Coyote and the Quails

by Katharine Berry Judson

Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest

 

Pima (Arizona)

Once upon a time, long ago, Coyote was sleeping so soundly that a covey of quails came along and cut pieces of fat meat out of his flesh without arousing him. Then they went on. After they had camped for the evening, and were cooking the meat, Coyote came up the trail.

Coyote said, "Where did you get that nice, fat meat? Give me some."

Quails gave him all he wanted. Then he went farther up the trail. After he had gone a little way, Quails called to him,

"Coyote, you were eating your own flesh."

Coyote said, "What did you say?"

Quails said, "Oh, nothing. We heard something calling behind the mountains."

Soon the quails called again: "Coyote, you ate your own meat."

"What did you say?"

"Oh, nothing. We heard somebody pounding his grinding-stone."

So Coyote went on. But at last he began to feel where he had been cut. Then he knew what the quails meant. He turned back down the trail and told Quails he would eat them up. He began to chase them. The quails flew above ground and Coyote ran about under them. At last they got tired, but Coyote did not because he was so angry.

By and by Quails came to a hole, and one of the keenest-witted picked up a piece of prickly cholla cactus and pushed it into the hole; then they all ran in after it. But Coyote dug out the hole and reached them. When he came to the first quail he said,

"Was it you who told me I ate my own flesh?"

Quail said, "No."

So Coyote let him go and he flew away. When Coyote came to the second quail, he asked the same question. Quail said, "No," and then flew away. So Coyote asked every quail, until the last quail was gone, and then he came to the cactus branch. Now the prickly cactus branch was so covered with feathers that it looked just like a quail. Coyote asked it the same question, but the cactus branch did not answer. Then Coyote said,

"I know it was you because you do not answer."

So Coyote bit very hard into the hard, prickly branch, and it killed him.