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Coyote quarrels with Mole

A Salish Legend

Coyote and his wife, Mole, and their children were living by themselves, away from the winter encampment of the people. The other people did not want Coyote around, he was so lazy and tricky. Coyote and his family were poor that winter. They had only a little food, and that was supplied by the faithful Mole. Each day she would go out and gather herbs and moss and dried and shriveled sko-qeeu (rose-hips). She did that to keep the five children from starving. And she carried all the wood and water, while Coyote loafed and practiced his war songs.

One sun, as Mole was chopping a rotten stump for firewood, a little fawn jumped out of the stump. The deer family had put it there. The deer felt sorry for Mole. They wanted her to have the fawn for food.

Mole dropped her axe and caught the little deer. She told her oldest boy to run and tell his father to come with a knife and cut the fawn's throat. "Tell your father to hurry," said Mole, "because I cannot hold this fawn long. My strength will give out."

The boy ran fast to the tepee. He told Coyote what Mole had said. "Go back to your mother and tell her to hold the fawn while I get my bow and arrows ready," Coyote ordered, and the boy ran back to his mother with the message.

Coyote ran out of the lodge and got a piece of dogwood, from which he made a bow. Then he ran to a service berry bush, where he cut two arrows. Then he ran back to his lodge to finish making his weapons. Taking feathers from his war bonnet, he feathered the arrows and, as he had no sinew for a bowstring, he tore the strings off his moccasins and made a string. Then he was ready to shoot the fawn.

All the while Mole was having a hard time holding the fawn. It struggled and kicked and fought to get away, and Mole's strength was leaving her. Her arms ached. She called to Coyote to hurry. He ran out of the lodge and tramped down the snow so he could kneel and shoot. He told Mole to let loose of the fawn so he could shoot it. Mole let go and Coyote shot his arrow, but the little deer fell just then and the arrow missed it. With his second and last arrow Coyote shot again as the fawn leaped up, and again Coyote missed. The fawn escaped into the woods.

Mole was disgusted and angry. She went back to the tepee. There she discovered that Coyote had eaten all the rose-hips, all the food that was left, while he was making his weapons. When Coyote came in, Mole spoke to him about that. They quarreled, and Coyote stabbed her with his flint knife. Mole ran out. Coyote followed. He meant to kill her. Mole changed herself into a real Mole as Coyote stabbed again. He stabbed the earth, and Mole quickly untied her little pouch of tul-meen (red facial paint) and put some of the paint on the point of the knife. Drawing the knife out of the ground, Coyote saw the red paint and thought it was blood. He was satisfied that his wife must be dead from that last blow.

Coyote soon found that he could not take care of his children without Mole's help. They could not live as they had before, so Coyote told the four oldest children to visit their "uncle," Kingfisher -- Z-reece', who was a good hunter and had plenty of food in his lodge. The four boys started for Kingfisher's home, and Coyote took his youngest and favorite son and went traveling. The youngest boy's name was Top'-kan.

They traveled many suns without getting much to eat. They were hungry when they came to a large prairie, where a woman dressed in red-painted buckskin was digging spit-lum (bitter-root). Seeing her digging reminded Coyote of his wife, and he wished that Mole were alive to dig roots for him to eat. He took Top'-kan off his back, where the little boy rode much of the time to keep from tiring, and told him to wait. Then Coyote went toward the strange woman.

"Tell me a story, tell me news, good woman," said Coyote upon getting near to the digger. But the woman did not take any notice of him. She kept on digging roots and cleaning them as she put them in her basket, which was strapped to her side.

Not so easily discouraged, Coyote walked closer, saying: "Tell me news. I am a traveler from a distant country."

"I will tell you a story," said the woman, and she turned angrily to Coyote. "Coyote deserted his children and killed his wife!"

Then Coyote recognized the woman as his own wife, Mole. She had followed him to watch over little Top'-kan, but Coyote had not known that. Grabbing his knife, Coyote ran at his wife. He meant to kill her, but she changed into a real mole and went underground and got away.

Coyote returned to Top'-kan. He picked the boy up, put him on his back, and resumed his journey. He sought new lands where his tricks and mischief-making were not known.

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