the museum of americana

a literary review

Halfbreed Helene Learns 17 Things About The Pony Express and U.S. Territorial History from The Young Riders T.V. Show (airing 1989 – 1992)—Poetry Sarah A. Chavez

“I do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.” – Pony Express Rider Oath, required for employment

1.     In the 1990s, T.V. execs realized a good way to capitalize on the boy band craze was to take Donnie, Jordan, Jonathan, Joey, & Danny tropes, put them on horses, give them guns, and show them feeling simultaneously guilty & justified in shooting people.

2.     If you are a Young Rider who is a woman pretending to be a man, to be attractive you must cut your hair. If you are a Young Rider who is a man pretending to be a man, to be attractive you must grow your hair long and luxurious so that while riding it can flip and toss in the dusky wind.

3.     Pony Express Riders not only carried mail for the colonies, they would also carry your groceries, mend your fence, and immediately fall in love with you.

4.     In the 1990s version of the early 1860s, if you are a halfbreed and pass for white, you can be a school teacher. If you are a halfbreed who does not pass for white, you are not served sarsaparilla at the saloon.

5.     Kansas, Nebraska, & Colorado were teeming with Native Americans, but no Mexicans.

6.     If your wagon wheel breaks in the middle of nowhere, a Pony Express Rider—despite having a specific time frame in which to deliver sensitive military documents—will stop to fix your wheel and protect you from outlaws. If you are beautiful, this Rider will also fall in love with you.

7.     The 1990s recognized three primary types of 1860s women, all of which serve the needs of men: one is sassy while cooking biscuits with her biscuits out, one gets beaten by johns, the other is tough and wears pants but wishes she could wear dresses and be looked at lustfully like the other two.

8.     The 1990s regretted slavery.

9.     If you know sign language, you can speak to horses, are good with children, and can make friends with Native Americans.

10.  If you fall in love with a Young Rider and the Young Rider falls in love with you, one of you is likely to get shot protecting the other one. This shows your love stronger than a kiss, which is hardly proper behavior in the 1860s. If you do kiss, it will be tragically to say goodbye, and you will never be seen from again.

11.  The 1990s regretted the mass murder and interning of Native Americans.

12.  If a Young Rider falls in love with you, your hand will be held and/or your face will be caressed by a leather-gloved hand. You will act as if that is a pleasant touch and not think about that glove touching muddy reins, horse flanks, the butts of guns, or the dust that floats omnipresent in the dry air.

13.  The fastest gun in the west also has the biggest heart in the west. This heart gets hurt all the time. He is the only Young Rider who will cry.

14.  In 1858 – 1861, all white people in the west wore multiple layers no matter season or weather.

15.  The 1990s thought the Civil War was fought solely over slavery.

16.  Shooting people over the disagreement of government-sanctioned slavery is much worse than shooting people over normal town trouble such as territory battles with Native Americans, generalized racism and bigotry, and horse thieving. 

17.  When the war comes, no matter how fast the Young Riders ride, they cannot outrun the violence splitting North from South.

 

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Sarah A. Chavez, a mestiza born and raised in the California Central Valley, is the author of the poetry collections, Hands That Break & Scar (Sundress Publications) and All Day, Talking (dancing girl press). Her new project, Halfbreed Helene Navigates the Whole received a 2019-2020 Tacoma Artists Initiative Award. Chavez teaches creative writing and Latinx/Chicanx-focused courses at the University of Washington Tacoma, serves as the poetry coordinator for Best of the Net Anthology, and is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop. Recent work can be found or is forthcoming in Xicanx: Mexican American Writers of the 21st Century, Diode, and Hotel Amerika. Her micro chap, like everything else we loved, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press in 2021.