Long ago, the eastern shore of the lake they now refer to as Erie was inhabited by a noble race of strange and magnificent warriors. Living near the confluence of a sacred creek that surged into the lake between towering cliffs where the bones of creatures long dead rested, these warriors bore little resemblance to the other tribes which surrounded and shunned them.
Instead of practicing ritualized combat on an oblong ball field, they rollicked and fished along crystal streams in the hills and valleys that encompassed their native soil. Instead of dressing in the robes and helmets of purple and white worn by their rivals, their clothes were brightly colored and festooned with beads and fringes. Instead of the close cropped and grease laden manes sported by their enemies, their hair flowed in long rivulets that bore a similarity to the meandering streams which they so loved. They were, as the gods intended, a beautiful and joy loving people.
Unlike the tribes of Purple and White, the village of this band held no icons or false idols. No fat, snoutless dog watched down from their clan totem stick. Their worship was for a swift and wiley spirit of the forest, the elusive and eternal Coyote. Tribal lore passed down from the ancients told how the Coyote survived beyond all hope the many trials the gods rained upon him. If the Coyote fell from a cliff, he would rise again from the crater created by his impact. If he were struck by lightning, he would re-emerge unharmed from the charred, wasted ruin. If a boulder fell on him and flattened him beyond recognition, he would always return back to the shape of the hunter he was. In spite of all of his painful misfortune, the coyote had been blessed with everlasting life and always continued his undying pursuit of that which lay just beyond his reach. This the tribe revered because it gave them the hope that even when things looked darkest, they would survive to carry on their happy existence.
One brilliant summer day three young warriors of the Coyote Clan set off on an expedition, which started as a simple quest, but ended in a spiritual awakening that would have repercussions that rippled through time to the present day. Intending to fill their creels with the fat and combative bass that schooled in the waters where the creek joined the lake, the boys were equipped with all the provisions they needed to sustain themselves through the arduous journey. They had food enough to feed a dozen lesser men and many jars of a brew known to cause high elation in those who consumed it. But as they proceeded on their journey, misfortune seemed to loom in front of them at every turn, just like the trials that confronted the Coyote of legend.
When they arrived at the fishing spot, they placed the jars of fermented libation in the cooling waters of the lake so that it would be as fresh as the day last week when it was brewed. They planned to consume it later in celebration of their anticipated success on the fishing ground. But, success was not to be theirs. They cast their silver spoons and wriggling worms time and time again, but to no avail. Where before they had hauled in so many thrashing and tasty monsters, this day they succeeded only in snagging one slimy, bronze scaled dung fish. Disheartened, but not defeated, the Coyote boys went to retrieve their jars of brew to help easy their disappointment.
But the gods had other things in mind for them. When they arrived at the spot where the brew was submerged they discovered that the gods had whipped up the waters of the lake into a heaving froth which had carried away all but three of their precious containers. It was hardly enough to cause the elation they thirsted for, let alone wash down the many layered slabs of white loaf and meat they had packed for their meal.
A gloom descended on them, for they had not packed alternative forms of medicine to ease their woes. Dejected, they decided to light a camp fire and contemplate their situation. They started the fire and began gathering more and more drift wood to feed their blaze until the flames jumped into the sky twice as high as the cliff that stood nearby. Then one of the boys came across the hairless and bloated carcass of an unfortunate dog. Marveling at the distended torso of the animal, one of them wondered aloud why the drowned dog had blown up to such a great size. The second boy said he believed it was the spirit of the dog trying to get out and make its way to the heavens. The third, who was also the most pious of the trio, said that they must help release the dog’s soul so that it could join the great ghost pack which roamed the forest at night when the moon was dark.
They all agreed it must be done. After all, wouldn’t they do the same for a coyote, and what is a dog but a coyote that sleeps by the hearth at night. At that they gently lifted the corpse and heaved it upon the roaring blaze. As the dog’s earthly remains crackled and burned, it body cavity suddenly spewed forth a putrefied stream of offal. In a hiss of foul steam the warriors watched as the dogs noble spirit spiraled to the heavens. They felt within them a feeling of satisfaction that they had performed a righteous deed.
As the dog’s vapor dissipated, they suddenly heard a clinking sound. Looking towards the shore they whooped with joy. Rolling back and forth with the motion of the waves were all of their lost jars of brew. The gods had rewarded them for their selfless act of setting the dogs spirit free. They quickly gathered the containers and returned to the fire where they sat and consumed every last drop of the precious liquid. As the sun set they took a pledge to immortalize the miracle they witnessed that day. Every year they would gather all together all of the Coyote clan to reenact the ritual of roasting the dog.
And for many, many years it has been just so. The ancestors of the clan to this day gather together at the annual Dog Roast where they retell the adventure of the three Coyote warriors over many jars of brew. They also have the same massive headaches that the boys had the following day.
Page was last updated on: 12/04/2011 08:23 PM