[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Southwestern and California Legends unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest by Katharine Berry Judson (1912).
Coyote as a Hunter
Sia (New Mexico)
In just a little while the Cloud People gathered over the trail Coyote was following and he was glad that his path was to be cool and shady.
After he travelled some distance further, he sat down again and looking upward said, "I wish the Cloud People would send rain. My road would be cooler and fresher." In a little while a shower came and Coyote was contented.
But in a short time he again sat down and wished that the road could be very moist, that it would be fresh to his feet, and almost immediately the trail was as wet as though a river had passed over it. Again Coyote was contented.
But after a while he took his seat again. He said to himself, "I guess I will talk again to the Cloud People." Then he looked up and said to them, "I wish for water over my road-water to my elbows, that I may travel on my hands and feet in the cool waters; then I shall be refreshed and happy."
In a short time his road was covered with water, and he moved on. But again he wished for something more, and said to the Cloud People, "I wish much for water to my shoulders. Then I will be happy and contented."
In a moment the waters arose as he wished, yet after a while he looked up and said, "If you will only give me water so high that my eyes, nose, mouth and ears are above it, I will be happy. Then indeed my road will be cool."
But even this did not satisfy him, and after travelling a while longer he implored the Cloud People to give him a river that he might float over the trail, and immediately a river appeared and Coyote floated down stream. Now be had been high in the mountains and wished to go to Hare Land.
After floating a long distance, he at last came to Hare Land and saw many Hares a little distance off, on both sides of the river. Coyote lay down in the mud as though he were dead and listened. Soon a woman Ka-wate (skunk) came along with a vase and a gourd for water.
She said, "Here is a dead coyote. Where did he come from? I guess from the mountains above. I guess he fell into the water and died."
Coyote looked up and said, "Come here, woman."
She said, "What do you want?"
Coyote said, "I know the Hares and other small animals well. In a little while they will come here and think I am dead and be happy. What do you think about it?"
Ka-wate said, "I have no thoughts at all."
So Coyote explained his plan.
Coyote lay as dead, and all the Hares and small animals saw him lying in the river, and rejoiced that he was dead. The Hares decided to go in a body and see the dead Coyote. Rejoicing over his death, they struck him with their hands and kicked him. There were crowds of Hares and they decided to have a great dance. Now and then a dancing Hare would stamp upon Coyote who lay as if dead. During the dance the Hares clapped their hands over their mouth and gave a whoop like a war-whoop.
Then Coyote rose quickly and took two clubs which the Ka-wate had given him, and together they killed all of the Hares. There was a great number and they were piled up like stones.
Coyote said, "Where shall I find fire to cook the hares? Ah," he said, pointing across to a high rock, "that rock gives good shade and it is cool. I will find fire and cook my meat in the shade of that rock."
So they carried all the hares to that point and Coyote made a large fire and threw them into it. When he had done this he was very warm and tired. He lay down close to the rock in the shade.
After a while he said to Ka-wate, "We will run a race. The one who wins will have all the hares."
She said, "How could I beat you? Your feet are so much larger than mine."
Coyote said, "I will allow you the start of me." He made a torch of the inner shreds of cedar bark and wrapped it with yucca thread and lighted it. Then he tied this torch to the end of his tail. He did this to see that the Ka-wate did not escape him.
Ka-wate started first, but when out of sight of Coyote, she slipped into the house of Badger. Then Coyote started with the fire attached to his tail. Wherever he touched the grass, he set fire to it. But Ka-wate hurried back to the rock, carried all the hares on top except four tiny ones, and then climbed up on the rock.
Coyote was surprised not to overtake her. He said, "She must be very quick. How could she run so fast?" Then he returned to the rock, but did not see her.
He was tired and sat down in the shade of the rock. "Why doesn't she come?" he said. "Perhaps she will not come before night, her feet are so small."
Ka-wate sat on the rock above and heard all he said. She watched him take a stick and look into the mound for the hares. He pulled out a small one which he threw away. But the second was smaller than the first. Then a third and a fourth, each tiny, and all he threw away. "I do not care for the smaller ones," he said. "There are so many here, I will not eat the little ones." But he hunted and hunted in the mound of ashes for the hares. All were gone.
He said, "That woman has robbed me." Then he picked up the four little ones and ate them. He looked about for Ka-wate but did not see her because he did not look up. Then as he was tired and lay down to rest, he looked up and saw her, with the cooked hares piled beside her.
Coyote was hungry. He begged her to throw one down. She threw a very small one. Then Coyote became angry. And he was still more angry because he could not climb the rock. She had gone where he could not go.