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Coyote frees the Buffalo [archive]

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Coyote frees the Buffalo

Coyote and his family were living for a long time in a village near the plains that were his hunting grounds. The hunting was good, for there were many buffalo, but one summer, there were none. Coyote and the other hunters traveled for many miles and found not one. Everyone in the village grew thin with hunger. Coyote's children cried because their bellies were empty.

"The buffalo are somewhere," Coyote said to himself. So the next morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that, he went out looking. "Somewhere I shall find the buffalo," he told himself each morning. "Why is it that I cannot?"

One day he did not go out onto the planes, but into the woods. Deep in the woods he climbed to the top of a knoll. A wind was blowing there, and in the wind Coyote spelled meat. He stood still and sniffed again. Yes, meat! Buffalo meat! Coyote lifted his nose and followed the smell. He followed it for miles, up and down, across creeks, and through brambles and brush. This smell grew stronger and stronger until he came at last to a lodge that stood by itself at the edge of a wood. Beyond the wood a high bluff rose above the trees. Coyote's nose told him that the meat was nearby, but it told him, too, that this was a bad place, so he hid in the bushes and watched. Soon he saw a small child come out of the lodge to play. The child ran all around the lodge. He threw stones at a tree. At last, he went to sit in the doorway of the lodge and deep in the earth with a stick.

Coyote grinned, and turned himself into a small, fat puppy. His coat was brown and black and silky. His eyes and nose were soft. But he forgot to change his whiskers and his eyes. He gave a little yipping bark, and tumbled out of his hiding place.

The little boy looked up and saw him. "Puppy!" he cried. "Puppy come!" And he ran toward Coyote-Pup and took him in his arms. "Father!" he cried as he ran into the lodge. "Father, look! I found a puppy!"

Crow, who was his father, looked at Coyote-Pup and frowned. "That is not a pup. Something is different about it. Something wrong."

"No! It is a puppy!" The child held Coyote-Pup closer.

"No, it is something different, not a real pup," Crow said. "It will be dark soon. Take it out and put it where you found it."

"I will not! It is my puppy. I want to keep it!"

His father frowned. "You cannot. Take it out."

"I won't!"

"Hoh! You will not? Well then, bring it here. We will see whether it is a pup or not," Crow said. He held Coyote-Pup out toward the cook fire and, as it came close to the flames, the pup gave a yip, and wriggled, and made water into the fire.

"Ha!" Crow laughed. "It is a pup! Take him and give him some meat to eat."

So the child did, and Coyote-Pup ate it all up and begged for more. Later, after dark, when the fire had burned down to coals, Crowe and his son went to their beds, and Coyote-Pup curled up beside the fire. The others soon fell asleep, but Coyote listened, and only pretended to sleep. When it was safe, he turned back into his own shape, slipped out the door, and followed his nose into the night.

His nose led him through the moonlight to the bluff behind the trees behind the lodge. The bluff looked like solid rock, but Coyote's nose told him that there was an opening. He sniffed and sniffed until he came to a crack. He followed the crack. A door. There was a door. He pushed, but it was closed fast. He could find no handle to pull. "Poh!" he said. "Open yourself!"

And the door opened itself.

"Ee-ow!" Coyote yelped and jumped out of the way just in time. A big bull buffalo charged out through the door, and after him thundered cows and bulls and calves, herds of them, and often buffalo to people all of the plains. Coyote danced up and down and urged, "Go, go, go!" as they passed. When the last of the buffalo had run out, Coyote pushed the door shut and hurried after them as they spread out and away toward the plains.

Inside the lodge, Crow woke and heard the thunder of hooves. "Buffalo going by," he thought sleepily. "It is good that all miners shut up." But he was uneasy, and he rose to go out and make sure. When he came to the rocky bluff, he opened the rock door, saw that the caverns were empty, and shouted out to his son, "They are all gone! I knew that pup was no pup!"

When coyote reached his own village, he called out, "Hoh, everyone! I, Coyote, have brought buffalo for our hunters to hunt. Take up your bows and arrows, and go after them!"

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