Taken from Coyote Stories of the Navajo People, Navajo Curriculum
Center Press, 1974 School Board, Inc. Rough Rock Arizona.
Coyote was trotting along a little wash one bright sunny afternoon,
feeling sorry for himself because he hadn't been able to catch so
much as a field mouse or a kangaroo rat all day.
Suddenly, a cottontail jumped up from the shade of a clump of
sagebrush and dashed away in a great hurry, throwing sand in Coyote's
face as he picked up speed.
Coyote was very hungry. Here was a foolish cottontail he surely could
outrun. He almost could taste the tender meat he'd soon be having for
Sure enough, he soon outran the dodging, terrified rabbit.
"I caught you, Cousin," Coyote said, just ready to sink his teeth
into the rabbit. "What a silly rabbit you are. Do you know, I didn't
even see you. I'd have gone on past if you hadn't jumped out in front
Now he was ready for his feast, but as he opened his mouth wide to
take the first bite, the cottontail began talking. That surprised
Coyote so much that he closed his mouth and listened.
"Wait a minute, Cousin," the cottontail said. "As you say, you caught
me. So I'm
your prisoner. Isn't that true? So, why all the rush to eat me? Let
me tell you one thing. You'll be sorry you caught me."
"Why?" Coyote asked.
"Because I'm old and tough. I haven't enough meat on me to make a
for a big, strong coyote like you. But, since you have me, and I
can't possibly escape, why don't you stop squeezing my neck so hard
and take your claws out of my hide. Then we can talk a little while."
"Talk? What have we to talk about?" Coyote asked, loosening his grip
The cottontail was panting, but he didn't want to be eaten. Not if he
could help it.
"We can talk about men," he said. "That's it. Men. About the way those
"Men? I know more about men than you do," Coyote said, tightening his
much that the rabbit kicked and squirmed.
"Well, Cousin, tell me something," the cottontail said. "Loosen up on
me a little, and tell me how they carry and use their weapons."
"That's easy. They carry them on their backs," Coyote said.
Coyote knew this was true. He kept as far away from men as he
"Now I," chattered the cottontail, wondering how he could keep the
Coyote talking until he found a way to escape, "have been very close
to men. I have hidden in the brush and watched them pass by me. And I
know they carry their bows and arrows in their hands.... .You're
still holding me too tightly. Cousin. Relax a bit, can't you? Just
for a few minutes. You know my life is in your hands. There's no need
to be so tense. You'll be eating me soon enough."
Coyote was getting impatient. He wanted his dinner right away. Why
should he wait?
However, he said crossly, "All right, go ahead and tell me how they
carry and use their weapons, if you're so smart. But make the story
"I'll tell you. Cousin. They carry the bow in one hand and pull the
bowstring and arrow with the other. Then they let the arrow fly. Z-I-
Coyote argued with him. He was sure it was not that way.
"The bow and arrow come from over the man's shoulder," he
said. "You'd have to prove it to me, if I were to believe it's not
"Fine! I will," the cottontail said. "For example-do loosen up a
little, Cousin-for example, I'd be sitting here, as I am right now,
and a man would be watching me. I'd be watching him, too. He would be
circling me, getting closer and closer. . . Release me just a bit
more. Cousin, while I finish this story... Thank you! Now, as I was
saying, the man would be circling me. He'd have his bow and arrow in
his hand. He'd be all ready to shoot me. I'd be sitting low to the
ground, like this. As he slowly brought the bow and arrow up to shoot
me, here's what I'd do!"
He jumped out of Coyote's grasp, leaped over the coyote's shoulder
and was off in a flash.
Coyote whirled and ran after him. Time and again he was ready to snap
the cottontail up in his jaws, but always the wily rabbit dodged or
jumped over a bush.
Finally, the cottontail led Coyote to a place where many small,
needle-pointed yucca plants grew. Coyote was close behind him.
The cottontail had to think of something in a hurry. Ahead of him was
a small yucca plant, loosened by the wind. He jumped over it and
kicked the yucca into Coyote's open mouth.
Coyote thought for a second that he had caught the cottontail. His
teeth snapped down on the yucca and he got a mouthful of sharp yucca
needles. Before he could spit them out, the cottontail had run into a
crack between two rocks.
"I suppose you intend to blow that thick, black smoke in on me so I
Coyote hadn't thought of that, but it was a good idea. He got close
to the fire and began to blow. The smoke came into the crack, where
Cottontail got none of it.
"Blow harder," the cottontail urged Coyote. "I can't take much more,
so you may as well get it over. Come on Harder. Blow harder. Oh, I'm
probably about dead now. This smoke!" He coughed very hard pretending
to be strangling. "Get close to the fire and blow. Blow hard."
Coyote crouched beside the fire, blowing with all his might. Another
minute, and he d have that smart cottontail.
But when he could hear Coyote blowing as hard as he possibly could,
the cottontail gave the rocks a big push, throwing fire and hot rocks
into Coyote's face Then he bounded over his enemy and raced away to
Coyote was busy for some time, cleaning the ashes from his face. He
was so angry because he had lost the cottontail that he didn't do a
good job of the cleaning. For that reason, even today. Coyote has
black streaks down his face.