Fights! Adventure! Romance! Six orphaned teens sign on as Pony Express riders in the Dakota Territory. Among them, three, who will later become legendary Western figures in American history!


The Young Riders


Stars Anthony Zerbe, Stephen Baldwin and Josh Brolin!

They’re teenagers. They have no parents, and few friends. And the first thing their new employer, Teaspoon Hunter, the eccentric former Texas Ranger who runs the Pony Express waystation in Sweetwater, Kansas, tells them is chances are they won’t survive the job.

Just before the start of The Civil War, The Pony Express is expanding into the Dakota Territory, intending to connect the growing nation, delivering mail to frontier outposts, from sea to shining sea. Initially, six orphaned teens answer the call to join the Pony Express as riders, based in the town of Sweetwater. They’re confident, sometimes to the point of cocky. Their skills are versatile—from sharpshooting to trick riding to cracking a bullwhip! Each has a passionate reason for taking the job, one has a secret that must be kept hidden at all costs, and three will grow up to become legendary Western figures in American history.

There will be many a ruckus! There will be adventure! There will be romance!

Meet the Characters of The Young Riders

Teaspoon Hunter (Anthony Zerbe)
Some might call him eccentric, grizzled, and gruff. Aloysius “Teaspoon” Hunter, the stationmaster, working for Russell, Majors and Wadell, at the Sweetwater Pony Express stop, is all that, but with a big heart. Deep down he’s more teddy bear than grizzly! One of a handful of survivors of the Battle of the Alamo, (He was sent from the mission to go get help during the doomed fight) Teaspoon later became a gunfighter, a Texas Ranger, and U.S. Marshal in both Sweetwater and Rock Creek. His job with the Pony Express is to teach this group of upstart teens all the tricks of the trade—that is, staying alive long enough to deliver the mail. He has his work cut out for him, because he didn’t expect to add “father” to his job description. But the teens need a role model, someone to give them advice on life, respect, honor, making decent choices, and simply someone to care about them. Eventually, Teaspoon develops a paternal love for the riders, and in turn, his unique personality, wit and charm influence his young charges as they grow into adulthood. And if anyone needs counseling in matters of the heart, Teaspoon has experience to spare—he boasts about being married six times! On second thought, maybe they should ask someone else!


William F. Cody (Stephen Baldwin)
When he raises his rifle, hit the dirt! He’s a sharpshooter beyond compare. He can be brash, a tad full of himself, and not surprisingly, he loves attention. But he has a silly side, and best of all, he’s devoted to his friends. Later in life, he earns his spot in history as showman, Buffalo Bill Cody.

Trivia: The real-life William Cody actually did ride for the Pony Express!


James “Jimmy” Hickok (Josh Brolin)
This boy has got a red-hot temper and when peeved, he’s fast on the draw—which could be a deadly combination. But his reputation is a far cry from reality, as it’s based on a cheap novel that exaggerates and sensationalizes his exploits. That account earns him the nickname, “Wild Bill Hickok,” and he hates it! Often, gunslingers track him down to challenge his skills. Later in life, James Hickok will embrace his once despised moniker, as he becomes a soldier, gambler, showman, actor, and yes, sometimes, a gunslinger.

Trivia: Buffalo Bill Cody and James Hickok were real-life friends in the Old West, though Hickok was never a Pony Express rider.


The Kid (Ty Miller)
What do The Virginian and The Kid have in common? No one knows either of their real names—and The Kid grew up in…Virginia! His father abandoned him, his mother and older brother when he was just a child. At age 15, after his mother died, The Kid struck out on his own. He may have that soft-spoken southern charm going for him, but he’s a justice seeker and a fighter! In fact, he won the money to buy his beloved horse, Katy in a boxing match!

SPOILER ALERT! The Kid is the first of the riders to learn that Lou is really Louise! Will romance blossom? Of course!


Louise McCloud (Yvonne Suhor)
Louise’s mother died when she was very young. Her notorious father wasn’t in the picture, so she, her younger brother and sister ended up in an orphanage. As a teen, Louise escaped, hoping to find work to buy a house for her and her siblings. When she experienced a terrifying incident at her job as a housekeeper, she realized she would get nowhere as a woman on her own in the Old West. So, now, Louise dons boys’ clothes, calls herself “Lou,” and signs on with the Pony Express. It doesn’t take long for the riders to discover her secret. Even their boss, Teaspoon, finds out, but he knows a great rider when he sees one, and he doesn’t fire Lou. Lou never forgets her siblings. In one episode, the riders help her rescue them from her outlaw father.


Buck Cross (Gregg Rainwater)
Being part Kiowa and part white, Buck, known as Running Buck among Indians, finds it hard to fit in either world. His tribe considers him an outsider. In the white man’s world, he’s treated unfairly with outright bigotry. Having met at a mission school, Buck and Ike McSwain, who faces his own challenges, are best friends. They “adopt” each other as brothers. Together, they join the Pony Express.

INSP Crossover Alert: You can catch Gregg Rainwater in the Walker, Texas Ranger episode, “The Legend of Running Bear” when it airs on INSP.


Ike McSwain (Travis Fine)
As a young boy, Ike suffered great loss, physically and emotionally. He battled scarlet fever, and though he survived, he lost his hair and speech due to the disease. Then, he witnessed his whole family die at the hands of a murderer. But Ike can communicate just fine, thanks to his best bud, Buck, who taught him Indian sign language. Ike is a determined justice seeker, an accomplished horseman, and a passionate defender of anyone who is a victim.


Noah Dixon (Don Franklin)
Noah is a free-born black man whose father was active in secretly helping slaves escape to freedom. At the age of five, his parents were killed in a raid, and a woman who worked with his father took Noah in and raised him as her own. Years later, now a wealthy woman, she finds Noah, and convinces him to ride a wagon train west, so they can board a boat that will take them back to Africa. Noah never gets on the boat. Instead, while Noah is buying slaves so he can set them free, he meets Jimmy. Soon, Teaspoon hires him as a Pony Express Rider. The country is on the verge of Civil War, and Noah is often the victim of discrimination, met with suspicion, or outright reviled by some of the townspeople because of the color of his skin. But, most of the riders accept him as equal. Noah’s pride and joy is his father’s silver saddle, and while most of the riders are sharpshooters, Noah can stop an adversary in his tracks with his bullwhip. Noah signs on in Season 2.


Emma Shannon (Melissa Leo)
Emma may come off as tough, but deep down, she has a soft spot for each of the riders, guiding them into adulthood. Emma, herself had a rough start in life, so she knows how they feel, the desperation to leave their mark on a world they don’t exactly fit in. She traveled to Sweetwater with her abusive husband. Her baby died of smallpox and the husband soon abandoned her. All alone, she offers her land as a Pony Express waystation, becoming housekeeper, cook and mother figure to the riders. Later, she finds love again with Marshal Sam Cain.


Sam Cain (Brett Cullen)
As a gunfighter, Sam made it his business to hunt down and kill every one of the men responsible for the murder of his beloved wife. Then, as he pulled the trigger on one of the two remaining outlaws, he had an epiphany. In that moment, he realized all the killing was for nothing. Needing a new start, Sam moved to Sweetwater to take the job of Town Marshal. He knows both sides of the law, and can spot potential trouble a mile away. Now drawing on his past and ultimate redemption, he makes every effort to guide the riders to do the right thing in life. He especially wants to help Jimmy Hickok cope with his growing and unwanted reputation as a gunslinger. Sam is good friends with Teaspoon, and when he needs a posse, he often turns to Teaspoon to lend him a few of his sharpshooting Pony Express riders.


Rachel Dunn (Clare Wren)
In Season 2, Teaspoon and the riders discover they needed help! So, Teaspoon hires Rachel to be their cook, caretaker, housekeeper and all-around mother hen. The riders take to her immediately—except for Lou. Rachel is outgoing, fun-loving and beautiful. The boys are mesmerized. Lou, still reeling from Emma’s departure, resents Rachel, and finds her to be too showy. When Rachel discovers Lou’s secret, the two have a woman-to-woman talk, and they develop a bond. But Rachel has her secrets, too, one that could get her killed. 


William Tompkins (Don Collier)
On their way west to start a new life, the wagon train carrying William, his wife Sally and daughter, Jenny was attacked by Lakota Indians. William survived the onslaught, but the Indians kidnapped his wife and daughter. William settles in Sweetwater and opens a shop, but he holds a deep-seated distrust of ruffians and is especially wary of Indians. It’s no wonder he butts heads with the riders, on more than one occasion. Over time, his attitude shifts, because when the Pony Express station moves to Rock Creek, he sells his store, and follows his newfound “family.” As for his real family, once freed from the Lakota, Sally and Jenny return, but Sally is killed, and after her mother’s death, Jennifer leaves town.


Jesse James (Christopher Pettiet)
While waiting for his brother, Frank to return, young Jesse is in the care of a man known as “The Doc.” Doc is killed, and Jesse is out for revenge. He tracks the murderer to the new waystation in Rock Creek, and Teaspoon and Jimmy take an interest in his well being. In the short time he spends with the riders, he becomes close friends with Noah, and struggles between choosing a purposeful life with the Pony Express or joining his brother in a life of crime. Jesse joins the riders in Season 3.