Native American Legends
Skunk outwits Coyote
An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown
Coyote was going along one day, feeling very hungry, when he met
up with Skunk. "Hello, brother," Coyote greeted him. "You
look hungry and so am I. If I lead the way, will you join me in
a trick to get something to eat?"
"I will do whatever you propose," said Skunk.
"A prairie dog village is just over that hill. You go over
there and lie down and play dead. I'll come along later and say
to the prairie dogs, 'Come, let us have a dance over the body of
our dead enemy.' "
Skunk wondered how they would ever get anything to eat by playing
dead and dancing. "Why should I do this?" he asked. "Go
on," Coyote said. "Puff yourself up and play dead."
Skunk went on to the prairie dog village and pretended to be dead.
After a while Coyote came along and saw several prairie dogs playing
outside their holes. They were keeping a distance between themselves
"Oh, look," cried Coyote, "our enemy lies dead before
us. Come, we will have a dance to celebrate. Let everyone come out
and then stop up the burrow holes."
The foolish prairie dogs did as he told them. "Now,"
said Coyote, "let us all stand in a big circle and dance with
our eyes closed. If anyone opens his eyes to look, he will turn
into something bad."
As soon as the prairie dogs began dancing with their eyes closed,
Coyote killed one of them. "Well, now," he called out,
"let's all open our eyes." The prairie dogs did so, and
were surprised to see one lying dead. "Oh, dear," said
Coyote, "look at this poor fellow. He opened his eyes and died.
Now, all of you, close your eyes and dance again. Don't look, or
you too will die."
They began to dance once more, and one by one Coyote drew them
out of the dance circle and killed them. At last, one of the prairie
dogs became suspicious and opened his eyes. "Oh, Coyote is
killing us!" he cried, and all the survivors ran to unstop
their holes and seek safety in the burrows.
Skunk then stood up, laughing at how easily Coyote had worked his
trick. He helped gather up some dry firewood and they began roasting
the prairie dogs that Coyote had killed.
The cooking meat smelled so good that Coyote decided he wanted
to eat the best of it himself. "Let's run a race," he
said. "The one that wins will have his choice of the most delicious
"No," replied Skunk, "you are too swift. I'm a slow
runner and can never beat you."
"Well, I will tie a rock to my foot," Coyote said.
"If you will tie on a big rock, I will race you."
They decided to race around the bottom of the hill. "While
I am tying this rock to my foot," Coyote said, "you go
ahead. I'll give you a start and then catch you."
Skunk began to run and was soon out of sight around the hill. Coyote
tied a rock to his foot and followed, slowly at first, but he soon
kicked the rock loose and doubled his speed. Along the way, however,
Skunk had found a brush pile, and he dashed in there and hid.
As soon as he saw Coyote go racing past, Skunk turned back to the
fire. He raked all the roasted prairie dogs out of the coals, except
for two small bony ones that he did not want. Then he cut off the
tails and stuck them back in the ashes, and carried the meat away
to the brush pile.
Meanwhile Coyote was still loping around the hill, confident that
Skunk was running just ahead of him. As he hurried along, he said
to himself, "I wonder where that fool Skunk is? I did not know
that he could run so fast." He soon circled back to the cooking
fire and saw the prairie dog tails sticking out of the ashes. He
seized one and it slipped out. He tried another one. "Oh, but
they are well cooked," he said. He tried another one. Then
he suspected that something was wrong.
Taking a stick, Coyote raked through the coals, but he found only
the two bony prairie dogs that Skunk had rejected. "Someone
must have stolen our meat," he said, and then ate the two small
Skunk, who by this time had feasted on the delicious meat, had
crept to the top of the hill and was looking down at Coyote. As
Coyote began searching all around to see who might have stolen the
meat, Skunk threw some prairie dog bones down upon him.
Coyote glanced up and saw him. "You took all the delicious
prairie dogs!" he cried. "Give me some of them."
"No," Skunk answered. "We ran a race for them. I
beat you. I'm going to eat all of them."
Coyote begged and begged for some of the delicious prairie dogs,
but while he was still pleading, Skunk swallowed the last morsel
of meat. He was a better trickster than Coyote.
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