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Native American Legends

A Coyote's Tales

A Papago Legend

Late in August, just as the days were approaching their shortest length, the last group of visitors moved past the coyote exhibit at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. "The Museum closes in five minutes," a docent (trained volunteer) told the visitors. "Look at what the sign says," a tall, thin-legged man told his friends. "Darn coyotes are scavengers. Says they eat rabbits, mice, even cactus. Cows, too, my brother tells me."

Juanita the Coyote was pacing her area, head drooping and tongue hanging out at the fading late afternoon sun. "That coyote sure is scrawny. His coat looks like it could use a trip to the dry cleaners," a female visitor said. "It is a female coyote, ma'am," the docent corrected. "Hey, you scruffy, mangy, overgrown dog!" the thin-legged man yelled.

Juanita stopped her pacing and sat on the ground facing the visitors. She held her head high and let out a long, menacing howl. The three straggling visitors jumped back. Juanita ended her howl, turned abruptly, and strode off to her den. "That's the five o'clock whistle, folks," the patient docent said. "Please, let's move toward the exit so our animals can have their evening meal in peace."

A full moon was rising into the night sky as Juanita lay in a corner of her den catering to her brood of pups. Walter, her husband, dosed in the far corner, resting up for his own concert of howls that he would give once the moon had risen to its highest point. Several of the pups finished their meal and licked each other's noses and mouths.

Stephanie Coyote, the runt of the litter but the most outspoken, said in the loudest voice she could manage, "Mother, please tell us one of your tales about running free in the wild." "I will, Stephanie, but only if you lower your voice. Your father is sleeping." "Sorry, mother," Stephanie said in a whisper. "I want a story, too," Guillermo said. "If Stephanie gets one, I want one, too," he sulked. "Children, please bide your time. I usually recite only one bedtime story each night. In honor of the full moon which coyotes love so much, I will tell a Stephanie tale and a Guillermo tale this evening." All six pups quickly gathered around their mother in a semi-circle.

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