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Smith: Black Bart took a turn for the worse

A great, old story came to Robert Meyers upon reading that Petaluma firefighters gathered Wednesday to honor the city's first professional fireman, James Mott, who died 101 years ago while attacking an automobile fire.

Meyers shares that his grandfather, Henry Meyers, who'd been Petaluma's fire chief early in the 1900s, told him the tale about Mott and the department's adored fire horse, Black Bart.

Reciting the story, Robert Meyers said, "Mott would exercise Black Bart every day by taking him for a walk around town. This walk would be the exact same route day after day after day.

"One day there was a fire call and off they went, down the very same route at a high rate of speed. They eventually came to an intersection where Mott wanted and expected to go straight through. But that did not happen.

"Black Bart always turned to the left at that intersection, so turn left he did, throwing Mott to the ground."

Though hurt, pioneer fireman Mott would survive the sudden diversion from Black Bart and return to duty.

When Meyers' granddad ran to him after he was tossed in the unforeseen turn, the first words from his mouth were, "Tell 'em I wasn't drinking, Henry!"

IT'S HURTFUL to retired SSU geology professor Rolfe Erickson that someone stooped to stealing the roadside memorial he helped to place along Petaluma Hill Road for colleague and

cycling buddy Steve Norwick.


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