Tale of Coyote And Turtle Run A Race

One time, as Coyote was returning from a long and unsuccessful hunt for game, he passed the home of his old friend Turtle. Being weary and hungry and in no hurry, he decided to stop and make Turtle a visit. Turtle invited him in and offered him something to eat, as Coyote had hoped that he would. While Coyote ate, Turtle stretched himself out to rest, saying, “I am tired out. I have just come back from the races.” Coyote asked “what races.” “Our people have been having foot races down by the river. Have not you heard of them?” Coyote smiled at the thought of Turtle’s racing and said that he had not heard of the races, and if he had he surely would have been there. “Who won?” he asked. “I did,” said Turtle. “I have never yet been beaten in a race with my people.” Coyote answered, “I have never been beaten either. I wonder how a race between us would come out.” “The way to find out is to have a race,” Turtle said. “I am willing, if you are. When shall we have it?” Coyote answered. They determined to run the race two days hence. In the meantime Coyote had finished eating, and so, promising to come on the second day to run the race, he departed.

When he arrived home Coyote sent his son to call all of the Coyote people and announce to them that his father was going to run a race with Turtle, and that he wanted them all to come and bet heavily on the race, for of course he would defeat Turtle. As soon as Coyote had gone Turtle sent his son out to announce that his father was going to run a race with Coyote, and that he wanted all of the best runners to come to his lodge. They all came and listened to Turtle’s plan to beat Coyote in the race. Turtle arose when they came in and said: “We all know that Coyote is a good runner, but he is also a cheat. He has cheated us in many ways. Let us now cheat him out of this race. Will you help me do it?” Every one present agreed to help him. Then he continued: “This is my plan. I want each one of you to put a white feather in your hair just like the one I wear, and paint yourselves to look just like me. Then station yourselves at intervals along the course. Coyote will run with his head down, as he always does. One of you will start with him, but when he has left you far behind drop down in the grass. Then the next one will jump up and run. Coyote will look up and see you ahead, then he will run until he passes you. Then the next one will jump up and run, and so on until the last one. I will be the last, and beat him over the goal.” The Turtles talked over the plan, then arose and went home to prepare for the race.

The first day passed, and then the day came when they had to run the race. Early in the morning the Turtles stationed themselves along the way in the tall grass, and soon Coyote came. They began to discuss the distance they should run. Turtle wanted to run a long distance, but Coyote did not want to go a very long distance; he thought that he could beat Turtle in a short distance just as easily as in a long distance, and he did not care to tire himself. Turtle insisted, and so Coyote said that he would agree to any distance that he would mention. Many Coyotes came and began to bet on Coyote.

They started to run and all the Coyotes began to laugh, for their man was far ahead, but soon to their surprise Turtle was ahead. Coyote overtook Turtle, and then they began to laugh again. Soon they heard the Turtles cheering, and to their amazement Turtle was far in the lead. Again Coyote overtook Turtle, and again Turtle came up far in the lead. The Coyotes cheered one moment and the Turtles the next. Just as Coyote had passed Turtle and was near the goal, Turtle crossed the line, and all the Turtles set up a loud cheer. Coyote ran off in the grass, and is wondering yet how Turtle beat him in the race, and all the other Coyotes are angry at him because he lost the race and caused them to lose so many bets.

Caddo, Legends,

Dorsey, George A. Traditions of the Caddo. Washington: Carnegie Institution. 1905.

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