coyote well

As a mythological figure, Coyote is alternately heroic and foolish, lewd and gullible, benevolent and greedy. He does some good things, but basically he’s a trickster, a despoiler. In the Tohono O’odham Indian country of southwestern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, there are coyote melons, coyote tepary beans, coyote cotton, even coyote devil’s claw, foul-tasting or useless plants that mimic helpful ones. One could so surmise that a coyote well is desert water that Coyote has despoiled in some way, or that it is a hole holding something that only seems like water. Still, real coyotes are known for their ability to find water when other animals cannot. In The Land of Little Rain, Mary Austin writes: “The coyote is your true water-witch, one who snuffs and paws, snuffs and paws again at the smallest spot of moisture-scented earth until he has freed the blind water from the soil. Many water-holes are no more than this, detected by the lean lobo of the hills.”

Joy Williams