Coyote Ruins a Dog

On the other side of the fence was chaos and death,
at least that’s how it seemed
when the dog took off and scared that squirrel
right out of his thick fall fur and
into the coyote’s grinning mouth.
The dog shrieked and left a wet trail
clear to the truck and that coyote
laughed himself near to indigestion.
Had the dog known the coyote was
anywhere near, this might be
a different story, but the wind and the ground
conspired against her, so that when she
finally saw that laughing bastard clenching
her squirrel, still stunned and squeaking,
she showed how clichés are born and
populated that high pasture with an
odd collection that offset the Hereford and Angus
leavings; the odd runes of panic.

Those old longhairs,
the ones who got here first,
knew all about Coyote and respected him as
a creature of wisdom and great cunning.
He taught them well,
his deeds had the ear of the great spirit.
He was a clown and a warrior,
a hero and a fool,
a philosopher and a thief,
some kind of saint and
some kind of something else,
dancing to the tune of the world.
Sometimes, Coyote was the will, the puppeteer
whose boundless guile let you know
that to disobey carried consequence,
real and not imagined,
and delivered great weight in the way
you lived or in the way you died.

But some of those same old longhairs
believed that if you danced just right
and your heart was pure,
and you wore a magic shirt,
the bluecoat’s bullets wouldn’t hurt you.
That was a powerful idea whose time
never arrived and died along with many fine people.
So, I looked across the fence to where the coyote
had dropped his squirrel into the stiffening grass.
He stood unconcerned,
looking at me with arrogant eyes.
“Your dog may be ruined,” he seemed to say.
We shared a grim smile at that,
not much could I mount in argument.
He was as right as he needed to be.
The big pistol stayed heavy at my hip
as he trotted off with the squirrel’s tail floating
from his mouth like a sideways question mark.

(Photo by Ron Niebrugge:


About Jim Stewart

Writer at Butt in Chair
This entry was posted in American Indian, Cheyenne, cowboy poetry, Coyote, Dream, Lakota, memory, Oregon, Poem and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Coyote Ruins a Dog

  1. Poor squirrel. I have a soft spot for coyotes right now. My guide son is fascinated with them.

    • narble says:

      They are, indeed, fascinating. We have a pack in our woodsy neighborhood. They are misunderstood a lot and most ranchers will just shoot them out of hand. I think you can learn a lot by watching them and how they treat each other. I will never tire of it.

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