Tale of Coyote Escapes An Imaginary Foe

One time Coyote went out hunting buffalo. While he was going through the timber he found Turkey up on the top of a tall tree. He told Turkey that he was going to kill him if he did not get down from the tree. He said: “If you don’t come down I will climb the tree. If you fly to another tree, I will break it down at once, and will certainly kill you; but if you fly toward the prairie I cannot harm you, for I have no powers to kill anything on the prairie. “Turkey believed all that Coyote said and started out toward the prairie. Coyote was right under Turkey all the time. At first Turkey flew up so high that Coyote thought he was going to lose him, but after a long flight Turkey kept coming down lower and lower, and finally came down on the ground. Then Coyote was not very far behind and he caught up with him and killed him. While Coyote was eating Turkey, he happened to look around to make sure that no one was watching him. He thought that he saw somebody standing behind him making motions as if trying to strike him. He started to run without learning who it was. Every now and then he would look back to see if he were out of his reach. Every time he looked back he thought he saw the man right after him, ready to hit him. He ran with all his might, trying to get away from him. Coyote had been given power at the beginning of the world to run without decreasing his running powers. Coyote began to think that some great, powerful man was behind him and that he had to die. He had run eight times. The ninth time he thought he would run farther than usual. Again he looked around, right and left, and thought he saw the man just about to hit him. He started to run his best again, but his running powers were decreasing continually. He was then running for the tenth time; but it was all in vain, for the man seemed to be right up with him. Then Coyote thought he would fool the man, so he kept dodging right and left, but the man seemed to be near him all the time. When he started to run the twelfth time he had not gone far when he gave out. He rolled and turned over on his back and begged not to be killed. He fell over on his face, then heard something crack, and he thought it was one of his teeth, but it was only a turkey feather which had stuck between two of his upper teeth, and it stuck up nearly straight and level with his head back of his right eye. At first when he looked back he had thought surely that some one was standing behind him ready to strike him. When he found that he had been fooled by only a turkey feather, and had been running himself almost to death for nothing, he was very angry. Ever since, Coyote has looked wild, and when he runs he starts out very slowly for fear he may have to run a long distance, and when he runs he first looks around to the right and then to the left to see if anybody is near him. Most often he looks to his right side while running. When Coyote reached home he told his family and others that he had been running after a great big mountain-lion, and that he had killed it. He said: “If there had not been so many trees I would have brought it home.”

Caddo, Legends,

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

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