Neighborhood Tricksters Diane Moore

The Navajo believe the coyote is a trickster. They feel a coyote crossing your path is a bad omen. A Navajo co-worker told me the story of driving with her family through the desert when a coyote crossed the road in front of them. The family pulled the car over and waited until another car had crossed the area where they had seen the coyote. They believe that crossing that invisible line right after the coyote had passed would bring them bad luck. The next car passing through broke that line. Bad luck would not go to those people as the coyote had crossed in front of the Navajo family, not them.

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I frequently see coyote in my neighborhood and the woods where I live. If I walk in the woods around dusk I often see a lone coyote, but usually two together. I told a Navajo woman about my sightings. She said they are coming to tell me something. Usually it means a death is coming. I asked what she would do if she saw them. She knows a medicine man and would go to him she said. There would be medicine to protect her. I told her I have followed them, trying to take their picture. She was shocked I would do that.

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I’ve always liked the sound of coyotes howling at night. When I lived in Death Valley and in the Badlands you would hear them in the distance. It reminds me of a scary Halloween movie. Here at the Grand Canyon I hear a different sound from them. There is more yipping and you will hear them as they run. The sound begins in the distance, and increases in volume as they approach where I live, then fades as they continue by. I have been told they are likely chasing a deer, and as the mule deer are abundant here, and some as small as a white tail fawn back home, it sounds believable. I’ve also been told they have the ability to project their voices and make themselves sound as if they are a bigger pack than they are. I don’t know if that is true, but I like the idea of it.

On New Year’s Eve I stayed up later than my usual reading a book. I’m not usually awake at midnight, but I was that night. About 5 till my coyote neighbors began howling. It continued into the new year. I thought it was a fitting way to begin 2016. I don’t think I will tell my Navajo friend.

by Diane Moore

photos by Diane Moore

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