SW/CA: Coyote, Tortillas, and Mesquite Beans

Here you will see Coyote in his more familiar role as a greedy trickster. You read about the birth of Coyote in another story from Pima people earlier: Creation of Mankind and the Flood.

[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 and the Tortillas
Pima (Arizona)

Once upon a time, a river rose very high and spread all over the land. An Indian woman was going along the trail by the river side with a basket of tortillas on her head, but she was wading in water up to her waist. Now Coyote was afraid of the water, so he had climbed into a cottonwood tree. When the woman came up the trail, Coyote called, "Oh, come to this tree and give me some of those nice tortillas."

The woman said, "No. I can't give them to you; they are for somebody else."

"If you do not come here I will shoot you," said Coyote, and the woman really thought he had a bow. So she came to the tree and said, "You must come down and get them. I can't climb trees."

Coyote came down as far as he dared, but he was afraid of the deep water. The woman laughed at him.

She said, "Just see how shallow it is. It's only up to my ankles." But she was standing on a big stump. Coyote looked at the water. It seemed shallow and safe enough, so he jumped. But the water was deep and he was drowned. Then the woman went on up the trail.

Coyote and the Mesquite Beans

After the waters of the flood had gone down, Elder Brother said to Coyote, "Do not touch that black bug, and do not eat the mesquite beans. It is dangerous to harm anything that came safe through the flood."

So Coyote went on, but presently he came to the black bug. He stopped and ate it up. Then he went on to the mesquite beans. He stopped and looked at them a while, and then said, "I will just taste one and that will be all." But he stood there and ate and ate until he had eaten them all up. And the bug and the beans swelled up in his stomach and killed him.

(300 words)

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