Katherine Chandler.

In the reign of Coyote, folkflore from the Pacific coast online

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when it does n't come they find a creek or a spring.
See that one now in the brass buttons. Just watch
me hit him." But Antonio's carefully aimed acorn
missed the shining little green coat.


" O Tonio ! " began Juanita, when Tecla fright-
ened away her words by exclaiming, " See that
little black ant on your skirt, Nita. I wonder if
he is coming from the blacksmith's."

" From the blacksmith's ? From Wantasson's ?
Why would an ant be at a blacksmith's ? "

" I know one ant that went to a blacksmith, and
it was fortunate for him that he did. My godfather
told me about him."

" Oh, tell us about it, Tecla ! Tell it just the way
your godfather told it to you."

"No more to-day. To-morrow I will tell you,
but now you can ask your blacksmith for a story.
I shall take a nap here. I have to rest some time."

Finding it hopeless to persuade her, the children
wandered back to the quadrangle.


Antonio and Juanita
found Wantasson hard at work.
As he saw them, he dropped his
' tools and sat down in the door-
way. He was evidently glad of an
excuse to rest, so Antonio made
good use of the opportunity.

"Wantasson, do you know a good story about
a frog?"

" A good story about a frog ? " The words came
slowly. " Well, I know a story about a good frog.
Would you like to hear it ? "

" Yes ; that 's why we came," explained Juanita,
as she and her brother settled themselves on the
stones in front of the door.

Wantasson grunted a moment, found a comfort-
able position for his shoulders, and then began his


A long, long time ago all the fire on the earth
was owned by two old women. They kept it in
a little mat house and would not let a spark escape.
The animal people were shivering with cold and
were sick from their raw food, so they journeyed
two moons to the little mat house and begged the
old women to give them a firebrand.

But the old women only muttered, " No, no,"
and crouched closer to their fire.

Then the animals begged earnestly : " Oh, lend us
a brand just for a few minutes. Our teeth are chat-
tering, and our stomachs refuse the uncooked meat.
We pray you, Old Women, lend us a firebrand."

But the old women still muttered, " No, no,"
and hugged their fire closer.

Then the animals piled all their treasures to-
gether, shells from the seashore, cones from the
mountains, bows from the oak tree, and arrows
from the volcanic region. They carried them to
the old women's door. " Old Women," they cried,
"here are all our treasures. Take them and give
us one burning fagot."

Still the old women muttered, "No, no," and
covered their fire with their stooping bodies.

The animals went shivering home. They found
Coyote and besought him to think of some way to
get them fire.


Coyote thought and thought. Then he said : " It
will be a hard struggle to get it safe to our own
country. Summon every animal and then station
yourselves along the route to the old women's
house, each one a half sun's distance from the
other. The strongest and swiftest must stand
nearest the little mat house. Let each one be
ready to run swiftly in his turn with the firebrand.
Bear will hide himself outside the old women's
home. I will go in. When I signal to him, he
will make a rush and frighten them."

Coyote went to the little mat house and knocked
at the door. The old women opened it. " Good
morning," said Coyote in his politest voice. " May
I come in and warm my feet ? They are very cold."

The old women muttered, "Yes, yes."

When Coyote's toes were all flexible again, he
coughed. Bear rushed in with a growl and dashed
toward the old women. As they tried to protect
themselves, Coyote snatched a blazing brand and

But the old women were swift of foot, and as
Coyote ran on with lolling tongue and panting
breath, they sped after him. Just as he was begin-
ning to slacken his pace, he reached Panther.

Panther seized the brand and bounded onward.
The old women followed close. As Panther began

Bear will hide himself outside the old women's home



to get weary, he arrived at Elk's station. Elk
speeded like the wind, but still the old women fol-
lowed close behind. Then Fox carried the stolen
fire on a space, and so in turn the animals kept up
their flight, with the old women always close behind.

At last the firebrand had been carried from one
animal to another across the cold country until
bushy-tailed Squirrel was reached, and he was the
next-to-the-last animal. As he seized the brand, the
old women made a dash at him. He was so fright-
ened that he almost dropped it, and in catching it
firmly again, his tail caught fire. He did not stop,
but ran on with the brand in his mouth. He curled
his tail over his back, and it burned a black place
between his shoulders. Down to this very day the
squirrel has a black spot between his shoulders.

When Squirrel could run no more, he tossed the
brand to the last animal in the line. This was
poor little squatty Frog. He never was much of
a runner, but he did his best, hopping frantically
along. The rough stones cut all his tail away ; yet
he managed to reach the bank of the river, on
the other side of which lay the animals' country.
Here the old women overtook him and tried to
snatch both the brand and poor Frog. The brand
had dwindled down to a tiny spark during this long
race, so Frog just swallowed it and dived into the


river. He swam under water to the other side
and there spat out the fire on pieces of wood.

Poor Frog ! He suffered in the struggle. Never
since that day has his tail grown again. Then, too,
the brand burned away one of his vocal chords, SCK
that he no longer rivals the birds as he once did.
That is why he dislikes fire and even to this day
keeps far away from it.

From that time fire has dwelt in wood, and by
rubbing two twigs together the animals can always
get enough to make themselves comfortable.

" Oh, what a good frog ! " exclaimed Juanita.

"Yes, he's a brave fellow," assented Antonio.
" But can you always get fire out of wood by rubbing
two sticks together, Wantasson ? If I should rub
these two pieces of wood, would I get fire ? " and
he picked up two pieces of firewood.

" You probably would not. But my people start
all their fires by twirling wood. Some day I may
show you how. But now I see your Sefior Padre
coming, and I must ask him about this work. You
go to that woman Tecla."

As they went off, Juanita exclaimed : " I don't
care if frogs don't have tails. And I don't think
their voices are so bad. Pobrecito, to have his vocal
chord burned away ! How it must have hurt ! "


" I know it hurt. I remember when I drank the
boiling coffee at old Santo' s. It just made my
mouth open, it burned so. Perhaps that's why
my voice is not so high as yours, Nita. You never
drank boiling coffee."


HE next day, after their siesta, the chil-
dren would not give Tecla any peace
until she had told them the ant story

she had promised.

Once a little ant was out walking, and some snow
fell and hurt its leg.

" Oh, oh ! " he cried ; " my poor leg ! "

" What 's the matter ? " asked the snow.

" Oh ! I have hurt my leg. Can you help me ? "

"I cannot," said the snow. "Ask the sun. It
is stronger than I, for it melts me."

So the ant went to the sun and said, " O Sun, I
have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

"I cannot," said the sun. "Ask the cloud. It
is stronger than I, for it covers me."

Then the ant went to the cloud. " O Cloud, I
have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

3 1


"I cannot," said the cloud. "Ask the wind.
It is stronger than I, for it blows me across
the sky."

The ant went to the wind and said, " O Wind,
I have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

"I cannot," said the wind. "Ask the adobe.
It is stronger than I, for it stops me."

Then the ant went to the adobe. " O Adobe, I
have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

" I cannot," said the adobe. " Ask the mouse.
It is stronger than I, for it makes holes in me."

So the ant went to the mouse and said, " O
Mouse, I have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

"I cannot," said the mouse. "Ask the cat. It
is stronger than I, for it eats mice."

The ant went to the cat. " O Cat, I have hurt
my leg. Will you help me ? "

" I cannot," said the cat. " Ask the dog. It
is stronger than I, for it worries me."

So the ant went to the dog and said, " O Dog,
I have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

"I cannot," said the dog. "Ask the stick. It
is stronger than I, for it beats me."

The ant went to the stick and said, " O Stick, I
have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

" I cannot," said the stick. " Ask the fire. It
is stronger than I, for it burns me."


Then the ant went to the fire. " O Fire, I have
hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

" I cannot," said the fire. " Ask the water. It
is stronger than I, for it quenches me."

The ant went to the water and said, " O Water,
I have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

" I cannot," said the water. "Ask the ox. It
is stronger than I, for it drinks me."

Then the ant went to the ox and said, " O Ox,
I have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

"I cannot," said the ox. "Ask the knife. It
is stronger than I, for it kills oxen."

Then the ant went to the knife. "O Knife, I
have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? "

"I cannot," said the knife. "Ask the black-
smith. He is .stronger than I, for he made me."

So the ant went to the blacksmith and said, " O
Blacksmith, I have hurt my leg. Will you help me ? ' '

And the blacksmith took a tiny piece of hemp
and bound up the leg, and the little ant crawled
away home happy.

" Well, I 'm glad the poor ant got its leg fixed
at last," said Juanita.

" I '11 show you that my legs are stronger than
yours, Nita, by racing you to the house" ; and the
children were soon flying up the hill, with Tecla
following leisurely after them.


NE day Juanita and Tecla were sew-
ing in the courtyard, while Antonio
lay on his back near their feet watch-
' f '//il~ ing a humming bird dart in and out

&^~ of the trumpet flowers. Suddenly Antonio
turned over and raised himself to a sitting
position. " I wish these ants would let a person
enjoy his own yard," he grumbled.

That gave Juanita a thought. "Tecla, do you
know any more stories about the ant ? " she asked.
" No more about the ant, but I know one about
his cousin, the cricket. My godmother told it to
me when I was smaller than you, Nita. If you
will keep on with your seam and not waste your
time, I will tell you that story now."



Juanita straightened herself up in her chair and
smoothed out her towel. Then, as she drew her
needle in and out, Tecla told them the story.

One day the cougar was out walking in the woods.
As he was stepping near an old rotten log, he
heard a tiny voice say, "Oh, please don't step
there. That 's my house, and with one step more
you will destroy it."

The cougar looked down and saw a little cricket
sitting on the log. He roared, "And is it you,
weak little creature, that dares -to tell me where
to step? Don't you know that I am king of the
beasts ? "

" You may be king of the beasts, but I am king
of my house, and I don't want you to break it
down, king or no king."

The cougar was amazed at such daring. " Don't
you know, you weakling, that I could kill you and
your house and all your relatives with one blow of
my paw ? "

" I may be weak, but I have a cousin no bigger
than I am, who can master you in a fight."

" O-ho ! o-ho ! " laughed the cougar. " Well,
little boaster, you have that cousin here to-morrow,
and if he does not master me, I '11 crush you, and
your house, and your cousin all together."

" The next day the cougar came back to the same spot '


The next day the cougar came back to the same
spot and roared, " Now, boaster, bring on your
valiant cousin."

Pretty soon he heard a buzzing near his ear.
Then he felt a stinging. " Oh, oh ! " he roared, " get
out of my ear ! " But the cricket's cousin, the
mosquito, kept on singing and stinging.

With every sting the cougar roared louder and
scratched his ear and jumped around; but the
mosquito kept on stinging and singing.

The cricket sat on the log and looked on. At
last he said, " Mr. Cougar, are you satisfied to
leave my house alone ? "

" Yes, anything, anything," groaned the cougar,
"if you will only get your cousin out of my ear."

So the cricket called the mosquito off, and then the
cougar ran away and never bothered them any more.

" Once a flea got into my ear," broke in Antonio,
eagerly, "and I was almost crazy until mamma
put some warm oil in and drowned the flea out."

" Yes, I can remember how you cried," said his

" No, you can't. You were too little then. And
you 'd cry, too, with a flea thundering in your ear."

" You may put up your sewing now, Nita," said
Tecla, "and play until supper time."


HAT same day the children were passing
the saddler's shop, where Klayukat sat
on a whalebone by the door braiding a
lariat. As he answered their greeting, he raised his
hand to kill a mosquito on his forehead. "You
vile mosquito ! " he exclaimed ; "I wish I could
treat you as Coyote did your ancestor."

The children stopped short. " How was that ?
What did Coyote do to the mosquito ? " asked

"Tecla told us about the cougar and the mos-
quito," interjected Juanita, "but not about the
coyote. Please tell us about it, Klayukat."

" Huh ! Tecla ! That woman does not know
about Coyote. I "don't know what they have in her



country. You ask Wantasson if Coyote is not the
most cunning of the animals."

" Wantasson has told us so. But he did not tell us
about Coyote and the mosquito. Please tell us that,
Klayukat," and Antonio's voice dropped into its
most pleading tones.

" Wait until I get some more leather, and then
as I braid the lariat I will tell you the story."

The children seated themselves near his door-
way. Soon he returned and sat down on his whale-
bone. Then he commenced his work and his story
at the same time.

In the long, long ago Mosquito was larger than
any man now alive. His bill was five feet long, and
it ended in a strong sharp point. He lived in a
narrow canyon near a spring.

When any animal came for water, Mosquito
would rush out singing, " Now I '11 suck you, suck,
suck." He would stick his bill through the animal
and drink every drop of blood in its body. So
many did he kill that there was weeping in each
animal home, and every family begged Coyote to
find them relief.

Coyote thought long and deep. Then he took
his stone knife and five twigs, one of hazel, one
of elder, one of crab apple, one of pine, and one of


oak. With these he started to the canyon where
lived Mosquito.

As he approached the door, Mosquito buzzed out
in a very annoying manner : " Where are you going ?
This is my road. I don't allow any one to pass."

Before he could get his bill out of his house,
Coyote answered in his polite way -."My friend, I
see that you are very cold and have no fire in your
house. Let me make you a fire so that you can
warm yourself."

Mosquito was feeling a little sluggish, and the
ground looked damp, so he replied, "Well, make a
little fire, but don't be too long about it or I might
get hungry."

Coyote took the hazel twig and broke it in two.
He twirled the pieces together and twirled them
again, but no blaze came. " Bah ! " he exclaimed,
"do you send all your heat into your nuts, foolish
wood ? " and he threw the hazel aside.

Next he took the elder twig and broke it in two.
He twirled the pieces together long and rapidly
and yet no spark was emitted. " Bah ! " he cried,
" do you send all your heat to your berries, foolish
wood ? " and he cast the elder aside.

Then he took the twig of crab apple and broke
it in two. He twirled and twirled these pieces to-
gether, but they showed no sign of fire. " Bah ! " he


sneered, " do you send all your heat to your fruit,
foolish wood ? " and he threw the crab apple aside.

Then he took the pine and the oak and twirled
them together. In a short time a tiny flame burst
forth, and soon Coyote had a big fire blazing right
in front of Mosquito's door.

Mosquito spread out his hands to warm himself
and shut his eyes in enjoyment. Coyote threw an
armful of rotten wood on the fire in order to smother
the blaze with smoke. Then Coyote turned the
smoke drift into Mosquito's face. Mosquito could
not catch his breath and lay down on the ground.

Coyote jumped on his head and cried: "You
shall not kill any more. You have been a terror to
everybody, but now your power is gone. I am
going to split your head open. From it shall come
a tiny race. They may fly about people's faces,
and annoy them, and take a little blood, but never
may they kill."

With one tremendous stroke of his stone knife,
Coyote cleft the giant's head. Out poured myriads
of tiny buzzing creatures. They still exist to-day,
always near some water. They still remember their
great ancestor. They buzz around trying to threaten
as he did; they suck blood from every animal ; and
recollecting how he met his death, they flee before
a smoke.


The children's attention to the story had been
interrupted by the visitation of several mosquitoes.

" These are bad enough," exclaimed Antonio.
" What must such a big mosquito have been like ! "

" But, Klayukat, there is no water here. So
why are there mosquitoes here ? " asked Juanita.

" Here at your Senor Padre's house there is no
water, but over the hill is there not the lagunita ?
There the mosquitoes breed, and from there they
come over the hill to bother us sinful mortals.
Ugh ! They are sent by the devil to try our souls " ;
and Klayukat slapped his head with his two hands.

"Are they all afraid of smoke, Klayukat?"
inquired Juanita.

" Every one of them will flee before smoke.
They are all afraid of it," answered the old man.

" Then why don't we have a big fire and lots of
smoke, and keep them away all the time ? " asked

"That, young Antonio, is for you to ask your
Senor Padre."

" Let 's go to him now," cried Juanita. " Hurry,
I hear these mosquitoes singing, ' I '11 suck your
blood, suck, suck ! ' Don't you hear them, Tonio ?
Oh, Tonio, let 's run "; and she led the race.



|NE day as the children were passing
Klayukat's shop, they saw him oiling
a rattlesnake's skin.

" Oh, what a big snake ! " and Juanita shud-

" Did you kill it ? How many rattles did it have ? "
questioned Antonio.

" Twelve rattles. Yes, I killed it last evening
over near the quarry."

"My! I'll never go near there any more"; and Jua-
nita puckered up her face into a hundred wrinkles.
"Oh, rattlers will not hurt you ! " Antonio assured
her. "They always ring their rattles in time for
you to get out of their way. What are you going
to do with the skin, Klayukat ? "

" It is to hold medicine. I shall oil it many times,
and then it will always keep soft and whole. It
will not crumble like the skins the snakes have
cast off and you find on the ground."



" Do snakes cast off their skins ? "

" Did you not know that, young Antonio ? "
queried the old Indian in surprise. " Yes, they
throw off their skins when they need new ones.
That is the law since the old times. Did you
never hear why the rattlesnake changes its skin ? "

"No. Why? Please tell us, Klayukat." Even
Juanita edged nearer the snake skin.

Klayukat went on rubbing the skin, up and
down, up and down, and his words kept rhythmic
measure with his hands.

A long time ago an old witch went to an eagle's
nest while he was away from home. She grabbed
his older son by the neck and sucked his blood,
every drop. She grabbed his younger son by the
neck and sucked his blood, every drop. Then she
flew down to earth.

When Eagle returned home, he called to his
children. There was no answer. He looked in
the nest. There were the two lifeless bodies.
" Ah me ! ah me ! " he cried. " Who has done
this awful deed ? " He wheeled around in the
air to see what creature was guilty. He saw all
the animals busy with their own affairs ; but down
in the pine forest he caught a glimpse of the old
witch hiding among the needles.


" Ah, that is the wretch ! " he screamed. " I '11
have her blood"; and he swooped down in the air
above her.

The old witch heard him coming. She ran as
the north wind through the trees and up to the
top of the rocky cliffs. There a rattlesnake lay
sunning himself.

"Save me!" cried the old witch. "O Rattle-
snake, save me from the wrath of Eagle."

Rattlesnake had opened his lips to say that he
could do nothing, when lo ! she ran right into his
open mouth.

Now Rattlesnake liked to eat all kinds of young
and tender creatures ; but when it came to old
witches, he refused to have them in his body.

" Get out of me ! " he exclaimed. " Get out of
me, or I '11 pitch you down the steepest precipice."

The old witch answered never a word.

" Fly out of me, or I '11 swallow an eagle to
battle with you"; and Rattlesnake hissed and
threatened and shook his rattles to frighten her.

But the old witch never stirred.

Rattlesnake sputtered and hissed, twisted and
writhed, until at last he wriggled out of his skin
and left the old witch in it. He was so surprised
to be rid of her that he exclaimed, " Old Witch,
where are you ? "


Then the old witch in the skin mocked his tone
of voice and said, just as he had said, "Old Witch,
where are you ? "

Ever since that time snakes have shed their
skins. And since then witches have lived in
these old cast-off snake skins, and if you talk
near one of them, an old witch will mock your
words and voice.

" Did you ever talk near an old snake skin,
Klayukat ? And did a witch mock you ? "
Juanita's tones were awed.

" Let 's try with this skin. There was no mock-
ing when you told the story," said Antonio.

" Oh, but this skin was not cast off by the snake.
I peeled this off myself. What you want is to
find an old skin on the hillside, and then you will
see. You will hear, too." Klayukat' s voice seemed
to come from the soles of his feet, so deep was it.

" Let 's go to mamma, Tonio " ; and Juanita
slipped her hand into her brother's.

" Yes, dinner must be nearly ready now. Good
morning, Klayukat. Thank you for the story."

"Good morning, children. God keep you safe
until we meet again."


\NE afternoon the southwest wind was
careering over the ranch, breaking trees,
harassing cattle, and making things gen-
erally uncomfortable. Antonio and Juanita could
not take their ride, and their book and music lessons
were over. Tecla was cross and would not speak
to them. She had neuralgia and went around with
her head tied up in cascara leaves. After a while
the children wandered over to the saddler's shop,
where they found the door closed. They heard a
low crooning inside. They knocked and received
a welcoming " Come in, children."

" How do you like to have the wind blow this
way, Klayukat ?" asked Antonio, as Juanita arranged
her mantilla over her head.

" Oh, very well, children, very well. The adobe
is solid and the door shuts close. I remember



that once there were five southwest winds, and I
am glad that now there is but one. Who can tell
if the roof could withstand five such winds as
this ? "

" Were there once five southwest winds, Klayu-
kat ? What became of the others?" and Antonio
leaned against the old man's knee.

" Is there only one wind making all this noise ? "
shivered Juanita.

" Only one southwest wind, Ninita. If there
were five now, you could not walk over to old
Klayukat's shop, Chiquita. Would you like to hear
why there is only one southwest wind now ? "

The children's enthusiastic answers were all the
inspiration old Klayukat needed. He waxed his
thread and started into the story.

In the early days of the earth there were five
southwest winds. They were very active fellows,

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Online LibraryKatherine ChandlerIn the reign of Coyote, folkflore from the Pacific coast → online text (page 2 of 7)