I Saw Me A Coyote This Morning, by Charles Wood

Charles was a frequent contributor to this blog until his coyote family fell apart, his dogs passed away, and he moved to New Mexico. Use the search box to find postings of his observations along with supporting photos.

I live now in Grant County New Mexico and have lived here about two years. Coyotes adapted to the Southwest long before humans existed even as a gleam in some future primate’s eye. Coyotes lived here for an incomprehensible duration of time. Human occupation of the Southwest is insignificant by comparison. To coyotes, we are the newcomers, are an upstart oddity good for nothing important. We are a nuisance neighbor at best, that even though, as a coyote may see it, we humans are possessed of a mind.

I live on the edge of Silver City proper, known for the Empire Zinc strike documented in the film Salt of the Earth. Goyahkla (Geronimo) was born not far from here, a medicine man turned warrior who was not permitted to die near the Gila. If one is inclined toward flights of imagination, then that he is still here in spirit would seem just a fact. By imagination somehow I try to get a reading upon why things here are different. At times we see a pronghorn or two grazing among the cattle on ranch land that just seems to go on for hours when we drive to El Paso. Mannie, the man who built my residence’s fence, said last week that he modified a fence for a neighbor a bit down the road. The javelina somehow regularly penetrated that neighbor’s fencing, that fencing not able to protect an inner sanctum of fruit trees from their plunder. Mannie field-engineered a solution and was pretty satisfied when telling of it. I wouldn’t have thought there were black bears here. But there are as this story shows. http://www.scdailypress.com/site/2018/11/30/bear-spotted-in-downtown/ A year or so ago it didn’t surprise me to hear that a mountain lion was shot when it came too close to a local elementary school. It did surprise me to learn that said school was not at all far from my new house. On the day I first drove up from Lordsburg off the I-10, coming upon Silver City I saw an elk munching off to the side of the road. It’s common to see mule deer, but you can live here a long time before happening upon an elk.

But coyotes? They are here and they have gobs of undeveloped land. When I first arrived, I may have seen one near my home while taking a walk. But it was gone so fast I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t a local dog. My neighbor a few doors down has two lab mixes. As I walk by them with my dog they fight over who gets to rail at us from behind their four-foot chain link fence. A couple times, coming back from a walk, I saw them coming off the hills and heading for their yard. They get out. It isn’t hard. That neighbor said that once they retrieved them from the pound after being out all night. Mostly they guard their yard with its toddler, not a stretch for wolfish traditions. Those dogs can leave their yard anytime they want, but usually they don’t. Sure there are roads and traffic, but there are deer. People drive according to the posted limits and watch for dogs and deer.

But coyotes? Not much of interest for them in a human settlement, they having plenty of range to themselves. Still, I assume they are out there. When I walk in the hills near my home, I keep my dog leashed, a two-ish red heeler, an Australian cattle dog mix. That breed has some dingo in it, and to me, it shows. Skittish, food is his mantra, but he doesn’t recognize food on the hoof. A rabbit is a curiosity and it doesn’t occur to Hunter to chase it. He’s on his leash any-hoo. He isn’t going to get to chase anything. But scent? Lord. Anything who brushed a particular branch of a shrub, Hunter sniffs it with focused precision. A deer who scratched herself on a sapling, that he studies. Last night, we went out front to the abutting hillside so that he could do his duty. His nose wouldn’t let him bother with such, he was alert and ready to chase down the hill into the darkness. I wouldn’t go. We turned and went to the civilized side of my street, and went inside. I’ve learned to notice things. I try to pay attention.

For instance. One midnight I took him out front and, as I approached my front yard gate, a ferret type creature went from shrub to tree in an instant. Then I heard some awful hollering as two excited raccoons quickly came across the street from the hill. They continued down the dirt street which separates my house from my neighbor’s. I was still inside my front yard’s fence. Then a crow flew over low and slow and let out a low throaty burst. I thought “Something isn’t right here” as I impatiently opened my front gate. A cat then ran from under my car parked beside my fence. Then a lone deer fled from its station down the dirt street a little. I turned around, shut the gate behind me and went back inside. Nobody out there was settled and I took the hint. I didn’t need to know what was out there, none of my business.

So last night when Hunter wanted to rock and roll down that uncivilized incline, I turned around and went back inside. If I don’t see why he alerts, he doesn’t get to go and depending, I go somewhere else. We’re learning caution. I don’t know if a coyote recently rubbed against one of Hunter’s shrubs or not. None of my business and none of his business and that’s that.

But this morning. Down the incline and onto our dirt path, I saw the coyote on a path perpendicular to our line of travel. It was holding still, had seen us first from perhaps 70 yards away. The morning sun blazed it’s straw-brown colors in brilliance. It was a healthy coyote in the prime of life. I stopped immediately and bent toward it with my head protruding out. It saw that and in reply trotted forward about three or four steps. It stopped and watched, waiting for our next move. I looked again and we made eye contact. I turned around. I straightened up. Hunter didn’t see it at all. There are several paths through the low grass, shrubs, juniper saplings, and weeds. I certainly wasn’t going to walk parallel with the coyote, such a move would be aggressive. I turned around and went in the direction from which I came. The coyote knew l was giving it room enough to go anywhere except to follow. It didn’t. I checked. Why would it follow a nuisance newcomer species with a four-legged runner companion trampling around in the weeds? Such a sight is discordant. It was a coyote in its prime and therefore wasn’t about wasting its own time. Hold still, trot thrice when spotted, and look for the nuisance’s next move. It’s a dance well-choreographed by time immemorial. Only the young don’t know the steps.

I could let my dog off leash here. There’s plenty of spaces without people and dogs. A few years ago, living in Long Beach, where with Janet’s help I learned to better understand coyotes, I learned that having a dog off-leash feeds a fantasy of a kind of freedom that doesn’t exist in nature. We are the species that seems not to obey time honored rules. By their minded motions, those other creatures seem to have a good understanding of all that much our modern mind has lost. We can re-learn, we can be rehabilitated.

We must learn. There’s a long-passed medicine man out there in the hills, and there within all life, life-the-minded-ones, her spirit is on the wind, and right beside us too. Nature is a hard comfort made possible only by a love that despite everything binds all ones to another. We collectively need now more than ever to listen and follow such examples. For where there is love, there can exist no anger. Somewhere of Arizona I heard it said that wild donkeys at dawn file into a small town. Each wild donkey takes a corner as its own. Each gets petted and fed carrots and apples during the day, ever happy to greet a stranger and receive a blessing for giving one. And as dusk comes, they all leave their corners to file out of town and traipse back into their hills. Those hills are inside us and speak to us in the dreams we have at night, and speak to us in the silence we often fill with all our parroted and ineffectual chatter. I may make it to that town, and if I do, I hope I remember to not speak one word, to instead let it build inside me until that spirit is palpable, for in that substantiality of spirit, healing is found, a memory of what I was before time began, and what I shall be in eternity.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MelindaH.
    May 23, 2019 @ 04:26:10

    Wonderful post. I am most grateful. I love these sorts of posts, about listening, listening to nature, enormous amounts of respect, and wisdom, dropping the know-it-all nature of humans. Thank you.


  2. Cindie White
    May 23, 2019 @ 08:32:29

    So lovely. Thank you! I remember your other posts. :)


  3. Lee Cline
    May 23, 2019 @ 14:03:58

    Good to read you again, Charles! Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.


  4. Charles Wood
    May 24, 2019 @ 01:00:00

    Thanks! Good to hear from you guys.



  5. John C Noland
    May 28, 2019 @ 03:55:21

    Nice essay. Great ending.


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