On a brisk, fresh, starlit morning, my son Spenser and I carefully and quietly made our way across the frosted rows of crested wheat grass stubble, towards the hideous form of an ancient pine tree. This particular snag was perched on the edge of a group of evergreens, on an east facing rise which overlooked a small reservoir. It was late October, 1996, and we were out and about before dawn, looking for a monster buck. It was hunting season and, with his enthusiasm for the outdoors and newly acquired taste for venison, my six year old son had re-ignited my passion for this customary fall event.
We gained our desired location, against the skeletal remnant of the once majestic tree, and settled in to await first light. Our position seemed perfect, we would be difficult to detect among the branches which surrounded us and broke up our form. A slight breeze blew directly into our faces so our scent would not give us away. If we remained quiet, and if the Gods of the hunt granted us their favor, we would be home before noon with fresh meat on the table and a trophy rack for the wall. I was feeling quiet proud of myself, thinking, "Oh what a good hunter am I!" Spenser came over and made a nest of my lap, cuddled up to my chest and promptly fell asleep. As far as I was concerned, it didn't get any better. The memory of that morning with my son so near is one that I hold in my heart, and will cherish as long as I exist. Spenser has been blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere, anytime. I once witnessed him roll his sleeping bag out on bare sandstone; with its attendant humps, depressions and awkward angles, sleep like a baby for the entire night and awake refreshed the next morning. I, on the other hand, am not so lucky.
It was getting brighter, and I began anticipating the sun's appearance on the clouded horizon. I was certain our trophy animal would soon manifest an appearance. The first rays of sunlight broke free and lit the landscape with a rich golden glow. At that instant, I sensed movement from both sides of my field of vision. I tensed and slowly prepared to wake Spenser from his slumber. My senses were on full alert; the game was in the bag. On my right hand side, padding through the tall illuminated grass, appeared a large coyote. On my left, jogging through an obstacle course of burned out stumps, came a badger.
Relaxing a bit, I decided not to wake my son for such insignificant animals. The fact was, I was enjoying his closeness and did not want to lose the moment. The two creatures pulled up to the water at approximately the same time. Without taking much notice of each other, they drank their fill and moved on. The coyote headed almost directly away from us, nonchalantly making his way towards a tangle of deep brush a few hundred yards distant. The badger, however, took a different tack; one that would deliver him to our tree in short order.
Again I stiffened, remembering just how tough and aggressive these mighty mites can be. I was familiar with badgers, and knew just how much trouble they might cause. I also knew that, if not provoked, they were generally quite calm, cool and collected. The beast came on like a line backer; his muscles rippling across his chest, his short legs pumping like pile drivers. At about ten yards out, he pulled up, raised his snout into the air and sniffed. Instantly the badger focused in on us, snorted loudly and stomped his feet.
I could smell his musky odor and make out the silver tips on the black hair of his back and sides. The badger looked us over closely, licked his nose and sniffed again. He must have decided we were not a serious threat, because the brute altered direction slightly and moved away with confidence. Watching the badger strut the other way, I breathed a little easier, and began to think back on a book I had been reading about Navajo myths and legends. The book, by Paul Zolbrod, was titled Dine' Bahane, The Navajo Creation Story. In the book, its author speaks of an occurrence similar to the one I had just witnessed.
In Navajo teachings, Badger and Coyote came into being on a day very much like the one I was experiencing during that fall hunt. The Navajo people believe they emerged through four different worlds before arriving here. An upward moving way occurred, complete with a great deal of learning, experience and metaphorical lesson plans for understanding life and love. The genesis of Coyote and Badger is explained this way; "The people had not been in the fourth world long when they saw Sky bend down and Earth rise up until for a moment they met. At that instant Coyote and Badger, now considered to be children of these two deities, sprang out of earth at the point of contact. At once Coyote skulked among the people and began to educate them through outrageous acts and reverse psychology, where as Badger went back down into the hole which led to the lower world and maintained a hidden, unobtrusive existence. Badger is powerful though, both physically and magically, and not to be dealt with lightly."
Spenser soon awoke, stretching, yawning and causing all sorts of commotion by pelting me with pine cones. Soon an all out battle ensued, and the opportunity for surprising our trophy buck dissipated. We agreed to leave and search for some bacon and eggs. A far cry from grandma Rose's batter fried venison, homemade biscuits and cream gravy, but it would have to do. As we drove away, I looked back in my rear view mirror and wondered at how, as human beings, we are constantly looking for answers to explain our creation. Some choose the scientific approach, some the spiritual; still others look to the natural world. I am sure truth can be found in all those places. Looking over at my young son, thinking of his sisters and their mother and marveling at the miracle of it all, I realized why the questions arise.
With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.
Copyright 2005 Twin Rocks Trading Post