Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/385

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369
THE HOUND OF THE PLAINS.


break it in, and the old beldames rushed out to drive him away. This was the coyote's opportunity. As the hags dashed out at one door, the cunning thief seized a flaming brand in his teeth and leaped through the other. He almost flew over the ground, but the hags saw the sparks and gave chase, gaining on him fast. By the time he was out of breath he reached the puma, who took the brand and ran with it to the next animal, and so on. Last of ail was the frog, who caught the fire in his mouth, swallowed it, and dived, the hags catching his tail (he was a tadpole then) and twitching it off in the act. The frog swam under water a long distance, then came up and spat the fire into a log of drift-wood, and there it has stayed ever since, so that when an Indian rubs two pieces of wood together the fire comes forth. Another cognate myth (Gallinomero) says dry wood was first invested with this perpetual spark after the coyote had rubbed two pieces together until they ignited. The Navajos recount a similar fable. They, too, lacked fire, and were in distress, so the coyote, the bat, and the squirrel promised to get it for them, the fire seeming to be in the possession of the animals in general at a distance. The coyote fastened pine splinters in his tail, went to the place where the article was to be had, dashed through the flames and started homeward at full gallop. When out of breath the bat relieved him and flew till he was ready to drop, when the squirrel caught the torch and carried it into the camp of the Navajos. This recalls the Nishinam fable, though the two tribes belong to different linguistic stocks, and live a thousand miles apart. The Shastikas account for the origin of fire by saying that a long time ago there was a fire-stone in the East, white and glistening like pure crystal, which the coyote brought and gave to the Indians.

After Kareya had made him so amusing, the coyote grew ambitious and tried many feats which Kareya had never intended for him. The Karoks explain meteors, and especially those that seem to burst, by a story of these failures on the part of the adventurous animal who waited on a mountain-top and tried to dance with the stars. The star took him up, but would not stop when the novice grew tired, because Kareya had made it to keep moving. Thus he was compelled to go on dancing and dangling until he fell to pieces. Among the Navajos one hears that after the sun and moon had been made in the heavenly workshop, the “old men” set about embroidering the sky with stars in beautiful patterns; but, just as they had made a beginning, the coyote rushed in and contemptuously scattered the pile of stars broadcast over the floor of heaven, just as they now lie. The Kern River (California) tribes (related to the Pi-Utes) recite a complicated myth of how the coyote once made a trip through the sky in company with the sun. Another Californian race, the Tatus, believe the coyote to have been the original of human kind, and one of their legends accounts for Clear Lake, near which they dwelt. Many hundred snows ago, while men were yet in the form of coyotes, an exceedingly great

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