One of the many short stories that Paula wrote is especially whimsical and, of course, a great source of learning. It is simply named Coyote and His Kin. It is a reminder to us all that we are here to learn, and that sometimes that learning may come in the form of a great teacher or in the form of a trickster who is in our life to remind us to follow our personal path by trying to lure us from it. Coyote can teach us if we pay attention, and remember to ask, “what may we learn from this?”


Paula Underwood

Coyote is someone you need to know, my father said, someone you need to know better. You see, he shows us things we need to understand. But he does it in his own way. If you understand his way, he’s a real teacher. If you don’t . . . well . . . you might spend a lot o’ time chasing rainbows. Rainbows are beautiful, sure enough, but they sure are hard to catch!

Coyote . . . is a rainbow chaser.

Chasing rainbows is Coyote’s way. He’ll turn and point toward the horizon. “Look!” he’ll say, “look at the beautiful rainbow. Let’s catch it!” And off across the desert he goes, dodging scrub, lickety-split.

You can follow him for a while. Might even be fun, dodging scrub, lickety-split . . . but it sure is a hard way to earn a living . . . and Earth gives to those wise enough in her ways to know where to look. And where will you look, if you’re chasing rainbows.

That’s Coyote’s way, leading you toward rainbows.

Somehow you know better, know you should be hoeing corn . . . or drying buffalo meat for
winter . . . but here’s Coyote . . . and a chance to chase rainbows.

Some people say that Coyote’s a trickster, that he tricks you into things. But didn’t you already know that chasing rainbows is a lot like trying to make a home in a soap bubble? How long do bubbles last? How still do rainbows hold . . . waiting for your arrival?

So you already knew the rainbow wouldn’t wait . . . and you chose to go anyway. Wanna do that twice? Want to try that again?

Well . . . maybe you learned something.

Coyote is a teacher, if you understand his way.

He sees you there, trying to make up our mind. He sees what you’re thinking.

“I know I should be hoeing corn, but can’t I find something better to do?”

And just then . . . he just happens to pass by.

“Ho there, Brother,” he says. “I’m going to the trading post. Hear they’re giving away corn for free. Wanna go along?”

That right? You think so, do you? Corn for free? Hey, no hoeing there. Sounds good? Why not? Why not a nice walk on a sunny day, kinda too warm for hoeing anyway?

And what happens then? Does the corn hoe itself while you’re walking? Is there really free corn at the trading post? You think Coyote’s telling the truth . . . this time?

Of course he is! He’s telling the truth in his own way. If you know how to listen, you hear his real words:

“Ho there, Brother! I’m going to the trading post, because I don’t eat the way you eat. I’m looking for a free handout from what they throw away. And unless you think they’re giving away corn for free, you’d better get busy! Because if you come along with me, all you can expect is a free handout from what they throw away.

“That’s the way of it, if you think about it! Truth is, you’re pretty lucky to have corn to hoe . . . already planted . . . already growin’. Truth is, your wife and children may get real hungry, if you don’t get busy, if you hoe no corn.

“That’s the way of it. But come if you like. I lo-o-ve company.”

And if we listen to Coyote . . . and laugh . . . well, maybe we learned somethin’, learned to be who we are, learned to do what we need to do, learned . . . to drink in the beauty of rainbows . . . while leaning on a hoe. Part of life. Not its purpose.

Coyote comes to remind us who we are. He comes to remind us to look for our personal path. He comes to reinforce the vision with which we each perceive that Path.

Yet how does he do this, Coyote or his Kin? How does he remind us of the essential nature of that Path? Why . . . he tries to lure us from it! Tries to lead us astray . . . off . . . chasing rainbows, so that we must find our own way back to that Path again and again, reminding us of where it is, if we’ve forgot, reminding us of how to find it again, if we’ve lost our way. Coyote comes on a summer’s day when we don’t really want to hoe corn anyway . . . to remind us of the value of corn . . . to remind us of who we are. He gives us a chance . . . to be foolish, so that we can learn what that is like. So that we can lean whether we want to spend our lives . . . chasing rainbows across the desert, dodging scrub, lickety-split.

Coyote is a teacher . . . when you know how to listen.

And kind thoughts come . . .

To which the author appends: . . . Remember, Coyote often runs for office! . . .