Klamath - Coyote and Badger
Coyote hunted all day and caught only a mouse and a lizard. His hunger grew bitter and sharp. So he thought to himself, "Badger, my brother-in-law, is more than a good squirrel hunter. He is a famous hunter of deer, and deer meat is almost as good as squirrel meat. Indeed, better, now I think of it. And though I cannot use Badger's squirrel-hunting trick, I can shoot deer. I will go out tomorrow with Badger to learn where he finds them. Then I will be the greatest of all hunters of deer!"
So it was that he rose before dawn the next morning and went to Badger's house.
"Dear Brother-in-law," said Coyote, "let us go hunting the deer together today."
"No," said Badger, for he liked best to hunt alone.
But Coyote teased and bothered and badgered him until at last Badger agreed. Together they traveled to the mountains and crept up through the chinquapin bushes toward the forest where many deer lived.
"Now," said Badger to Coyote, "we must separate. I shall go along the edge of the forest, and you must creep across the hillside down here. You will have first shot at every deer that comes up from the plain, and I will have first shot at any deer that comes down from the forest."
Coyote would have liked better to go along the edge of the forest, but he was impatient for the hunt to begin. Already he could almost taste the dark, juicy deer meat he would have to roast over his cookfire.
"Very well," said he, and he slipped off through the bushes. Now and again he raised up to see how Badger fared, and in the shadows under the forest's eaves could make out the white mark on Badger's head. But then the chinquapin bushes came to an end and Coyote could see only buckthorn ahead.
"Ow! Ho! Hai!" Coyote yelped as the thorns pricked at his ears and snagged in his coat. "Ho! Hai! Yow!" Surely, thought he, there must be an easier way to get deer meat.
But then Coyote looked up the mountain and spied a deer stepping down through the trees. "Hah!" thought he. "If Badger does not see it, it will come down past me."
He waited for a moment, then saw Badger put an arrow to his bow and raise it. Once, twice he shot. The deer turned and trotted on, and soon was out of sight. Coyote grinned. Badger, the great hunter, had missed!
Coyote raced up the hill.
"Brother-in-law," said he, as if he had not seen Badger shoot. "Did you see a fine deer come down through the forest a little while past?"
"I saw," said Badger. "I shot it."
"You shot it. Brother-in-law?" Coyote pretended to look around at the ground. "I see no deer. Come, you never shot at all."
"I did." Badger spoke calmly, for he knew Coyote's foolery well. "We will follow its tracks and see."
Together they followed the deer's tracks around the curve of the mountainside. They soon came upon the deer, lying dead with Badger's two arrows deep in its side.
"Tso! Two hits!" cried Coyote in admiration. He thought quickly. "Of course, had I been near enough to shoot, my arrows would be sticking in him too. Therefore, since we cannot both have the deer, we must settle which of us will take it home."
"Nonsense," Badger snorted. "It is mine."
Coyote paid no attention. He clapped his paws and cried, "A contest! We shall have a jumping contest. Let us stretch the deer out right here and mark the jumping line by his tail. He who jumps farthest shall have him." And before Badger could object. Coyote stretched out the deer, drew the jumping line, trotted back, took a long rim up to the line, and jumped.
He landed by the deer's ears.
"Ail" said Coyote to himself. "I can do better than that. But what does it matter? Little Brother-in-law Badger is so short-legged that I have won already. He will be lucky to jump as far as the short ribs."
Badger, knowing that to argue with Coyote was useless, walked back to take a long run. He barreled up to the jumping line and jumped clear beyond the deer's nose.
Coyote jumped up. "Loser tries again!" he cried quickly, and ran back across the jumping line.
The second time he jumped only as far as the deer's neck.
The third time he landed by the shoulders.
Again and again Coyote tried. Each try was worse than the last. When finally Coyote stopped and stood panting for breath, Badger began to drag his deer toward a level spot where he could more easily cut up the deer meat to carry it home.
"Ai, hai!" thought Coyote. "I must find some other way to beat him." Then he ran after Badger crying, "Stop, Brother-in-law!"
Badger turned and waited.
"The jumping contest was not fair. We must run a race," said Coyote as he caught up. "We will run a race, the winner will take the deer, and that will be the end of it."
"Hoh!" snorted Badger. "Off with you, Coyote! I won this deer fairly. He is mine and that is that."
Coyote planted his paw on Badger's back. "It was not fair, so we will run a race," said he. "Come, good Brother-in-law. If you beat me, the deer is yours."
Now Coyote was much bigger than Badger, and his foot was heavy on Badger's back. So Badger agreed to the race.
Coyote drew a new starting line. They made ready. They ran. And Coyote won, as Badger had known he would, for his legs were long and Badger's short.
"Tso!" exclaimed Coyote. "I win and the deer is mine. Lend me your knife and carrying sack."
Badger was already angry, and now he glowered and growled. "Why should I lend them? They are mine, and I will not!"
"How am I to get my meat home?" Coyote asked. "If I drag it all the way, my jaws will be too stiff for eating."
"That is no concern of mine," said Badger with a sniff. "If you were as clever as you think you are, you would find a vine to serve as a rope by which to drag your deer. I see one in a tree in the canyon below." And he pointed it out.
"Very well," said Coyote, but then he feared that as soon as he was gone, Badger would return and steal the deer. "There is no need for you to stay,' said he. "I can manage by myself. Had you loaned me your knife and sack, we might have shared the meat, but now I will give you none. So trot off and shoot a deer for yourself."
"Gr-r-r," muttered Badger. But he turned and stumped off out of sight.
Coyote made his way down the canyon toward the tree where the vine climbed. He went a little way, then looked up to make sure that Badger had not returned. But he was nowhere to be seen.
Badger had not gone far. He stayed hidden until Coyote was far down the canyon, and then scurried back. With a snick! slit! slash! of his sharp stone knife he cut up the deer meat and stuffed it in his sack. Then he humped the sack on his back and started for home.
Coyote, once he had pulled a good length of vine from the tree, climbed back up the hill at a run. His brother-in-law, he knew, was a stubborn fellow, and he feared the deer would be gone. But the higher he climbed, the more broadly Coyote grinned, for there was no sign of Badger.
"Ha, hai!" Coyote crowed. "I was too clever for old Badger this time!"
But when he reached the flat place, the deer was gone.
"Tso!" yelped Coyote. "How dare that fat little fellow sneak back and steal my deer? I'll teach him to trick Coyote!"
He headed for Badger's house as fast as his long legs could take him. Soon he spied Badger himself far down the long canyon below.
"Hah, hai!" said Coyote in glee. "I have the thief now! I shall run along the mountain and cut down into the canyon ahead of him. When he comes by, I shall fill him with as many arrows as Porcupine has quills."
Coyote raced up and down along the mountainside like a four-legged wind. When he reached the canyon floor, he crouched down behind a great boulder, taking care that his ears and tail were out of sight. His bow and arrow he held ready as he waited. And waited. And waited.
At last he raised his head above the boulder to peer up the canyon.
Badger was nowhere to be seen.
Nowhere, that is, until Coyote turned to look down-canyon. There, far off, was Badger with his sack on his back, heading for home.
"Hai, yowh!" Coyote howled, and stamped a foot in anger. "The fat little sneak has already gone by! He is faster by far than I thought. But next time I shall have him."
Coyote set off once more. He raced up the mountainside and up and down along the ridge above the canyon until he had gone far beyond the place he guessed Badger would be. In a flurry of stones and earth he plunged down into the canyon and hid behind an oak tree, his arrow ready against his bowstring. And waited. And waited. And waited.
"Hai, yai!" cried he at last. "Has the little thief passed me again?" And he ran a little way down-canyon until he saw, far off. Badger with his sack upon his back, heading for home.
Coyote was angry enough to eat Badger instead of deer meat. With a yelp and a yowl he scrambled back up the mountainside and tore along the ridge. "I'll get him this time, the stumpy-legged cheat! Badger, you are as good as shot and skinned," he panted as he ran. "I'll eat you alive, I will!"
But down in the canyon once more, hiding behind a clump of willows. Coyote waited. And waited. And waited.
And once more, when he stuck his head out to look up-canyon. Badger was nowhere to be seen. Once more Coyote had not gone far enough. Once more, when he ran a little way down-canyon, there, far off, was Badger with his sack on his back, heading for home.
"Hai-yowh-oo-oo!" howled Coyote. He was angry enough to bite rocks. He ran straight down the canyon, not caring whether Badger heard him coming. His ears lay back and his long legs flashed. Far ahead, Badger's strong little legs scrambled faster still, but because he was so short, Coyote drew closer and closer.
He was only ten paces behind when Badger dived into his hole and was safely home.
After a little while Badger, in his house under the ground, heard a wheedling voice from above.
"Dear Brother-in-law Badger, truly I meant you no wrong. I should never have tried to trick you out of your deer. But I was hungry. I have not eaten in days," Coyote lied. "Will you not throw me a bit of the head?"
Badger only smiled to himself. He began cutting deer meat in strips to dry it.
"Ai, please!" Coyote pleaded. "A bite or two of leg meat and I'll go away."
Badger paid no attention at all.
"Then toss up some of the guts, dear Badger," begged Coyote in a voice full of tears. "I never meant to cheat you. Brother."
But Badger knew better than to trust Coyote again.
And at sundown Coyote gave up with a sigh and went home to a supper of lizard soup.
Back in the Beforetime: Tales of the California Indians [the Klamath River region in the north to the inland desert mountains and the southern coastlands] Retold by Jane Louise Curry, 1987
From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories.