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Skunk Outwits Coyote

A retelling of a Comanche myth

One day Coyote was hungry, and was out looking for something to eat, when he met up with Skunk, who was also hungry. "I have an idea," said Coyote. "Will you help me trick some prairie dogs so we can eat them?"

This sounded good to Skunk, so he said, "What do you propose?"

Coyote explained, "The prairie dog village is just over the next hill. You go lie down and pretend to be dead, and I'll catch us some prairie dogs."

Skunk asked, "Why must I play dead?" but Coyote said, "Just do as I say, and we'll catch many prairie dogs."

So Skunk went over the hill to where the prairie dog village was, and lay down to play dead. Coyote then appeared over the hill, and called out to the prairie dogs, "Look, our enemy Skunk has died! Let us have a dance."

The prairie dogs popped up out of their holes and saw Skunk lying there. Cautiously they came out for a closer look. Coyote said, "Let's all gather in a circle and dance. But when you dance over a dead enemy you must keep your eyes closed, or something bad will happen."

So they all closed their eyes and danced, and Coyote grabbed the nearest prairie dog and killed it.

When they finished their dance and opened their eyes, they saw the dead prairie dog. Coyote said, "Oh, dear. This prairie dog opened its eyes during the dance, and now he is dead. This time, everyone remember to keep your eyes closed."

So they closed their eyes again and danced, and Coyote killed another. In this way, one by one, he killed several prairie dogs.

Then as they began to dance yet again, one of the prairie dogs became suspicious. It opened its eyes and saw Coyote at work. "Coyote is killing us!" cried the prairie dog, and they all stopped dancing and ran back to their holes.

But Coyote had gotten enough prairie dogs for himself and Skunk. They gathered up wood and began roasting the prairie dogs. But when Coyote smelled the meat, he decided he wanted it all for himself. He challenged Skunk to a race around the bottom of the hill. "Whoever wins can have all the prairie dogs."

But Skunk wouldn't go along. "It wouldn't be a fair contest. You are much faster than me."

Coyote said, "I'll give you a head start, and I'll tie a stone to my leg."

Skunk thought about it, and then agreed. As Coyote tied the stone to his leg, Skunk took off. As soon as he was out of Coyote's sight, Skunk hid in a brush pile.

Coyote tied the stone to his leg, then started after Skunk. Soon however, Coyote kicked the stone off his leg and began to run as fast as he could. He quickly ran past the brush pile where Skunk was hiding.

Skunk then ran back to the fire and started eating the prairie dogs, leaving only two small bony ones that he didn't want. Then he cut off the tails of the ones he had eaten, and put the tails back in the fire.

Coyote continued racing around the hill, surprised that he hadn't caught up to Skunk yet. "He must be a faster runner than he lets on," thought Coyote.

When Coyote got back to the campfire, he saw the prairie dog tails sticking out and grabbed one, anticipating a meal. But all he got was the tail. He grabbed another one, and found just a tail again. He began to suspect someone had stolen the prairie dogs while he and Skunk were racing. But he did find the two bony ones and ate what meat he could from them.

Then he looked up at and saw Skunk at the top of the hill. "Someone has stolen our prairie dogs," Coyote said.

Then Skunk threw some bones down at Coyote. "You took them!" Coyote cried. "We agreed to share them."

"We agreed to race for them. I won the race, so they are mine," said Skunk. And as Coyote continued to plead for them, Skunk ate the last morsel. On this day, Skunk was a better trickster than Coyote.

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