Coyote Stories: Bakersfield
Coyote and the Star Women
One day the sun went out and morning suddenly became night. The people went to No-Skin Man to ask him what happened, for Black Sun, who was responsible for carrying the sun-disk across the sky, was his master and spoke to him often.
“I do not know!" he said. “Black Sun has not told me anything.”
The people became very worried at this.
“I will go to Black Sun and talk to him,” said Coyote, who was as heroic as he was clever.
And so Coyote went to the place where the earth and sky meet and he went up the steps in the sky. Black Sun was nowhere to be found. Coyote was hungry from his long journey, so he went to a tree, ate all its fruits, even the ones that were very high up, and fell asleep with a full belly.
He awoke when he heard someone walking around the tree. He hid and watched. The person was a beautiful woman with long black hair. She carried a basket, and her arms and legs were covered in blood. She circled the tree three times, growing more worried each time.
Coyote came out of his hiding place and asked, “What is wrong?”
“I cannot find any fruits on this tree," she said.
“Maybe they are in the higher branches,” said Coyote. “I will climb them for you and take a look.”
He climbed the tree, even though he knew that there were no fruits, for he had eaten them all.
Then he told her, “It looks like someone ate all the fruits, even the ones that were very high up.”
The woman became even more worried.
“What is wrong?” Coyote asked.
“The fruits of this tree have healing properties,” she said. “But if they were all eaten, Black Sun will surely die and the Star Women will eat all the people in the world.”
“I know a healer,” said Coyote. “Let us bring Black Sun to him.”
The woman, who was Black Sun’s mother, took Coyote to the cave where she was hiding Black Sun, and they carried him down the steps and away from the place where the earth and sky meet, to Bakersfield. They brought him to Rose-Thorn Child, and Black Sun was healed. But it was still night time, for the sun-disk was in the home of the Star Women.
“I will go and fight the Star Women and take the sun-disk back," said Black Sun.
Rose-Thorn Child said, “No, that will not work. Even if you win and get the sun-disk back, the Star Women will come back and fight you again. The only way is to make peace with the Star Women.”
“The Star Women have never wanted peace,” said Black Sun. “And they will keep eating people until I get the sun-disk back or until the last person is dead.”
“I will get the sun-disk back," said Coyote, who was as brave as he was handsome.
So Coyote traveled to the place where earth meets sky, and climbed the steps until he reached the very top, where the Star Women were using the sun-disk to heat their giant cooking pot.
They sang, “Our cooking pot will soon be hot, and we will eat people to-morrow.” And they danced until they grew tired and laid down to sleep.
Coyote waited until he heard them snoring. Then he sneaked into their house, removed their heads and put them on backwards, and then took the sun-disk.
But the sun-disk was very hot and burned his hands. Coyote cried out and dropped the sun-disk to the earth, setting it on fire. This woke up the Star Women, and they grew very angry. Coyote fled and the Star Women gave chase — but because their heads were on backwards, they ran in the opposite direction.
Most of California was burned black, but Rose-Thorn Child had grown a lasso of vines for Black Sun, who tied it around the sun-disk and dragged it back into the sky. And he was not attacked again by the Star Women, because they were chasing Coyote.
At last Coyote dipped his burning hands in a lake, and returned to Bakersfield completely exhausted. Coyote laid down to sleep, thinking he was safe, but soon the Star Women had gone in a complete circle around the world, caught him, and killed him.
“We killed Coyote! We killed Coyote!" they sang. “Now we will eat him, bones and all!”
Rose-Thorn Child came over to see what was the commotion. The Star Women gathered in a circle and started to build a fire, but because their heads were on backwards, they built many small fires outside the circle instead of one big one inside the circle.
“How are we to eat?” they cried. “We cannot even build a fire! We will starve!”
Rose-Thorn Child came over and said, “I will turn your heads back around, but you must promise not to eat Coyote.”
“We must eat,” they said. “If we do not eat, no baby will be born and no crops will grow.”
“Then I will feed you my blood,” said Rose-Thorn Child.
The Star Women agreed. Rose-Thorn Child turned their heads back around, and then he fed them his blood. They ate for five days and five nights, and at last they were satisfied.
“Ah! Very good!” they cried. “We are full, and we will sleep well for a few years. Your people’s babies will be born healthy and your crops will grow large.”
“Now you do not need to attack Black Sun or eat any other people," said Rose-Thorn Child. “Whenever you are hungry, I will feed you with my blood.”
The Star Women agreed and returned to their home. Then Rose-Thorn Child stepped over Coyote three times, and Coyote came back to life.