Tricksters take many forms. In mythology they can be pranksters, heroes, and troublemakers. In Native American mythology the coyote is often the trickster. When I was a child watching a cartoon, I laughed over and over at Wile E. Coyote never catching Road Runner. I find that cartoon even more interesting now.
For the past couple of years now there has been a lone coyote howling in the night around Garrett Ranch. Sometimes his howls were loud enough to send chills down my spine. Occasionally I would see him in the daylight darting across an open field, but not very often. I never considered him to be a threat. On May 9th, 2013, that changed.
On that particular Thursday morning I was making my half-mile hike down the driveway, not paying as much attention to my surroundings as I should have been, when I was almost attacked by two coyotes, one of which I am convinced was the lone coyote I had been hearing and seeing over the last two years.
The coyotes were well hidden in tall dead grass from last year's growth, and behind green briars on the fencerow. They were also downwind; not that I could have smelled them coming from any direction. I happened to be watching Frosty the dog barking and chasing swallows in the distance rather than paying attention to my immediate surroundings when I heard this sound of something breaking through the brush from a hiding place. I looked to my left and saw two large coyotes less than twenty yards away.
I would have thought I might have tried to run in such a situation, but I realized in an instant it was pointless. Coyotes like these could have covered the distance between us in less than two seconds. I had no more time to think before I realized they were turning away from me, hopping across the tall grass almost deer-like. Behind them, running at full speed, with all his force, was Frosty, who chased them away. How he covered so much distance in such a short time I will never know.
I am glad to see Frosty every morning. He is always smiling and happy. But I was particularly glad to see him on this morning.
Life on the ranch has its dangerous moments, but this one shook me up a little. It is possible that the coyotes were simply crossing the ranch and happened to come across my path, or I, theirs. The way they move it would have been difficult to have heard them coming from any far distance, unless they had been barking or howling. But the other possibility, that I was being stalked, put a bit of a bother in my routine.
As a writer, what I learned from this encounter is how tricksters like two wily coyotes can bring unpredictable tension to a story. They can also leave a lucky protagonist dumbfounded rather than forced into a flight or fight response, especially when a savior, human or otherwise, enters the picture from out of nowhere.