Apache: Coyote Secures Fire

This story is part of the Apache unit. Story source: Jicarilla Apache Texts edited by Pliny Earle Goddard (1911).

Coyote Secures Fire

Fireflies had their camp where high rocks stood around it in a circle and there was no trail leading down to it. They were the only people who had fire. They were playing the hoop and pole game with Otters.

In vain Coyote walked around the rocks seeking a place to go down. He went where some children were playing beyond a hill and asked them where the trail was that lead down. They would not tell him.

Having gathered some red berries and having made two strings of beads from them, he came again to the children. "Now tell me where the trail is," he said as he gave them the beads.

"Right by the edge of the rocks stands a cedar tree," they told him; "one takes hold of it and it bends with him to the ground. If one says to it, 'Bend down to me' it will bend down and you may go out with it."

Coyote pulled off some cedar bark and made a bundle of it to serve as a torch.

He went over where they were playing the hoop and pole game. They were betting their hides and when one was beaten his hide was pulled off and he jumped into the river and came out again dressed as he was before.

Coyote wanted to bet his hide. "No," the other players told him, "your skin sticks too tightly to your nose, you might cry badly about it."

He played, however, and lost, and when they were stripping off his skin, it stuck to his nose and he cried. He jumped into the river but came out as he went in, red and without a skin. Then the others caught him and pushed him into a badger's hole. He came out with a coat of short fur. He wished to bet again but the others would not permit him saying, "You cry so about it that every one is ashamed."

When it was nearly night, Fireflies built a fire in the center of their camp preparatory to a dance. When the people were all standing about after the dance began, Coyote tied the cedar bark he had prepared to his tail, and dancing about, tried to get his tail in the fire.

"Coyote, your tail is on fire," they called to him.

"I am working magic with it; it will not burn," he replied. His tail blazed up, and he jumped over the heads of the spectators and ran to the place where the trail led up. Fireflies ran after him.

"Come bend down to me," he called to the cedar. When it came down to him, he went up, tossing up his tail as he topped the rock. He ran off, throwing his tail from side to side. Those running after him tried to put the fire out. Coyote ran on, whipping the trees with his tail, still pursued, until he came to the border of the sky. When he had run almost entirely around the world with the fire he was tired and crawled into a hole.

The whole world was afire and burning. It was burned black everywhere. That is why you can make a fire with a drill from all kinds of trees.

Here at the east some trees were left unburned. They are like stone and will not burn if they are put in the fire. Petrified wood was the only thing of all that was on the world that was not burned.

(600 words)

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