SW/CA: Coyote's Eyes

Here is yet another Coyote story and once again, by his foolish desire to imitate others, he ends up worse than he was before. The story makes reference to the pinyon pine tree, which is a source of pinyon nuts (pine nuts), a staple food for the Native American peoples of the Southwest. You can read more at Wikipedia.

[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's Eyes
Pima (Arizona)

When Coyote was travelling about one day, he saw a small bird. The bird was hopping about contentedly and Coyote thought, "What a beautiful bird! It moves about so gracefully."

He drew nearer to the bird and asked, "What beautiful things are you working with?" but the bird could not understand Coyote.

After a while the bird took out his two eyes and threw them straight up into the air, like two stones. It looked upward but had no eyes. Then the bird said, "Come, my eyes. Come quickly, down into my head." The eyes fell down into the bird's head, just where they belonged, but were much brighter than before.

Coyote thought he could brighten his eyes. He asked the bird to take out his eyes. The bird took out Coyote's eyes, held them for a moment in his hands, and threw them straight up into the air. Coyote looked up and called, "Come back, my eyes. Come quickly." They at once fell back into his head and were much brighter than before. Coyote wanted to try it again, but the bird did not wish to. But Coyote persisted.

Then the bird said, "Why should I work for you, Coyote? No, I will work no more for you."

But Coyote still persisted, and the bird took out his eyes and threw them up. Coyote cried, "Come, my eyes, come back to me."

But his eyes continued to rise into the air, and the bird began to go away. Coyote began to weep. But the bird was annoyed, and called back, "Go away now. I am tired of you. Go away and get other eyes."

But Coyote refused to go and entreated the bird to find eyes for him. At last the bird gathered gum from a pinon tree and rolled it between his hands and put it in Coyote's eye holes, so that he could see. But his eyes had been black and very bright. His new eyes were yellow.

"Now," said the bird, "go away. You cannot stay here any longer."



(400 words)

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