For nearly 90 years, a stone for “Jack” has remained in front of the fire station in downtown San Marcos. Photo by Eric Weide.
At the north corner of the San Marcos Fire Department station on Guadalupe Street, just off the downtown square, remains a small monument, now 86 years old, in memory of “Jack.”
Jack, it turns out, was quite a character in early San Marcos, a little fox terrier who checked into the fire station one day and made it his personal mission to give moral support to the city’s fire fighters.
Jack died on Dec. 27, 1922, in the line of duty. It turns out a fire hose with a connection on it hit him on the neck as he was running alongside a fire truck. The blow killed him instantly.
We don’t know anybody who was around to remember Jack the Firedog, but the San Marcos Fire Department found a couple old newspaper clippings, pieces written by people who knew him. On neither clip is it clear which newspaper originally published the account. Nor is an author given for either account.
One clipping is dated Oct. 8, 1961, but it credits the story of Jack as having been written in December 1922. The other clipping is from May 5, 1923.
It’s best to just let these people talk, so we will quote extensively from the two accounts. First, the 1961 clipping, on which is published an account from December 1922. It appears under the headline, “Killed in Action”:
Just a fat, stumpy little dog whose tail had been given a whack — just a fox terrier pup with a quiet somber way and the faith of a child — I am sure you know who I am trying to describe. “Jack” our Fireman’s Mascot who “loved and was loved,” but who, now, is no more.
… Jack was more than a friend, he was a buddy, a comrade, a mascot, a brother fireman, who, when the fire bell rang and the siren sent its weird shrieks over town — I say it was Jack who grew wild with eagerness to go! He suddenly changed from a quiet, sober animal into a wonderous thing of boundless life, and with the joy of the approaching conflict fairly beaming in his dog eyes, he proved an inspiration to the firemen.
Round the station, he was their quiet but congenial comrade — often the butt of their joke; and I am told once when a practical joke had been played on him, he went off to a corner and pouted like a child.
And then one morning, just a few days ago, the fire-bell rang and away went the trucks with clanging of gongs and shrieking of sirens — but no one took note of Jack. It seemed he arrived at the fire a little late, and as he ran alongside the hose that was strung a connection hit him on the neck and little Jack had “gone West — killed in action.”
That afternoon his remains were tenderly laid away near the cornerstone of the city hall — a most appropriate spot. Jack is gone, but the fire alarm is sounded, and the truck’s motor throbs, and the siren shrieks, the little fireman will be missed from his place beside the truck. But the brave, friendly spirit of Jack will live through the years, and every San Marcos fireman will be a better fireman because of having known and loved this little dog.
The second article was first published about five months after Jack’s death. The top headline, in all caps, read,
FIRE FIGHTERS OF SAN MARCOS MOURN PET DOG
Underneath was a sub-headline, reading,
“Jack Was Always on Duty and Died “In Action”
Stuck to Work Despite Misfortunes
Following is much of that account:
San Marcos, Texas, May 5 — When the band plays and the siren whistle does its stuff, when they all start singing “The Gang’s All Here” May 8, 9 and 10 at the State Firemen’s Association convention here, down in the hearts of San Marcos firemen where will be a pang of regret.
Their mascot, Jack, will not be present. Jack was “killed in action” December 27, 1922, while on duty at a fire.
Jack was a little fox terrier who, four years ago, signed up for service with the San Marcos Volunteer Fire Department. He never quit his job and never fell down on it.
Knew Life’s Downs
… Jack almost unfailingly jumped for the “American La France,” the biggest truck in the department. He was never in anybody’s way and was always right in the heart of things, barking encouragement.
Life was not always velvet to Jack. Three times he was run over by automobiles and once he was accidentally shot. But he weathered his misfortunes and held to his self-imposed duties.
Jack’s loyalty made him friends everywhere. With his home in the fire station, he took his meals out like a gentleman and had the run of the markets and restaurants at their rear door, where he was served with juicy bits.
Buried With Honor
It is told with keen appreciation that once Mac gave him a bone without any meat. Jack brought it up to the fire station, kept is 30 minutes, wrestled with it, and then like a good housekeeper, took it back and waited expectantly. It is needless to say that he got a friendly pat and the best bone going.
Jack was always on his beat, and when the fire bell rang he leaped to his place on the truck. Last December, while Jack was running, he was struck by a hose connection and instantly killed.
Just outside the fire station, a few feet away from his American La France,” there is a little mound of green and a little marble slab, inscribed, “In Memory of Jack, Mascot S. M. F. D.”Email | Print
We need more fire dogs!
I have often walked by Jack’s marker outside the old San Marcos Fire Department building and wondered what story lay behind that small monument.
It was easy to imagine an intelligent, sturdy Dalmatian heroically pulling a firefighter from a burning building that was about to collapse – only to have the building crush the noble canine an instant later.
Or perhaps barking fiercely inside a smoke-filled room to alert the crew that a baby was in there – and then Jack succumbing from smoke inhilation rather than the infant.
Or perhaps.. well, you think of one.
Sometimes – as in Jack’s case – a person’s life is niether dramatic or heroic. But sometimes – again, like Jack – a person’s monument is built upon love, devotion and a generous heart.
Dogs don’t have cell phones, cable television, microwave ovens, the Internet and perverted modes of consumption that have distracted them from true nature. Dogs just have beating hearts, happy smiles and a way of making us feel good. People have changed a lot in my lifetime, let alone in the last 86, 87 or 88 years, since Jack was running around this alley on the north end of the square, taking dinners out of the back doors of restaurants, hanging out at the fire station and jumping on the big truck when the siren went off because he justed want to be part of the action with us. People have changed. But dogs haven’t. Love to you, Jack. And to all the good dogs out there.