Coyote Stories: Bakersfield
How Coyote Restored Kern River
One summer in Bakersfield it was very hot. There had been little rain in the winter, and Kern River had long ago dried up, so now the people of Bakersfield were very thirsty.
“I will get some water," said Coyote, who was as heroic as he was clever.
He went up to Isabella Lake, and he pulled out his bow and arrow.
“Now I will shoot my arrow from this end of the lake, and I will hit that deer at the other end of the lake right in the heart, killing it," he said.
Then he took aim and shot his arrow. It hit the deer in the heart, killing it. He walked around the lake and retrieved the deer, skinned it, cooked it, and ate it. Isabella Lake watched, and she saw that he was a good hunter.
Once he had finished eating the deer, he took its bones and pulled out a knife.
“Now I will craft some jewelry for the woman who will catch me and make me her husband,” he said.
He carved a necklace from the deer’s bones, earrings from the deer’s hooves, and bracelets from the deer’s teeth. Isabella Lake watched, and she saw that, not only was he a good hunter, he was also a good artist.
“Now I will wash myself in the lake, because I am dusty,” he said.
Then he removed his clothing and bathed in the lake. Isabella Lake watched, and she saw that, not only was he a good hunter and a good artist, he was also handsome, and she fell in love with him.
“Now I that am finished bathing I will return to my home,” Coyote said.
“Please stay!” cried Isabella Lake. She appeared before him, and fell to her knees. “I love you, Coyote. I wish to be your wife.”
“You can be my wife," Coyote said. “But only if you can catch me.”
He ran then, and she chased him. Coyote ran down Highway 178. He ran around the hot springs. He ran out of the mountains. And he ran through Bakersfield. All the while Isabella Lake was right behind him. Even though he was as swift as he was brave, he saw that she would catch him before too long. So he turned south and ran up Pinos Mountain, and then turned around.
“Now I am too tired to continue,” he called to Isabella Lake. “I will rest here. Catch me, and I will be your husband.” Then he sat down upon the peak.
Isabella Lake stopped and stood at the base of Pinos Mountain.
“Come down, Coyote!” she cried. “I can run down mountains but I cannot climb them!”
“Then we will never be married," Coyote said.
Isabella wept great tears, and they collected all around her. She made a lake there, which we know as Heartbreak Lake.
While she wept, Coyote crept away, quite pleased with himself; and when he returned to Bakersfield, the people had plenty of water and were no longer thirsty.