My wife and my friend Janet have both told me I should write children’s stories so I thought this one up on the way home this morning. This is for Ann and Janet.
One day Little Bear was walking alone by the edge of the forest near his village when he came upon a Coyote. He was a little frightened, but Coyote sat down and smiled at him.
“What is your name, little boy?” said Coyote.
“My name is Little Bear,” said the boy. Little Bear had the ability to speak to animals.
“How interesting,” said Coyote, “I wonder why your parents didn’t name you ‘Little Coyote’ instead of Little Bear.”
“I don’t know,” said the boy, “I have only my mother and it was she who named me.”
“How very nice for you,” Coyote said. Coyote moved around Little Bear so that the boy was between him and the forest.
“Tell me, why are you out here all alone?” asked Coyote.
“I am just taking a walk and enjoying the beauty of nature,” Little Bear said. Which was true. He loved to be outside, where all the wild things are.
“I see,” said Coyote, “tell me, have you heard that Coyotes can grant wishes and sometimes do magical things?”
“I have heard,” Little Bear said, “that Coyote is called ‘Trickster’ because he sometimes plays tricks on the People.”
“Now that’s not fair,” said Coyote,”do I seem like a trickster to you? We are having a nice talk in the bright sunshine and there are no tricks here, I am sorry you would think that of me.”
Feeling bad about what he said, Little Bear told Coyote, “You seem very nice and I do not think you would trick me.”
“Very well then, let me show you what kind of magic I can do,” said Coyote, smiling. “Tell me what it is that you most desire.”
Little Bear thought about this for a moment. He would love a new bow and some arrows to use. Then he remembered his mother and came up with the perfect idea. “Our cook pot at home has a hole in it. My mother would love a new one to cook our meals in.”
“Well there you are,” said Coyote, I just happen to have a shiny new cook pot that I found this morning and have left in the woods. If you want it, you may have it. And once you have the pot, your mother will be so proud of you and you will know that I am no trickster.”
Little Bear imagined his mother being so happy with him for bringing her a new cook pot that he lost all fear of Coyote. “Can we go get the cook pot now?” asked Little Bear.
“Well Little Bear,” Coyote said, “I have other things that I must attend to today, but if you like, you may get the pot yourself. All you have to do is walk down this forest path. At the end of the trail, you will find the cook pot. It is not far, and won’t take you very long.”
Little Bear looked down the path. It seemed a fine one, brightly lit by sunshine and if it wasn’t far he would be back in time for his mother to cook their evening meal in the new pot. “Alright, I will go,” said Little Bear.
“And I must leave also,” said Coyote. “When you have your new cook pot, maybe then you will think more kindly of me. So long, Little Bear.” And with that, Coyote, smiling again, turned and walked away.
Little Bear started off down the trail. It was a clear trail and an easy walk. He had never been here before but birds were singing and bees were buzzing and the day turned fine and warm. Along the way, he met a squirrel who was chasing through the underbrush, too busy to bother with a little boy. After awhile Little Bear noticed the trail was becoming harder to walk on. Roots lay across it from the large trees to either side and the branches came down close overhead and blocked out the sun. The air became stuffy.
Suddenly he came to the end of the trail. He looked everywhere but there was no cook pot. All around him was nothing but deep dark woods. Little Bear heard a sound behind him and turned around to find Coyote waiting for him. Coyote was not smiling anymore.
“Well,” Coyote said, “Now I have you all to myself with no one around to see. I will teach you to think badly of me.”
Just when Coyote thought he had the boy trapped for sure, out of the forest jumped a great White Wolf. The Wolf landed on the ground between Little Bear and Coyote and snarled loudly.
“What are you doing, Coyote,” White Wolf growled.
“Well I ah, I was just going to show this little lost boy the way home.”
“I don’t believe you, Coyote,” White Wolf said. “It seems to me that you are up to your old tricks. Now be gone before I get really mad. This little boy should not be out here all alone.”
‘Oh he’s not alone,” Coyote said, trying to get out of trouble, “he’s with me. I’ll take good care of him.”
Coyote, with his head down and tail between his legs, loped off into the forest.
“What is your name boy,?” White Wolf asked in a much quieter voice.
“My name is Little Bear and it seems I have been rather foolish today. Thank you for saving me.”
“You are welcome Little Bear. Now I think it is time you went home. If you come with me I will show you the way.”
“How do I know you will not trick me too?” asked Little Bear.
“That is a wise question Little Bear. It seems Coyote has done you a service, teaching you to be cautious. If you come with me, I will stay in front of you all the way so you will always see what I am doing.”
So Little Bear followed White Wolf out of the forest. When they came to the edge of the trees, White Wolf stopped. “Some of the people are afraid of wolves so I will go no further”, he said. “But there is your village ahead. Run along home now and remember what you have learned today.”
Little Bear turned to thank White Wolf for all he had done but he was gone. It was as if he had vanished. When Little Bear got home, there on the fire was a shiny new cook pot. “Where did we get this mother?” Little Bear asked.
“I don’t know, Little Bear. I heard a noise and when I came out there it was! No one in the village knows anything about it.”
Little Bear sat and thought about this for a long time. It was clear to him that Coyote was a trickster but could he be magical too? Did he feel bad about what he had done and left the cook pot to say he was sorry? Little Bear told his story to his mother while she was cooking their evening meal. His mother wondered greatly at all he said but was not sure she believed him. She finally thought he was telling tales but still wondered at the new cook pot.
When they finished eating they washed up, and walked to the edge of the village to watch the sun go down. Just as the sun was setting and the stars were coming out, Little Bear looked toward the forest. Right at the edge of the trees sat White Wolf. And beside him was Coyote. White Wolf nodded his head at Little Bear but Coyote looked away. White Wolf leaned over and nipped at Coyote and Coyote yelped and then held up his front paw and waved it at Little Bear. Then the two of them trotted into the forest. Little Bear laughed and walked home with his mother.