“Coyotes have the gift of seldom being seen; they keep to the edge of vision and beyond, loping in and out of cover on the plains and highlands. And at night, when the whole world belongs to them, they parley at the river with the dogs, their higher, sharper voices full of authority and rebuke. They are an old council of clowns, and they are listened to.”
N. Scott Momaday in “House Made of Dawn”
On early summer nights like this, with light just fading from the sky at 10 PM, it will be only a few minutes before the local coyote choristers begin their nightly serenade. This can be a surround-sound experience with coyote packs echoing back and forth from distant corners of farmland and woodlands below the hill where we live. Their shrill yipping and yapping song, with hollering, chortling and hooting, becomes impossible to ignore just as it is time to go to sleep. Like priming a pump, the rise and fall of the coyote ensemble inevitably inspires the farm dogs to tune up, exercising their vocal cords with a howl or two. It becomes canine bedlam outside our windows, right at bedtime.
Coyotes send a mixed message: they insist on being heard and listened to, yet are seldom visible. In a rare sighting, it is a low slung slinking form scooting across a field with a rabbit in its mouth, or patiently waiting at a fence line as a new calf is born, hoping to duck in and grab the placenta before the cow notices. They are not particularly brave nor bold yet they insist on commanding attention and ear drums.
Irritating not only for their ill-timed concerts, they also have a propensity for thieving sleeping chickens from coop roosts in the night. Despite my disgust for that behavior, I have to grudgingly admire such independent self sufficient characters. They do know how to take care of themselves in a dog-eat-dog world, primarily by eating whatever they can get their jaws around and carry away, no matter who it may belong to.
I can just envision this old council of clowns gathered around giggling and sniggering in the dark at their own silly stories of the hunt. As I listen from a distance, sometimes just a few yards, sometimes miles, I wish to be let in on the joke.
Just once I want to howl back, plaintive, pleading, pejorative–another bozo adding my voice to the noisy nocturnal chorus– hoping somebody, anybody might listen, hear and join in the laughter.