How Coyote Lost His Hearing

Coyote Fool Mask by Lupa, 2011

Now Coyote was a fine young man, if a little rough around the edges. And there came a day when he decided he was going to go courting, because no one had married him yet, and that was a rather sad state of affairs if he said so himself! So he went on down to the river, jumped in and swam around a while, came back out and shook himself dry in the sunshine. Then he put on his finest clothes, which were rather threadbare and shabby and a bit out of style, puffed his chest out, and went to go find someone to court.

Soon he ran into Rabbit, who was grazing in some clover at the edge of a buffalo wallow. “Look, there’s Rabbit! She’s not married, but she has a lot of children. I bet she’ll want to marry me!”

So Coyote sidled on up to Rabbit. “Why hallo there,” he said. “How might you be this lovely day?”

“I’m doing quite well, thank you! Would you care to join me for lunch? The clover here’s so luscious!” Rabbit replied. “This little patch right here is especially nice,” she said with a wink. So Coyote settled down next to Rabbit and began to mouth the clover, just to make Rabbit feel better and hopefully like him a little more.

But soon all that pretend eating made him hungry for real food. And Rabbit was looking mighty tasty. Of course, Rabbit had seen that look in Coyote’s eyes before. So before he could snap his teeth at her, she up and ran as fast as she could away from him. She even kicked a cloud of dust all over Coyote and his finery.

While he was sitting there in the dust, with his finest clothes filthy and his stomach growling, along came Scrub Jay. “What seems to be the problem?” Scrub Jay asked.

“I tried to court Rabbit so she’d think to marry me, but instead she ran away from me and left me here in the dirt!” Coyote complained.

Scrub Jay looked very grave. “Well, I see the problem here. You just don’t look enough like a rabbit. Now, we can’t very well shorten your tail, and we can’t round your nose off no matter how much you wiggle it, but we could make your ears fluffier, like hers are. Here, get some of this dandelion fluff and stuff it in your ears, just like so.” So Coyote tucked his ears full of fluff, and then went off in pursuit of Rabbit.

He never found where Rabbit went, but he soon ran into Crow, who was building her nest. “Well,” he thought to himself, “I don’t think Crow’s married either, and I think she’s just as nice as Rabbit, even if she is a gossip. I’ll court her instead!”

Coyote headed up to the tree where Crow was building her nest. “Good day!” he called to her, a little loudly since he was having a bit of trouble hearing himself, but everybody had that problem from time to time, didn’t they?

“Why, look, it’s Coyote—wait, what on earth do you have stuck in your ears?” Crow cawed.

“Oh, you won’t convince me of the worth of lucky hares—their feet never did me any good at cards anyway!” Coyote replied. “So, have you found any good carrion lately?”

Crow cocked her head to one side at him. “If I did, I wouldn’t tell you, you silly creature! I need to eat, and I don’t want you stealing my food!”

Coyote cocked his head right back at her, hoping maybe mimicking her would make her like him a little more, though he was also more than a little confused. “But my feet are just fine! Why do you think they had peeling grooves? Those cracks in the pads are natural-born, baby!”

“No! Not FEET! EAAAAAAAT!” Crow cawed as loud as she could. She flew down from her nest and flapped her wings in his face. “EAT! EAT! You fool, I said EAT! As in FOOD!”

Leather corvid wall hanging by Lupa, 2009

Coyote backed away from this mad black whirlwind, then turned tail and ran, feathers coating his dusty finery, leaving a trail of fluff in his wake. He eventually shook Crow off, and soon found himself in a panting heap right where he’d left Scrub Jay.

“How’s it going, Casanova?” Scrub Jay said. “You panting because Crow was just too much for you?”

“You could say that,” Coyote grumbled. “But she didn’t like the fluff! And I don’t think she’s going to marry me any time soon, either.”

“That’s because she doesn’t care about fluff, silly dog. She’s right in the middle of building a nest—and believe me, I know nests,” Scrub Jay bragged. “What you want to court her with is something pretty that she can decorate her nest with! In fact, I know just the thing! Follow me.”

So Scrub Jay and Coyote went east, and they went west, and maybe just a little north—but never south, not when courting. And they came to a place where humans lived, a little hut with fences all around it. By the door of the hut was a basket, and in the basket were many balls of brightly colored yarn.

“See that?’ Scrub Jay pointed to the basket. “That’s exactly what you need, right there! Crow would love that in her nest! Now, here’s what you do. You want her to definitely notice that you have yarn for her, even from a mile away, and maybe especially so since she’s all spooked now. So tuck some of that yarn into your ears so she can see it, and go find her! But you’d better put this fluff back in, too, because you might run into Rabbit instead, and then your problem will still be solved! I’ll just sit right here and keep an eye out for the humans.”

So Coyote stuffed the fluff back in his ears, then sneaked over to the house, grabbed some yarn, and went and hid in the back field by the pond while he tucked that in his ears, too. Just as he was finishing up, something big shoved him over onto his head! He turned around, and saw Cow, all black and white and surprised, looking down at him.

“Ohhhhhhh, my! What are you doing here? And what is that in your ears? Is that the new fashion, then?” she said.

“WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!!!” Coyote shouted at the top of his lungs.

“Ohhhhhhh, dear, now my husband will have heard you, and he’ll come and chase you away! You’d better run now, or else!” Cow looked around nervously.

Coyote was confused. “I STILL CAN’T HEAR A THING YOU’RE SAYING! WHAT WAS THAT AGAIN?”

Cow said again, “Ohhhhhhhh, goodness! My husband is coming! You’d better run away or he’ll get you!”

“I GIVE UP! YOU TALK TOO SOFTLY! I’M NOT COURTING YOU!” Coyote was about to turn and head home, when the ground began to shake, and Cow’s husband came barreling to a stop over him.

“WHO WERE YOU GOING TO COURT, LITTLE DOG?” Cow’s husband bellowed.

“WHO ARE YOU, AND WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU ALL SAYING?” Coyote shouted right in Cow’s husband’s face.

“I SAID YOU’RE IN MY FIELD, TRYING TO COURT MY WIFE, AND I DON’T CARE FOR THAT, NOT AT ALL!”

“NO, I’M NOT THAT TALL, BUT WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH CARROTS, AND BORING YOUR EYES, AND THE COLOR TEAL?”

At which Cow’s husband snorted, caught Coyote and his finery and his fluff and his yarn and his dust and his feathers, and tossed it all into the pond with a mighty splash!

“Well, at least you’re clean again!” Scrub Jay shouted to poor Coyote, who still couldn’t hear anything anyone was saying as he dragged his muddy self to dry land.

And Scrub Jay flew away, laughing “Vweeeeet! Vweeeeet! Vweeeeet!”

Scrub Jay painted by Lupa, 2010

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