They came each day around four thirty. I would anxiously await to see them, hanging out our window overlooking Twelfth Street, Mom nervously holding onto me. They were a big part of the city’s anti-crime efforts, and though still in existence today they are used sparingly and with great discretion.
I am talking about the Mounted Patrols of the New York City Police Department. With
today’s advanced surveillance on almost every street and avenue corner, they aren’t
needed as much, and that is probably a good thing for the welfare of the horses. But they were a core component of the NYPD’s presence then.
And everyday at four thirty they would ride, in perfect cadence down Seventh Avenue on their way to the stables further south, another good day of work done. For me as a kid, it was a daily spectacle of efficiency, pride and comfort. I would hear them before I could see them. I had to crane my neck out the window to catch a glimpse as they rode down the Avenue a hundred yards or so to the west. But first came the sounds: the clop clop of horse shoes on cobblestone, the jangling of the reins and the Officer’s equipment, the occasional whinny from one particularly tired member of the team. And then as the sun started to wane on an Autumn afternoon, they would come into view.
There were usually twelve to sixteen horses and their riders. And though it was the end of their shift, those guys must have known they were putting on a show, an important one for the citizens of the city they protected. For each one’s uniform was deep blue and sharp, making their silver badges shine in the afternoon light. They sat ramrod straight as if on parade, which I guess they were, eyes front, not talking, their gun holsters bumping against their sides with each stride the horses took. The leather of their belts and bandolers were spit shined as well, hats placed with care, one hand holding the reins, the other casually laying within inches of their pistols. It was something out of the military for sure, and I would have put these guys up against anyone in the services for their
obvious prowess and determination.
Pedestrians, hardened New Yorkers, who didn’t get awed by much, would stop in their
tracks for the time it took for the squad to pass by. Some called out their thanks, and the Commander – Sargent? Lieutenant? Captain? I didn’t know, would nod his
acknowledgement but never say a word, never look aside, never break cadence, keeping
his rhythm and discipline the whole time. It was a sight to see.
I hope you can still see it in New York. When we moved to Chelsea, I didn’t see them
anymore, everyday like I was accustomed to. In Chelsea, a not great neighborhood at the time, the officers rode in pairs in Squad cars; no one had a foot beat, and no one rode a horse. But in the West Village, they were the elite of the force. At least that’s how it seemed to me, a little impressionable kid.
The one real thing I ever wanted to be in life (besides a writer) was a New York City cop. I wanted to go right into the Academy after high school but that was not to be. And sure there were a thousand reasons for wanting to be a Public Servant, to Protect, Serve and Defend, but for me, it all started with looking out that window to see New York’s finest on parade.
I never got to be a cop. Some dreams just don’t come true. But I would have been a good one. And I would have worn that beautiful shiny badge with pride.
Maybe next life