Thomas Doty – Storyteller

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On Younger Daldal's Back

Coyote and I traipse across the top of the flat-topped mesa called Lower Table Rock. On this autumn night, the stars burn bright, and a rosy moon blushes just over the horizon. Tiny red lights flicker along the trail, and larger ones blink in the trees on Upper Table Rock, across the valley. Fog snakes along the valley floor, shrouding the Rogue River and the many communities scattered along its course. But Coyote and I walk between fog and stars, and the night breathes mystery into our hearts.

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Coyote says, "This is just the sort of night we might meet him."

"Him?"

"Yes, him, that ancient one, the master of tricksters from the Old Time, that younger dragonfly brother. Across the valley there, that's Elder Daldal, the older of the two brothers. He's far too serious to my liking. But here on this rock, we are standing on the back of Younger Daldal, master of tricks and magic and brimming with humor. We are standing right on him."

We walk on, crossing the abandoned landing strip, stepping carefully between ankle-twisting rocks, sloshing through vernal pools circled by rabbitbrush, and finally into the trees. We are getting closer to the edge of the rock, a three-hundred-foot drop onto heaped-up piles of razor-sharp basalt. We feel a damp breeze rush our way from the edge, a breeze that lifts fog from the river and laps it over the top like ocean waves onto a beach.

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We pass an ancient black oak twisted with shadows and age. An owl hoots five times. Stars spin. Red lights flash! And before Coyote and I know time has passed, we find ourselves walking dangerously close to the edge, many yards from our last steps, the fog lapping our faces damp.

"That was the younger dragonfly," says Coyote. "See how he works, full of power, the guardian of this rock."

"He might have sent us over the edge. Every few years I hear about someone falling."

"But he didn't," chuckles Coyote. "But he didn't."

Between fog and stars, Coyote and I walk back toward the trail that winds down the rock. Neither of us offers a rational explanation for what has happened. Neither speaks. Each senses that silence is what makes the most sense ... right now ... in such a place as this.