How I love the American West and how I love the stories that came out of that long ago West. This is one that I thought I’d share today — the story of a tame coyote, Smoky.
This story comes to us from James Willard Schultz (Apikuni), who wrote the book BLACKFEET AND BUFFALO. It’s a true story of himself and his son who found a coyote pup and regardless of how others kept telling him that the animal couldn’t be tamed, he decided to keep the pup and try to tame it.
There was a saying in the old buffalo days, and both whites and Indians agreed that wolves could sometimes be tamed, but not a coyote…never. An old man named Bill Weaver once said, “plumb wild an’ trech’r’us no matter how careful you was in tryin’ to gentle ’em.” Now, this all happened in the White Mountains in Arizona. Schultz’s son, Hart, found the pup…a male, who had been separated from its mother and was on the verge of starving. Taking pity on it, he fed the animal, making its first meal a big stack of pancakes and bacon.
Luckily they had a dog — a female — Zora, and so Smoky at least had company. Now here begins some things I didn’t know about coyotes. They eat more than dogs and they are extremely fast. (I guess they have to be.) Darting here and there, Schultz often described him a a streak of grey. He was also a joy, according to Schultz. He loved being petted, he greeted his “family” with happiness, and he often licked their faces, showing them his love.
Eventually Schultz determined to set Smoky free, afraid he would leave. But Smoky didn’t stray. He kept with his friend, Zora, and they roamed the forest together. But unfortunately some things can’t be helped and when Schultz’s neighbor bought some chickens, and when Smoky caught five of them, including a prize rooster, Smoky found himself again chained. But oh, how he enjoyed his outings.
He was swifter than Zora, Schultz’s dog and when they took him hunting, Schultz again describes him as a gray flash — he was everywhere at once, exploring everything. Once he caught himself a skunk and promptly ate him, then went about trying to get rid of the stinch. He never again caught a skunk.
Smoky soon became the best hunter and retriever that Schultz ever had. He would corner prey, then wait for Schultz to come and make the kill. He loved the crack of the gun, rushing to seize the prey and bringing it to plop at Schultz’s feet. No one starved while Smoky was on duty.
Interestingly, Smoky got along well with women — he loved them all. But he took an instant dislike to many of Schultz’s men friends and he would not let any man except for Schultz and his son near him and certainly not one of those men would think of petting him.
Now here’s the part I really didn’t know and found very interesting. Did you know that coyotes (and wolves too) only mate in the month of February and the early part of March? That’s it. Any other time, forget it. Schultz tried to mate Smoky with their dog Zora, but it was summer time and Smoky wouldn’t have anything to do with her. Can you imagine if humans were that way? Thank goodness we are not.
What happened to Smoky? One day while Schultz and his son were out hunting, they happened upon 3 other coyotes. Smokey took after them and didn’t return for minutes, then hours. Schultz and his son were worried. Were they going to lose him? Had he deserted them to return to his own kind? Filled with loss, Schultz and son stopped hunting and turned back for home. But then, they hadn’t gone too far when suddenly in a flash of gray fur Smoky dashed upon them and commensed to licking their faces, whining and whining and running around them in joy. Then suddenly, he went off a distance, looking back at them as though to say, “Well are we going to hunt or what?” It was a beautiful moment. Schultz writes that he realized that Smoky loved them even more than his own kind. Or perhaps Schultz and his son had become his own kind.
So in this same vein, I thought it would be fun to talk about our pets. I absolutely love my animals. I have cats and dogs and when my kids were young we had a parakeet. And to me, these animals are family. How about you? Do you have a pet? Someone you love very dearly?
Come on in and let’s talk. Leave a post. I’ll be giving away a free book once again to some lucky blogger. And I’d love to trade stories about our “babies.” Maybe I’ll tell you the story of how one of my sister-in-law’s cats saved her life… True story. So come on in. Leave a post. Oh, off to the right here is a copy of the cover of THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF. Hero’s name: Gray Coyote.