NEARLY all of you have seen pictures of the Burro, the quaint little donkey of the Southwest. He is very small,--not more than half the weight of a smallish mule,--but very strong, very sure-footed, and very reliable. And he is one of the drollest, "cutest," wisest-looking creatures on earth.
T'ah-hlá-a-hloon, or Big-ears, as the Tée-wahn call him, does not appear very often in their folklore--and for a very natural reason. Most of these myths were made centuries before a white man ever saw this country; and until Europeans came, there were neither horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, cats, nor cattle (except the buffalo) in either America. It was the Spanish pioneers who gave all these animals to the Pueblos. Nor did the Indians have milk, cheese, wheat, or metals of any sort. So when we see a story in which any of these things are mentioned, we may know that it was made within the last three hundred and fifty years--or that an old story has been modified to include them.
There is one of these comparatively modern
nursery-tales which is designed to show the honesty and wisdom of the Burro.
Once Big-ears was coming alone from the farm of his master to Isleta, carrying a load of curd cheeses done up in buckskin bags. As he came through the hills he met a Coyote, who said:
"Friend Big-ears, what do you carry on your back?"
"I carry many cheeses for my master, friend Too-wháy-deh," answered the Burro.
"Then give me one, friend, for I am hunger-dying."
"No," said the Burro, "I cannot give you one, for my master would blame me--since they are not mine but his, and a man of the pueblo waits for them."
Many times the Coyote asked him, with soft words; but Big-ears would not, and went his way. Then Too-wháy-deh followed him behind, without noise, and slyly bit the bag and stole a cheese. But Big-ears did not know it, for he could not see behind.
When he came to the pueblo, the man who awaited him unloaded the cheeses and counted them. "There lacks one," he said; "for thy master said he would send so many. Where is the other?"
"Truly, I know not," answered Big-ears, "but I think Too-wháy-deh stole it; for he asked me on the way to give him a cheese. But wait--I will pay him!"
So Big-ears went back to the hills and looked for the house of Too-wháy-deh. At last he found it, but the Coyote was nowhere, So he lay down
near the hole, and stretched his legs out as if dead, and opened his mouth wide, and was very still.
Time passing so, the Old-Woman-Coyote came out of the house to bring a jar of water. But when she saw the Burro lying there, she dropped her tinaja, and ran in crying:
"Hloo-hli! 1 come out and see! For a buffalo has died out here, and we must take in some meat."
So Old-Man-Coyote came out, and was very glad, and began to sharpen his knife.
But his wife said: "But before you cut him up, get me the liver, for I am very hungry"--and the liver is that which all the foxes like best.
Then the Old-Man-Coyote, thinking to please her, went into the Burro's mouth to get the liver; but Big-ears shut his teeth on Too-wháy-deh's head, and jumped up and ran home. The Old-Woman-Coyote followed running, crying: "Ay, Nana! Let go!" But Big-ears would not listen to her, and brought the thief to his master. When the master heard what had been, he killed the Coyote, and thanked Big-ears, and gave him much grass. And this is why, ever since, Big-ears strikes with his hind feet if anything comes behind him slyly; for he remembers how Too-wháy-deh stole the cheese.
105:1 Old Man.