Madge Morris Wagner.

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met A. Hoi Jen


The ^Autobiography
of a Tame Coyote



Author of "The Lure of the Desert/
"Tided Plebeian, 1


/ i T i T i f I i^^^rY rY fTTTfTTTTTTTTT^ IN

Copyright 1921
Madge Morris Wagner


The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote


"The shadowy gray coyote, born afraid,

ak to sonic brackish spring and laj/s (ind prowls
" Away, and hoick, utid hoick, and hotels, and )>

: Until the solitude i n-ith an added lowliness."

- Madgt Morrif

HAT is a good deal like us;
|l f |~^ we are a sort of "shadowy

gray/ like the twilight, and
I think we are "born
afraid." But a coyote will fight when
it cannot do anything else, as I shall
I presently tell you. It is likewise

true that we "howl and howl, and
howl and howl," and besides all
these we are the most notorious
chicken thieves on record. So you
see, according as it is written down,
I am a coward and a thief, but the
Great Maker of all things made me
a coyote, and I could not be a grizzly
bear nor an honest little cottontail



e Three

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

rabbit if I tried; therefore, I am a
coyote to the best of my ability.

I never steal anything except to
eat it; I never kill anything merely
to amuse myself, and a coyote never
slanders its neighbor that was left
solely for man and his mate to do.

Before I begin my biography I
want to write that the name "coy
ote" is of Spanish origin and should
be pronounced in three syllables,
with the accent on the middle one.
There is nothing so irritating to the
nerves of a coyote as to be called a
"ky-oat," though it is permissible to
say it that way, that is, in the dic
tionary which is the school standard
of California. Nevertheless, with
greatest respect for the memory of



Page Four

The ^Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

Mr. Noah Webster I will state, en
tirely "on my own," that he was not
at all conversant with the beautiful
Spanish language or he would
never have made it permissible to
say "ky-oat."

There is a tribe of Indians in the
desert mountains beyond the south
ern end of the Sierra Nevadas
whose name also is Coyote and to
whom we are the sacred animal.
They believe that when one of them
dies his spirit lives for a time in the
body of a coyote. One of my ances
tors was brought up from the desert
a captive, but escaped. He told us all
about it. He said those Indians
would kill a man who killed a coyote.

When Mrs. Coyote and myself
began housekeeping we dug our



77?e oAutobiography of a Tame Coyote

home in the ground a large, roomy
room about six feet across the
floor; we dug it deeper than the rain
goes, so it was dry and warm, and
we settled down to enjoy life.

It was a Saturday night; we had
been living on rabbits and gophers
and such things, and I said to Mrs.
Coyote: "Suppose we have chicken
for breakfast?" There was a farm
house about two miles away where
there were some delicious fat ones,
but they roosted on a tree; we could
never hope to get one out of it.

TSlrs. Coyote laid her little paw on
my shoulder and said very pathet
ically, "I do want chicken for break

I thought a minute or two and
then whispered a plan to her that
made her laugh.


P a K e Six

The ^Autobiography of a. Tame Coyote

* * * * i

Just at the peep of day we stole
out together and went swiftly to
ward the farmhouse. Chickens are
very foolish things; they fly down
from their roost and go "boging"
around, poking out their necks to
find something to eat when it is so
early they can only half see, and it
is no trouble at all to slip up and nab
one. That was what I whispered to
Mrs. Coyote that made her laugh.

Right in front of the house was a
large wheat field, and the first thing
the foolish chickens did when they
came down from the tree was to go
into the wheat, which was just a
little higher than their backs.

We went boldly through the field
until we were within about fifty
yards of the house, then we




P a K e S .

The ^Autobiography of a Tame Coyote


crouched down and waited. We
could see the chickens coming and
we lay very low. When they were
within a few yards of us, they stop
ped and began to scratch and pick
the ground. Mrs. Coyote and my
self looked at each other and smiled.
We began to slip toward them. We
did it so carefully and we were so
near the color of the gray morning,
they never suspected we were near.
Then we made a grand rush and
each one of us pounced upon a

: I chicken and ran away with it. The

other chickens flew against each
other and squawked and cackled
and got themselves into a great

r i fright. We had chicken for break


The next morning they came out
to the field just as early, and we

,P a

The oAutobiography of a Tame Coyote








were waiting for them and did the
same thing which we had done the
morning before. We had chicken
for breakfast again. A chicken is
such a fool!

Every morning for a week we
went to the wheat field the same
way, and every morning caught a
chicken and ran away with it, and
I suppose we would have kept on
doing the same thing until the last
of them was caught. But one morn
ing when we nabbed our chickens
and the others began to squawk and
cackle, somebody banged away at
us with a gun, and we knew the
people of the house had found us

One day when I came home from
a hunt, Mrs. Coyote showed me five

I rrnm 1^ m "iviTiviTiTiviviTiviTivivivrax

P ff Nine

wlMMMJW im mi mi mi M mi im im wi mi mi mi mi mi im mi im mi mi mi im mi &

77>e Autobiography of a Tame Coyote



beautiful baby coyotes. She asked
me what I thought of them. I looked
at them across my nose the way a
grizzly bear looks at things - - and
then I told her that they were the
prettiest young things in the world.

rjj They looked "smart" from the

very beginning. I had to hunt a
great deal in those days. I brought

R : them pig and duck and chicken and

jackrabbit and gopher and squirrel
and everything I could lay my teeth
to. But one luckless night I killed a
lamb that was somebody s pet. It
was too big to carry home to my
family, so I dragged it as far as I
could and ate part of it myself. I
left the rest for another meal.

I had grown very thin and gaunt
even for a coyote. The next day I


i ., 7 . ^^

P a p u Ten

The ^Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

thought I would go back and eat
some more of the lamb. When I was
within a short distance of it, I saw 7
a young man on horseback, whom
I knew very well by sight. He was
a very young man not more than
fifteen or sixteen years old; his
name was Tom Hilyard. He
rode a fleet horse and a Spanish
saddle, on which was always
hanging a riata. A riata is a
rope made of rawhide and braided
round. Many is the time I have
chewed one in two. This boy Tom
had another rope on his horse; it
was a hair rope and he used it for a
halter. I had watched him make it
with two sticks, the way the Mexi
cans make them. They are made of
the manes and tails of horses. When


P m


1 A I AT JA J,T JT.T. IJ. 1 A I J. I A I J,j J.j J,Jl J,Jl -l*{ kl ^^^^^l f Ji-^^lJ(A^

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

I saw him I stopped. He was sitting
on his horse and did not seem to be
doing anything, or intending to do
anything, but I felt, somehow, that
there was something in his mind
about me. I had seen him run a
young antelope down and throw his
rope on it and carry it away on his
horse. I knew if he ever got within
the length of that rope of me, Mrs.
Coyote would have to hunt for the
youngsters alone.

I decided I did not want to eat
lamb, and started away from it at
my swiftest speed; even as I turned,
I saw him snatch the riata from his
saddle and lean forward on his
horse. I ran with all the swiftness
that was in me; but steadily, stead
ily, the horse gained on me. I could

Q vu w w vu vu w w w w w mi mi mi w mi mi mi w mi MI mi mi tm mi mi IAI iff

P a K e Twelv

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

hear his hoofs beat the earth. I was
a long way from home and no
friendly coyote den lay in my path.
It was a long stretch of bare, level
plain; it was in the county they
call Tulare, which once reached
from San Joaquin to Los Angeles
county, and in the way of geogra
phy was as big as all the New Eng
land States put together. But it
was not big enough in which for me
to get away from that riata. We
had run a mile; every moment the
distance between us lessened.

I heard the whir of the riata as
the boy swung the loop round, mak
ing ready to throw it; then thehissof
it through the air, and the thwack
on the ground; the loop fell around
me. I bounded through it and tried


Page Thirteen

L JA I * i I i I A I 1 i A i A I T I * 1 ki.vA!^!^k)UM4\li^^

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

to run faster. The horse did not
slacken his speed. The boy recoiled
the rope, and made another loop as
he ran; I knew just what he was
doing; I had watched him many a

Two more times he threw it over
me, but I was so thin I leaped
through it before he could jerk in
the slack. The fourth throw caught
both my hind legs in the loop. The
horse went past me like the wind
and the boy coiled the rope as he
flew along, but this time I was bob
bing on the end of it.

He stopped and swung me up his
horse s side by the heels. I bit the
horse on the fore leg as I went up.
And then I bit the boy s leg. My
teeth are sharp and firm and I bite



Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

hard. He caught hold of me and
lifted me to the saddle. I bit his arm
and in the same moment jumped at
his throat and bit the side of his
neck. The blood ran down into his
collar; he said something very
roughly to me and asked me if I was
going to eat him up. He crushed
me between himself and the horn of
the saddle and tried to hold me
down with his arms. I snapped him
in the side, under the ribs, where his
flesh was thin; he put his hand
around to catch my head and I bit
his thumb; my teeth went through
it nail and all. He said the rough
thing to me again. I really began
to respect his pluck, but I did not
stop biting. Finally, he got hold of
my head and wrapped the hair rope


Page Fifteen


The Autobiography ofaTame Coyote

he had for a halter around my
mouth. He wrapped it round and
round making a regular muzzle on
me, and tied it fast. I knew it was
all day with me then and gave up.
But I looked across my nose with
some pleasure. I had bitten him
nearly all over.

I supposed, of course, he would
kill me, but he took me to his home
and chained me to a stake in the
back yard, and the only revenge he
took was to cut off one of my ears.

I rather enjoyed myself, it was so
much fun snapping the young
chickens when no one was looking.
I would lie flat on my side, with my
eyes shut, pretending to be asleep,
and the silly things would mistake
me for a dog. They would come


Page Sixteen

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

up and pick around me without the
least fear. Some of the very little
ones became so saucy they would
hop up on me and pick in my ears.
The people said: "How gentle the
coyote is!" As soon as they were
gone snap would go my teeth and
down would go a small chicken.

The old gentleman who lived at
the house and who was the father
of the boy who had captured me,
began to suspect my treachery with
the chickens so many of them
were missing - - and one day when
the boy was not at home he un
chained me and set the dog after

I was very glad to return to Mrs.
Coyote and the youngsters. We
moved nearer to the mountains.

Pane Sevent


The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

Several years passed away.

I brought the news one day to
Mrs. Coyote that the Legislature of
California had just passed a law
offering $5 reward for the scalp of
every coyote that could be brought
in with both ears on it. She looked
slyly at my one ear and said: "You
are safe, my dear, in any case." I
told her they would kill me before
they would find it out. She thought
the law a great joke, and she made
up some poetry about it, which she
repeated to me. I thought it very
funny, and set it to music for her.
We went to the top of a hill and
practised it with a great many vari
ations of the tune. She called it
"The Bounty Song." I will put it

Page EiKhteen


The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote


A "fiver" is offered for me
Yip-yipity-yip- yu- ee- o- ee !
Five dollars for my poor "skelp!"
(The people are all going doty!)
I dare not utter a yelp
But somebody s setting a trap, ker-snap-
0, I am a howling coyote.

I m a valuable thing to the state,
It offers a V for my pate.
Yap- yapity- yap! you see
My voice is a little bit throaty.
Perhaps I m to teach in the schools
The vowels by natural rules
A - e - i - o - u - we - ye - ki - yi !
For I am a howling coyote.

e N i

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

The music I made I doubt if any
one but a coyote could sing unless
he were a very good ventriloquist.

As we came down from the hilltop
we found two of our neighbors
dead; their scalps were gone. We
knew the invasion had begun. We
were beset on every side gun,
trap, poison, everywhere; the joke
was not so funny as it seemed.

There were only myself and Mrs.
Coyote left now, all the youngsters
several sets of them having
grown and gone their ways. So I
said to her, "We will go to Arizona;"
but the hunters had preceded us.

Long before we reached the state
line they got Mrs. Coyote s scalp. It
was a lonesome place on the banks
of the Mohave river, where there


Page Twenty





n t y - o n


The oAutobiography of a Tame Coyote

was the ruin of an old adobe fortress.
It was all that was left of old Camp
Cady, government outpost, on the
Mormon Trail, in pioneer days. In
a corner of the walls of this deso
lated fort where the weeds grew
highest and thickest, I lay all day,
pondering upon what I should do.
Life did not seem so greatly worth
while! Finally I decided to make
my way to the mountains where
: those "Coyote" Indians, which my

ancestor had told about, lived. A
scalp hunter would hardly venture
upon their ground. Safely on the
other side of the Mohave river,
which I had some trouble in getting
myself over notwithstanding it ran
so low in that time of the year. I
set my face to the south, straight
across the desert toward the
ranges of mountains in the far

Paj?e Twenty -two

The cAutobiography of a Tame Coyote

distance, I could see several of
them. The miles were very long, I
seemed to be the only living crea
ture astir in the silent desert, and
began to feel hopeful again. The
moonlight was glorious. Then I
came to a railroad track, straight
from east to west. A silent thing
lying there, just two glittering
steel rails, but they spanned a con
tinent, I knew, and connected two
great oceans. A railroad is always
a menace to a coyote. Very cau
tiously I crossed this one, shying
around a small station which I could
see; also keeping well out of gun
shot range, and the familiarity of
meddlesome dogs. I soon after
wards learned there were no dogs
there. There was a wide flat place
where the alkali shone like a field of


The c/futobiography of a Tame Coyote




_ :


-: . :

s.iow; there were scattering stub
by bunches of grass, then wild-
grape-vines trailing on the ground,
trying to reach somewhere. Grape-
\ nes are always trying to reach

Warily I picked my way through
all of this. A high, steep mountain
loomed up like a black wall directly
ahead of me, with a round rocky
knob of a hill at the foot of it. Just
below the rocky knob a great won
derful spring ran out of the earth.
A perfectly round thick stone wall
with a sharply pointed shingled
roof protected the water, which I
could see was carried in a large iron
F )e to that railroad station where
t /o huge water tanks stood dark in
the shine of the moon. Campers

Page Twenty-four


i i ii i i


P K e Twenty-

IM wi wi wi wi im mi mi mi M mi mi im mi im im mi mi mi mi im im a* wi wi M a

T/?e Autobiography of a Tame Coyote


had torn off a part of the shingles
and used them to start their camp

There were big feathery foliaged
mesquite trees, and bunching wil
lows, and tall shivering-leaved cot-
tonwoods growing in the back
ground in the overflow of the spring
and many sorts of lush grassy
things soothing to the cushions of
tired feet. I was sniffing the prec-
j iousness of water, not having had a

drink since leaving the river. Then
it was that the foolish thing hap
pened! I walked straight into a
trap. I had to admire the cunning
which had outwitted me.

A sleek yellow-skinned mountain
lion came up and looked at me with
a most insinuating grin. He said

TiviTi riTiTiviTi vrrrrivrrivivrrivivi n 1 1 i i n i i i i i ii.

Page Twenty-six

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

he had intended to take a drink at
that very spot himself. I humbly
expressed my regret for having
been so rude as to precede him.
Whatever he would have done to
me, and I m guessing that it would
have been considerable, was pre
vented by a rush of rose and crim
son flaming up in the east of the sky.
The dawn was coining and with it
the trapper.

He took me to the railroad station
where a very long water train was
taking on water. I remember to this
day the figures on the car that was
nearest to me. They fastened me
to a post and a little lady came out
of a house and took my picture.
Then a stranger stepped up to the
trapper and said: "I ll give you five

Page Twenty-si-

I SIMM w* wi wi wi iw im mi im im mi mi M wt wi im mi im wi wi wi im wi wi M fc

Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

dollars for the coyote." He looked
significantly at my one ear.

A little round gold piece changed
hands, and once more a chain was
put around my neck and I was led
away into captivity.

The man who bought me from the
man who trapped me took me to a
city on the bank of the great Pacific
Ocean that is known by the name of
San Diego, which in the English
language is St. James. He sold me
to a saloon-keeper. I slept in a bar
rel that was turned on its side and
fixed so it could not roll and was fed
nice beefsteak. In the day I was
chained on the sidewalk in front of
the saloon, so that people would stop
to look at me.


Page Twenty-EiKh

B i M iw im a/i wi mi mi mi mi mi im wi iw im wi im im wi im iw im wi iw *a MMG

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

They tried to teach me to drink
beer, but I refused to learn. It was
bitter, and I did not like it; besides,
I had watched the effect of it on the
men who drank it. A coyote always
wants to keep his head right.

I have been with these people a
long time now. They think I am
tamed. They chain me to a dog and
turn us loose in the street. A short-
legged, big-bodied, ugly yellow dog
is he, but a good-natured beast, and
we get along very well together,
except when I want to go one way
and he another. It mostly ends in
our going the way I want to go. His
uncouth manners annoy me, too.
When he drinks he does it so noisily
you can hear him half way across
the street. He could not get his


Pane Twenty-n

I JjIMI ft* ************************************** AAAAMM fUl&l

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

^ :

i !

big tongue into the glass that I
drink out of. I lap the water the
same way he does, but I do it dain
tily; my tongue is much smaller and
more delicately shaped. However,
with all his faults he is a better dog
than I am.

Yes, they think I am tamed. They
think I enjoy this sort of existence
-the noise and the rattle of the
crowds on the street, and to be
stared at. They think I like to lap
water out of a glass and smell beer
and sleep in a barrel.

They do not know when the wind
blows and the ocean roars that my
bristles raise with the longing for
freedom. They do not know when
the twilight begins to fall how my
foot soles tingle to bound over the

P a K e Thirty

The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote

plains and seek my wild den in the

So I lie here on the sidewalk in
the sun and listen to the buzzing
flies, and they call me a tame coyote.
But sometime their vigilance will
relax, I am "so tame!" Sometime
there will come an unguarded mo
ment when they drop my chain, and
There is not a dog in existence
that could overtake me, and it is
against the law to fire a gun within
the city limits.


Page Thirty -one



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Online LibraryMadge Morris WagnerThe autobiography of a tame coyote → online text (page 1 of 1)