Coyote was walking down the road one day, thinking only of food. It had been several days since he had last eaten, and he felt so sorry for himself that he sobbed with his face against his arm. His stomach was making noises like boiling water, and his head hurt. And then, near where the sumac grows, he saw great clusters of delicious-looking red berries! Coyote grew very excited as he ran over to grab them. Just as his hands touched the berries, his mind remembered a talk he had with the Wise Old Man. During one of their many conversations, Coyote had asked, "Tell me, Wise Old Man, where did we get this land? Was it given to us by our ancestors?" And the Wise Old Man replied, "Of course not, Coyote, We are borrowing this land from our great-great-great-great grandchildren. We must take good care of it because it belongs to them. To remind us of this, the children of the future have put bunches of red berries near where the sumac grows. These berries are theirs, so no matter how hungry you get, you must never eat them. They are only to remind you that the land belongs to the children yet to come."
"What will happen to us, Old Man, if we do eat the berries?" asked Coyote.
And the Wise Old Man replied, "I am sorry, Coyote, but if you eat those berries, your behind will fall off."
This is what Coyote remembered as his hands touched the berries. He stopped and thought a moment. Sweat was running down his face, and he said to himself, "I have always known the Wise Old Man was a fool. What does he know? He is just trying to keep the berries for himself. Besides how could I owe something to people who are not even here yet?"
So Coyote ate the berries. He ate as fast as he could and as many as he could. Coyote felt fine! He looked behind him, and his behind had not fallen off. He laughed very loudly and began skipping down the road. He had not gone far when his stomach began to hurt something awful. And then he began to get diarrhea, first a little and then a great stream. Coyote was sick, the sickest he had ever been! Coyote felt terrible! He thought about the children who were yet to come, and he thought about the Wise Old Man, and he was very embarrassed. Coyote walked slowly to the river where he got a drink of water, and then he went to hide himself in the deep bushes. He didn’t want anyone to know that he had forgotten the children yet to come and that his behind had fallen off!
~Anonymous Native American story as told on the cover on the CD Lou Harrison: A Portrait