Coyotes Are Like That

According to Navajo legend, First Woman wanted to bring order to the world. First Man on the other hand just wanted to get things done. But they did agree that while Man was doing whatever business he thought was important, Woman would spell out “the rules of the universe” in the nighttime sky for all to see.

To do this, she positioned her collection of jewels on a blackberry cloth and prepared to embed them carefully, as stars, into the sky. It was certainly a daunting task. Man had no patience for it. But then Coyote stepped up and offered to help.

The problem with coyotes is that they’re tricksters. They seldom do what they say they’re going to do, and if they lack any one quality it’s patience. So, as Woman carefully began the arduous task of writing the rules of the universe in the sky, Coyote got bored. So, he grabbed handfuls of jewels and just flings them out across the heavens creating the disorderly arrangement of stars we see above us today, bringing eternal chaos to the night and forever obscuring the rules of the universe.

That’s the coyote for you. They may sometimes do good, but it’s often inadvertent. Another Navajo tale tells of a giant who followed the Navajo tribes through the desert capturing and eating people as they went… including children. Coyote convinced the giant that he couldn’t run quickly because, unlike Coyote, the giant had large lumbering legs. “If you want to be as fast as I am,” said Coyote, “you need to let me remake your legs so that they are more suited to running.” The giant probably should have eaten Coyote right there, but instead, he allowed Coyote to break his legs and then reform them into “coyote legs” by magically spitting on them. Of course it was a typical coyote trick, and in the end, the giant was slower than ever, not even able to catch the slowest children, and certainly not about to capture Coyote.

In our novel, Esteban’s Quest, we used a pack of coyotes as devious characters who see Esteban, his partner Ceci, and their camel Aladdin in the distance and try to trick them so that they won’t be able to find the Seven Cities of Gold. Esteban and Ceci have at least been warned to stay away from Coyotes… and yet Esteban listens when a coyote named Slick offers some advice.

Much farther ahead of Esteban, Ceci, and Aladdin, five coyotes sat having their morning chat about all things family, business, and spiritual. They had their own names for each other, their own language too.

Slick, the sharpest, fastest and most dangerous of the group was looking off into the distance, watching the camel and his riders approaching.

“Hey, here he comes now.”

“Who, Slick?” asked Rosie, the lone female in the crowd. She was sweet and foxy. They all had a crush on her.

“Yeah, who?” asked quiet, uncomplicated Anthony.

“The Moroccan’s kin.”

“The Moroccan’s kin… who the hell is that?” asked Runner. He was Slick’s constant companion… the biggest jokester.

Slick answered, “The kin of the African dude who came here with the Spanish explorers.”

“Come on,” said Runner. “All I see is a man, a woman, and a damn camel. Probably just some fools lookin’ for a circus!”

Anthony let out a loud yip of laughter. Rose joined in while Winston, another member of their party howled hard and long.

Slick didn’t laugh at all. “Hell, all humans are fools, Runner,” he said. “But this dude’s a distant relative of Estebanico Dorantes, the scout for the Spanish Conquistadors.”

“Well, if that’s the case,” growled Rosie, “then the idiot’s gotta be lookin’ for Cíbola!”

Everyone stopped for a moment at the mention of the legendary location of the Seven Cities of Gold.

“The spirits told me he was coming,” said Slick, “I’ve been feeling his presence since yesterday.”

“Well, may a rattlesnake bite my ass,” said Runner. “This is not okay.”

He moved forward, flashed his bright eyes at Rosie and grinned. “Hey, let me transform into a huge bobcat. I’ll scare ‘em so bad that the camel’ll piss all over em!”

There was another fit of coyote laughter before Rosie moved in beside Runner.

“The Spaniards were gold crazy,” she said. “All humans are.”

“Not sure about camels, though,” said Runner. “Didn’t the Zuni Indians kill Esteban Dorantes?”

“That’s one story,” answered Slick. “Another is that he married an Indian woman and lived with the tribe.”

“Wild,” grinned Runner.

“So what’s the plan, then?” asked Rosie. And they all leaned in to listen.

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