Átsé Hashké dóó Dáákeh (Coyote and the Cornfield)

Note: The Navajo (Diné) word for "Coyote" is Mąii, but the Diné word for the "Coyote" (of Navajo mythology) is Átsé Hashké. The Diné word for "Cornfield" is Dáákeh. The Diné word for "Wildcat" is Náshdóí.

While trotting along through the pinons one day, Coyote saw a wildcat sitting on a high limb. "Hey, Cousin," Coyote called to him. "What are you doing up there?" "Looking for food," said the wildcat. "I'm very hungry. I saw this bird's nest up here and thought there might be some little birds in it. But there was nothing but a rotten egg ... What are you doing, Cousin?".

"I'm on my way to the farmer's cornfield. I'm going to have a dinner of sweet, juicy, just ready-to-eat roasting ears. Why don't you come with me?" Wildcat came down from the tree and sat near Coyote.

"So corn has ears! Isn't that what you said?" "Yes. You tear them from the corn stalk, pull the husks back and eat the kernels." "I never thought of eating ears," the wildcat said. "Usually I leave the ears . . . What is corn?" "The best food you ever tasted," Coyote said, smacking his lips. "And there's so much in one field that you can have all you can hold ... I hardly can wait. Come on."

"How far is it?" the wildcat asked. "I've had hard luck hunting, and I'm very weak. I doubt if I could run far until I've had something to eat." It was quite a long way, but Coyote wanted to fool the wildcat.

"Oh, it is only a little way over there," he said, pointing his lips in the direction of the cornfield. "Over a couple of hills." "But won't the farmer chase you out of the field?" the wildcat asked, still undecided. "As I said, I'm hungry and weak. I won't be able to run very far or very fast." "The farmer will chase us if he catches us stealing his corn," Coyote said. "I'll help you run fast. I know a magic way." "Well, all right, then," the wildcat said. "I'll go. But I still don't know what corn is."

Coyote tried to explain. "First, there's a green cornstalk with nice green leaves. Then a stick grows out of the cornstalk. And on this stick these soft, yellow, milky kernels grow. They're wrapped in husks. You pull the husks back and chew the kernels off the stick."

"Is it all yellow?" the wildcat asked, trotting along beside Coyote. "No, some of it is white, and -- " "Like snow?" the wildcat interrupted. "True," said Coyote, "and some of it is red, and - " "Like blood?" the wildcat asked. "Yes, and some of it is blue. Like the sky at night." "I'll go with you all the way," the wildcat said. "I can't imagine that red, white, blue and yellow stuff that's sweet and soft and grows on a stick, but I want to see it and taste it."

With Coyote leading, they ran up one hill, then another and another. The wildcat grew tired. His tongue hung out. He was puffing and panting. He staggered as he ran. "I can't go any farther. Cousin," he called to Coyote. "But look! "Coyote encouraged him. "There's the cornfield down below us. That green patch. Surely you can make it that far." The wildcat was too tired to argue. "You go on," he said. "I'll come more slowly."

Coyote ran fast down the hill to the cornfield. "Beautiful! Beautiful!" he said as he reached the first rows of corn. "Yum, yum, yum! I'm glad I'm hungry." He looked back. He could see Wildcat coming slowly down the hill. Then he began tearing the ears from the cornstalks and eating the juicy corn.

When the wildcat caught up with him, Coyote had his mouth so crammed with corn that it dribbled from the corners. "Help yourself. Cousin," he mumbled and went right on eating. "I'll rest a little while, first," said the wildcat, flopping down in the shade and going to sleep immediately.

Coyote went on greedily pulling ears of corn from the stalks, stripping back the husks and chewing the kernels from the cobs. He almost had his fill, and his stomach was bulging when he heard the farmer and his three sons coming.

A rock whizzed past his ear. Another went over his shoulder. "Run, Cousin, run," he yelled at the wildcat. "They're after us." Away he went, sprinting past the wildcat and up the hill, a half-eaten ear of corn in his mouth. The wildcat awoke and began to run for his life.

"What's your magic for running faster?" the wildcat called to Coyote. The coyote's mouth was full. He just turned his head from side to side, rapidly. Wildcat thought he meant that he should turn his head from side to side in that fashion. He tried it. It made him dizzy. He began staggering. He staggered right off the edge of a little canyon and fell into the branches of a cedar. The farmer and his sons went past him without seeing him.

Coyote was too full of corn. He began to get tired. He knew he had to think of a trick, or the farmer and his three big sons would catch him. He dropped his ear of corn and began dodging - around this bush, then that rock, then into a gulch and up a hillside. When he thought the farmer and his sons had become confused, he crawled into the deep shade of a bush and lay very quiet.

The farmer and his sons looked and looked, but didn't see Coyote. Soon they gave up and went home. Coyote watched them disappear over the hill. Then he curled up and went to sleep. He never did know what became of that hungry wildcat.

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URL: http://www.lapahie.com /Coyote_Cornfield.cfm
Creator(s): Harrison Lapahie Jr.
Dated Created: 12/03/2011
Version: 2.0
Updated: 05/16/2014
Curator(s): Harrison Lapahie Jr.
Resource(s): Coyote Stories of the Navajo People, Navajo Curriculum Center Press, 1974 School Board, Inc. Rough Rock Arizona
Questions/Comments: Harrison Lapahie Jr.

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