Sacred Texts  Native American  Southwest  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 30



ONCE upon a time Ko-íd-deh (the Bear) and Too-wháy-deh (the Coyote) chanced to meet at a certain spot, and sat down to talk. After a while the Bear said:

"Friend Coyote, do you see what good land this is here? What do you say if we farm it together, sharing our labor and the crop?"

The Coyote thought well of it, and said so; and after talking, they agreed to plant potatoes in partnership.

"Now," said the Bear, "I think of a good way to divide the crop. I will take all that grows below the ground, and you take all that grows above it. Then each can take away his share when he is ready, and there will be no trouble to measure."

The Coyote agreed, and when the time came they plowed the place with a sharp stick and planted their potatoes. All summer they worked together in the field, hoeing down the weeds with stone hoes and letting in water now and then from the irrigating-ditch. When harvest-time came, the Coyote went and cut off all the potato-tops at the

p. 31

ground and carried them home, and afterward the Bear scratched out the potatoes from the ground with his big claws and took them to his house. When the Coyote saw this his eyes were opened, and he said:

"But this is not fair. You have those round things, which are good to eat, but what I took home we cannot eat at all, neither my wife nor I."

"But, friend Coyote," answered the Bear, gravely, "did we not make an agreement? Then we must stick to it like men."

The Coyote could not answer, and went home; but he was not satisfied.

The next spring, as they met one day, the Bear said:

"Come, friend Coyote, I think we ought to plant this good land again, and this time let us plant it in corn. But last year you were dissatisfied with your share, so this year we will change. You take what is below the ground for your share, and I will take only what grows above."

This seemed very fair to the Coyote, and he agreed. They plowed and planted and tended the corn; and when it came harvest-time the Bear gathered all the stalks and ears and carried them home. When the Coyote came to dig his share, he found nothing but roots like threads, which were good for nothing. He was very much dissatisfied; but the Bear reminded him of their agreement, and he could say nothing.

That winter the Coyote was walking one day by the river (the Rio Grande), when he saw the Bear sitting on the ice and eating a fish. The Coyote was very fond of fish, and coming up, he said:

p. 32

"Friend Bear, where did you get such a fat fish?"

"Oh, I broke a hole in the ice," said the Bear, "and fished for them. There are many here." And he went on eating, without offering any to the Coyote.

"Won't you show me how, friend?" asked the Coyote, fainting with hunger at the smell of the fish.

"Oh, yes," said the Bear. "It is very easy." And he broke a hole in the ice with his paw. "Now, friend Coyote, sit down and let your tail hang in the water, and very soon you will feel a nibble. But you must not pull it till I tell you."

So the Coyote sat down with his tail in the cold water. Soon the ice began to form around it, and he called:

"Friend Bear, I feel a bite! Let me pull him out."

"No, no! Not yet!" cried the Bear, "wait till he gets a good hold, and then you will not lose him."

So the Coyote waited. In a few minutes the hole was frozen solid, and his tail was fast.

"Now, friend Coyote," called the Bear, "I think you have him. Pull!"

The Coyote pulled with all his might, but could not lift his tail from the ice, and there he was--a prisoner. While he pulled and howled, the Bear shouted with laughter, and rolled on the ice and ha-ha'd till his sides were sore. Then he took his fish and went home, stopping every little to laugh at the thought of the Coyote.

p. 33

There on the ice the Coyote had to stay until a thaw liberated him, and when he got home he was very wet and cold and half starved. And from that day to this he has never forgiven the Bear, and will not even speak to him when they meet, and the Bear says, politely, "Good morning, friend Too-wháy-deh."

"Is that so?" cry the boys.

"That is so," says Felipe. "But now it is time to go home. Tóo-kwai!"

The story-telling is over for to-night. Grandmother Reyes is unrolling the mattresses upon the floor; and with pleasant "good-nights" we scatter for our homes here and there in the quaint adobe village.


30:1 The Coyote, you must know, is very stupid about some things; and in almost all Pueblo fairy stories is the victim of one joke or another. The bear, on the other hand, is one of the wisest of animals.

Next: VI. The First of the Rattlesnakes