Manataka American Indian Council





Aug-Sept 2011



Coyote Steals Wheat: Coyote's Feces Under His Hat

 Apache / White Mountain Legend
Coyote was always in trouble. This was long ago when our people and animals and birds lived together near White people. Coyote was going around among the camps visiting. He would stay in one camp a while and then move on. Then he stayed at Bear's camp. From there he used to go to the White man's camps and fields and steal wheat. He went at night and took the ears off the wheat, carrying them away. Every night he was doing this.


The White man who owned the farm found out what Coyote was up to and trailed him from where he had stolen the wheat. When he located the path by which Coyote had come, he went back and all the White men held a council as to what they should do and how they should catch Coyote. They made a figure of pitch, just like a man, and stood it up by the trail where Coyote used to go into the field.


That night Coyote went back to steal wheat again. When he got to the field, he saw the pitch man standing there. Coyote thought it was a real person and he said, "Gray Eyes," he always balked like a Chiricahua,


[This is the Chiricahua name for Whites, according to Western Apache, Frequently narrators in speaking Coyote's parts assumed a marked nasal voice which they say is a Chiricahua speech characteristic. It is done to make Coyote the more ludicrous. Relations with the Chiricahua Apache were not always friendly, as may be surmised.]


"Get to one side and let me by to the wheat.  I just want a little. Get over I tell you."


He was close to the pitch man now, but the pitch man wouldn't move.


Then Coyote said, "You will not move? If you do not move over, I will hit you with my fist and knock you over. Wherever I go on this earth, if I hit a man once with my fist, it kills him."


Coyote thought this was a real man "All right, then I'm going to hit."

He did and his fist stuck fast in the pitch, clear to his elbow.


"What's the matter? Why have you caught my hand? Turn loose. This other hand is worse yet. If I hit a man with it, it knocks all his senses out."


Then Coyote struck with his other fist and this arm got stuck in the pitch also. Now he was just standing on his two hind legs.


"What's the matter to I'm going to kick you now because you hold me this way.  If I hit you, it will knock you over."


Then Coyote kicked and his leg went into the pitch and stuck. Now he was standing on one leg only. "This other leg is worse yet and I'm going to kick you with it," he said. He kicked and his leg stuck into the pitch. AH his lees were held fast in the pitch and only his tail was left free. This tail of mine, if I whip you with it, it will cut you in two. So turn me loose "


But the pitch just held him. He struck with his tail and got it stuck also. Only his head was free.


He was still talking with it, "Why do you hold me this way ? I will bite you and if I do I will kill you. You better turn me loose before I do. I will bite your neck."


But the pitch did not listen to him. He bit it and got his whole mouth stuck and there he was. 


In the morning the farmer came, put a chain around Coyote's neck and lead him back to the house after he had taken him out of the pitch. When he got to the house, he said to his family,


"This is the one who has been stealing from me."


The White people held a meeting as to what they should do with Coyote. Then they decided to put Coyote into a pot of boiling water and scald him.
So they filled a pot with water and set it to heat, tying Coyote up to one side, by the house. Pretty soon Coyote saw Gray Fox coming along. Gray Fox was loafing around the house, looking for something to steal from the White man. He saw the pot boiling on the fire.


Coyote called to him, "My cross-cousin, come here. I want to tell you something,"


Gray Fox started to come. He did not know Coyote was tied up. When he got there he saw Coyote was fastened.


Then Coyote said, "My cross-cousin, there are lots of things cooking for me in that pot," though the pot was only to scald him in. "There are potatoes, coffee, bread, and all kinds of food for me. They will soon be ready and they are going to bring them to me. You and I will eat them. We will eat lots. For this reason I want you to put this chain around your neck while I go and urinate behind that bush. Fox said all right and he took the chain off Coyote, putting it on his own neck. Coyote left and when he got behind the bush, he ran off.
 After a while the water was good and hot and the white men came to where Gray Fox was tied.


"This one is little. What's the matter ? He must have shrunk, I guess," they said. [The gray fox is a smaller animal than the coyote.]


They lifted him up and threw him into the hot water. His hair came out. Now Gray Fox was all red and without hair. They took off the chain and threw him under a tree. Gray Fox stayed there until evening as if he was dead. When it got dark and cold that night, he became conscious again.


He woke up and said, "I must have slept very hard."


Then he got up and started off. After a while he got to Bear's camp and asked Bear,


"Where is Coyote? Bear said that Coyote always went for his water just a little way above, at some springs.


"Coyote always comes there at midnight," Bear said.


Gray Fox told what had happened (he tells Bear all).


"I let him put the chain on me and then he never came back. That's why I am chasing him. If I see him, I will kill him."


Bear told him to go to the spring and hide, so Gray Fox hid himself there at midnight. Coyote coming to the spring, knew that Gray Fox's body would be all red. When Coyote got close, he said, "I see something red. I want to get a drink of water, but what is that red thing ?" Gray Fox just kept still. When Coyote put his head to the water to drink, he intended to jump on him- Coyote started to drink and Gray Fox jumped and caught him.

Gray Fox said, "Now I'm going to eat you up and kill you."


The moon was in the sky and it was shining down into the water.


Coyote saw it and said, "Don't say this to me. Don't talk like that. This in the water (the moon's reflection) is 'ash bread [A corn batter wrapped in corn husks and steamed in a shallow pit.] and it's good to eat. If we drink all the water we can take it out and eat if for ourselves."


Coyote was fooling. They both started to drink and kept on. But Coyote soon merely pretended to drink. Gray Pox drank lots. When Gray Fox was fall of water, he got cold.


Then Coyote said, "My cross-cousin, some White people left a camp over here and I'm going to look for some old rags or quilts to wrap you up in. Wait here for me." So Coyote started off and as soon as he was put of sight, he ran away.
 It was near morning now and Gray Fox got mad. He started off on Coyote's trail.


As he went along, he talked to himself, "If I see you again, right away I will eat you up."


He had drunk lots and so while he was trotting, he kept breaking wind, "gul, gul, gul, gul." He didn't know what the noise could be, so he stopped and listened.


"That must be White people coming after me," he thought. He started on again but kept listening and looking back. He couldn't see anything. After a long way he came to a place some White people had been camping. He thought he would look for some old gunny sacks.


Then he saw Coyote. "Coyote is the one I am looking for," he said and he planned as to how he could get close to Coyote. Finally he sneaked up on Coyote and caught him. "I'm going to eat you up. You fooled me many times,"  he said.


Then Coyote said, "Don't talk that way, my cross-cousin. I'm here looking for a sack. About tonight or tomorrow the ocean is going to come all over the earth and so I'm going to get inside a sack and tie it up over my head in order that the water will wash me up on dry ground. Why do you want to eat me when the ocean is going to come over the earth ?"


Gray Fox believed Coyote about the ocean, so he said, "All right," and let go of Coyote.


Then Coyote said, "My cross-cousin, look for a good sack over there and if you find one, go inside it and tie the mouth up. If the ocean comes, we will float on top of it and when it sinks again, we will come back on the ground and start all over again." Gray Fox started to look for a sack.


Pretty soon he found one and Coyote said, "You might just as well get in that sack now, because the ocean is close. I will tie you in. I want to do this for you and then I will do the same for myself."


So Gray Fox crawled in the sack and Coyote sewed the mouth tight. While Gray Fox lay in the sack, Coyote looked about for a big rock. Finding one, he lifted it up and let it drop on Gray Fox. He aimed for Grays Fox's head, but he missed. Then he ran off. Gray Fox had his senses knocked out, but after a while he woke up, tore a hole in the sack and got out.


Then he said to himself, "I will get Coyote."
Gray Fox looked for Coyote all over the mountains. At last he found him sitting under a large rocky point. He came up on him and grabbed him.


"Now I'm going to eat you up," he said.


Coyote said, "What's the matter with you. You are not very smart and don't understand things well."


Lots of clouds were in the sky and Coyote said, "I want to explain this to you. My cross-cousin, something bad is going to happen to us. That sky is going to fall down. All the people on this earth know it and are sitting under rocks. But I guess you could not have heard about it yet. They have been warned about sky." Gray Fox believed him. Coyote told him to watch out, as the sky was falling. "Try to put your hand against this rock here." Gray Fox did this and Coyote told him to wait, that he was going to urinate. When he got in back of the rock, he ran off. Soon, Gray Fox looked for him and saw that he was gone. Coyote went off to some other camps. But Gray Fox was still searching for him.


While Coyote was at the camps, he and Bobcat decided to go together to a place far off, where a White man was making some whiskey. They arrived at this place and Bobcat went to the White man to get him to come out of the house. While the White man was gone from the house, Coyote went in, stole the whiskey, and both he and Bobcat ran off with it. When they had gone a short distance, they stopped to drink the whiskey. After they had taken some, they commenced to feel good.


Then Coyote said, "My cross-cousin, I feel good; I would like to holler." "No, we are still close to those White men.


They might hear you," Bobcat said.


"I won't holler loud, my cross-cousin," Coyote said.


They stayed there, arguing and drinking and then Coyote wanted to holler again, but Bobcat said no.


"I'll holler quietly," Coyote said.


"All right then, holler quietly," said Bobcat.


Coyote intended to holler softly, but he slipped and hollered loudly. The White men were looking for these two and they heard Coyote. They went all together to the place they had heard the voice. Bobcat was always smart and so he hadn't drunk much. He only felt good, but Coyote was really drunk. The White people surrounded them. Bobcat got up and jumped over the first White man. The second jump he went right over all the rest and got away. They came to Coyote and arrested him, putting chains on his legs, and took him to town.

Later on Bobcat use to visit Coyote once in a while. Then on one visit, they arrested Bobcat also. They had them both locked in the guard house for quite some time.
One day, out in front of the jail, some white men were breaking horses. The two prisoners looked out and watched them. The horse they had they tried to saddle, but no one could get close to it.


Then Coyote told the guard, "If I were they, I would saddle that horse up right away."


The guard went over and told the others what Coyote had said. Then they said, "All right, we'll see. Tell him to come out here."


They let Coyote out. He went to the horse and did lots of things to it. He knew horse power and this was why the horse wasn't wild any more. [Men with horse power used it on bad horses to gentle them.] After he saddled the horse, he got on and rode it. Coyote thought he would fool these White people. He kicked the horse gently with his heel, but it wouldn't move. Coyote was thinking it would be nice to have a good saddle with taps and saddle bags. He told the White people to put on such a saddle.

They brought out a brand new one with everything on it, just as he wanted. He put it on and mounted, but the horse wouldn't move because he Just kicked it gently. The horse would go all right, but Coyote planned on fooling the White people.


Then Coyote said, "This horse is thinking about a nice white bridle and bit and lines, all covered with silver. He wants to wear it."


The horse wanted to go but Coyote kept holding him in. They brought a fine bridle, as Coyote had wished, and put it on the horse.


Then Coyote got off  the horse and said, "I want you to fill the saddle bags fall of crackers and cheese. That is why this horse won't go. He wants this. Also, I want to wear a good white shirt and vest and big show hat, and a pair of white-handled pistols in a belt. That's the way the horse wants it. Good silver spurs, the horse wants these also."


They brought all this equipment and Coyote dressed in it. They filled the saddle bags. Now he got on the horse. Ahead of him by the gate were some American soldiers. He kicked the horse and started right for the soldiers as fast as he could. He made it look as if the horse was running away with him. The soldiers moved back and he went through them.


They followed him, but he never was caught. Now they knew how he had fooled them and they looked all over for him.
Later he was traveling on foot again. I don't know what he had done with his horse. He knew where some White people were living who kept two good white horses. He went there because he wanted to steal these. Early in the morning he arrived and drove out the horses. He herded them to the top of a mountain. The White man who owned them looked for them, but couldn't find them. Later Coyote took these horses to some other White people, because he thought he was going to sell them. Just before he got there, he stopped and built a big fire. When it had burned down, he painted the two horses all black with the charcoal. After he had done this, he took them to the White man's house and told him to put the two black horses in the shed so they wouldn't get wet if it rained. He was afraid the color would wash off.


"All right, I'll put them in the shed," the White man said, and he gave Coyote lots of money for them. Coyote took his money up on the mountains where he lived. After a while it rained on the horses and the black was washed off them. Then they found out that these were the two white horses Coyote had stolen, so they started out after him. American soldiers were out after Coyote.
Coyote was sitting by a spring under a walnut tree. He knew the soldiers were after him. He swept all the ground clean under the tree and took his money, placing it up in the tree on different branches. When he finished, he sat there beneath the tree and waited.


Pretty soon the soldiers came, and Coyote said, "I'm going to tell you a story about this tree. This tree has money that grows on it and I want to sell it to you. It takes all one day for the money to grow and ripen on it."


Then the soldiers said all right. Coyote told them, "I want you to give me all your pack mules if I sell this tree to you."


Coyote was always thinking about food, and he thought there would be food in those packs. The White men said all right.


"Well, today what grows in the tree is mine, but from tomorrow on, what grows in the tree will be all yours," Coyote said.


Then he got a big rock and threw it against the trunk. When he did this most of the money fell to the ground.


"See, it only ripens at noon. You have to hit it just at noon."


He hit the tree again and the rest of the money fell to the ground. Now it was all on the ground and they helped him pick it up and put it in sacks. Then they turned all the pack mules over to him. He arranged it with the head officer so no one could say anything. [This reflects experience with Whites in which the Apache have learned that authority is strictly vested in one person whom other local officers, etc. must obey, a system considerably different from their own in which a chief did not enjoy unlimited authority.] Then he started off.


Coyote traveled till sundown and all that night, to another country. The soldiers camped under the walnut tree and the next day they waited till noon. Then the officer told the soldiers to hit the tree, as it was time for the money to be ripe. They pounded on the tree but no money fell out. Then the officer told the soldiers to chop it down, cut it into lengths and split it, for maybe the money would be inside. They did this, but they couldn't find even five cents. Coyote kept on his way. That night one of the mules got hungry and started to bray. He didn't like this so he killed every mule that brayed. He continued till he had killed all of his mules.


In the meantime the soldiers had gone back to the town. On his way Coyote came to a White man's house and bought a burro from him. He was always thinking about how he could swindle someone. Now he had another plan. Returned to his old home in the mountains, he put a lot of money up the burro's rear end; so much. Then he kicked the burro in the belly and all the money fell out behind. He tried it again and it worked as before. "This is the way I am going to do and I will sell this burro for lots of money," he thought.
So he put his money in the burro's rear end and started for town. When he got to town, he took the burro to the man in charge there and showed it to him.


"This is a good burro. When he passes excrement money comes out of him. He does this every day." Coyote always talked like a Chiricahua.


"Let's see this burro do it and we will know if it's true or not," the head man said.

"All right, you will see for yourself. As long as this burro lives, he does this. The first money that comes out will be mine and after that the money will all be yours," Coyote said.


"All right," they said, "this burro must be worth lots of money."


Coyote started to kick the burro in the belly and all his money fell out.


He gathered it for himself. "Now it's yours," he said.


They paid him lots of money and he went on his way.


"Next day, at the same time, he will do it again," Coyote had told them.


So the following day when the time came they brought the burro out and got ready to get the money from him. They kicked him, but nothing came out. He merely broke wind. They kicked him all day till evening.


Then they said, "We might just as well kill this burro and look inside him. So they killed the burro and cut him open, but there wasn't a sign of money inside, nothing.
After this had happened, a whole bunch of soldiers came to arrest Coyote. They followed him and on their way they packed much grain and other foods. Coyote, living up on the mountain, thought of how he could fool them again.

At that time, none of our people ever lied. Only Coyote lied. That's the way Coyote taught us to lie and steal. Long ago we believed what a person said and that's how Coyote was believed. On his way Coyote saw the soldiers coming. Right on the side of the mountain was a little ridge, all white, running down. Out on the end of this he sat, behind where the trail crossed it. While he was there, he passed his excrement on the ground. His straw hat was old now and he set it over what he had done. Soon the soldiers came to him. He spoke to them and said, "Right here I have found gold. I want you people to stay away. Move back now. This place is gold. You have never seen this before. It is sticking up right out of the ground. That's why I put my hat over it. If you want to buy this gold I will sell it, but it is the richest gold. This is a good country here as well. What I want in trade for all this is your pack train." "All right," they said and they drove the pack train to one side.


Then Coyote told them about the gold, "It's right in here, but I don't want you to lift that hat off it yet. If you do, it will turn into something else. If you do what I tell you, it will be all right. I'm going to drive the pack train over this ridge and then over another ridge. When you see me cross that second ridge, I want you to pick up this hat and you will find the gold."


Coyote started off, driving the pack train. The Americans waited for quite a while, watching him go.
Finally, they saw him go over the last ridge and out of sight. They lifted up the hat. When they did so, there was only his feces, mixed with the grasshoppers and juniper berries he had eaten.
My yucca fruits lie piled up.
Told by Bane Tithla
Taken from Myths and Tales of the White Mountain Apache by Grenville Goodwin, 1934

From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories




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