Old Man Coyote and Bobcat had been fighting all day. They’d been fighting and they’d been drinking.
‘I bet…I bet…’ Coyote began, his brain exercised as much focus as his eyes. He drained the rest of the Budweiser and loosed a colossal belch. ‘Erm…what was I saying?’
‘Something about a bet?’ Bobcat said.
‘Thassit…I bet that I can—anymore beers?’ he accepted the one offered, twisted off the cap. ‘Thanks…oh yes, the bet. I bet that I can make more money today than you can.’
Bobcat stared at him for a long time, then he started to laugh. Bobcat was known throughout the tribes for his hard work. He was never without money.
‘Are you sure?’ he asked Coyote.
‘Sure as sh—’
Coyote woke some time later. His pride ached only a fraction less than his head. Bobcat had propped him against a tree. A flask of cool water lay beside him. Coyote drained it eagerly. He looked around for his drinking buddy, but knew he wasn’t there. He’d moved on.
‘Probably off making money,’ he laughed but was unable to remember why he’d found that funny, then held his head and wished he hadn’t. He also wished Bobcat had left him some aspirin.
It wasn’t until the throbbing subsided and the sun blazed high overhead that Coyote recalled the bet.
‘Oh sh—’ He leapt to his feet. He grit his teeth against the pain and rode the wave of nausea.
Half the day had already passed and he’d not made a cent. He’d be damned if he let Bobcat win this bet.
A search of his pockets had yielded Coyote the following: a battered, leather wallet containing thirty singles; a pocket knife; a small ball of twine (don’t ask); and an inspired idea.
Coyote set to work.
One of the great things about drinking places was that they always attracted drinkers. Even impromptu outdoor ones soon found equally impromptu company. And when the small band of weary, sun-beaten men arrived, Coyote was more than welcoming.
‘Come here, friends, and rest beneath the shade of my money tree,’ he told them.
‘Your what?’ One asked. His eyes turned to the canopy and opened wide. Hidden amongst the leaves, like fruit, were clusters of dollar bills.
‘My money tree,’ Coyote told him. ‘I’ve grown it from a sapling, harvest it every day. But now I’m moving, there’s no one to tend to it. I’ll be forced to cut it down.’
‘Cut it…’ Another interceded. He too was staring at the branches. ‘What if we made you an offer?’ He was almost salivating.
The men looked at each other, at their belongings and animals. Their spokesman said: ‘take it all and we’ll take the tree.’
‘I don’t know…’ Coyote hesitated. ‘Will you take good care of her?’
They all agreed.
‘Okay, but on one condition,’ Coyote smiled. ‘I get today’s fruit.’
And that was how the trickster, Coyote, won his bet with hardworking Bobcat.
O is for Old Man Coyote
Old Man Coyote, in one guise or another, features heavily in Native American folklore. He is most commonly viewed as a trickster and culture hero, but has been known to play the part of creator spirit. Ever the clown, most Coyote stories involve him trying to escape punishment for his actions or punishing bullies and others he believes need to be taught humility.