• Published 4th Sep 2012
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Gobbling and Other Traditional Pursuits - LadyMoondancer

Nightmare Moon was once considered an "old pony's tale." But what exactly did those old s

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Coyote and the Boulder

Coyote and the Boulder

One day Coyote was walking along. Sometimes he walked as a buffalo warrior with eagle feathers twirling at the end of his horns, and sometimes as a pony brave with long braids in his mane and tail, and sometimes he loped as a coyote, scruffy and lean. But in any form he brought mischief.

“Ah, what a fine morning!” Coyote said. “I hear there’s a powwow today. I think I’ll go to it and visit all my girlfriends!” (Coyote was always expecting girls to fall at his feet, though really they just rolled their eyes at him.) “Yes, that is what I’ll do. I’ll get dressed up and all the girls will beg to dance with me, aiee aiou!”

So he brushed his brown coat until it was glossy in the sunlight. Then he decorated his face and horns with festival paint. Finally, he put on his fanciest blanket, the one that was covered with dyed quills and bright beads set in beautiful patterns. He felt quite swanky with it draped over his back!

“Oh, what a fine sight I am!” Coyote boasted as he strutted across the plains, shaking his head from side to side to make his eagle feathers twirl. “Aiee, aiou, the girls will be all over me, that’s for sure!”

But the sun was shining strongly and soon Coyote began to sweat. His face paint became sticky and uncomfortable and he felt like he was roasting under the blanket.

“Whew!” he said, sitting down in the shade of a large boulder. “Being handsome is hard work! And it’s many miles to the village still. It’s silly, when you think about it. Those girls should move closer to my house. I wonder why they don’t.” Well, finally he stood up again, but he just didn’t think he could face the hot sun again, dressed as he was. He got an idea.

“Oh Grandfather Boulder,” said Coyote, addressing the rock, “I thank you for your shade. See, I am so grateful that I will give you a gift. This blanket will keep the beating sun off your rocky skin in the day and protect you from the cold at night.” And Coyote spread the fancy blanket atop the boulder and went on his way, feeling pleased with himself and much cooler.

So Coyote continued on until he reached the village. Many tribes of ponies and buffalo had gathered, dancing and singing as their hooves beat the ground in time to the drums. Coyote spent the entire day there, dancing and stuffing himself with fry bread and fruit pudding and making a nuisance of himself to all the girls. But they laughed and said, “Go on, bother someone else! We know who you are.”

“Well, they would’ve been all over me if I’d had my blanket along,” Coyote said as he walked home in the dark, many hours later. “Where did I leave it, anyway? It’s getting cold!” Just then he saw the dim shape of the boulder ahead of him. “That’s right,” he thought, “I put it on that rock. What was I thinking? Well, I’ll fix that right now.”

He marched over to the rock and climbed on top of it. “Grandfather Boulder,” he said. “You are a rock. You do not feel the heat of the sun or the cold of the night. You do not need a blanket. I’m taking it back.” And he took hold of the blanket and tried to pull it off. But the rock must have had powerful magic of its own, for the blanket stayed put.

“What’s this?” spluttered Coyote. “Are you defying me, old man? Give me my blanket!” He tugged at it again. But the fabric clung to the rock as though it had been painted there.

Then Coyote got mad. He paced back and forth in front of the rock, stomping and snorting. “Oh, you’re asking for it, you stubborn stone! I’m really going to fix you, you igneous idiot!” He curled himself up and became a brush-tailed coyote, his hackles up and his white teeth bared. “Oh yeah, look at this! Now you’re quaking in your sediment, huh? I’m a fearsome predator, that’s what I am!” He snapped up a mouse to prove it. “Give back my blanket right now or you’ll be sorry!”

The rock sat there.

“Okay then, you asked for it!” Coyote leapt at the rock and bit it as hard as he could. A second later he was falling backwards with a howl.

“OWWWWWWWW!” Coyote clutched at his jaw as tears of pain sprung to his eyes. “You miserable son of a landslide, you did that on purpose! Oh, I’ll make you sorry!”

He arched his back and turned into a buffalo brave, snorting and pawing the ground with his cloven hooves. “You aren’t the only tough one around here, Rocky!” He swung his head from side to side to show off his horns. “Give me my blanket or I’ll batter you into gravel!”

The rock sat there.

“Okay then, you brought this on yourself!” Coyote lowered his head and charged at the huge rock. He rammed it so hard that the ground shook—but then something went wrong. Coyote found he could not pull his forehead off the rock, nor his horns out of the gouges they had made. He was stuck fast.

“Hey, what’s this? No fair, no fair!” Coyote dug his hooves into the dirt and pulled and pulled backwards, but the boulder’s magic was too strong. He flailed and cursed and twisted this way and that, but after a while he grew quiet.

“Grandfather Boulder,” Coyote said after a long time of examining the ground, which was all he could see at the moment, “we seem to have got off on the wrong hoof.”

The rock said nothing.

“Of course you may keep the blanket, dear Grandfather,” Coyote went on in his most cordial tone. “I was only trying to remove it so I could replace it with a much larger, fancier one.”

He paused hopefully, but the rock said nothing.

“Can’t you answer civilly, you rockhead?? I mean, ahem . . . an answer would be appreciated, Grandfather Boulder. This blanket, you should see it! Oh, it has the most beautiful beadwork, and a fringe like you wouldn’t believe . . .” Coyote prattled on like this for a long time, but the rock said nothing. And it would not let him go.

Just as Coyote was resigning himself to spending the rest of his life with his horns stuck in a rock, staring at the ground, his older brother Wolf came trotting by.

“Oh Coyote, what have you got up to now?” Wolf said, sounding resigned. He was well used to Coyote’s mischief.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” Coyote said airily. I’m just resting my head against this cool rock. Ahhh, how good it feels!”

“You aren’t fooling anyone,” said Wolf. “It looks to me like you’re stuck.”

“Ha ha! Me, stuck! Me, stuck? Haie aie aie!”

“Stop that racket,” Wolf said, ears folding down, “and I’ll see what I can do.” He walked around the rock. He spoke politely to the rock. He grabbed Coyote’s tail and pulled and pulled, but he couldn’t shift him. “This is serious,” Wolf told him. “We’re going to need more help. I’ll go to the village and gather everyone up, maybe if we all pull together we can free you.”

“No!” shouted Coyote. “No! My girlfriends can’t see me like this! Why, they’ll be so upset they’ll cry their eyes out! They’ll do something rash, they might even throw themselves into the river—”

“Why is there a blanket on this rock?” Wolf interrupted him. He picked it up effortlessly and draped it over Coyote’s back. “There, at least now you won’t be cold,” he said kindly. “Wait patiently, little brother, until I return.”

Coyote was silent for a long time again, glowering at the dirt. “I see you have a sense of humor, Grandfather Boulder,” he said sourly. “Yes, I see how it is. You want everyone to laugh at poor Coyote! Well, they aren’t going to find me here when they get back!”

He swished his little tasseled buffalo tail and turned himself into a pony. In this form he was mostly caught by the mane. He jerked his head and pulled backwards and tossed his head from side to side and little by little he freed himself—but not without a cost, for his mane was being pulled out strand by strand and he kept yipping in pain all the while.

“Ha HA!” he said at last, pulling himself completely free and falling backwards on his haunches. “Oh yes, it’s Coyote who laughs last, always!” he said, getting to his hooves. The few straggly hair that were left of his mane bounced as he pranced around the boulder. “Once again Coyote triumphs! Wise Coyote! Clever Coyote! Handsome Coyote! So there, you dumb rock!” And he slapped the boulder insolently with his tail.

Well, of course his tail stuck fast to it. When Wolf and all the people arrived, they found Coyote bucking fruitlessly against the rock, wailing.

“Nooooo!” Coyote howled. “No, oh noooo!”

“Oh Coyote!” sighed Wolf. He and all the people rushed forward to help. All the ponies bucked backwards against the stone at the same time as all the buffalo dug under it with their horns and flung upwards with all their strength. And Grandfather Boulder rolled right up into the sky and caught there, among the stars. But Coyote howled louder than ever, because the rock took most of his tail with it.

“Oh dear, oh dear, poor Coyote!” he lamented, looking over his shoulder as he wagged his newly cropped tail. “The whole world is against me, that’s what!” Then he noticed all the people looking at him, snickering and whispering behind their hooves, and he immediately began to puff up again. “Of course I knew I could handle him!” he boasted, prancing back and forth. “Ha! Some rock versus Coyote—no contest!”

“No contest,” said Wolf mildly. “Of course you didn’t need our help. Tell us, oh great and powerful Coyote, why are we out here again?”

“Er . . . er . . .” Coyote stammered. Then he noticed the boulder still hanging in the sky, glowing with magic. His face had been pressed against it so hard that it left an imprint, like a hoof leaves in soft clay. “Why, to show you my new invention, of course! I call it the Moon. See how I’ve hung it like a lantern to bring light to all the people . . . and with a portrait of my beautiful face to boot. No, no, no need to thank me! That’s just the kind of generous and wonderful person I am!”

“Oh, Coyote,” said Wolf. “Well, it is true that some good has come out of your mischief, but you ought to have more sense. I hope that whenever you see your face up there, you’ll remember the foolishness that got you stuck to a boulder, and—Coyote!”

But Coyote's attention had wandered, and he was now laughing and racing the moonbeams across the plains with the fringes of his blanket flapping behind him.

“Oh, he’ll never learn,” sighed Wolf, shaking his head.

And indeed, he never has.