Coyote and the Sand

by Ben Hallert

One day, Coyote was walking through Oregon and stopped at the lip of the great Crater Lake. Chicken sat on his back; Coyote had tricked her into giving up flight and she was rather cross.

“Chicken,” Coyote asked as he scratched at the ground, “why do you think it is sandy up here? I know already, of course, this is just a test of your knowledge.”

Chicken considered Coyote’s question for a moment. She thought that maybe Coyote was lying about knowing, but Coyote was smart. He had, after all, tricked her out of flight.

“Ballast,” she hazarded. This was a safe answer that she could make fit whatever facts were needed.

Coyote examined the sand in his paw and nodded. “You will laugh to hear that I once spoke with someone who thought it was strange that sand could be found so far from the ocean.” He looked down into Crater Lake. “Tell me Chicken, how would you correct such a misunderstanding? I ask to learn if you are smart enough to continue as my travel mate.”

Chicken thought perhaps he was being dishonest, but she was not certain. Remaining cross with him, she decided to trick the trickster.

“Coyote, I would tell them of the great annual migration when birds chase the Sun to demand repayment.” Chicken knew that all birds did this because of an ancient debt the Sun had incurred and because she was a bird, but that is another story.

“The birds pick up heavy sand on the beach before flying.” Chicken looked sideways at Coyote because that is the way chickens look at things. “When they tire, they release it. This makes them lighter and faster so they may continue their pursuit.”

Coyote nodded. “Amusingly, this person would wonder why the sand is here and not on other mountains. They were very foolish to not know these basic facts.” He yipped laughter. Chicken cautiously clucked along in amusement.

She was not sure why Coyote was agreeing with her nonsense but he was very clever so she continued her lie. “They would be foolish indeed to not know that the top of this tall, old volcano is the perfect place to drop the sand because otherwise they would be too heavy and tired to fly over.”

Coyote nodded again. “Correct, Chicken.” He turned to go then stopped. “Perhaps I should carry sand too for the speed advantage it offers.” He rolled around and this was how all coyotes became the color of sand. He trotted down the mountain, heading southeast as they had planned. “I will drop my ballast when we reach Mojave; it is hot and tiring there.” Later, that was how Coyote made the desert, but that is yet another story.

Chicken watched, then turned back to the sand at her feet. After considering, she picked some up with her claws just in case. Coyote was ever so clever and she did not wish to be fooled again.

Ben Hallert is a pilot who works in information technology. He writes software for time travelers.