Native American Legends
Coyote the Hungry
A Caddo Legend
Now Coyote was always hungry, and as he was a coward, he used to
sneak about the fields and timber searching for something to eat.
One day, as he was walking by the side of a brook, he heard something
in a Persimmon Tree. He looked up, and there was Opossum eating
Coyote begged him to throw down some of the fruit, but Opossum
only laughed and ate more Persimmons. He picked Persimmons, ate
them with grunts, and then threw down the seeds at Coyote. This
he kept on doing.
By and by Coyote grew angry, but Opossum only laughed the more.
He crawled out on a branch and dropped down as though he were going
to fall into Coyote's mouth. And just when Coyote made a snap at
him with his teeth, Opossum, instead of falling, wrapped his tail
around the branch and drew himself up. This he did again and again.
Well, Coyote grew more and more angry, then Opossum climbed out
on a dry limb, and shouted: "Look out! Here I come this time!
And sure enough, the limb suddenly broke, and down tumbled Opossum
to the ground. Then Coyote gave him a hard beating, and, leaving
him to die, walked away.
But Opossum was only fooling, for he was not hurt at all. As soon
as Coyote had gone a little distance, up jumped Opossum and climbed
into the Persimmon Tree. Coyote turned around to see if Opossum
was dead, and there he sat in the tree eating Persimmons, and throwing
down the seeds, and laughing.
Well, as Coyote was very hungry, he went on farther looking for
something to eat. By and by he heard a noise as though a lot of
people were having fun. He went toward the noise and saw a number
of young Turkeys playing on a hillside. They were climbing into
a bag, and rolling each other downhill.
Coyote thought to himself, "Now is my chance to have a good
dinner!" So he begged the Turkeys to let him get into the bag
and roll downhill too. As the birds were good-natured, they put
him in the bag, and rolled him down two or three times.
Then Coyote told them that if they would all get in at once, he
would roll them down hill. So every one crawled in, and Coyote,
quick as a wink, tied the mouth of the bag tight, so they could
not get out. Then he slung the bag on his back, and went home.
His four Coyote sons saw him coming, and ran to meet him.
"You see this bag?" said he. "It is full of Turkeys,
young and tender. Build me a hot fire, and we will have a feast."
They built a fire, but there was not enough wood, so Coyote had
to go to the timber to fetch some. Before he went, he said, "Be
sure not to open the bag while I am gone."
Well, the youngest son was very curious, and as soon as Coyote
was out of sight, the youngster thought he would like to see what
the Turkeys were doing. So he untied the string, and out jumped
the Turkeys one and all, and flew gobbling away.
When Coyote came back with the wood, he found all the Turkeys gone,
and though he beat his youngest son, they had no Turkey dinner that
On another morning, Coyote set out for the timber to get some food.
He soon saw a wild Turkey sitting on a tree. Now the Turkey was
fat, and Coyote licked his chops and said to himself, "I must
have that fine bird for dinner."
And as Coyote was a great liar, as well as a coward, he spoke to
the Turkey, and said: "If you do not come down from that tree
I will climb up and kill you. But if you will fly over the prairie
I cannot hurt you there."
The Turkey believed him, and flew toward the prairie, and Coyote
ran after him. The Turkey flew high at first, but by and by he began
to get tired, and there was no tree to light on. So he flew lower
and lower, until he reached the ground, and then Coyote pounced
upon him, and ate him.
Now, while Coyote was licking the Turkey's bones, he looked back
to see if anybody was watching, and he thought he saw a man standing
just behind him with a big stick ready to strike him.
Coyote was terribly frightened, and away he ran as fast as he could
go, every now and then turning around to see if the man was following.
And each time he looked, he thought he saw the man close behind,
ready to strike. So Coyote ran faster and faster, thinking he must
die; until at last his strength gave out. Then he thought he would
fool the man, and he began to dodge from left to right, and right
to left, until he was so tired that he could not run any more. So
he rolled on the grass and turned over on his back, begging hard
not to be killed.
After that he rolled over on his face, and as he did so he heard
something crack in his head. He thought it was one of his teeth.
But, no indeed, it was not a tooth! It was a long Turkey feather
that had stuck between two of his upper teeth, and stood up behind
his left eye.
And when Coyote saw this, he knew that he had been fooled; for
there had been no man behind him at all. He had been trying to run
away from a Turkey feather!
Ever since that day, Coyote has been afraid, and his eyes are wild;
and when he runs he always looks back to see if anybody is following.
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