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I Was Once A Coyote

~ But Not A Professional One ~

And I hope to be eaten by coyotes after I'm dead.

In the early 1980s I was working on Possum Kingdom Lake building and repairing boat docks, walkways and such. One Friday after work, I drove from Possum Kingdom down to a lettuce farm near Del Rio and picked up the brother of a young illegal alien fellow I worked with at the lake named Jesús (pronounced Haysoos). A nice guy and a very hard worker with a good brain, but few trade skills. We became friends when I started teaching him the basics of arc welding, much to the irritation of our boss.

The boss didn't want his "wetback" (yep, he actually called him that) learning any skills. He just wanted him around to do heavy lifting and cleanup work in the construction yard and down at the launch cove. I didn't care what the boss wanted. I liked Jesús and wanted to help him reunite with his brother. Besides, I was sick of the lousy pay and was preparing to twist off anyway.

When I arrived at the farm right on the Texas/Mexico border, I drove up to the only house in sight. Before I could get out of the truck, a young woman stepped out onto the porch and asked two direct questions: "Are you here for the brother of Jesús?" and then, after barely a pause, "Are you married?". To the first question I nodded, to the second I shook my head, probably too vigorously. She smiled and pointed out over an adjacent field of iceberg lettuce. "He's over there picking lettuce," she said, then shouted his name (which I cannot remember at the moment).

A deeply sun-darkened man of small stature–very much like his older brother–stood up and waved. I waved back and got out to meet him. He picked up his shirt and put it on as he walked toward me, bringing nothing else with him. We shook hands and smiled a lot. He spoke no English. I spoke no Spanish beyond hola, buenas dias, buenas tardes, buenas noches and a few curse words. Both smiling at our good fortune to actually have connected so easily in the middle of nowhere as we had both hoped we would, we got into the truck and headed back north with an adiós and hasta la vista and lots of goodbye waves to the young woman still standing on the porch.

Thankfully, we encountered no border patrols as we eased northward out of their territory, then both relaxed and enjoyed the long journey back to Possum Kingdom Lake. It was springtime and the roadsides were covered with long, wide swaths of recently bloomed bluebonnet, buttercup and firewheel most of the way. Ladybird Johnson's doing. We stopped for nothing–not even a meal–driving steadily north, and arrived in Possum Kingdom just as the sun was setting fiery red, yellow and blue beyond the rise of land west of the deep blue lake, echoing colors of the wildflowers.

Jesús was grateful to see his brother again after so long, and we partied a bit together with other friends and family which had gathered for the reunion. They called it a "Coyote Party" in my honor, repeatedly calling me Coyote Joe as the party progressed. And as simple as it was, it was a cool party thrown with genuine appreciation and grace. No booze or dope or naked dancing women. We just sat in the living room of the little house together, eating heaping plates of frijoles and brown rice followed by lots of Oreos washed down with ice cold milk for desert. Jesús had picked up a little English while working in the US for more than a year by then and he translated his brother's thanks and compliments on a smooth, safe ride across Texas. They both insisted on paying me and would not take no for an answer, giving me more than enough crumpled cash from their pockets to cover fuel cost for the entire trip. I smiled and said gracias a bunch of times then nodded decisively and said my farewells, having thoroughly enjoyed my brief career as a coyote.

There are two packs of coyotes living out here. I call them the Up-canyon pack and Down-canyon pack because they seem to keep to those two territories. They're a riot to listen to when they get to yipping at each other, their voices bouncing off canyon slopes in eerie counterpoint. It used to drive Paddy and Quinn nuts if I kept them in the house when they were vocalizing nearby. I think the Up-canyon and Down-canyon packs would enjoy feasting upon my body when I finally keel over and expire someplace out here. Maybe the two packs will feast together on my corpse party style. Beats the hell out of breathing my last in some damned hospital smelling of rubbing alcohol and ammonia, with tubes inserted and bio-sensors dangling from various places before finally being stuffed into a plastic bag for disposal as a biohazard upon croaking there.

The latter would be a horrific end to a fantastic life. The former would most surely be another fine Coyote Party.

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