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Paul Revere's ride, revisited

A rider warms up her horse before competition in the Great River Saddlebred Association benefit horse show at the Iowa Equestrian Center at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 14, 2010.  (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
A rider warms up her horse before competition in the Great River Saddlebred Association benefit horse show at the Iowa Equestrian Center at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids on Friday, May 14, 2010. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Warning: My annual dose of holiday satire.

The scene: Paul Revere is racing down the road from Boston toward Concord and Lexington to inform the populace of British troop movements. He comes upon a small farmer’s cottage.

“Ploughman, awaken! I bring you news of the British army, which is marching this way! The British are coming! The British are coming!”

“Well, that’s not what the last rider said,” the farmer replies, groggily, holding a candle.

“Other rider?”

“Yep. Bartholomew Bright. He goes by Bright Bart. Rode by 10 minutes hence. He says it’s really the French who are coming, to enslave us all in some sort of liberal European enlightenment, make us dress up like Mozart and eat snails. They also want to give all our milling, forging and tanning jobs to immigrants lacking proper legal parchments. Really makes you think.”

“That’s nonsense! British regulars are on their way to seize our militia’s cache of arms. We must prepare! I must spread the news. Farewell!”

“I’m not eating any snails!” the farmer yells after him.

Soon, Revere comes upon another homestead.

“Huzzah patriots! The British are coming! The moon glistens on the steel of their bayonets!”

“Move along Revere,” snaps a loud voice from an open window. “We’re tired of your blatant anti-crown bias. You’re nothing more than a tool of Big Independence and the eastern elite establishment. We get our midnight warnings from fair and balanced riders only. Be gone, equine prevaricator!”

But, sir, what of the British troops approaching?

“Fake news!” the voice yelled as the window slammed.

On Revere rode, and at each stop, he became more and more puzzled.


“Sure, the British are coming,” says a blacksmith. “But according to the town crier, they’re making the colonies great again. I for one welcome the firmer hand of our monarchical overlords at this moment of national carnage. If people like you would just quit complaining, protesting, agitating and stockpiling arms for an insurrection, maybe the King could get something accomplished.”

“Why don’t you ever ride around yelling about all the positive things the king has done?” asks a cobbler’s wife, shaking her finger at Revere.

But dear lady, he’s seized our lands, quartered his troops in our homes, taxed us to the brink of ruin, jailed our countrymen and denied us of our God-given rights and liberties. I say to arms!

“Who told you that? Lying Ben Franklin?” she spit before slamming the door.

At stop after stop, they disputed his news of the British approach.

Some insisted the British are leaving. Others argued the British were never here. They declared the Founding Fathers a bunch of smug, condescending politically correct smarty-knickers. They blamed the colonies’ troubles on its broadsheets, pamphlets and almanacs. They called Revere a “leaker” who ought to be locked up.

Their voices were loud. Their facts, alternative. It’s all a big conspiracy, some insisted.

“Forget the British and the French, it’s the Russians we need to worry about,” says a cooper, quietly, looking sideways.

The mathematician Nathaniel Silver informed Revere, based on analytics, there’s really only a 24 percent chance of the British coming. Silver insisted Revere’s message simply won’t resonate with key rural demographics. Midnight riders are no longer seen as credible. It’s all in the numbers.

Undaunted, he rode on. He saw placards nailed to trees.

“Paul Revere, Enemy of the People,” the placards said.

Along his route he found small cards scattered about. He picked up one.

“Failing Paul Revere says I’m a tyrannical despot. Wrong! ZERO credibility. Full of ALE! SAD!” signed Lord Twitterington, Official Scribe to His Majesty.

“Gadzooks! Will anyone heed my call to action?”

“You there, sturdy patriot, the British are coming!”

“I hate politics. Want to see some paintings of my cat?” the man asks.

So Revere swiftly turned his horse and galloped toward the nearest tavern. And with that, a journalistic tradition was born.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com



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