Coyotes in the Round
September 04, 2021
Sincerest apologies to Jillian Lund as I've selected an image with a CLEAR copyright indication. I'm hoping she, and or Picture Puffin Books will consider it honest advertising and forgive me.
Coolest book ever. Amazon tells me the grade level is pre-school - kindergarten but Amazon and I are going to have to agree to disagree. I looked it up, just to see what else she did, and it appears that Jillian Lund wrote two additional children's books: Two Cool Coyotes, September 1999 and Have You Ever Seen a Jackalope, November 2006. I'll admit, the second coyote book is tempting; Mike will turn 35 in November.
Here's back story:
At the end of 1996 I was working in Scottsdale, AZ and coming home every other weekend. I took the 3 PM out of Sky Harbor every second Friday, and returned on the 5 PM out of LaGuardia Sunday night. I was living in a grim four room suite at a long-term residence facility that primarily served the family members of patients at the Mayo Clinic. My family was in Oxford, CT. My children were five and ten. I'd just missed Mike's tenth birthday but managed to celebrate Lucia's fifth at the beach in August. I collected a shit ton of miles and gave every one of them away; I had no intention of getting back on a plane without damn good reason. We drive to Hatteras.
I did my Christmas shopping for the kids the evening of December 21 and had the book and a few other things shipped directly from the store. December 21 was a Thursday, I didn't expect any trouble getting out on the 22nd, but I was flying straight into a blizzard early the morning of the 23rd.
In 1996 I drove a 1983 Rx-7. That thing was a monster. Low to the ground, rotary engine that could fly to the moon, and two 50 pound sacks of grain in the back for the illusion of stability. Not a winter vehicle.
LaGuardia did a good job with the runways. A little icy, but we didn't end up in the drink. Remember that old joke about USAir? "What do the red and blue lines on the tail mean? They're the high and low tide water marks of Flushing Bay. I overheard a pilot once...
The snow was still coming down, felt like an inch a minute. I cleared the car and crawled toward the exit. I didn't make it out of the parking lot. I figure when you slide an Rx-7 into a massive snowbank at 10 mph, it's time to stop. Yes, for the record, I can drive in snow and learned behind the wheel of a 1973 Vega. That would be a front wheel drive vehicle. I was good at bouncing off snowbanks and recovering. I wasn't going anywhere on December 23.
That was the first and last time I spent the night on an airport floor with most of the passengers on incoming flights. Later, I came close once or twice but that happened in the time of cell phones and company travel services. Best I could do was get in line at a payphone and call home. That was a very long line.
On Sunday morning, December 24, I got out there and tried again. My home was 75 miles north of the airport. Most of the spurs leading out of NYC had been kept plowed down to four to six inches of crud. I could handle crud but when I crossed the Connecticut border I hit a wall and I needed a path. I don't know if they'd shut the state down, but these days it would be shut down for a whole lot less. I was happy to be on I95 instead of the Merit Parkway. I followed a truck to the route 8 connector, waited on the shoulder for another and followed him all the way to exit 22. It's about three miles from exit 22 to West Street and the State of Connecticut was doing its damn best to keep CT 67 clear.
I didn't bother turning onto West Street. I rammed my car into a parking lot at the corner and got out. I took my computer and left the luggage. This was before road warriors traveled in anything other than suits and ties or dresses and pantyhose with 2.75 inch heels. I wore jeans and running shoes; not that I expected to run any time soon. The walk from the parking lot to my front door was less than half a mile.
I walked through the front door at 2 AM, Christmas morning. I could see the lights halfway up our 1,100 foot driveway in the forest. The sky had cleared and the inconceivable weight of snow on those trees is still one of the most stunning miracles with which I've been graced. There was a path shoveled right up the middle of that driveway, with less than six inches of accumulated snow. He must have been out there every ninety minutes. The path cut through no less than four feet of snow. The walkway, steps, and porch had a light dusting.
My husband was waiting on the sofa, not particularly worried, but hopeful. The first thing I asked was if the packages arrived. He pointed under the tree and grinned. "Good thing they arrived wrapped." I think maybe we got two hours in before the kids woke us up and that was enough.
Mike still remembers that coyote named Frank. He' remembers that coyote named Frank, and Frank's friend Melanie. I expect he's in possession of that book, even if he doesn't know he's got it. It's in the box, Mike.
I live in the mountains in Northern, VT, half a mile from the start of the part of VT17 that goes up and over the App Gap. Cyclists with unreasonable (nothing at all wrong with unreasonable) courage and dreams maybe bigger than you and me brute force their way up and take their lives in their hands on the way down. The 2021 Green Mountain Event began yesterday, I expect to see them come blowing right by today or tomorrow. The App Gap has a maximum pitch of 24% - oh, do think of that a minute. Its hairpin turns alone are a death trap. All it takes is one driver taking a turn without consciously expecting to find a very wobbly cyclist around the bend. I think the really hard part, to the peak and back down is between 7 and 8 miles, depending on what you call hard.
So that's my mountain range, and from the back deck, I sit smack in the middle of it. I've got some elevation, but it still feels like a valley.
Every night, they begin at sunset; first one, then an answer, and another and another and another... I don't have to be outside to hear it, but I come to the deck anyway. I come to hear the Coyote Choir in the Round. I've spent a lot of time in very rural parts of Connecticut, but I have never heard anything like it in my life.
A lot of people are scared, a lot of people don't know a thing about them, a lot of people seem to want them dead. Now, I understand if they're stealing your food from the coop or the pen (there's reason for that), I might take issue myself. But. But, but, but, but... don't shoot or poison them for consuming small domesticated dogs you've left outside. You only think you own the land.
When I stand or sit on the deck just before sunset, when they're warming up, I think of Mike and I think of that Coyote named Frank who lived way out west. I think about Frank, who felt like a lifeline between me and my boy for a very long time.
No idea what Mike thought, but there's no telling what a ten year old thinks on any given day. But I know what I thought, and I know who I'm thinking about these days when I step onto the deck just around sunset.