights anyway, to make sure it’s as up-to-the-moment as possible, and you can read the rest of her commentary here.

Telnaes focused not on the event itself but on the rambling, incoherent address with which Dear Leader announced it, and, even if you don’t contrast that discursive stream-of-consciousness monologue with the almost terse way we were told of the death of Osama bin Laden, it truly was a marvel of disjointed, goofy braggadoccio.


Over in England, Morten Morland picked up not so much on the incoherence of the president’s announcement as his childlike excitement, contrasting it with the solemn demeanor of the other men in the Situation Room, who had not been plagued with heel spurs back when they were offered the chance to experience this exciting military stuff in person.



And David Rowe chimed in from Australia, even adding a reference to the President’s visit to the World Series, suggesting that the attack on al-Baghdadi was an attempt to fight back as other accusations begin to hem him in.

I think it’s worth observing that, while everyone has had the same length of time to collect their thoughts and pens, the “Lock him up!” cheers Rowe notes came at an admittedly convenient 11 am in Melbourne but only eight and a half hours before I saw his finished piece.

That’s a lot of conceptualizing, sketching, inking and coloring in a short window of time.


For major commentators on this quarter of the globe, only Bob Gorrell joined Telnaes in referencing the attack at all, and that in a kind of toss-away, a few words but hardly his focus.

However, a few freelancers did jump on the event.


I saw three of their cartoons this morning at the AAEC site, which prominently forbids sharing, and that was the only place I saw Branco or Goodwyn‘s pieces.

I was able to find Tom Stiglich‘s on his Twitter page, though my only commentary is that I hadn’t seen any praise for al-Baghdadi in the Washington Post, though I suppose you could conflate the accusation of racism against the Covington kids with reports that there are white supremacist terrorism groups in the United States.

But the point of today’s rant is timeliness, not analytics, and Stiglich had a comic up and posted, at the AAEC site and on his Twitter feed as well.

Fair enough.

I also should concede that staff cartoonists may be locked into a schedule that says they do cartoons Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, and that Tuesday and Thursday are local topics etc etc., so there’s no point in their producing an extra piece.

But, then again, how many staff cartoonists are there, anyway?

For the others, the vast majority, if the clanging of the alarm bell doesn’t make your pulse race, the tinkling of the cash register ought to.

If you’re not being paid to stay locked into a schedule, why wouldn’t you add to your menu? Somebody will want it — why not be first through the door?

As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.”

Which much-mangled quote he later expanded upon, explaining

 My observation was that once a person actually completed a play or a novel he was well on his way to getting it produced or published, as opposed to a vast majority of people who tell me their ambition is to write, but who strike out on the very first level and indeed never write the play or book.


Your choice. A horse is a horse, of course, of course.

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