Coyote Tricks Big Bad Owl To Get Arrows, Bets Them In a Race With Kesh (rattlesnake)
Coyote was bored. Walking around, nothing to do, nobody to talk to, bored, bored, bored. He decided to go and see if he could find something to do that would be interesting and fun. At last he came upon Red Squirrel and he said "Hey cousin! I'm bored and looking for something fun to do. Got any ideas?" Squirrel said "I'm busy gathering up nuts, winter time is coming and I have to have a lot of food stored. I don't have time to do anything with you Coyote."
That made Coyote mad. He right away said "If that's how you feel, I think I'll go find Chipmunk and see what she's doing. She doesn't like you either." Red Squirrel said "You're just trying to start your usual stuff Coyote. I know that Chipmunk is my close clan cousin. She likes me fine. If you're so very bored that you absolutely have find something to do, and, of course you don't want to help me, that's too much like work, I heard from Western Wind that Big Bad Owl had some new arrows, why don't you go bother him. He's mean like you, you should get along great."
Coyote thought about that for a while, then he remembered that his cousin Monster Slayer had been hunting Big Bad Owl. The Big Bad Owl had been going to the camp which the first humans had set up in the mountains. He would sneak in, flying very silently at night, and would carry off a human every night. He'd fly away with them, kill them, and eat them. Even that wasn't enough to keep him happy anymore, he had started taking them only a little way away from the humans and torturing them all through the night. The humans were very scared of the owl, and they had no way to protect themselves from him.
Coyote went first to find Monster Slayer's twin brother Cornstalk because he was the type to stay at home. He figured if he could find Cornstalk first, that would give him ideas on where to find Monster Slayer.
Cornstalk was at his home, just like he usually was. Coyote told him about the arrows he had been told that Big Bad Owl had. He said "I want to find out from my cousins the best way I can help." Cornstalk told Coyote "I don't think you want to help much at all. I think you're just bored and looking for some things to stir up. No matter to me, if you can help my brother, even by accident, I guess that's a good thing. Who knows? You might accidentally do something that turns out good for a change."
Coyote said "You just might be the most boring god there is in this whole new world. No wonder you don't have any friends, except for me and your brother. You better tell me right away where Monster Slayer is before I fall asleep and miss out on all the fun."
Coyote went to where Cornstalk told him to go. It took him a long time to find Monster Slayer who was off in the Painted Desert tracking ManKiller Eagle. He told Monster Slayer all about the arrows that Red Squirrel said that Big Bad Owl had. He said to him, "Those arrows would help you bring down this ManKiller Eagle, and then, because I got them away from Big Bad Owl, he'll be a lot easier for you to fight when that time comes."
Monster Slayer told him all about where Big Bad Owl was staying, what he was doing to the humans, and then he gave Coyote the biggest tip of all when he said "Big Bad Owl is smart enough, but he thinks that he's really, really smart. That's his biggest weakness. He not only thinks that he's the smartest one around, he thinks that everybody else in the world is stupid. If you were to go up to him, and act stupid, he wouldn't see through that. Then, you should be able to outsmart him quick and get those arrows. But, please cousin, promise me that as soon as you get them you'll bring them right here to me. Tell the humans that as soon as I get ManKiller Eagle taken care of I'll come to deal with Big Bad Owl."
Coyote went straight to where the humans were. He figured that since that was where Big Bad Owl was doing his hunting it would be the perfect place to find him. He got together with Snakes' Brother and Wise Question Asker who were serving the humans as War Chief and Peace Chief. He asked them to call a council of the people together so that he could tell them about his plan to take the arrows away from Big Bad Owl and then go to help Monster Slayer beat ManKiller Eagle right away so that the humans could be done with Big Bad Owl for good.
That night, right after the sun went down, according to the plan, all the people got together and built up a huge bonfire. All of them started to dance and sing songs. Those songs brought the giant snakes that had been brothers to Snakes' Brother down to join them. All during the singing and dancing Coyote was in the middle of things, making a complete ass of himself. He would do things like shout "Hey! Look at Me!" and then do something absolutely stupid like dance through the fire. That would make his fur catch fire and he'd hop and jump all around like an idiot shouting "Help me! Help me!" so that the people would throw water at him to put out the fire. As soon as they did that, Coyote would act all mad shouting "You know I hate water. You're just doing that to bother me. Now I need to go find some dirt to wash myself off with."
Coyote was off away from where all the people were gathered, washing himself with some dirt he found. Then he spied a big puddle of mud and said really loud to himself "Mud! Wonderful, clean mud. I should go roll around in that. It will make me beautiful."
While he was rolling around in the mud he began to sing a song to himself:
I like to wash myself in mud
Mud is good for me
Mud will dry and get all hard
Then it's just like being inside
A house or something
While I'm outside, but I'm not
I'm inside my own mud house
I'm very clever, very clever
The humans call me stupid
They are stupid, not me
The humans call me stupid
Stupid, stupid humans
Coyote figured if he acted stupid enough, and made enough noise that Big Bad Owl would find him. He was right. He was rolling around in the mud singing his mud song when he looked up and saw Big Bad Owl.
This was a long, long ago time, Monster Slayer was just only part of the way done with his task of ridding the world of dangerous monsters. Big Bad Owl was one of the very worst of them. Huge, bigger than two men put together, but will an owl's keen eyesight, even in the darkest night, an owl's beak, hooked and sharp, but this beak was as big as a piñon cone, big owl feet with big hooked talons. Just like owls today when he flew in the night sky there wasn't a sound made by his wings. When Coyote looked up from his mud bath to see Big Bad Owl standing there looking at him he was scared right into the middle of his bones.
Big Bad Owl said "Coyote, I've heard about you, you and your stupid cousins, always trying to make things better for those puny humans. Everybody said that you were smart. You look stupid to me though. Maybe I should just kill you right here and right now."
Coyote said "I'm not afraid of you. Anytime I want I can change myself into Scary Warrior Coyote. That's pretty scary too. Hey, I saw a peach tree down by the pond. Want to go with me and get some peaches?"
Big Bad Owl loved peaches so he went with Coyote to where there was a peach tree. Coyote told him "See this. Stupid humans would try to climb that big tree, but because they're stupid they can't see that the tree puts the peaches right onto the surface of the water. Watch."
Coyote spent a long time trying to get the reflection of the peaches off the surface of that water. He was so clumsy and stupid about it that Big Bad Owl started to laugh and laugh. Finally Big Bad Owl just went over to the tree and gave it a great big smack, that made a whole bunch of peaches fall down. Big Bad Owl and Coyote sat for a while eating peaches. Finally Coyote said "Hey, you know, peaches are pretty good, but everytime I eat them it makes me hungry for meat. My stupid and boring cousin Cornstalk says that you've been eating humans. Are they any good?"
Big Bad Owl said that they were very good and that he would go right now and get his bow and an arrow and get himself a human to eat right away. Coyote said "You know, there are two of us here. One human would only be enough for you. You should bring all of your arrows. I can carry them for you, that way you can get a whole bunch of humans and I can show you how to smoke their meat and make it last a long time. If you kill off this bunch of them I can show you where there are other groups of them trying to get started in this world."
Big Bad Owl thought for a moment that this might be one of Coyote's many tricks. Then he remembered how stupid Coyote had been acting so he said "Alright, that sounds like a good idea. Wait right here."
He went away and came right back with his bow and a full quiver of arrows. Coyote couldn't help himself, he had to ask "What is it that makes these arrows so special?"
Big Bad Owl told him "I had a witch put a spell on them for me. All I have to do is to draw the bow and as soon as I have the shot right the arrows jump right out of the bow. They are also poisoned with a magic plant poison so even if the shot is only a little scratch, what ever I shoot with the arrow is going to die. "
Coyote said "Wow, you are just about the smartest person I've ever talked with. I wouldn't have ever thought of anything that clever. Do you want me to carry that bow too? Is that bow magic?"
Big Bad Owl told him "Everybody thinks that you're the smart one of the gods but I can see that you are stupider even than those stupid humans. You might as well be good for something. Here. Take these and carry them for me, you might as well be good for something here."
As soon as Big Bad Owl had given the bow and arrows to Coyote that trickster took off. He lit out of there so fast that there was a great big cloud of dust which blinded and choked Big Bad Owl. Coyote went right to where the humans were staying and told them "Big Bad Owl is right behind me. It's going to be alright though. I stole his bow and arrows and I will protect all of you."
The humans all got their own weapons and they stood with Coyote. First they built up a great big fire to make lots of light. They built it up against an overhanging cliff. That way Big Bad Owl wouldn't be able to silently fly up on them from behind, and with the light from the fire they would be able to see him coming. Pretty soon Big Bad Owl made his first try for them. Coyote did just like Big Bad Owl had told him to do and pulled back the bow. When the bow shot itself though Coyote jumped every time and his shots went far off the mark. It didn't matter much because there were so many arrows up in the air that Big Bad Owl ran away figuring that he would wait a while and catch the humans when they were not waiting for him.
Coyote was very proud of himself. So proud of himself that he decided he would put off taking the bow and arrows to Monster Slayer. He wanted to practice with them himself so that he could use them to hunt and go to war. Wise Question Asker came to Coyote and reminded him that he had promised Monster Slayer those arrows for his fight with ManKiller Eagle. Coyote told Wise Question Asker that he was an ungrateful puny human. After all, hadn't Coyote just saved all the humans from Big Bad Owl?
Days passed while Coyote played with his new toys. Finally Cornstalk came into the camp and said "Coyote, my cousin, weren't those arrows promised to my brother Monster Slayer? He up waiting for you to bring them to him so that he can fight ManKiller Eagle."
Coyote said "Your brother isn't as boring as you are cousin, but that doesn't make him a lot of fun. This bow and these magic arrows are a lot of fun. Watch this." Coyote shot one of the magic arrows right through a big leafy tree, out the other side and right through a pine cone. Then he said to Cornstalk "You couldn't make that shot in a million years. Neither could your brother. I only have to practice a little longer and I'll be able to take over the monster killing duties. Then nobody will care about that stupid brother of yours and he might just go away and leave us all alone."
Snakes' Brother came up about then, he had one of the Grandfather Snakes that used to be his human brother with him. He said to Coyote "If you won't give those arrows to Monster Slayer like you promised maybe you'd like to make a bet for them with my brother here. He says that he can beat you in any kind of race you'd like to have."
Coyote said "What is your stupid snake brother willing to bet me? It had better be good."
Snakes' Brother said "My brothers will give you the antidote to that poison that's in those arrows. The way it is right now, if you killed food with them the poison would kill you too. First though, you have to win the race."
Coyote said "Any kind of race I pick?" Snakes' Brother said "Your choice on the race."
Coyote thought for a little while and said "You people are just about the stupidest things I have ever seen. I don't know why the other gods are so fixed on helping you survive in this world. If you want to race, we'll race. You put up the poison antidote and I'll put up the arrows, I'll even put up the bow along with them because you stupid mudheads don't even have a chance. Along with the bow and the arrows, I'll put up some of that fine tobacco I get from Cornstalk. That's how sure I am that I'm going to win. Do we have a bet?"
Snakes' Brother said "We have a bet Coyote."
Coyote said "Then we are going to have a Tricky Race! You are so stupid, I am the Trickster God and you've just bet me on a Tricky Race. This is going to be a lot of fun. I need one day to line up all my tricks for this race. We'll meet right here this time tomorrow and race. Bring the things that you promised to bet. I'm going to need them right away."
Coyote went and rounded up his spotted horse Cho'osh, his cousins Bobcat and Cougar and he set tricks and traps just about every inch of the race course. He had Bobcat positioned by a hollow log with two big boulders, that way, when Kesh went through the log Bobcat could shut him up tight. He had Cougar positioned at a narrow pass between two boulders, Cougar had a big pile of sharp obsidian chunks that he was going to throw down on top of Kesh and cut him all to ribbons. He had Cho'osh ready with a whole herd of other horses, if Kesh crawled by them they were just going to stomp the shit out of him.
Coyote was ready. He went to where the race was going to start early so that he could be there when the others came. That way he could tease them and laugh at them and call them stupid mudheads.
Pretty soon Wise Question Asker, Snakes' Brother, Cornstalk, and all four of the Grandfather Snakes came to the place where the race was to start. Coyote was horrible to them all. He was loud, vain and very insulting. Grandfather Snake didn't let any of the things Coyote said bother him at all. Finally Coyote said "When you were changed into a snake did they take all your brains away? It was Monster Slayer that did that to you, I'm surprised you want to help that arrogant son of a bitch at all."
Grandfather Snake said "I was changed into this form because I disobeyed the voice of vision. I did wrong and I took the consequences. I did that like a man. I promised to help my brother and his people in all the ways that I could. Stop talking. Let's race."
Coyote got down on all fours, he was coiled up ready to leap out into the lead right away when, all of a sudden, so fast you couldn't see it with your eyes, Grandfather Snake bit him. Snik! Snik! Snik! Snik! Four times, once on each of Coyote's paws. Coyote rolled over onto his back and howled with pain. "Oowwwww! That's no fair. You bit me! My feet are all swollen up and they hurt so bad! I can't even crawl on them! Ooooooooooowwwwwww! You have to help me! If you don't help me I'm going to die!"
Grandfather Snake said "If I help you and cure these bites will that make me the winner?"
Coyote said "Anything! Ooooowwwww! This hurts! Just help me."
Grandfather Snake said "Tell everybody here that I'm the winner of the Tricky Race and I'll help you."
Coyote said "You win! You beat me! I give! OOOOOOOWWWWWWWW! You have to help me!"
Coyote gave up the bow and the arrows. Cornstalk handed them over to Coyote's horse and said "Take these to my brother as fast as you can. I'll give you Coyote's tobacco in return for that favor." Cho'osh took off like a shot. He ran so fast he was a spotted blur.
Grandfather Snake and Cornstalk then went to work healing Coyote of his bites. They gave him plant medicines to make the swelling go down, they used the juice from some cactus fruits to ease the pain of them. When they were finished Cornstalk started to laugh out loud, long and hearty. Coyote said "What's so funny stupid?"
Cornstalk said "I just realized that my Cousin Coyote has many tricks. Snake only has one. One. Beautiful. Trick."
Coyote had to laugh at himself with that one.
I've just done a very Indian, very Apache thing here. Often, when our elders want to make a point or tell us something important, they will launch into one of the long Coyote stories or some other legend from a long time ago. It will take us some thinking to figure out what the message is. That's one of the things our elders want us to do though. They want us to stop and think things through.
Tonight is the first of the Presidential debates. John McCain has been trying to change and morph himself so that he can fit into all the different pigeon holes that he thinks people want him to be so that he can become President. He's been trying all kinds of tricks too.
Obama hasn't done that. If Obama sticks to his one, beautiful, trick tonight, we'll all be just fine.