Baby Coyote lived in a den with his mom and dad, deep in a wood surrounded by the roads and houses of big folk. Mom and Dad Coyote hunted at night. In the early morning, they woke Baby Coyote. They fed him, played with him and kept him safe. They usually slept away the long hours the big folk were walking the trails, but sometimes they would hide and watch them pass by. The big folk seemed to see nothing at all that was not on the trails. Baby Coyote thought they were funny, especially when they would exclaim over dragonflies or poison ivy.
One morning, his mom and dad had to go visit the faraway woods. On the sunshine oak next door, hidden in the nasturtiums behind a round door, lived a happy gnome. His name was Iron Hair, for his stiff, spiky gray hair.
Baby Coyote and Iron Hair were friends. Iron Hair was great at hiding, and he could look like a rock and be more still than a sleeping coyote. Iron Hair would hide, and Baby Coyote liked to sneak up on him in his favorite hiding place, a rock cairn. Baby Coyote could tell it was him by his smell, kind of rocky, earthy and salty all at once. He would sneak up and lick Iron Hair’s ear. That always made Iron Hair laugh his deep rumbling laugh. Mama Coyote banged the knocker: Boom! Boom!
“Who is it?” Iron Hair called out cheerily.
“Baby Coyote needs someone to play with him until dark, when we will be back from the faraway woods,” Mama Coyote called.
The door swung open. “That sounds like fun!” Iron Hair agreed to look after Baby Coyote all day.
Iron Hair and Baby Coyote had a great day together playing deep off the trails where no big folk came. They played Splash Monsters in the creek, scaring all the crawdads. Then they played chase-the-butterflies. Baby Coyote was always faster, but not fast enough to catch the butterflies. Iron Hair could keep so still, sometimes butterflies would land on his nose. Dark fell before they realized. Iron Hair knew just how to get home. They climbed up and over two hills, keeping to the secret gnome pathways.
Their path took them near the big folk’s road, and Baby Coyote forgot to be quiet and still near the big folk’s road. He could see the moon where the trees thinned out into brush, and he began to howl, “Ow, ow, ow, oooooow!” Baby Coyote sounded like a big folk who had stubbed a toe, because he was still a small coyote. He was so busy howling, he didn’t hear the crashing in the underbrush, but Iron Hair did. He froze into the shape of a boulder between one “Ow!” and another.
“Hey, it’s a dog!” Baby Coyote stopped howling and froze. He found himself surrounded by big folk, wearing outlandish clothes. One looked like a bat, another had a red, cobwebby suit on, and another was wearing a red, hooded cloak. The bat spoke again: “Hey, do you think it’s lost?”
The girl with the cloak pushed the hood back onto her shoulders. Her bushy, brown hair sprang out, and she adjusted her glasses. “It doesn’t have a collar. And I think it’s a coyote.”
“It’s too little to be a coyote,” said the boy with the red cobwebby outfit. “Let’s go get mom and ask.”
The three kids disappeared in the brush, and Baby Coyote licked Iron Hair’s ear.
Iron Hair laughed his deep rumbling laugh. “That was a close call. We better skedaddle!”
They heard a distant yell, “Mom! Mom, a coyote!” They hid behind some blackberry brambles.
“What were those weird big folk?” Baby Coyote asked Iron Hair.
“That was Halloween,” answered Iron Hair.
“What’s Halloween?” Baby Coyote had never heard of Halloween.
“Halloween is one night where kids dress up in goofy ghost-umes and pretend to be animals or floppy big folk. The bigger folk give them candy for being so silly looking. Then the kids eat too much, stay up too late, and look a little green the next day.” Iron Hair had been shaking his lumpy-gnome head over the antics of the neighboring big folk his whole life. “They are so silly that the rest of magical world hide the whole night. Witches use all that silliness energy to create a whole year’s spells!”
“Let’s scare them! One left a flashlight!” Baby Coyote ran out to nudge a flashlight. Iron Hair took the flashlight, giggling. He whispered in Baby Coyote’s ear, and they both giggled. They both hid again. Soon the children came back with a bigger folk.
“It’s gone!” The red-hooded girl said sadly.
Iron Hair put the flashlight near the ground in front of Baby Coyote, lighting him up so that his shadow was as tall as a tree on the high rocks behind them. Baby Coyote put his head up and howled, “Ow, ow, ow, oooooow!” At the same time, Iron Hair laughed his deep rumbling laugh, and the two sounds combined in an eery, ghostly barking sound. The big folk, one and all, screamed and ran for the well-lit road. Baby Coyote’s howl turned into a hiccuping laugh and Iron Hair laughed so hard, he fell forward onto his face. “We scared Halloween!” Baby Coyote howled, and they both laughed again.
Iron Hair got up and dusted himself off, “Let’s go home, quick! Your parents will be home soon!” Together, they took the secret gnome paths, deep into the woods off the trail. Far from the street, over the swamp, past the wild turkey roost, they ran, giggling the whole way. Mom and Dad Coyote were there, tired and panting. Their tails wagged, and they nipped and barked over Baby Coyote.
“Mom, Dad! I scared Halloween!”
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham