By Allen Hamrick
Coyote stories in the Native American world varied with the tribe. Most of the time the coyote was considered a trickster and not to be dealt with on any daily basis. He was also considered lower than the other animals due to his arrogance and his idea that he knew more than anyone or anything. Here is one tale Natives told in such a way as to instruct their youth as to how they should make decisions in their own life.
A boy was once awestruck by the sounds of nature and loved to hear nature sing. He was a boy nearing the age when he was to become a man but was still too young to take his journey. He was sitting outside his wigawa one evening listening to the sounds of the village. The women were busy getting meals prepared while the men busily went about getting their weapons ready for the morrow’s hunt. Later there would be music and dancing, and he was looking very forward to the event. Music was very important to the tribe. As he set there, he could hear the faint sounds of the whippoorwill in the distance; the whippoorwill had a very beautiful song and it was not often that the whippoorwill would come around the village, so it was important to listen. He told his mother that he was going to find the whippoorwill and listen to its song. The mother warned him of the night, that it was different than day and not just in the amount of light they give. That night creatures are cunning and loved to sneak up on a traveler, and that he must take fire with him.
Well, he decided once out of the sight of his mother that getting fire would slow him down, and he needed to hurry before day took over the night. So, he set out looking for the whippoorwill unprepared. He walked on the path that he knew was well travelled and seemed to be getting closer to the whippoorwill. Yet, it still seemed far away. Suddenly the path he was following was inhabited by Coyote who was also singing his songs. Coyote, too, had a nice song and asked the boy, “Why are you following me?”
“I am not following you coyote,” said the boy. “I have been listening to whippoorwill all day and want to go where he is singing.”
“Do you not enjoy my songs?” asked coyote. “Let me sing you a song. You will like it better than whippoorwill’s song.”
So the coyote raised his head and began to howl out his tune. The boy covered his ears and said, “Thank you for the song, but I much prefer the song of the whippoorwill.”
This made the coyote jealous of the whippoorwill’s song so he told the boy he knew where the whippoorwill was singing and he would take him there. “Come on, come on!” he shouted at the boy. “I know a shortcut.”
So, the boy set out after the coyote, and the coyote took the boy across the river, through the brush, over rocky mountains, and through briar patches. The coyote ran faster and faster, and the boy fell several times and was very skinned up. The coyote yelled, “Hurry up! Come on, we are almost there,” and the boy fell once again.
It was starting to get light and by the time they got to where the whippoorwill had been singing, it was gone. Day had taken over the night. The boy could hear the coyote laughing and howling in the distance as he started back to the village. He had come a long way and it would be night again before he reached home. He made it home all skinned up, bruised and beat up. As he became older and wiser, he understood that there are many paths to follow on your life journeys and there are many ways to get to what you love. However, you should always stay true to your path and always, always watch out for the coyote. This story still holds true to many aspects of our lives even now in this pandemic. There are many forms of coyote that will take you from who you truly are; keep a vigilant eye.