Sunday, July 27, 2008

Coyote Story

Coyote Tells a Story With Three Morals

One winter, Coyote was staying with the White Mountain People. He had spent most of the fall at the soldier fort after getting drunk again and being put to work by the belangaana*. Because of that he didn't have any food or anything important put aside. He liked the White Mountain People and pretended that was the only reason he was there. The People let him pretend because Coyote was always good for a laugh and was generous with his things when he had them.

One night everybody was telling stories. The children were all still awake so most of the stories had to do with things to learn. Coyote sometimes talked like a Chiricauhua, very boasting and all proud of himself. He said "I can tell a very good teaching story. This story has three lessons so you need to listen very close."

Everybody leaned in to listen, one of the children put a whole plate of dried yucca fruits down and another child brought him a big steaming mug of jerky tea.

When I was locked up at the fort I saw something in the barn. It was one little thing that taught me three lessons.

One morning in the beginning of the Great Big Moon (october) it got really cold all of a sudden. The day before had been warm and like summer, then, right away it was cold. There was a sparrow that had been hanging around the soldier fort too. Right there in the rafters of the barn. He would fly all over and take little fallen seeds and bits of grain from when the soldiers were taking care of their horses. He would sing his sparrow songs and the soldiers seemed to really like that. They would leave little piles of seeds and grain out where the sparrow could get to them and be safe from the barn cats.

I don't know if that bird figured that he didn't need to go south with all the other sparrows or why he stayed behind so late. All I know is what I saw.

That very cold morning when the soldiers and me went out to the barn we found our little sparrow friend nearly frozen on the ground just outside the barn. I scooped him up to take him inside but the sergeant yelled at me.

He said "Put that stupid bird down, we have a lot of work to do."

I carried the bird until we were just inside the barn and the sergeant yelled at me again. He had a horse by a rope and he told me that this wasn't sergeant work, it was prisoner work and I better get over there and do it right now. Just then the horse took a big old dump. I saw the pile of horseshit steaming in the cold morning air and I had me an idea. I put that little bird into the steaming warm shit and covered him up good. Then I went about my morning work.

While I was doing the chores I kept an eye on the horseshit pile and sure enough, just like I planned it, the little bird began to revive. He stuck his head out of the shitpile first. Then, little by little, he climbed all the way out. He was shaking some of the sticky, wet shit off his feathers so he could fly back up into the rafters when he saw me walking by.

He shouted at me, "Hey Cousin! Thanks for saving my life! I'm going to sing a new song all about what a great cousin you are."

He began to sing right there on the big old pile of shit. It was a pretty good song too. It's nice to hear songs that are about you being good. They don't make enough songs like that about me so it's really special when I hear one. I was just about to start learning it by singing along with him when a barn cat heard the singing. He pounced right on that little bird and ate him in one bite.

The cat said "Thanks for catching my breakfast for me cousin. I hope the soldiers let you go home real soon."

Everybody who was listening to the story just looked at Coyote. Nobody said anything because he was a guest and all, but most of the people thought that the story was mostly stupid and had a very bad ending.

Finally one of the Medicine Singers said "Ma'atose** my Cousin, you said that this story taught you three lessons. What did you learn from this?"

Coyote started to giggle because he was very impressed with his own cleverness and said:

Easy and obvious lessons. I'm surprised you wise people didn't see them right off.

First: The person who puts you in the shit is not always your enemy.

Second: The person who takes you out of the shit is not always your friend.

Third: If you wake up and find yourself in a pile of shit, Keep. Your. Mouth. Shut. It ain't nothing to sing about.

Everybody laughed and laughed. When they were done laughing Coyote said "Remember it was me that stole the Sun's tobacco and gave it to you. I'm all out and I want a smoke."

* iindii = human beings who are Apache.
iindaa = human beings who are not Apache.
belangaana = white people who are mean and greedy.

**Ma'atose = Coyote the trickster, he talks like people talk.