Coyote and the Hiding Rock


I discovered the big, old lonesome rock the summer that I was at Grandpa’s farm, and I claimed it as my own. The rock was on a narrow stretch of wasteland bordering one edge of Grandpa’s property. The land there was too rocky to be worked, and the stock disliked the thick, tall grass that grew there.

A sizable crevice in the top of my rock formed a natural hiding place. I could climb down into it, stretch out on my back, and watch the white clouds sail across the sky. Or I could sit with my back against the rock, play my harmonica, and listen to the way the sounds swelled against the sides of the crevice. It was a neat place.

Then one day Coyote came to claim the hiding rock.

The first time that I saw him, he was on the very top of it, his nose pointing skyward. He was howling a long, trembling wail that made me shiver.

“Get off my rock!” I yelled at him.

Coyote faced me, his pale brown fur ruffling in the wind. Then he turned and went over the edge of the rock and into the tall grass.

I climbed to the top of the rock and slid down into my hiding place, half expecting Coyote to appear above me. When he didn’t, I pulled my harmonica out of my back pocket and began to play my favorite tunes.

It was near noon when I climbed out again. Coyote was still around; I caught a glimpse of his pointy ears and long nose through the grass.

I grinned. Maybe he had been listening to my harmonica music. My mind worked on the notion. After all, Grandpa played his old radio in the barn at milking time. He claimed it relaxed the cows and made the milking easier. Maybe music would have a relaxing effect on the coyote too.

I puffed out my cheeks and blew a lively tune just to see. Coyote lifted his head and let out a terrible howl. I cowered back down into my hiding place, rubbing away the goose bumps on my arms. So much for that!

When I told Grandpa about Coyote, he only chuckled and told me, “He’s just being sociable.”

“You mean Coyote could become friendly—like a real dog?”

Grandpa shook his head. “I doubt it. A wild critter mostly stays wild. But your playing, now, must trigger that coyote’s inborn nature to howl, to sing along with you.”

Each time that I went to the rock after that, I played and played my harmonica, hoping that Coyote would come and sing along. He never did, but I always felt that he was nearby.

I tried leaving my lunch, untouched, beside the big rock and imagined him wiggling in on his belly until he’d get close enough to snatch it. But the tall grass was yellow and crackling-dry before I saw him again.

I played a game of sitting quietly in my hiding place and not blowing on my harmonica, hoping that Coyote would think me gone and come to the top of the rock to wail his claim.

And he did.

I didn’t hear him come, but all at once he was there, standing on the top edge of the crevice, looking down at me. My first thought was that he would spring on me. I hollered and waved my arms. Coyote disappeared.

When my pounding heart calmed, I could have kicked myself. I scrambled to the top of the rock. “Aw, Coyote,” I called, “I didn’t mean to scare you away!” I could see him skirting the rocks and shoving aside the dry grass as he trotted across the waste. Pulling the harmonica out of my back pocket, I began to play, hoping that the playing would let him know that I hadn’t meant him any harm.

Coyote stopped and sat down, his brown nose barely showing above the yellow grass.

That’s when I noticed the smoky-dark clouds rolling in. Even as I stared, the ominous-looking clouds were whipped by the wind to the edge of the waste and straight toward the rock. I knew, even before the clouds were over me, that it was too late to reach Grandpa’s farm ahead of the rain.

As I turned to crawl back into my hiding place, a zigzag of brightness split the clouds and hit the earth with a crash. Coyote leaped into the air as if stung by the lightning. I could only stand and stare at the little tongue of fire that started to leap up where the bolt had touched ground. Coyote raced toward it.

“Coyote, come back!” I screamed, fear rising in me.

Coyote swerved and ran in another direction. But even as he did, the wind lifted a bit of the flame, carrying it ahead of him and starting another fire in his path.

Now fire seemed to be everywhere. Great billows of smoke rose up to meet the dark clouds. Smoke choked me, and my eyes smarted until I could no longer see Coyote.

With a desperate cry, I dove deep into the crevice of the big rock. I stretched out on my stomach and breathed in the good air trapped in its depth. I covered my ears with my hands to shut out the sound of the crackling flames. I shut my eyes, trying to blot out my mind-picture of poor Coyote frantically running, with no safe place to run to.

I said a quick prayer: “Heavenly Father, please help poor Coyote!”

I felt a wetness across my nose and cheek. Then on my hand. I wiped it away. I hadn’t meant to cry. I swiped more wetness from my face, then realized that it wasn’t tears at all. It was raining! Rain would put out the fire. Rain would cool the smoldering earth. I choked back a cry. Rain—but too late to save Coyote!

I pulled my hands away from my ears to listen. Something moved beside me. I reared up and caught a glimpse of a pale brown body bounding up out of the crevice and disappearing over the top.

Coyote! Coyote had been lying right next to me!

I gave a whoop of joy and scrambled out behind him. All about the big, old lonesome rock the earth was shadow-gray and bare of grass. I could see Coyote trotting off toward Grandpa’s untouched farmland. Once he stopped to look back at me.

I grinned and drew out my harmonica. The hiding rock would forever after belong to both of us—Coyote and me.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Richard Hull