The Coyote and the Woodpecker


Well, once upon a time a Coyote and his family lived near the edge of a wood. There was a big hollow tree there, and in it lived an old Woodpecker and his wife and children. One day as the Coyote-father was strolling along the edge of the forest he met the Woodpecker-father.

“Hin-no-kah-kée-ma” (Good evening), said the Coyote; how do you do to-day, friend Hloo-rée-deh?”

“Very well, thank you; and how are you, friend Too-wháy-deh?”

So they stopped and talked together awhile; and when they were about to go apart the Coyote said:
“Friend Woodpecker, why do you not come as friends to see us? Come to our house to supper this evening, and bring your family.”

“Thank you, friend Coyote,” said the Woodpecker; “we will come with joy.”

So that evening, when the Coyote-mother had made supper ready, there came the Woodpecker-father and the Woodpecker-mother with their three children. When they had come in, all five of the Woodpeckers stretched themselves as they do after flying, and by that showed their pretty feathers–for the Hloo-rée-deh has yellow and red marks under its wings. While, they were eating supper, too, they sometimes spread their

wings, and displayed their bright under-side. They praised the supper highly, and said the Coyote-mother was a perfect housekeeper. When it was time to go, they thanked the Coyotes very kindly and invited them to come to supper at their house the following evening. But when they were gone, the Coyote-father could hold himself no longer, and he said:
“Did you see what airs those Woodpeckers put on? Always showing off their bright feathers? But I want them to know that the Coyotes are equal to them. I’ll show them!”

Next day, the Coyote-father had all his family at work bringing wood, and built a great fire in front of his house. When it was time to go to the house of the Woodpeckers he called his wife and children to the fire, and lashed a burning stick under each of their arms, with the burning end pointing forward; and then he fixed himself in the same way.
“Now,” said he, “we will show them! When we get there, you must lift up your arms now and then, to show them that we are as good as the Woodpeckers.”

When they came to the house of the Woodpeckers and went in, all the Coyotes kept lifting their arms often, to show the bright coals underneath. But as they sat down to supper, one Coyote-girl gave a shriek and said:
“Oh, tata! My fire is burning me!”

“Be patient, my daughter,” said the Coyote-father, severely, “and do not cry about little things.”

“Ow!” cried the other Coyote-girl in a moment, “my fire has gone out!”

This was more than the Coyote-father could stand, and he reproved her angrily.

“But how is it, friend Coyote,” said the Wood pecker, politely, “that your colors are so bright at first, but very soon become black?”

“Oh, that is the beauty of our colors,” replied the Coyote, smothering his rage; “that they are not always the same–like other people’s–but turn all shades.”

But the Coyotes were very uncomfortable, and made an excuse to hurry home as soon as they could. When they got there, the Coyote-father whipped them all for exposing him to be laughed at. But the Woodpecker-father gathered his children around him, and said:
“Now, my children, you see what the Coyotes have done. Never in your life try to appear what you are not. Be just what you really are, and put on no false colors.”

retold by Charles Lummis

This is a collection of stories from the Isleta Pueblo people of New Mexico. Charles Lummis [1859-1928] was a pioneering writer, photographer, amateur anthropologist and adventurer

Lummis moved to New Mexico, where he embedded himself in Pueblo culture and collected the stories originally published as The Man Who Married the Moon in 1894

The Coyote and the Blackbirds

The Coyote and the Blackbirds

Coyote and the Blackbirds
Coyote and the Blackbirds

Once upon a time a Coyote lived near an open wood. As he went to walk one day near the edge of the wood, he heard the Blackbirds (the Indian name means “seeds of the prairie”) calling excitedly:

“Bring my bag! Bring my bag! It is going to hail!”

The Coyote, being very curious, came near and saw that they all had buckskin bags to which they were tying lassos, the other ends of which were thrown over the boughs of the trees. Very much surprised, the Coyote came to them and asked:

“Blackbird-friends, what are you doing?”

“Oh, friend Coyote,” they replied, “we are making ourselves ready, for soon there will be a very hard hail-storm, and we do not wish to be pelted to death. We are going to get into these bags and pull ourselves up under the branches, where the hail cannot strike us.”

“That is very good,” said the Coyote, “and I would like to do so, too, if you will let me join you.”

“Oh, yes! just run home and get a bag and a lasso, and come back here and we will help you.” said the Pah-táhn, never smiling.

So the Coyote started running for home, and got a large bag and a lasso, and came back to the Blackbirds, who were waiting. They fixed the rope and bag for him, putting the noose around the neck of the bag so that it would be closed tight when the rope was pulled. Then they threw the end of the lasso over a strong branch and said:

“Now, friend Coyote, you get into your bag first, for you are so big and heavy that you cannot pull yourself up, and we will have to help you.”

The Coyote crawled into the bag, and all the Blackbirds taking hold of the rope, pulled with all their might till the bag was swung clear up under the branch. Then they tied the end of the lasso around the tree so the bag could not come down, and ran around picking up all the pebbles they could find. “Mercy! How the hail comes!” they cried excitedly, and began to throw stones at the swinging bag as hard as ever they could.

“Mercy!” howled the Coyote, as the pebbles pattered against him. “But this is a terrible storm, Blackbird-friends! It pelts me dreadfully! And how are you getting along?”

“It is truly very bad, friend Coyote,” they answered, “but you are bigger and stronger than we, and ought to endure it.” And they kept pelting him, all the time crying and chattering as if they, too, were suffering greatly from the hail.

“Ouch!” yelled the Coyote. “That one hit me very near the eye, friends! I fear this evil storm will kill us all!”

“But be brave, friend,” called back the Blackbirds. “We keep our hearts, and so should you, for you are much stronger than we.” And they pelted him all the harder.

So they kept it up until they were too tired to throw any more; and as for the Coyote, he was so bruised and sore that he could hardly move. Then they untied the rope and let the bag slowly to the ground, and loosened the noose at the neck and flew up into the trees with sober faces.

“Ow!” groaned the Coyote, “I am nearly dead!”

And he crawled weeping and groaning from the bag, and began to lick his bruises. But when he looked around and saw the sun shining and the ground dry, and not a hailstone anywhere, he knew that the Blackbirds had given him a trick, and he limped home in a terrible rage, vowing that as soon as ever he got well he would follow and eat the Blackbirds as long as he lived. And ever since, even to this day, he has been following them to eat them, and that is why the Coyote and the Blackbirds are always at war.

retold by Charles Lummis

This is a collection of stories from the Isleta Pueblo people of New Mexico. Charles Lummis [1859-1928] was a pioneering writer, photographer, amateur anthropologist and adventurer

Lummis moved to New Mexico, where he embedded himself in Pueblo culture and collected the stories originally published as The Man Who Married the Moon in 1894