Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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Coyote and the Eyeball Trick

In the Old Time village of Gumbat, on the western shore of Upper Klamath Lake, the people tell this story....

One day near sundown, Badger stood in a meadow that sloped down to the marsh. There were thick woods on the other sides of the meadow, and the creatures that lived in the woods and the marsh were starting to quiet down for the night, nearly as quiet as the sinking eye of the sun.

Badger stood in the grass, reached up and popped out his eyes and threw them into the sky and they went down: lol lol lol lol lok! back into their sockets. Lol lol lol lol lok!

Coyote was sneaking through the tree shadows at the edge of the meadow and he heard that sound: lol lol lol lol lok! He skirted the meadow and spotted Badger in the dim light and those eyeballs going up, catching the last rays of the sun, almost shining, and down: lol lol lol lol lok!

Coyote came out of the shadows and stood next to Badger and watched.

"What are you doing?"

"Tossing my eyes."

"Do they make that thundering sound?"

"Yes, friend, just like thunder."

Coyote paced around Badger, watching those eyeballs go up and down, up and down, and his own eyes started bugging out.

"Yes, indeed," said Coyote, "do you think I could do that?"

"Yes, just toss them up."

Coyote popped out his eyes and tossed them up, and down they came: lol lol lol lol lok! back into their sockets.

"Oh, this is a good trick!"

Coyote tossed them a little higher: lol lol lol lol lok! Higher still, again higher and higher.

"Just one more time a little higher."

Lol lol lol lol lok!

"Oh, this is fine. Just once more!"

Higher ... higher ... highest: lol lol lol....

And Crow came flying: Haaaaa! Haaaaa! Haaaaa! THUNK! THUNK!

Crow speared Coyote's eyes and kept on flying, "Oh, Coyote!" -- crunch! crunch! -- "these eyes taste good!" Haaaaa! Haaaaa! Haaaaa!

Badger saw what happened and took off for the woods, saying to himself, "Not my fault, not my fault. He did it himself. Not my trick."

So there was Coyote in the middle of the meadow, and he couldn't see a thing. He stumbled this way and that, he stumbled and fell.

"What have I hit my head on?"

"On me, a pine tree."

"Sorry, I didn't mean it."

He kept stumbling around and he fell again.

"What now?"

"Hey, man, you've fallen on me, a rock. Why don't you watch where you're going?"

"Sorry, friend, I wasn't looking."

Coyote kept stumbling and falling, stumbling and falling.

"Now what?!"

"You've fallen on me, you stupid Coyote, a wild rose bush."

Coyote picked himself up, reached over to the bush and plucked off all the wild rose hips. He gulped them all down but two, and these he dropped into his empty eye sockets ... and he kept on stumbling, round and round the meadow in circles.

Now it was getting dark. The color from the sunset was gone and the stars were coming out. Coyote stopped near the edge of the woods and pointed his nose to the stars and stared ... and stared ... and stared....

After a time, Mole lumbered across the meadow and saw Coyote looking up. He looked at Coyote, then at the sky, then back to Coyote and again to the sky. "What are you looking at?"

"Spots, my friend, flying spots."

Mole bugged his eyes. "Yes?"

"Spots, my friend, don't you see them? Many, many little spots swarming around."

Mole bugged his eyes to the hilt. "No, I don't see a thing."

The two of them stood in the dark by the edge of the woods and stared at the sky for a long time.

Finally, Mole looked over at Coyote. "Say, why are your eyes so red?"

"Special eyes."

"That so? Maybe I could trade my eyes for your eyes. Then I could see the flying spots."

"Sure, friend, a deal."

Coyote and Mole swapped eyes and Mole stood there, staring and staring. "I can't see a thing. No spots, nothing, not even you, Coyote. I can't see a thing!"

Coyote was into the woods before he yelled back, "So stay in the meadow! Stay full of the earth! Go underground and you won't need eyes!"

Mole was so mad that he dug and he dug and he dug, with great speed, in the soft earth of the meadow. He dug until he made himself an underground home, feeling and sniffing his way around and thinking, "Someday, Coyote, these little eyes of mine will start seeing, then you'd better watch out!"

The night went on. The eye of the moon started rising, and the creatures that lived in the marsh at the edge of the meadow, and in the woods all around, were as quiet as darkness.