How the Rabbits Lost Their Tails

Those rabbits, you know, used to be real loudmouths. Braggarts of the first caliber. And they weren't shy about it. Not in the least.

Any average rabbit could go on for hours about how fast they were, how smart they were, how beautiful their long fluffy tails were.

Wait a minute, you say? Rabbits don't have long fluffy tails? Well, it's a little known fact, but they did. And they weren't white, neither. They were all the colors of the rainbow, they had stripes and polka-dots and checks and whatnot all over 'em. Blue with pink stripes. Black with orange polka-dots. That kind of thing. And those loudmouth rabbits were proud of them. Too proud. Yakkity,yakkity,yak... I'm fast, I'm pretty, etc.,etc. Made you sick to listen to, it did.

Well, one day all the animals were down at the watering hole, hanging out, sitting in the shade, gossiping, catching up on all the latest news and such. And Rabbit (yes, THE Rabbit, the original, the one and only) was going on and on and on about that damn tail and how fast he was, and Coyote was getting pretty darn sick of it. Bored, really. So Coyote decides to make some trouble, which is what Coyote does when she gets bored.

So Coyote saunters over, and says, kind of sneering, "Fast, eh? Faster than anything?"

And Rabbit, he ain't gonna admit that he isn't faster than anything, so he says, "Faster than anything. Prettier, too. Ever see a tail like that one? Not like that plain old tan thing you got there, Coyote."

Coyote just grins. "Bet you aren't faster than the shiny rocks those two-leggeds ride in over on the black stone river."

"I sure am," says Rabbit, without thinking.

"Wooooooooooo," say all the other animals. They all start whispering among themselves. Nobody is faster than those things, not even Deer, and there isn't anybody there who hasn't lost a relative over on the black stone river, except maybe Bear.

Coyote smiles real big. "Let's just go see about that. " And she starts walking towards the stone river, and all the animals start walking along with her, and they are all teasing and goading Rabbit now. "C'mon, Rabbit, put yer money where yer mouth is!" "Yo, Rabbit! Gonna talk the talk gotta walk the walk!" Stuff like that. Nobody really hated Rabbit, they were all just tired of the bragging. Plus, they wanted to see what was going to happen over there on that black stone river.

Rabbit doesn't want to lose face, and even though he's kinda scared, he just pushes up to the front, sticks that red tail with the green stripes up in the air and starts talking real loud, like he's leading the procession. All too soon, they get there. Everyone mills around for a minute, and then Coyote jumps in and says, "Here's the way of it."

"Rabbit, you stand there next to that manzanita bush. See that tree up there a ways? When the next shiny rock comes over the hill and passes that tree, you have to beat it across the river without getting hit."

Everybody gets real quiet. Things are getting kinda serious now. I mean, Rabbit could get killed. Rabbit, he figures that he has a chance to beat the rock across the river, which is better than trying to RACE the thing, since then he'd lose for sure. So Rabbit nods, saunters over to the manzanita bush by the edge of the river. He does a couple of slow stretches, real cool like, then hunkers down and gets ready to run.

At first, there is just the sound of a little water gurgling over some rocks in the creek. Then they hear it, a humming sound, a wind sound, a rushing sound that gets louder and closer. Then over the hill it comes, a shiny red rock; red like a rose, shiny like ice and you can see the heads of a couple of two leggeds sticking out of it and it is going really fast. Then the shiny red rock passes the tree and everyone yells, "GO!"

Rabbit springs out in front of it and runs. And at that moment, everyone sees that Rabbit IS fast, he's a blur. And whatever else, he's brave, too. Then the red rock passes, hiding Rabbit in the wind and dust, and for a moment no one can see Rabbit at all. Maybe he's dead? Maybe the shiny red rock carried him away?

The bushes on the other side of the road rattle, and Rabbit steps out and starts to walk back across the black stone river towards them. All the animals let out a big cheer and start jumping up and down with excitement, except for Coyote. It was a great run for Rabbit. Rabbit is vindicated and Coyote isn't happy.

Rabbit gets a bit closer, though, and everyone can see that Rabbit has a tear or two running down his cheek. "What's the matter?," pipes up Wren. Rabbit shakes his head and turns around, and everyone can see that his tail, his beautiful tail, is gone. It's been cut off by the shiny rock and in its place is just a little fluffy bit of a tail. A white fluffy bit, since Rabbit was soooo scared it turned white.

Coyote starts to laugh. Then all those other animals start to laugh too. It's funny! Loudmouth Rabbit lost his tail! Everyone is laughing, and Coyote is laughing hardest of all, rolling on the black stone river, holding her belly. They are all laughing so hard they don't hear the big black shiny rock that comes over the hill and smacks into Coyote, BAM! Next thing you know, Coyote is lying there dead by the side of the road and no one is laughing any more.

That's the end of the story. Everybody went home and talked about what happened for a while, then something else happened and they forgot about it and stopped talking about it. But it's a true story. To this day, those rabbits have little fluffy white tails and they don't brag any more. Matter of fact, they have a reputation for being timid. But they still jump out in front of your car, trying to beat it across the black stone river, just like Rabbit did.

And Coyote? Well, she lay there stinking for a few weeks, till even the flies gave up on her, then she decided she'd had enough of that and came back to life and went off to make more trouble. That's true too. When you drive along, you can see Coyote lying dead by the side of the road, stinking. But just a few miles further on, there's Coyote again, watching you drive by in that big ole' shiny rock of yours.

And if you look real close, you can see Coyote grin.

The Seventh Direction

It goes like this. Creator is starting up Creation, making the Earth, setting the Four Directions to hold up the Sky, creating all those plants and animals, the four-leggeds and the two-leggeds and the winged ones and all that.

Things are looking pretty good, so Creator takes a moment or two to rest, smoke a pipe, get a drink. Then Creator notices this DIRECTION lying around. Oops!

A Direction is a pretty powerful thing. Basically you got your Six Directions: the Above and the Below, the East and West, the North and South. That pretty much defines Creation, so having a spare direction around could really cause some trouble if it got into the wrong hands.

So Creator has a knotty problem. What to do with this DIRECTION? Creator starts thinking and thinking, and pretty soon things go quiet as all Creation notices that Creator has a furrow 'bout as wide as the Milky Way in its forehead.

So everything gathers around (except those two-leggeds, they were over there somewhere doing something) and Mole pipes up and asks, "What's wrong?"

Creator explains the problem to them, and now everyone is sitting around with furrowed brows. It's quiet for a long time, and then Mole says, "I know. I'll take that Direction and burrow way down deep in the Earth and hide it so that no thing can misuse it."

Creator thinks about that a second and says," Nope. That's not it."

Then one of the Sea People, Whale, booms out. "Let me take that Direction down deeper than deep to the bottom of the sea where none may find it."

Creator thinks about that a second and says," Nope. That's not it."

Another while goes by and Eagle screams. "I and my brethren will take that Direction and carry high on the Four Winds, passing it one to the other forever, keeping it safe."

Creator thinks about that a second and says," Nope. That's not it."

The silence stretches on for a long time. Finally Deer speaks. "Creator, perhaps the Deer may run with it, swift and strong, so that no one may catch it."

Creator thinks about that a second and says," Nope. That's not it, either." Then it really is silent for a long, long time. No one stirs. No one makes a noise, as they watch Creator think.

Then at last, Creator moves. Creator places that Seventh Direction on a Stone. Creator picks up another Stone and raises it high, and that Stone comes smashing down and that Direction shatters into a bazillion gazillion pieces that go flying everywhere. (And that Stone was red hot afterwards, which is why we heat those Stones up for the lodge..)

One of those pieces lodges in the heart of everything. Every blade of grass, every creepy crawly, every bird, every animal, every stone, every tree, every speck of dust and star and drop of water. Even the heart of every two-legged, but since they were over there (somewhere) (doing something) a lot of them weren't looking, so a bunch of them weren't aware of it. But I'm telling you now, so no more excuses, eh?

Then Creator says, "That Direction leads to Me. Anytime any part of Creation needs me, all they have to do is look in their heart, follow that Direction and they'll find me. Any questions?"

No one has. Coyote looks like he wants to say something, but he keeps his mouth shut. So Creator goes back to unfolding Creation, and everything goes about their businesses and life goes on like that still.

That is why there are as many roads to Creator as there are things and beings in Creation. There's a piece of that Direction stuck in the heart of everything and everyone.

Any questions?

Coyote and the Another One
As told by Charles Phillip Whitedog
(Contributed by Mel Vandergriff)

Two Coyotes were crossing a farmers field. Both Coyotes were strangers to each other for they had never met.

Just as they were about to introduce themselves they heard the farmer yell, "There's a Coyote in the field!"

The first Coyote turned to the other and told him to run! They both started to run for the trees when they heard the farmer yell, "And there goes another one!".

Finally both Coyotes made it to the cover of the trees and they started to introduce themselves.

"I never saw you before, I am Wanderer, I am a Coyote like you."

The other Coyote looked at him oddly and said, "I am Sleek, but I am not a Coyote like you."

"Yes you are," said Wanderer.

"Oh no I am not," replied Sleek.

"Look my friend, you are confused. You have ears like mine, you have a tail like mine, our fur is the same, our snouts are the same, everything is the same, you are just like me and we are both Coyotes," Wanderer tried to explain.

"Listen let's run across the field again and you will see," challenged Sleek. So off they ran.

First went Wanderer and again the Farmer yelled, "There goes that darn Coyote."

Then Sleek took afoot and the Farmer yelled, "And there goes another one... again!"

When the two Coyotes reached the other side of the field they ducked into the woods.

Wanderer turned to sleek and said, "There! Didn't you hear the Farmer? He called us both Coyotes."

Sleek look disappointed with his new confused friend and said, "Yes I heard the Farmer. He called you a Coyote, but I am an `Another One'."

Our problem is, we are listening to the Farmers tell us who we are. Something to talk about.

Iroquois: How Fire Came To The Six Nations

Often, around the fire in the long house of the Iroquois, during the Moon of the Long Nights, this tale is told.

Three Arrows was a boy of the Mohawk tribe. Although he had not yet seen fourteen winters he was already known among the Iroquois for his skill and daring. His arrows sped true to their mark. His name was given him when with three bone-tipped arrows he brought down three flying wild geese from the same flock. He could travel in the forest as softly as the south wind and he was a skillful hunter, but he never killed a bird or animal unless his clan needed food. He was well-versed in woodcraft, fleet of foot, and a clever wrestler. His people said, 'Soon he will be a chief like his father.'

The sun shone strong in the heart of Three Arrows, because soon he would have to meet the test of strength and endurance through which the boys of his clan attained manhood. He had no fear of the outcome of the dream fast which was so soon to take. (to fast means to go without food or water)

Three Arrow's father was a great chief and a good man, and the boy's life had been patterned after that of his father.

When the grass was knee-high, Three Arrows left his village with his father. They climbed to a sacred place in the mountains. They found a narrow cave at the back of a little plateau. Here Three Arrows decided to live for his few days of prayer and vigil. He was not permitted to eat anything during the days and nights of his dream fast. He had no weapons, and his only clothing was a breechclout and moccasins. His father left the boy with the promise that he would visit him each day that the ceremony lasted, at dawn.

Three Arrows prayed to the Great Spirit. He begged that his clan spirit would soon appear in a dream and tell him what his guardian animal or bird was to be. When he knew this, he would adopt that bird or animal as his special guardian for the rest of his life. When the dream came he would be free to return to his people, his dream fast successfully achieved.

For five suns Three Arrows spent his days and nights on the rocky plateau, only climbing down to the little spring for water after each sunset. His heart was filled with a dark cloud because that morning his father had sadly warned him that the next day, the sixth sun, he must return to his village even if no dream had come to him in the night. This meant returning to his people in disgrace without the chance of taking another dream fast.

That night Tree Arrows, weak from hunger and weary from ceaseless watch, cried out to the Great Mystery. 'O Great Spirit, have pity on him who stands humbly before Thee. Let his clan spirit or a sign from beyond the thunderbird come to him before tomorrow's sunrise, if it be Thy will.'

As he prayed, the wind suddenly veered from east too north. This cheered Three Arrows because the wind was now the wind of the great bear, and the bear was the totem of his clan. When he entered the cavern he smelled for the first time the unmistakable odour of a bear. This was strong medicine.

He crouched at the opening of the cave, too excited to lie down although his tire body craved rest. As he gazed out into the night he heard the rumble of thunder, saw the lightning flash, and felt the fierce breath of the wind from the north. Suddenly a vision came to him, and a gigantic bear stood beside him in the cave. Then Three Arrows heard it say, 'Listen well, Mohawk. Your clan spirit has heard your prayer. Tonight you will learn a great mystery which will bring help and gladness to all your people.'

A terrible clash of thunder brought the dazed boy to his feet as the bear disappeared. He looked from the cave just as a streak of lightning flashed across the sky in the form of a blazing arrow. Was this the sign from the thunderbird ?