Katherine Chandler.

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

. (page 5 of 7)
Online LibraryKatherine ChandlerIn the reign of Coyote, folkflore from the Pacific coast → online text (page 5 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

unlocked it. The river roared through, breaking
away the whole dam in its hurry. Then the salmon
swam up the river, and ever since, to this day, the
animals have not needed to go hungry.

"What funny old Scnoras to give a baby dried
salmon ! " laughed Juanita. " I never knew of
people's giving a baby salmon, did you, Tonio?"

" But this was not a real baby. It was Coyote,
so it did n't matter what they gave him. He could
eat anything. So could I now. Let 's go and ask
Maria for a tortilla." And with a "Thank you,
Klayukat," both children started to the kitchen.


NCE, when Antonio was out with the
herders, a wood tick got on his arm. It
burrowed its head into his flesh and had to
be cut out. When he returned home, Juanita
was much interested in his experience. Under her
sympathy Antonio felt himself a man. They walked
over to the saddlery talking of it.

"Just look at Tonio's arm, Klayukat. He had a
tick in it, and it had to be cut out," boasted the
little sister.

" A tick ? Let me see. Huh ! Yes. It is well
for you the tick is not so large as it was before
Coyote conquered it, else you would not be here
to show your arm."

The arm was forgotten. Another story ? They
pleaded for it at once, and soon they were seated


on the hides, and Klayukat was reciting the story
as he stitched on his saddlebags.

In the ancient days Tick was a great monster.
He lived on the sheltered side of a mountain and
kept large herds of deer, elk, mountain sheep, and
other animals that are good for food. No matter
how hungry the people in the valley might be,
Tick could always satisfy himself by going out
among his herds and killing a fat animal.

One parching summer Coyote was nearly starv-
ing. He thought to himself : " Tick has plenty to
eat, and he does no good to the animals. I will go
to his house and kill him and take his herds."

He toiled up the mountain and found Tick just
out of the sweat-house and ready for a plunge into
the lake.

" Good morning," said Coyote. " I am tired and
dusty. May I have a sweat and a bath to refresh
me for the rest of my journey ? "

"You may," replied Tick, "if you will heat the
rocks yourself. I have to take my bath."

" Thank you ; that I will do," answered Coyote,
as he began to pile the stones on the smoldering
fire. When the rocks were heated, he placed them
in the sweat-house. Then he went in and closed
the door tight.


" What a strange sweat-house this is ! " he re-
marked to himself. " It looks like the body of a
big deer." And that is just what it was.

As the heat radiated from the stones, the fat on
the ribs of the deer melted and dripped down.
Coyote held up his mouth and caught the deli-
cious drops. As his hunger was satisfied, he grew
stronger, and he began to make his plans for killing
Tick. When he was well sweated, he ran out of the
deer house and plunged into the lake. The cool
bath made him feel like a new person.

In his strength he rushed to where Tick was
lying in the sun. He seized him and began to
choke him. Tick lay so still that soon Coyote
thought he was dead and loosened his hold.

Immediately Tick jumped up and called to all his
herds to flee with him. The great deer that had
formed the sweat-house shook itself and started to
run to the valley. As it fled, Tick clung to its hair
and was being carried away.

He laughed as he saw Coyote's look of surprise.
"Aha! You thought to kill me by squeezing me.
You ought to have had more sense. Why did you
not put me on a rock and crush me with a stone ?
I '11 still revel in the blood of your animals. Aha!"

The taunting laugh maddened Coyote, and he
cursed Tick. " You will never more kill any of my

" He plunged into the lake '



animals. You shall be little and feeble. As you
now cling to the deer's hair, so all the rest of your
days you shall crawl around on the hair of animals.
You shall suck blood, yes, but it will be in such
tiny drops that you will never again grow fat. And
at any time my animals may kill you with a stone."
So since that day Tick has been a little flat crawl-
ing creature that lives by sucking blood. The ani-
mals are no longer obedient to him, for at any time
they can crush him to death by sudden violence.

" Oh, Tonio, F m so glad Coyote conquered him.
Just think, if the big tick had taken hold of you!"
and Juanita gave her brother's arm a squeeze.

" But it did n't," said Antonio, pulling his arm
loose. " Klayukat, the herders say that rabbits have
ticks all over them. Is that so ? "

" Who can tell ? Who can tell ? Ticks will go
anywhere they can. As for rabbits, well, rabbits
have not the best sense. Did I ever tell you the
story of the jack rabbit's fight with the sun ? "

" No, we 've never heard it. Will you tell it to
us now ? "

" Not now. I must take this awl to the smithy.
You come around some other time, when you have
nothing to do."


HE next day the children appeared at
Klayukat's door and asked for the rabbit

" We meet the rabbits everywhere we go," said
Antonio, " on the hill, in the canyon, by the road,
and under our own fig trees. We 'd like to know
something about them."

" You may not learn much about the jack rabbit,
but you will learn what a good thing he did for the
world," returned Klayukat. Then, as he bored holes
in some leggins, he recited this tale.

In the days of the ancients the sun did not move
around the earth regularly, as it does to-day. At
times it would stay away so long that all the ani-
mals would be nearly frozen. Then it would come


back so close to the world that people would be
burned up.

Once, when the sun had been absent a long time,
Jack Rabbit sat near his camp fire with his children.
They were watching for the sun to return. After a
while Jack Rabbit grew weary and fell asleep.

Suddenly he was awakened. " Father, father ! "
he heard his children cry, "your back is on fire."
Jack Rabbit rolled over in the dirt and put the fire
out. He was very angry with the sun for coming
back and burning him in his sleep.

" You stay here, children," he cried. " I am going
to fight that sun. I am tired of its whims."

He picked up his bow and five arrows, and turned
his steps toward the east.

After traveling a long while he came to the edge
of the world, where the sun comes up. There he
sat down and waited. After some time the sun
came in sight.

" Now I shall punish you," cried Jack Rabbit, and
he shot an arrow at its face. The sun only grinned
and burned up the arrow before it was a mile from
the earth.

Jack Rabbit sent a second arrow, but it too was
burned. So was the third arrow and the fourth.
The fifth arrow was a charmed one, and to make
doubly sure that it would not burn, Jack Rabbit wet


it with a tear from his eye. -Then he aimed care-
fully. Twang ! The arrow flew straight to the sun
and chipped off a number of pieces from its face.

The fiery fragments came whirling down to the
earth and set everything on fire. Jack Rabbit had
to race before the flames. He jumped and jumped,
but the flames ate his toes off. He hopped faster,
but the fire caught his legs and burned them off.
He jerked on still faster, but the sparks flew on his
body and burned it up. His head bounded on still
faster. The flames reached for it. The head stum-
bled against a stone. Then from Jack Rabbit's eyes
poured such a flood of tears that it quenched the
fire, and the earth was saved.

Jack Rabbit crouched down under a bush near
the stone until his body and legs and toes grew
again. Then he ran back to his waiting children.

He complained to the animals about the sun's
irregularity. " It either stays away so long that we
freeze, or it comes so close that we scorch," he said.
"And if we complain, it tries to burn the whole world
up. I think we ought to order its movements."

The other animals answered, " We think so too.
Let us call a council and order the sun's move-

So they called a council of all the animals on
the face of the earth. They sat around in a circle,


and each animal expressed his opinion. Then they
all decided that the sun could not travel in such
an irregular way any longer. They ruled that it
should travel around the world every day, and that
it should never go so far away that people would
freeze, nor approach so near that they would be

Ever since that council the animals have had reg-
ular days and regular seasons, and they have had
no more fear of the sun's destroying them.

" Poor rabbit, to have his head bounce along
alone," breathed Juanita. " I should think he
would never have gotten well again."

" Do rabbits' tears always put out fires, Klayu-
kat ? Tecla told us that a rabbit's tear would charm
an arrow," and Antonio's tones were serious.

" Did she, that woman ? So they know that in
her country ! Yes, a rabbit's tear will make an
arrow fly straight, and if you carry some rabbit
tears with you, you will never burn."

" But where do you get the tears ? "

"Now that question, young Antonio But
there is that Tecla calling you. You must go,"
and Klayukat settled in relief to his work.



ONE day there was a thunderstorm. At
such an unusual occurrence as this, in
- ^ the vicinity of San Francisco, the chil-
dren were frightened. Juanita would not leave her
mofher's lap, and Antonio stayed close beside her.
Together they said their prayers aloud. The sun
was out some time before they cared to go into
the courtyard. Then they sought Klayukat.

" Did you ever hear such noise before, Klayukat ?
Such awful noise ! "

" Oh, I do not mind that noise. It cannot do any
harm since Coyote made the law against it."

" Did Coyote have anything to do with thun-

" Yes, a great deal to do with it. If it had not
been for Coyote, perhaps this thunder to-day would
have killed us all."

The children clasped each other's hands.


"Sit down on the hides, and I will tell you the

In the early days Thunder was a mighty bird.
He lived in the high mountains and rode about on
the clouds. His only pleasure seemed to be in
killing the animals. If he saw a bear taking a
stroll, or an eagle soaring into the heavens, he
would spread out dark clouds, pour down heavy
rain, and wink his flashing eyes. He did not stop
until his victim was quite dead. The animals
became so frightened that they dared not step out
of their houses.

One day Coyote came along and said : " What 's
the matter with you people ? You look frightened
and hungry. Why 'don't you come out of your
houses and hunt for food ? "

"Oh, we dare not," they replied. "If we ven-
ture forth, Thunderbird pierces us with his fiery
eye. Cannot you help us, O Coyote ? "

" Why, this is serious," answered Coyote. " I
will see what I can do."

He thought and thought and thought. Then he
changed himself into a tiny downy featherand floated
off on the wind. He sailed until he was over the
home of Thunderbird. He looked well at the
troublesome giant, then came down in a whirlwind


and lighted on a dry sunflower stalk, right in front
of Thunderbird's door.

Thunderbird had been watching the feather for
some time. He thought, " That looks like a feather,
and yet it looks like an animal." Then he sat up
and took a better look at it.

"Probably," he said, "it is only a feather that I
knocked out of an owl the other day. The wind
has blown it here. I will try a little rain on it and
see what it will do."

Then he roared in a loud tone of voice and sent
down a heavy shower of rain. The feather did not
move while he was doing this.

When Thunderbird ceased, the feather rose in
the air and began to send down rain and thunder
and most awful lightning.

Thunderbird was amazed to see such a tiny
thing as a feather send down rain and thunder and
lightning. " How is this ? " he questioned. " I
thought that / was the only Thunderbird in the
world." Then, feeling jealous, he cried louder,
winked quicker, and sent down heavier showers.

The feather replied with still fiercer thunder,
keener lightning, and swifter rain, right into the very
eyes of Thunderbird, and made him blink and dodge.

He was angrier than ever and returned the
heaviest charges that he had. Still the feather


neither blinked nor dodged, but just kept on
pouring out thunder, and lightning, and rain.

Then Thunderbird flew from his rocky home
into the heavens and tried to grapple with the
feather. The noise was so great, and the lightning
so cutting, and the rain so violent that the earth
beneath was torn and burned into ravines.

Finally they came together in one close grip
and fell to the earth. The shock was so great that
the whole world trembled. The feather came down
on top, and when it struck the earth, it turned
back into Coyote.

He at once began to beat Thunderbird's head
with his war club. Thunderbird pleaded for mercy,
but Coyote kept on beating him until his club was
shattered. Then he said: "You may live, but no
more shall people see your huge body. No more
may you kill or terrify. You may thunder only in
the sultry summer time. You may lightning occa-
sionally, but never more to destroy."

From that day the power of Thunderbird has
been broken. He is no longer seen, and his
voice and his winkings are no longer a terror to
the animals.

" Oh, I 'm so glad Coyote ever lived," sighed
Juanita. " I 'm going to pray for him to-night, the


good thing, for stopping the thunder. Just think
if that awful bird could swoop down on us now ! "

" That is not the only awful bird Coyote con-
quered. There was the owl. He was nearly as
bad as Thunderbird."

"The owl? I'm not afraid of an owl," and
Antonio's tones betokened his bravery. "I helped
Santo take one out of the barn loft."

" Huh ! An owl out of a barn loft ? That is not
the kind Coyote dealt with. Why, it could carry
off the whole barn in one claw. Owl in a barn
loft huh ! " And no pleading could win another
word from Klayukat that afternoon.


HE children went on to the smithy.
Wantasson asked, " How did you like
the thunder this morning, children ? "

" We did n't like it at all. Did you,
Wantasson ?"
" No, I did not like it, nor the lightning either.
I shut the door of the shop, but the light came in
so bright that I was afraid my eyes would burn

" We hid our eyes, did n't we, Tonio ? " The
brother vouchsafed no answer.

" I would have covered mine, only I had nothing
here but hot iron. That would have been as bad
as the pitch the bat used."

" What pitch did the bat use ? " asked Juanita.
"Why did the bat use pitch?" and Antonio
was all interest.



" Don't you know how the bat came to be blind ?
No ? Well, sit down, and I will rest while we have
that story."

Once there was no fire in this land, but the ani-
mals knew there was plenty far off in the west.
One day, as they were shivering together, Bat said
to Lizard, " Why don't you scurry off to the west
and get a coal for us ? "

Lizard said, " I believe I will." He wriggled off
for many suns, until he reached the fiery west.
There he took a coal in his mouth and started

It had not been much trouble for him to whisk
unseen into the west and to take a coal, but it was
not easy to get the coal safe to his home. He had
to carry the brand up high, so that it would not
set the grass afire ; and then, too, all the animals
were eager to steal fire. He had to travel at night
for fear of thieves.

When he was only one sun from home, he sud-
denly came across a party of cranes sitting up late,
gambling by the light of the moon. He crept into
the shadow of a log and stole quietly on, but he
could not escape their sharp eyes.

" Why, there 's Lizard with a coal," screamed
one crane.


" Let 's get the fire. Let 's get it," they all
yelled, and started after him with all the speed
of their long legs.

They soon overtook him, and as they snatched
for the fire, Lizard dropped the coal. In a twinkling
the dry grass was ablaze. Lizard speeded for his
life. The burning grass followed him in great
waves of flame.

Bat saw the fire approaching and rubbed her
eyes to see what the matter was. Then her eyes
began to pain her. She heard Lizard running
in and called : " Oh, Lizard, Lizard ! My eyes will
be burned out with this great blaze. Please put
some pitch over them to keep out the strong

"All right," said Lizard. He spread the pitch
on, but he was trembling so that he got it on too
thick. Bat could not see at all.

" Oh, now I 'm blind indeed," she cried. She
jumped this way and that. She fluttered against a
tree and fell to the ground. Her feathers caught
fire and were all singed off. She lifted herself and
flew towards the west. " O, West Wind," she
sobbed, "blow on my aching eyes."

The wind heard her and laid its cool fingers upon
her. It could not get all the pitch off, and so Bat's
eyes have always been covered since. Her feathers,


too, have never grown on again, and even to this
day she wears a dingy singed coat.

" The poor bat ! How does it get around ? " and
Juanita looked pensive.

" It does not get around very well ; it keeps
bumping into things. Santo caught one in the barn
last night. He had it nailed up on the barn door."

" Oh, let 's go and see it" ; and Antonio raced off.
Juanita followed, and soon they both were swinging
on the lower half of the barn door, examining the
bat nailed to the upper half.

Now, Mabel and Joe, I wonder if you have ever
learned whether the bat is really blind. Suppose
you find out about it.


NTONIO and Juanita had studied the
tastes of their story-tellers, and the next
morning they appeared at- Klayukat's
door with a handful of ripe olives.
"These are for you, Klayukat. They are
this year's crop and just fresh from the brine."
Klayukat extended his hand and received the
dripping purple globes. As he ate, the children
watched him in silence. When he had wiped his
mouth on his sleeve and returned to his saddlebags,
Antonio ventured, " Could you tell us this morning
how Coyote conquered the owl, Klayukat ? "

"I think I could." The olives had softened his
mood. " Sit down and I will tell it to you."



In the days of the ancients Owl was a terror to
the animal people. He was enormous in size, with
great staring eyes. Every time he felt hungry, he
flew down to the roadside. When an animal came
along, he would jump out in front of it suddenly
and demand in a loud screech : " Who are you ?
Who ? Who ? " The animal would be so frightened
that it could not answer.

Then Owl would hoot: " You do not know who
you are. Who? Who? I'll eat you up." And
he would swallow the trembling creature. He ate
so many that every family was in mourning.

The animals went to Coyote and prayed: "O
Coyote, help us. This dreadful Owl is eating our
brothers, our wives, and our children. Every home
is rilled with sobs. Oh, help us, Coyote."

" I '11 see what I can do," answered Coyote.

He thought and thought. Then he brushed up
his clothes and made himself look nice and young.
He took his stone knife and sauntered down the road.

Suddenly Owl jumped out from the brush and
demanded in his loud screech : " Who are you ?
Who ? Who ? "

Coyote looked surprised. He bowed politely and
said, " Why, where did you come from ? "

Then Owl looked surprised. He blinked his
eyes and did not say a word.


Coyote looked straight at him and repeated,
" Where did you come from ? "

Owl blinked his eyes again, but he did not speak
a word.

A third time Coyote asked, " Well, where did
you come from ? "

Owl shifted all his weight to his right foot. He
blinked his eyes and said slowly in a calm voice,
" Where did you come from ? "

" I am from no other land than this where you
are living," answered Coyote. " This is my coun-
try, and I am looking for something to eat."

Owl thought to himself, " I never saw this crea-
ture before. Who can he be ? " Aloud he said, " I
have traveled all over this country, but I never met
you before."

" Why, I have been from one end of the world
to the other," replied Coyote. " I have been where
the sun rises and into the land of darkness. I have
been up into the long colds and down into the long
heats. But I never sawjj/0 before."

Owl blinked his eyes, but did not speak a word.

" However, I Ve heard of you," continued Coy-
ote. " I Ve heard that you claim to have been
eating people. Let 's both bring the bones of the
people we ate yesterday, and then we shall see
which of us is the greater."

" He was enormous in size, with great staring eyes


"Yes, that is good," agreed Owl; and he went
for the bones.

When Coyote heard him returning, he called in
a loud tone: " Let us both shut our eyes until we
get our piles fixed. Don't open them until I give
the word."

" That is all right," answered Owl. He shut his
eyes and went on piling the bones of the animals
he had eaten.

Coyote held his eyes half open. He looked
across at Owl's pile of bones. They were of large,
strong animals. His own were only mice bones.
He quietly drew Owl's pile before himself and put
his bones before Owl. Then he called, " Let us
open our eyes and see which is the greater."

They opened their eyes. Owl looked surprised
at the little mice bones before him. Coyote looked
at him in scorn.

"Ah, you have been deceiving us," he said.
" You see you eat only mice, while I eat large
animals. Therefore I am the greater."

"But I am sure I ate larger things," insisted
Owl. " Let us bring the bones of our day-before-
yesterday's dinner."

" That is good," answered Coyote. " And we '11
shut our eyes in the same way, until I give the
word to open them."


This time, too, Coyote peeped and changed
around the piles of bones.

Again Owl was much surprised to see only mice
bones before himself. " Let us try the day-before-
the-day-bef ore-yesterday's dinner," he said. " I am
sure I have eaten larger game." Coyote consented.

They did this for five times. Each time Coyote
shifted around the two piles of bones. Every time
Owl was surprised to see mice bones before himself,
and asked for another trial.

After the fifth time Coyote said: "You have made
believe that you have been eating large animals,
while you can show only mice bones. Hereafter
you can eat nothing larger than mice. You Ve been
doing enough killing. I 'm going to kill you now."

Then he walked up to Owl and cut off his head
with his stone knife. He took the body and threw
it toward the mountains. " You may stay there,
but you shall be small all the rest of your days.
You may hoot, and scream, and frighten people,
but nevermore may you kill them."

Since Coyote made this law, Owl has been small
in size. He lives in lonely places. He often fright-
ens people by demanding in a loud screech: "Who
are you? Who? Who?" But never since that
day has he been able to kill an animal larger than
a mouse.


" I wish Coyote had n't let him eat little birds,"
said Juanita.

Antonio noticed a coolness returning to Klayu-
kat's face, so he hastened with " Well, everything
eats what 's smaller than itself. The birds eat bugs,
and we eat the birds, so we are as bad as the owl."

" Oh, Tonio ! "

" Yes, we are. We 're worse, for we eat our own
chickens, and our own beef, and and oh, our
own everything."

" Oh, Tonio ! Don't ; I don't want to think we
are worse than the owl. I won't eat any more
meat. No, don't tell me any more ' We 're worse 's,'
for I won't hear them," and the little girl covered
her ears with her hands and ran from the shop.



NE day Juanita was mourning
the loss of a pet canary. An-
tonio had gone off for the day
with the herders, and she was lonely
in her sorrow. She went over to the
saddlery to tell Klayukat her trouble.
"Just think, Klayukat, it won't sing any more.
It used to love so to sing. Captain Bangs says it
sang all those long days when he was bringing it

1 2 3 5 7

Online LibraryKatherine ChandlerIn the reign of Coyote, folkflore from the Pacific coast → online text (page 5 of 7)