Spring 2005 Issue

Writer's Note: Coyote Stories in Native Mythology

Coyote, an interesting character, is found in Native cultures throughout North America. In some stories, Coyote is the Creator or has the power of creation. In others he’s a culture hero, battling supernatural enemies. At times he’s a messenger, bringing culturally significant information to the people. Sometimes he’s a trickster, outsmarting people and animal-people. And still in others he’s a buffoon; he's sex-crazed; he’s forever dying at the hands of a more clever being. These stories are meant to entertain, instruct, or do both. In contemporary Coyote stories, the concept is the same, although in most contemporary Coyote stories he’s a buffoon of sorts.

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Coyote Goes To Missoula

Coyote was bored. He hadn't stirred up any trouble for a long while. So he walked across the mountains to Missoula and enrolled at The University of Montana. The college was a busy place and coyote met a lot of new people.

Come out, let's play, he said but everyone there was too busy with classes and papers and all the other things that college students do. But coyote was persistent. Come on, you're taking this college-thing way too seriously, he insisted but no one listened. One night coyote met a beautiful woman and he charmed her. They went to the bars and listened to MATCHBOX TWENTY and got drunk. Come back to my place, the beautiful woman said because coyote's charms were especially powerful that night and they both walked back to her place, a double-wide, a ways out of town, and the beautiful woman kept horses and cows and sheep there.

In no time she led coyote to her bedroom, but the beautiful woman soon excused herself and left the room, while coyote undressed and settled back on the bed. I'm a clever thing, coyote chuckled and he lit a cigarette and admired his own body. When the beautiful woman returned, and she was gone for a long while--so long that coyote fell asleep with his cigarette still burning--, she was goose-stepping wearing nothing but a tunic, and toting a shotgun.

She said, Rauchen verboten, Schlepper in a low, raspy voice (kind of like Lucille Ball in her later years), and she pointed the gun at him.

Coyote looked about for someplace to flick his cigarette but given the immediacy of the situation, he jumped up and through the bedroom window. But the beautiful woman shot fast—she'd practiced often for such a day--and blew a hole through coyote the size of a Cornish hen.

Coyote lay sprawled on the ground outside the window.

The beautiful woman retrieved him and dragged his carcass to the back fence and hanged him there for the magpies and any passers-by to admire.

Coyote Gets Hit In The Head With A Brick


Coyote sat at the quiet lake and pondered.

He wasn't a deep thinker; yet, he was troubled and a serene setting, he figured, might bring some clarity to his muddled thoughts. He sought answers in the fish rising to the surface, in the wispy clouds overhead, and in the pink sunset. Normally, Coyote would dismiss any sign as a mere coincidence or possibly an anomaly (Biblical, at best), and to believe in such things, well, that was simply foolish behavior--for instance, his grandmother's stories of bear dreams and of animated rocks were ridiculous, never happened, he maintained--after all, Coyote was not only educated, having earned an A.A. degree in general studies at The University of Montana, but he was also well traveled, seeing much of America through the window of a Greyhound Bus. (The White Water Junction, Vermont to Montreal route was his favorite.)


Coyote's immediate problems began a day earlier, at a family get-together at a local Forest Service campsite.

Coyote was contently visiting with relatives, when his woman arrived with another on her arm, and both were drunk. Her date, for that particular evening, was clad in denim and a wide-brim cowboy hat, prompting Coyote's woman to announce, “I got me a cowboy!”

Well, Coyote's heart sank, and he was embarrassed. And his family was embarrassed for him, too. (He caught the occasional empathetic look from them, during the course of the evening, although they quickly turned away when he noticed their looks.) And then things got worse--his woman and her cowboy friend were talking boldly and laughing loudly, and it was one of those situations that Coyote didn't know what, exactly, he should do.

He thought about punching the cowboy in the nose, but he heard him mention something about being a former college football star. Coyote figured he bore enough embarrassment for one evening anyway, so he did nothing. The happy couple promptly left the get-together for the bars--Coyote's woman only intended to make an appearance to satisfy Coyote and his family, and to show them that she, indeed, had class, for her date was cultured; he had a foreign surname and a Flemish accent to boot! Coyote's woman didn't return home until the next morning, though she denied any wrongdoings, and even suggested that Coyote was delusional. (He liked to think of himself as intuitive.) Yes, Coyote was at fault for his own problems--so he was taught in his self-help tapes--, though he couldn't understand how or why, and this, ultimately, troubled him most. So, Coyote left the quiet lake that evening without any answers, but he wasn't sure if he wanted any, anyway.


Next day, Coyote arose at daybreak (actually, he didn't sleep that night or the night before). Two pots of coffee and a pack of Camels did nothing to clear his head, so he decided to take a leisurely stroll along the river's edge. It was a peaceful setting--the sun shone brightly, birds were singing to one another, and a quiet, gentle breeze kept the flies off Coyote--, although he, himself, would never use such a word as peaceful; it was too effeminate. But, all he could think about was his woman, her cowboy, and their performance at his family get-together. Coyote walked until he could walk no farther (literally, the trail ended), and sat himself down on the bank. He looked to the river, to the geese and their goslings. He looked to the sky, to the ospreys fishing from above. And then (and this was even out of character for Coyote) he shouted, “Please God, I need to know!” Coyote didn't believe in God--after all, he was educated and well traveled--but he was desperate.

“If something should present itself to me, something beautiful, then I can deem all is well.

Otherwise, I can only assume my suspicions are true,” he told himself. Coyote's bit of optimism even surprised himself; yet, if the truth be known, he expected the worse, for he is Coyote and Coyote is seldom hopeful. And then, right before him, floating in the river, was a dead, bloating dog. Coyote quickly poked about it with a stick, before it floated away, and he tried to identify its breed--it looked like a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, but the breed's so rare (and is oftentimes mistaken for a mongrel), and it was already partially decomposed, that Coyote couldn't be sure.


Coyote, feeling dejected, walked slowly away. Yet, with every step his pace quickened.

And his steps grew lighter. Coyote was going home, he decided, and the thought of his new adventure and what it might bring excited him.

The poetry of Jeff Lockwood has appeared in The FifthStreet Review (where he was a featured artist), Tiferet, A Journal of Spiritual Literature, the Kennesaw Review, Tribal Fires Journal, Bitter Oleander Press (forthcoming), March Street Press (a book-length manuscript of poems and prose poems, forthcoming), SNReview (Summer 2004), and other creative and academic publications. He’s received numerous academic awards, including the Fulbright, and he's a Sequoyah Fellow. Lockwood makes his home in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana, but still calls his birthplace, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, home. This winter/spring he’ll spend some four months in Jamaica, where he plans to write one publishable poem. Lockwood is of Chippewa ancestry. He recently completed the MFA-Writing program at Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont.

Copyright 2005, Jeff Lockwood. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.