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Excerpt for Ten Tales of Coyote by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Ten Tales of Coyote


Copyright © Lynne Garner 2017

Published by Mad Moment Media

www.madmomentmedia.com


Lynne Garner has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording in audio or video form, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express, written permission of the author and Nyrex Ltd. This permission must be granted beforehand. This includes any and all reproductions intended for non-commercial and/or non-profit use.


Mad Moment Media is a trading name of Nyrex Limited

Cover illustration and design by Debbie Knight

CONTENTS


Introduction


Coyote, Bear and the Four Seasons

Coyote Places the Stars

Coyote, the Dancing Mice and the Old Elk Skull

Coyote, Mouse and Elk

Coyote Helps Mouse Fool Owl

Coyote, Fox and the Fishing Hole

Coyote and Turtle Outwit Beaver

Coyote and the Stranger

Coyote and Tip Beetle

Coyote and the Small Ray of Sunshine


Bibliography


About the author


INTRODUCTION



I remember watching Wile E. Coyote cartoons as a child and believing he was a character created by Looney Toons. At the time I had no idea they were drawing on a long tradition of trickster stories enjoyed for generations by the first peoples of America. I stumbled on the ‘real’ Coyote stories whilst researching for my first collection of Anansi the Trickster Spider stories and knew then I had to retell them.

In the original stories he’s not the Wile E. Coyote who invents elaborate traps that always fail to catch his archenemy, the Road Runner. He is a character with many ‘faces.’ In some he is a creator and a problem solver. In others, he is a teacher who highlights the dangers of bad behavior such as greed, lust and deceit. In some he is a trickster who uses his cunning and quick wits to trick others or get himself out of a sticky situation, whilst in some stories he is a mixture of all these different ‘faces.’

Traditionally Coyote appears as a male and is generally anthropomorphic. If the storyteller describes him then he is described with coyote-like features such as a pointed face, a tail, claws and fur. In some stories the storyteller doesn’t give a description and allows the reader to create their own image of him.

The original Coyote tales were an oral tradition, so had never been written down. Thankfully this changed when it was realized this long oral tradition was being lost due to the influence of the vast numbers of Europeans who were immigrating to America. Folklorists, many supported by the American Folklore Society and other institutions such as the Smithsonian, were given grants to enable them to undertake ‘field trips’. During these trips they documented not only the myths and legends of the native population but also their traditional beliefs and way of life.

As they talked to the elders of tribes and those who still remembered life before the ‘white man’ the folklorists discovered Coyote was more than just a character in a story. George Amos Dorsey noted in his book The Mythology of The Wichita (published 1904) that an elder and many of his generation believed the myths without question. It didn’t matter how puerile or ribald they might seem. He respected the lessons they gave and identified them with the stories told by the ‘whites’ about Christ, for both he and Coyote lived many generations ago, and appeared in this world to better the lot of mankind.

George Amos Dorsey also noted that parents who belonged to the Wichita tribe used the Coyote stories as a way of teaching their children. They would invite an old man, who they believed had led a good life, to tell Coyote stories to their children, so they could learn important life lessons.

Traditionally Coyote tales were only told during the winter months. It was customary (and still is for those who follow the old ways) for the elders to bring out the stories in November and put them away when the snow melted, usually some time during February or March. However, some would put Coyote stories away when they saw the first snakes as they came out of hibernation. Those that followed this custom also believed that snakes would visit anyone who read the stories during other months.

It is not only important when Coyote stories are shared but also how they are told. Storytellers believed they would be given a sign the day after they shared a story. This sign would tell them how good or bad their story-telling was. For example, if the next morning was bright and started with a light mist then their story telling had been good. But if the next day was excessively cold then their story telling had been poor.

My hope is you enjoy my retelling of these stories and you show respect to the tradition they represent by sharing them only during the winter months. However, if you do share them outside of these months please remember to also share that traditionally these stories are for the winter.


Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun

and winter in the shade.”

Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870)


COYOTE, BEAR AND THE FOUR SEASONS



When the earth was first created there were four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Now, long, long ago Bear decided that because his favorite seasons were winter (he just loved to sleep) and spring (he loved the smell of the spring flowers) he decided he’d catch summer and fall, keep them in a large clay pot and only get them out when he needed them.

This meant if Bear decided he wanted winter to last six months (which is fine if you hibernate like Bear) and spring to last six months, then he could. Sadly, this wasn’t good for the other animals, as they never knew when the seasons would change.

Now one day during a very cold winter Coyote was trudging through the snow looking for something to eat. His stomach gave a huge, long rumbling growl. “At this rate I’m going to have to eat the snow,” he mumbled.

Suddenly, as Coyote walked under a large fir tree, he was showered with snow. He looked up and saw Squirrel looking very thin and sad.

“Squirrel, are you all right?” Coyote asked.

Squirrel burst into tears.

“Squirrel, please come down and talk to me,” Coyote called up to Squirrel.

“No, you’ll eat me,” replied Squirrel. “I can hear your stomach growling from here.”

“I promise not to eat you,” replied Coyote, who didn’t like to see Squirrel so upset.

“Promise?” asked Squirrel, looking down from the safety of the branch.

“I promise,” replied Coyote.

Squirrel scurried along the branches, leaping from one to another until she reached Coyote.

“What’s the matter?” asked Coyote again.

My store of nuts is almost empty,” replied Squirrel. “I don’t have enough to last the winter and as Bear has taken summer and fall I don’t know when I can stock up again.”

“That is a problem,” replied Coyote.

“I’m not the only one,” said Squirrel. “Many of the other animals are struggling to survive. We need the four seasons, not just winter and spring.”

Coyote sat in the snow and scratched his ear with one of his large back paws. “Let me see what I can do,” he said, after a short pause.

“Really?” asked Squirrel. “You’ll get the four seasons back for us?”

“I’m Coyote,” replied Coyote. “That’s what I do.”

Coyote then got up, shook the snow from his fur and slowly walked home.

The next day Coyote woke from his slumber, stretched, then looked in his cupboard. He shook his head; it was totally empty.

“I’m going to have to visit Bear and have words,” he said to himself.

When Coyote reached Bear’s den all he could hear was snoring.

Coyote sighed. “Of course, he’s hibernating.” Coyote went to walk away then turned around. “No, I promised Squirrel I’d help her and the other animals. I’ll have to hope Bear isn’t too angry when I wake him up.”

Coyote knocked on the door, but the snoring continued. Coyote knocked again, louder this time, but Bear still slept on.

“Well, there’s only one thing for it,” said Coyote.

Coyote took a deep breath, lifted his head and began to howl. He howled and howled for all he was worth.

Finally, Coyote heard the snoring stop, the thud of Bear’s large paws on the floor and a long, noisy yawn.

Coyote knocked on the door again and stood back. Coyote knew what Bear was like when he was grumpy and Bear was often grumpy when he first woke up.

Bear’s front door slowly creaked open. “What do you want?” he growled.

“Can I come in? It’s very cold,” asked Coyote.

“Didn’t you know I was sleeping?” asked Bear.

“Sorry, Bear, but it’s very important,” replied Coyote.

Bear gave a long, deep sigh and stood back to let Coyote in. “Make it quick. I want to go back to bed.”

Inside Coyote looked around to see if he could see where Bear had hidden summer and fall.

“What do you want?” asked Bear, stretching and scratching his armpit.

We need summer and fall back,” replied Coyote.

“That’s what you woke me up for?” growled Bear. “No, I’m not going to let everyone have them. I’m going back to bed.”

“But we need the four seasons,” said Coyote.

“Get out!” shouted Bear, pointing at the door. “Get out!”

Coyote decided it wasn’t a good idea to make Bear angrier, especially when he was still inside Bear’s house.

So Coyote decided to leave. Just as he reached the door Coyote noticed two large clay pots on a shelf. One had the word ‘Summer’ written on it and the other had ‘Fall’ written on it.

Coyote smiled to himself. He’d had an idea.

Over the next few days Coyote visited his relatives and asked if they’d help him. Being family, they all said they’d be happy to help. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? You always help family.

A few days later Coyote sat near Bear’s house and took a deep breath. He lifted his head and began to howl. He howled and howled for all he was worth. After a little while Coyote’s family joined in and the air was filled with a chorus of howling.

Finally, Coyote heard the snoring stop and the thud of Bear’s large paws on the floor. “Coyote, stop that noise at once!” shouted Bear. But Coyote and his family continued to howl.

Bear shouted again, but Coyote ignored him.

“I’ll make you stop!” shouted Bear. The door flew open and Bear threw a large pot at Coyote. Coyote quickly jumped to one side and the pot hit a tree root. It smashed open and honey started to slowly drip onto the snow.

Coyote sat down again, took a deep breath, lifted his head and began to howl. He howled and howled for all he was worth. Coyote’s family joined in and the air was filled with a chorus of howling.

“Right!” said Bear.

He went inside, picked up another pot and came back outside. Standing in the snow, Bear threw the pot at Coyote, but Coyote quickly jumped out of the way. The pot smashed on a small rock jutting out of the snow. But much to Bear’s annoyance Coyote and his family continued to howl.

“Now I’m getting really angry!” shouted Bear, who went inside to get another pot. When he came outside again Bear threw the pot at Coyote who quickly jumped out of the way. The pot landed with a soft thud in the soft snow.

Coyote sat down again, took a deep breath, lifted his head and began to howl. He howled and howled for all he was worth. Coyote’s family joined in and the air was filled with a chorus of howling.

“OK, you win!” shouted Bear, who went inside and this time picked up two pots. Bear walked back to the door and threw the pots at Coyote. Again Coyote jumped out of the way. As the pots arced through the air they bumped into one another and smashed into a thousand pieces. To Coyote’s delight, he felt a warm summer breeze on his face, followed by the sweet smell of ripe fall berries. As good as his word, Coyote had made Bear give back the two seasons to the other animals.

• • •


Now there were stars overhead, hanging

like frozen spears of light, stabbing the night sky.”

Neil Gaiman (1960 – present)


COYOTE PLACES THE STARS



One night Coyote was enjoying a walk when he came across the four wolves and their friend, Dog. The five animals were sitting on the edge of a cliff staring into the night sky.

Coyote was a little confused because they weren’t staring at the glorious moon, but at the blackness of the skies. You see, no one had come up with the ideas of stars. So the only two things you’d see in the sky was the moon or the sun. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you could see both at the same time.

Coyote wanted to know what they were staring at, so he sat next to the largest wolf. “What are you looking at?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” replied the largest wolf.

“But you must be looking at something,” said Coyote.

“We’re just looking,” said the smallest wolf.

Although Coyote knew they must be staring at something, he couldn’t see what it was, so he shrugged his shoulders and left them still staring into the night sky.

The next night Coyote found the four wolves with their friend, Dog, in the same spot. This time Coyote sat next to the second largest wolf.

“What are you looking at?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” replied the second largest wolf.

“But you must be looking at something,” said Coyote, this time a little annoyed.

“We’re just looking,” said the smallest wolf.

Although Coyote knew they must be staring at something, he couldn’t see what it was, so he shrugged his shoulders and left them staring into the night sky.

The next night Coyote found the four wolves with their friend, Dog, still sitting in the same spot. This time Coyote sat beside Dog.

“What are you looking at?” he asked.

The four wolves looked at Dog and waited to see if he would answer Coyote.

“We can tell him,” said Dog. “Coyote’s clever and he may be able to help.”

Eager to find out what they were staring at, Coyote said, “I’m sure I can help if you tell me what you’re staring at.”

The smallest wolf pointed into the sky. “If you look very closely, just there, you can see two creatures sitting in the sky,” the smallest wolf told him. “They’re there every night but we can’t work out what they are.”

Coyote looked into the sky and concentrated on the spot the five animals were staring at. The wolves and Dog were right: there were two animals sitting in the sky.

“We just can’t make out who or what they are,” said Dog.

“We’ve all suggested something but none of us can agree,” the largest wolf added.

“We could go up there and take a closer look,” suggested Coyote.


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