Andy Mackie: The Harmonica Man

The Harmonica ManI’m always fascinated by the unofficial titles that follow some people’s names. So, when I heard about Andy Mackie, The Harmonica Man, my ears perked up and I knew there had to be a story. Harmonica Man became more than a title for Andy Mackie; it came “pert near” to becoming his name.

Andy Mackie is credited with having taught thousands of children to play musical instruments. It was his passion. And just wait until you hear how he accomplished that!

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Andy, the harmonica manMr. Mackie was a Scottish born, retired horse trainer who believed in doing what he loved, even when it meant throwing caution to the wind. For years, Andy Mackie’s health was precarious. Metaphorically speaking, he had a big heart. Medically speaking, he had a really bad heart! Andy had undergone nine heart surgeries and was taking fifteen different medications.

The medicines all came with side effects. His life was being prolonged, but it wasn’t much of a life. One day, he said, “Enough is enough.” He decided to stop taking his medicines and live what he thought would be he final days to the fullest. That first month, Andy Mackie took the $600 he would have spent on heart medication and invested in three hundred harmonicas! In what he fully expected it to be his final, grand gesture, he gave the harmonicas to schoolchildren, provided them with lessons and waited to die.

When he didn’t die, he decided to do the same thing the following month. Again, he didn’t die. So, Andy Mackie continued buying harmonicas, giving them to schoolchildren and providing lessons, and he forgot about dying. He got on with the business of living.

Pied Piper of Washington State

AndyAndy Mackie traveled from school to school handing out harmonicas and teaching kids to play them. Andy wasn’t a wealthy man and he didn’t live in the lap of luxury. For years, Andy Mackie lived in a camper in Washington State’s Jefferson County. To paraphrase financial guru, Dave Ramsey, Andy Mackie lived like no one else so he could LIVE like no one else. And live he did!

Andy in classHe instructed students in five school districts in harmonica. In an effort to prevent older students from losing interest, he also branched out and taught them how to make strum sticks and guitars. For years, he funded his program by using the money he would have otherwise used on heart medication and with money he designated from his monthly Social Security Check. His goal was to bring music to every child on the North Olympic Peninsula and he understood that would mean personal sacrifice. He also understood that personal sacrifice wouldn’t be enough.

Not Just Blowing Hot Air

Andy Mackie Music FoundationIn 1996, The Andy Mackie Music Foundation was established in East Jefferson County. It ‘s a non-profit institution designed to help students obtain musical instruments and receive lessons. He raised money through his foundation to reach more kids than he could have with his limited financial resources. Knowing that even the Harmonica Man couldn’t cheat death forever, Andy Mackie worked to ensure that his dream would live on long after he was gone.

Andy Mackie’s vision was conveyed so clearly in his own words. In 2003, Mackie told Peninsula Daily News columnist, Jennifer Jackson, “In a national survey, the number one thing kids said kept them out of trouble was music.” He was also quoted as saying, “What it takes to be good at music—the dedication, the discipline—carries over to any job.”

Andy MackieAndy Mackie wasn’t all talk. He believed that music makes a difference in people’s lives and he backed up his beliefs with action. In 2005, he led 1,706 harmonica players in the simultaneous playing of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” to set a Guinness World Record. Now, you might be thinking that there was nothing life changing about a mob of harmonica players playing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” but I would beg to differ. Andy Mackie understood about the importance of community, and his community came to understand the importance of Andy Mackie. The man with the “bad heart” was one of Jefferson County’s five Heart of Service Award recipients, in 2006. That heart of his got a lot of attention.

Andy MackieIn 2009, Andy Mackie’s fame grew when he was a feature story on CBS Evening News. It was the kind of story that made you need to pull out a hankie. And, it was the kind of story that made you resolve to be a better person. At that time, Andy had been using his medicine money to buy harmonicas for eleven years. He had given out 13,000 harmonicas!

The Heart of the Matter

Andy MackieIn 2010, Andy Mackie left his little corner of the Northwest and moved to Michigan to be near family. It was time for the man who cared so much about others to let his family take care of him. But, he didn’t forget about the people of Jefferson County. He made his final visit in May 2011. He met old friends and likely made a few new ones. While there, he also performed a few times. What else could you expect from The Harmonica Man?

Andy Mackie had his final heart attack in November of 2011. No, he couldn’t cheat death forever. But, more important, he didn’t cheat life. He lived his life on his own terms and he left the world a better place.

The final tally is that Andy Mackie gave out more than 20,000 harmonicas and 5,500 music sticks. And, his legacy lives on. It lives on in “his kids” who play their instruments in community parades—just like Andy taught them. It lives on in the kids he taught, who are now adults making their own mark on the world. And, of course, his legacy lives on through The Andy Mackie Music Foundation. I don’t care what modern medicine told us; metaphorically speaking, there was nothing wrong with Andy Mackie’s heart—nothing at all.

Watch this wonderful CBS interview with Andy Mackie!

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

The Photographic Memories of Timothy O’Sullivan

Timothy O’Sullivan photographyRecently, I was watching an episode of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”. Hey, I’ve always been very upfront about my television consumption. I figure there’s no telling when inspiration will strike, but it seemed more likely that inspiration would strike during a “Dr. Quinn” than during an episode of “The Bachelor”. I was right. Inspiration did strike! (Had I watched “The Bachelor,” I have no doubt that this would be a very different blog post.)

Kenny Rogers, Dr. QuinnYou see, I watched the episode where Kenny Rogers played a photographer who was traveling across the West taking exquisite portraits. He took pictures of Dr. Quinn. Shocker! She came off looking like an Old West Bond Girl! Of course, being a show about a lady doctor, there had to be some medical drama. Sadly, Kenny Rogers was going blind due to uncontrolled diabetes. Unlike Wilford Brimley, he had diabetes and it did rule his life. But I digress…

Timothy O’SullivanAnyway, I started thinking about the real photographers of the Civil War era. I thought about writing a post on Mathew Brady, but that seemed too obvious of a choice. So, I decided to write about Timothy O’Sullivan. Although he was one of the most famous photographers of the 19th century, capturing images from the Civil War and the Old West, he never achieved the status he deserved.

Photographic Memories

Timothy O’SullivanA study of the life of Timothy H. O’Sullivan raises as many questions as it offers answers. He’s a riddle, wrapped inside a mystery, which is inside an enigma. (Oh, sure, that’s how Winston Churchill described Russia, but it’s most fitting of O’Sullivan too.) Here’s what we know:

O’Sullivan was born in 1840. That made him one year younger than the art of photography!

He might have been born in Ireland. Or, perhaps, he was born in the New York. But, he was probably born in Ireland. Unless, of course, he wasn’t. At any rate, his parents were Irish-born. It is believed that little Timothy was two when the family emigrated. Likely, he told people he was born in New York because there was little glory in being an immigrant.

It is believed that O’Sullivan worked for Mathew Brady in his New York studio, as a teenager.

It is an established fact that O’Sullivan traveled to Washington D.C. to work with Alexander Gardner, who managed Mathew Brady’s D.C. studio.

Timothy O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan may have ended his working relationship with Mathew Brady due to not receiving proper credit for his work.

Gardner's Sketch Book

He may have been commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Union Army in 1861. Then again, maybe he wasn’t! We do know he photographed the Civil War. O’Sullivan’s photographs from the Battle of Gettysburg helped him to gain recognition as a photographer. Forty-four of his photos were published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War. While most photographers were capturing images of soldiers at posing by trees and tents, O’Sullivan was capturing the bitter realities of war.

Following the war, O’Sullivan was the official photographer for three U.S. government survey expeditions: a survey of the 40th Parallel, one of the Isthmus of Panama and the Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian.

He died of tuberculosis in January 1882. He was likely 41-years-old, but we don’t know his actual date of birth.

Picture Perfect

While piecing together a bio of an underappreciated photographer can be interesting, the only things that should really matter to us are his photographs (Just click on the images above to open an enlarged slide show!) They can be described in one word: BREATHTAKING! Whether looking at scenes from a battlefield or landscape shots, I find myself letting out a little gasp. His photographs captured the heart and soul of a bygone era.

O’Sullivan used a box camera and traveled with a horse drawn darkroom that allowed him to develop his own photographs. (Exactly like Kenny Rogers did on “Dr. Quinn”. I’m just saying! There is a method to my madness.) While traveling with a team of surveyors, scientists, military men and artists, he photographed sites that had never before been captured. And he did it in a way that few photographers of that time would have dared. Other photographers of the day were taking, what I would call “Wish you were here” postcard cards. O’Sullivan was capturing the bigness of the West—the striations of rock outcroppings, rushing waterfalls, the stillness of domed rocks in a lake, and desolate areas that appear as big as all outdoors.

While the surveyors were busy doing their own thing, O’Sullivan took the opportunity to photograph Native Americans. The sepia images of villages and tribespeople show a deep respect on the part of the photographer. In a sense, they say as much about Timothy O’Sullivan as they do about the subjects.

O’Sullivan, Who Art Thou?

Framing the WestIn 2010, The Smithsonian American Art Museum presented an exhibition of his photographs eititled Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan. The exhibition, which was collaboration between The Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, displayed more than 120 of O’Sullivan’s photographs. More than any other photographer of the time period, O’Sullivan is credited as influencing the art of modern landscape photography. So, how is it that most people still haven’t heard of Timothy O’Sullivan?

Unlike other photographers of the time, O’Sullivan didn’t live long enough to promote his work. His biography is pieced together because he didn’t have the benefit of sharing his life story with others. In a way, it seems fitting that he remains somewhat of a mystery. Looking at his photographs, I always feel as if I’m being let in on a secret—a secret that seems haunting and reverent. I hope you feel the same way. And, please know that this is one secret that is okay to tell!

Take a moment to watch this moving video about Timothy O’Sullivan and his work, from The Smithsonian.

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

The Horse That Would Not Give Up, and the Man Who Loved Him

Neville Bardos & Boyd MartinA good horse story should always be shared. But the story of former racehorse, Neville Bardos, and his owner, Boyd Martin, is so good that it should be shouted from the rooftops! Theirs is a story of triumph over tragedy, but it’s more than that . . . so much more! In fact, their story is so rich and so full of twists and turns that I am going to break it down into chapters, or better said, into my version of Cliff’s Notes!

Chapter 1: Neville the Racehorse

Neville BardosThis is a very short chapter because Neville Bardos wasn’t much of a racehorse. By the age of three, it looked like Neville was pretty well washed up and would be making his way to the slaughterhouse.

Boyd Martin accompanied a friend who was potentially interested in buying Neville Bardos. The friend decided to take a pass, leaving Neville one step closer to the slaughterhouse. But the chestnut gelding intrigued Martin, a professional horse trainer. Perhaps it was the horse’s feisty and opinionated attitude, or his high energy, rough and tumble approach to life that sparked something in Martin . . . but buy him he did, for the rock bottom price of $850.00, considerably less than his per pound value at the slaughterhouse. Martin thought that at that price, Neville was worth the risk . . . perhaps he could make something of the horse, and sell him at a tidy profit.

Chapter 2: Martin Questions His Investment

Neville BardosIf attitude is everything, then Martin was pretty sure he had made a mistake in purchasing the horse. Perhaps, he shouldn’t have been too surprised that the horse was a handful. After all, he had been named “Neville Bardos,” after a gangster in the Australian movie, “Chopper.”

Neville wasn’t just a horse with an attitude; he was a windsucker. For the uninitiated, windsucking simply means that a horse bites into objects and sucks in large quantities of air. It’s a nasty habit that can cause major damage to fencing and other property, as well as the horse’s teeth. Horses that are windsuckers are also more likely to develop gastric ulcers. In the case of Neville, the windsucking was bad enough for Martin to have him wear a windsucking collar to restrict the habit. Remember this collar folks. . .it will come back again later in the story, in a very important way!

Chapter 3: Channeling Energy

Neville Bardos & Boyd MartinIn 2007, Boyd Martin, his wife, Silva, and Neville Bardos moved to the United States.  Martin continued spending countless hours channeling Neville’s energy in 3-Day Eventing competitions. And the hard work was paying off! In 2009, Martin and Bardos won a U.S. National Championship, and, in 2010, they finished 10th in the World Equestrian Games. Martin and Neville made a great team, and the high-energy pair really understood each other.

Chapter 4: FIRE!

Barn fireLife was good until a massive, barn fire, in 2011, killed 6 horses and critically injured Neville Bardos. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that a hero is someone who runs into a burning building when others are running out. Well, Martin and his mentor, Phillip Dutton, were heroes on that day. Dutton was the owner of the farm and rented stables to Martin. Firefighters told Martin that the barn was, at this stage in the blaze, too dangerous to enter, and refused to allow Martin to go in to rescue his beloved horse. Martin felt clear-headed, as sober as a judge, and he knew what he had to do. So Martin punched the fire chief who was blocking his way, covered his face with a T-shirt and ran into the thick, black smoke. Dutton followed closely behind, and there they found Neville, gasping for air. They were able to rescue the horse by Dutton pushing, while Martin pulled on Neville’s windsucking collar! It was an odd twist of fate that it was Neville’s windsucking vice that made it possible for him to be saved.

Though his external injuries were fairly minimal, Neville had been stuck in the burning barn for almost an hour. Blood tests revealed that he should have been dying from smoke inhalation. Instead, he was windsucking in his recovery stall! At that point, Martin knew he would not lose his equine companion.

Miraculously, Neville was released from the hospital in only one week, but the recovery process had only just begun. It included putting Neville in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber on a daily basis, which was healing his lungs at a surprising rate. He was getting stronger by the day! That’s when Martin noticed that his horse’s high energy level was returning, and the recovery team agreed that it might be good for Martin to take his horse out for some easy rides.

Chapter 5: The Road Back

Boyd MartinThe intensity of those first rides grew so quickly that Martin had what some might have viewed as a crazy idea. Martin had always wanted to compete at the Burghley Horse Trials, in England—one of the most rigorous 3-Day Eventing competitions in the world. With only eight weeks until the event, it seemed like an impossible dream.

Then, suddenly, Martin faced a different type of tragedy. His father died in a cycling accident. That could have been more than enough reason to put his dreams of Burghley on hold. The shock and grief paralyzed Martin, and there were days, he admits, when he would have liked nothing more than to stay in bed and give in to the advancing depression. But Martin knew that Neville needed him, and Martin, as the son of Olympic champions, recognized that he could not allow himself to fail. In fact, his parents had met while competing in the 1968 Winter Olympics. His mother was an American speed skater and his father was an Australian cross-country skier. So, return to training he did, and it is not surprising that he found solace with Neville in training for the event ahead.

Martin & NevilleThree months after the fire, Martin and Neville finished 7th at Burghley. For me, that would have been enough to make for the happiest of endings, but their story was far from over. Neville was then named the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Horse of the Year for 2011, and Martin set his sights on the 2012 summer Olympics, in London.

And dream of dreams. . .at the Olympics, the $850.00 wonder horse would be competing against horses that cost $500,000.00! Enter stage right, “The Angels”! A syndicate of ten horse lovers stepped in to relieve Boyd Martin of the financial responsibilities of maintaining Neville, which were staggering. Keep in mind that Neville is a gelding, so the syndicate could never hope to recoup their investment in the horse through breeding rights . . . they were just a group of horse lovers who wanted to help. Let’s not call them “sponsors”, let’s call them angels.

Chapter 6: Life Isn’t a Fairy Tale

Neville Bardos & Boyd MartinIn the end, Martin did make it to the Olympics. However, the selection team choose one of his other mounts, Otis Barbotiere, to compete. But, happily, Neville was the back-up horse!

No, it isn’t quite the perfect fairy tale ending. But, in many ways it’s better. Even before the 2012 Olympics, the movie rights had been signed for the story of Boyd Martin and Neville Bardos. You see, they didn’t need an Olympic medal because everyone already knew that life isn’t always about “happily ever after.” It’s about the ups and downs and how you weather the storm. Life is about the journey, and it is about friends helping each other through the tough times. Boyd Martin saved Neville Bardos’ life not once, but twice. And Neville Bardos saved Boyd Martin’s life, during one of its darkest moments. There’s your happy ending! And, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see this film!

Watch this touching video interview with Boyd Martin, as he talks about his experiences with Neville Bardos!

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

A Legacy of Wisdom: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Roy Rogers & Dale EvansI recently had the opportunity to spend time with an elderly relative. I listened to stories about his childhood as the son of a dirt-poor farmer. I caught his infectious laugh as he gasped for air while telling about his childhood hijinks. I marveled that he and his mischievous cousins ever lived to adulthood! I listened to his regrets and his delights. I was struck by how much he still misses his parents and how much he values the lessons they taught him. And it made me think about how much we can learn from the people who have gone before us. It made me want to spend more time soaking in some wisdom. Few people had more down-home wisdom to offer than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. That’s why I would like to dedicate this post to the legacy of wisdom they left us.

Be Generous

“The only things you can take with you are the things you give away.” ~ Roy Rogers

Roy RogersSometimes we get so caught up in the race to collect the most stuff that we forget about the important things. Roy Rogers understood that he couldn’t put a price tag on things like friendship, good deeds, kindness and love.

In fact, Roy Rogers had such a giving spirit that, early in his career, he was spending more than his studio salary just to respond to each fan letter! When he approached a studio executive and asked if the studio would pay for a secretary and postage to help with his mountains of fan mail, he was told to do what other celebrities did—throw the letters in the trash. Roy flatly refused and continued to respond to each fan that contacted him. In the end, Roy Rogers developed a fiercely loyal fan base, and he carried their affection with him for the rest of his life.

Don’t Make Excuses

“Cowgirl is an attitude, really; a pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head on, lives by her own lights and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands. They speak up. They defend the things they hold dear. A cowgirl might be a rancher, or a barrel racer, or a bull rider, or an actress. But she’s just as likely to be a checker at the local Winn Dixie, a full-time mother, a banker, an attorney, or an astronaut.” ~ Dale Evans


Dale EvansBy golly, I love the above quote! It pretty much sums up how I want to live my life and it makes me proud to be a cowgirl!

Don’t Stop Learning

“Every day we live is a priceless gift of God, loaded with possibilities to learn something new, to gain fresh insights into His great truths.” ~ Dale Evans

Dale EvansIf you have found yourself in a rut, maybe it’s time to climb out of it! When you see the possibilities in each day, your life will change. Oh, it won’t be perfect, but it will be an adventure!

The Good Ol’ Days Really Were Good

“The world changed. Hollywood changed. I think we’ve lost something, and we don’t know how to get it back.” ~ Roy Rogers

Roy RogersWhen I look around at some of our modern day “celebrities,” I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief. I miss the days when it took more than a reality show and a Twitter account to be famous. Like Roy Rogers, I wish we knew how to get back what we’ve lost.

I was never fortunate enough to meet Roy Rogers or Dale Evans, but from what I’ve read about them, they were people who said, “Please,” and “Thank you.” They were people who took the time to treat other people with respect. Maybe we can’t change Hollywood, but we can change ourselves!

Count Your Blessings

“I lay in the bed at the hospital and said, ‘Let’s see what I have left.’ And I could see, I could speak, I could think. I could read. I simply tabulated my blessings, and that gave me a start.” ~ Dale Evans

Dale Evans“Pity, party of one, your table is ready.” I don’t know about you, but I have been guilty of hosting an occasional, private pity party. I pride myself on being a good hostess, but no one ever wants to receive an invitation to a pity party (even when I promise to make my famous Cowboy Caviar)! Dale Evans understood that people don’t want to attend pity parties, so she made a conscious decision to not host them!

Life is a Journey of Hills and Valleys

“If there were no valleys of sadness and death, we could never really appreciate the sunshine of happiness on the mountain top.” ~ Roy Rogers

Roy & DaleBad times will happen, but so will joyous ones. Perhaps the saddest thing in the world is when we miss the good times because we’re too busy dwelling on the bad. Sometimes we need a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder to snap out of it!

Roy and Dale most certainly had more than their fair share of tragedies, but they still managed to be positive influences. They weren’t afraid to use their valleys to help other people who were facing their own struggles.

Get Your Priorities Straight

“As I stood there looking out the window, it occurred to me that any financial provisions I might be able to leave my kids would someday be gone. The fame of being a movie star wouldn’t last forever. I wanted my kids to remember me for something special, something that matters. I wanted them to remember me as a daddy who took them to church on Sundays and helped them learn to live a good Christian life.” ~ Roy Rogers

Dale Evans & Roy RogersRoy Rogers was one man who had his priorities straight. He and Dale knew it was much more important to live a life of value than to value their possessions. Perhaps, because they started with nothing, they knew what was truly important.

In all of my digging, I have not come across one person who had a negative thing to say about Roy or Dale. Nor have I come across quotes where they rake other people over the coals. I would like to thank them for their humility and wisdom. And, more than anything, I wish they were alive to have their own reality show. That one would be worth watching!

Enjoy this great documentary about Roy and Dale, with home videos, and insights from their children, Dusty, Cheryl, Linda, Tom and Dodie.

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

Coyote Culture


Coyote CultureFrom childhood, we are taught to not have a lot of love for the coyote. I mean, look at the ways Wyle E. Coyote tried to torture the poor Roadrunner. Personally, I always felt great satisfaction when an Acme anvil fell on his head. Call it cartoon karma, because the guy had it coming! Yet the coyote is an important part of many Native American tales, so I figure Mr. Coyote merits his own blog post. I’ve been doing some research on the subject, and do you want to know something funny? I haven’t even come across a single mention of an anvil.

Wyle E. Coyote

Wyle E. CoyoteLooney Tunes and Native American stories generally agree on one thing—the wiliness of the coyote. In Native American tales, the coyote is almost always portrayed as cunning, selfish and opportunistic. That sounds about right. The coyote’s reputation is grounded in reality. As the Navajo proverb says, “Coyote is always out there waiting, and Coyote is always hungry.”

Most people living in the West have a healthy respect for, if not an abiding affection toward, coyotes. They are adaptable creatures that will do whatever it takes to survive. They will eat pretty much whatever is available—rabbits, rodents, frogs, fish, deer, insects, fruit, and the list continues (although there is no indication that they actually eat roadrunners). Seriously, coyotes will dine on just about anything—including the family dog, cat or livestock. Uh, yeah, that last part has done nothing to improve the coyote’s reputation among the masses. Maybe that’s why cartoons and Native American legends have incorporated so much truth about the character of the coyote.

He isn’t always portrayed as the bad guy, but there is, for lack of a different term, always a sense that the coyote has “street smarts”. Perhaps the reason the coyote is so often portrayed as anamorphic is because, for better or worse, we humans see our own strengths and foibles in him.

Coyote Creator

Native American CoyoteCoyote often plays a role in Native American creation tales. In Nez Perce creation tales, Coyote plays the lead. Yes, he plays the Creator. If you think that is going against type, just wait until you hear the details. In a time before mankind, it took Coyote’s wiliness and keen powers of observation to outwit a monster that had consumed the animals.

Coyote disguised himself so that the monster would eat him, as well. Once consumed, Coyote searched for the monster’s heart. While performing this task, he encountered his animal friends who were inside of the monster. Coyote started a fire near the monsters heart. He told the animals to prepare for escape. (Trust me; you do not want a more detailed version of this story!) Meanwhile, Coyote managed to cut out the monster’s heart. When the monster died, the animals escaped, followed by Coyote.

Coyote declared that he was going to create a new animal, in honor of the whole monstrous ordeal! Yep. He was going to make people. He flung pieces of the monster to the four winds. Wherever a monster piece landed, a new tribe was born.

Realizing that he had failed to populate the area where he stood, Coyote washed the blood from his hands and shook the drops on the ground. Clever Coyote declared,

“They will be few in number, but they will be strong and pure.” And that was how the Nez Perce tribe came into being. Talk about a good day’s work!

Coyote Criminal

Coyote CriminalMany tales of Coyote serve to teach us that our actions have consequences to others. Such is the case in the Zuni tale of how Coyote stole the sun and the moon. Wow! Is there anything that guy won’t take? In that story, Coyote was a bad hunter who wanted to team up with Eagle to ensure that he would have enough meat. At that time, the sky was still dark and Coyote was at a distinct disadvantage. Eagle was feasting on meat, while Coyote caught insects. When Coyote complained about the darkness, Eagle took him to find light.

Eagle took Coyote to a tribe who had two boxes, which contained light. The larger box contained the sun and the smaller box contained the moon. Coyote convinced Eagle that they should steal the large box. Eagle flew off carrying the box, while Coyote chased after him. Four times Coyote asked to carry the box. Finally, Eagle relented, even though Coyote had a reputation for not doing anything right. Eagle told Coyote not the open the box. Yeah. Guess what he did?

Coyote took a peek in the box and discovered that Eagle had placed the moon inside the box, as well as the sun. The sun and the moon escaped and rose high into the sky. Oh, sure, there was light, but the earth became very cold. The plants shriveled and Coyote shivered as snow began to fall. If not for Coyote’s problems with impulse control, the world would not have winter. Yes, Coyote, your actions have consequences. And now I will know who to blame for my icy feet this winter!

Howling at the Moon

Coyote HowlingThere are many lessons to learn from the coyote. The traditional symbolism portrays him as intelligent, playful, conniving and resourceful. The Navajo refuse to kill the coyote because they believe he accompanied the first man and woman into the world. The Shoshone consider Coyote to be the bringer of death—of natural disasters, illness and times of hunger.

So, you see, the coyote has much more to teach us than to beware of falling anvils. He is the best and the worst this world has to offer. What a great reminder that life isn’t always black and white.

Once I got the “meep meep” sound of an animated roadrunner out of my head, I’ve had the haunting sound of Don Edwards singing “Coyotes” running over and over in my mind. I hope you’ll join me in a Stargazer Mercantile sing-a-long!

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia