In which the old coyote puts on his Yaktrax
By Alan Stark
The coyote gazes out of his den at the snow pelting the foothills below.
“Brrrr. Who the hell would want to go out in this slop?”
“Your turn to hunt,” says his younger mate.
“All the mice, rats, and prairie dogs will be holed up.”
“Go dumpster diving.”
“Too much snow on the lids. Hard to open.”
“You could sit outside the homeless shelter looking pathetic.”
You’re the one who said he owns the trails up here.”
“Well, get out on them and get us dinner.”
He gets up and stretches, hearing joints creak and feeling muscles ache. He looks around the den to make sure he didn’t miss any scraps of food. Noting that the pantry is bare, he crawls out through an almost invisible hole and into the snow. He shakes his brown-yellow-grey coat to clear the snow and does a careful 360-degree check of his surroundings.
First, he scans the sky for big birds on patrol. Then looking uphill he sees the hogback and some houses above him that were built by people with more money than common sense. He looks north up toward Lyons where the tough people relentlessly rebuild their town after the flood. To the east he see the flatland and the sprawl of Dogpatch that has been rebuilt as a Millennial ghetto. To the south he can see the cement plant on the edge of Rocky Flats.
There isn’t much that threatens him in these hills around Boulder. He’s large and in decent shape although he has seen ten winters. But he nonetheless checks, out of habit, because another litter is on the way and the foothills are a hugely dangerous place for pups.
“Geesus, knocked up again.” He mumbles to himself.
“What was I thinking?
“I should be retiring to the Old Coyote’s Home. But Nooo. We’ve got another pack of pups coming to take care of.”
The runner pads along the trail around Wonderland Lake. He isn’t exactly running anymore. It is more like jogging—and that is on a good day. On a snowy day he looks like he is walking fast.
He’s been running forty years, mostly in the High Country, but also along the Chesapeake Bay where the wind off the water felt like it would cut a hole right through him, and on Puget Sound where it was an odd day when all his clothes were dry.
He constantly reminds himself to straighten his posture and hold his head up as he runs. But within minutes he is back to carefully staring at the snowy trail directly in front of him looking for things that could make him stumble and possibly blow up a knee again.
“Going for a run?” his blue-eyed mate asked.
“No, I’m wearing tights because I’m going to tryout for the Boulder Ballet.”
“I didn’t know they needed old crease defensemen.”
“No one does.”
“Put on your Yaktraxs.”
“Nah, don’t need them. I own the trail.”
“No more calls from the ER.”
“Hey, not fair. It was just once.”
“Put ‘em on.”
He reaches the dogleg pitch at the northwest end of the lake and begins the huff and puff uphill to the crunch of his running shoes in the ice and snow. Reaching the top he scans the foothills looking for movement using that extra sense that most mountain people have—the sense that there is another animal out there long before he can see it.
In the foothills he sees a brown-yellow-grey coat moving efficiently along a contour toward the north. The trotting animal pauses every so often to look around, sniff the air, and then continue the hunt. The runner glances up every so often to follow the coyote and watch the storm.
“No coyote would be out in this snowstorm unless he got tossed out of his den by a hungry mate,” the runner mumbles. “Wonder what he thinks he’ll be catching today?”
“Runner down and to the right,” the coyote thinks, “It’s amazing his mate let him out in this.”
“You’d think they’d give it up. But this is Boulder, they keep running until they can’t. Could be a lesson in that…or not.”
“If I were a coyote on the hunt I’d be working the dumpsters in Dogpatch. There are some half good restaurants over there and a bakery.”
“Wonder what it’s like to have a full refrigerator at home? Just open that hummer up and there’s a roasted chicken from Nick-N-Willy’s and a bomber from Avery.” The coyote thinks of the chicken and licks his lips.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing to be a coyote whose only job is to protect and provide for his family? No more time-sink meetings, or a mortgage that will never get paid off. No more software engineers telling me how smart they are, or general corporate creepiness that makes me fear for the future of this country.”
“I wouldn’t be out in this shitty weather unless I had to hunt,” the coyote grumbles to no one.
“There is no place I’d rather be than here right now, than running through the snowstorm watching the coyote hunt.”
“Why would anyone run in the snow for the fun of it? Not because you have to hunt like I do but because it’s their sport?”
The runner turns right and heads up the Old Kiln Trail to the west. His pace slows as he works his way uphill. The coyote drops down to the Old Kiln Trail where it flattens for a moment before splitting to go up to the hogback to the west and down to the stream to the north.
The coyote stops and takes a dump right in the middle of the trail.
“That will let the runner know who owns this trail.”
The coyote moves on downhill toward the dumpsters.
The runner reaches the top of the trail and sees the pile of steaming scat. He stops for a moment, laughs, and kicks the turds aside.
“We both own this trail coyote.”
Alan Stark is a free-lance writer who lives in Boulder and Breckenridge with this blue-eyed person and her dog.
Photo by Christopher Bruno/Creative Commons