Coyote and the Pitch Baby

Coyote knew his family was hungry, so he went down to the corn patch and stole some corn. He did this several times. The people, every time they went to the corn patch to work, missed some corn. They asked each other about it, but no one knew who was taking it. The people talked over how they were going to find out who was the thief.

Coyote always went after midnight, for he knew that by that time the people were all asleep.

After a while they found tracks there. Some said it was Dog who was taking the corn. The tracks looked like dog tracks. Some said it was Codi. They tracked him to his home. Then they knew.

“Let us punish him,” they said.

Some went out to the oak trees and gathered pitch and some went among the pine trees and got some. Coyote always took one trail to the corn patch and the people had discovered this from his tracks. So they made a figure of pitch, just like a little baby standing up.

Next time Coyote came down he saw a figure there. He thought someone was watching.

“Oh, someone will find out I’m stealing the corn,” he said.

He came up quietly. He thought that he was discovered.

So Coyote spoke up to this figure. “What are you doing over here?”

There was no answer.

“Are you lost, or are you waiting here?”

He asked many questions, but got no answer.

“All right, if you won’t talk to me, I’m going to slap your face!”

He slapped at the face of the figure. His hand stuck there.

“You won’t talk to me and then you hold my hand! Let it go, I say, or I’ll hit you again.”

There was no answer. So Coyote hit at the figure with his other hand. This hand stuck fast also.

“Now you are holding both my hands! What does this mean? If you don’t let me alone, I’ll kick you.”

He kicked with one foot.

“Oh, so you’re holding my right foot now!”

Now he was caught in three places.

“Oh, I have another leg. If you don’t let me go, I’ll kick you hard with it.”

And he kicked with his other foot. This too was caught. So Coyote was caught fast by both arms and legs.

At first he was angry. Then he began to plead. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. Please let me go. I was just playing with you. My children are waiting for me.”

Finally he became angry again. “Now if you don’t let me go, I’ll bite you!”

He bit at the figure. Now he was caught by the mouth too and he was helpless. He had to stay there till morning. When the people came around that morning they found him.

Four people came and put a rope around his neck. They pulled him from the pitch figure. They started to take him back to the camps, to the chief. The chief acted as judge.

They asked questions. “Why do you come down and eat our corn every night? You have two hands; why don’t you plant corn yourself for your children?”

He said, “I didn’t steal your corn. My wife wanted me to go and get some leaf. I was going that way for the first time. I didn’t know someone was standing in my way because it was so dark. So I walked into him and he caught me.”

But the chief didn’t believe him. “We saw your tracks there many times,” he said. “The next time you steal corn you will stay right on that figure, for no one will take you away and save you.”

Then they released Coyote.

He started to go home. His hand was all covered with pitch. He picked up some grass, and it stuck to his hand. He tried to bite it off. But his face was the same way. Grass and thorns and everything that touched him stuck to him.

When he got home his wife asked him, “Where have you been? It looks as though you have been eating by yourself. Look at your face and hands! They are all sticky. Why don’t you tell us and invite us when you have something to eat?”

He was quiet. After a while he said, “Oh, you bad children! You sent me away and I fell in the mud. The mud was very sticky and that’s why I am like this.”

So they helped clean him off. They cleaned off his mouth and his feet too.

Then his wife told him, “Go down to the river and wash yourself. I don’t want you to come in with your face and hands that way. You might get the children dirty and sticky.”

So he went down to the river.

*

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