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Out Our Way: The coyote knows - Zechariah 2:8-9 


Last updated 5/14/2021 at 8:07am

   Out our way, except for a few mountain lions, I saw very few predators on the Tiger Ridge. The land is fenced and the herds are pretty large. I have seen an angry cow or two stamping her feet and shaking her head before charging a cowhand who annoyed her calf, so I suppose coyotes steer clear.

But back in the Wyoming sandhills, the herd was small and fewer fences. Coyotes tended to abound out there and while mama remained mama, occasionally a calf would get taken. A friend of mine pointed out a small band of coyotes trotting along and checking us out as we rode along to check the herd, and, seeing how close they were to us, he remarked, "I left my rifle at home and they know it." 

Over the years, he had observed that when he was unarmed, the coyote pack tended to draw closer to the herd, perhaps within a hundred yards or less. But when he had his rifle with him, the same pack would stay just out of rifle range. Who knew coyotes were that smart?  

I was thinking about this when I was reading today's text and how the folks who prefer darkness to light could use a lesson from the coyote. For when it comes to "dumb and dumber," every generation seems to have an overabundance. Year after year, generation after generation, the same lesson is taught over and over again. Those who worship power and control above all else will always abuse it. The end never justifies the means, for those who use evil in the name of God do not end evil, they just redirect it for a time. As we have all heard, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." And history has shown this same pattern, generation after generation, age after age; evil remains evil regardless who is the victim. Thus, in the name of justice and righteousness, the evil of one power is overthrown only to be replaced by an equal or even great evil of another. Different tyrants, same corruption and abuse.

Strange, when one thinks of it. The coyote is smart enough to learn from the past. Somewhere back a ways they got near a rancher with a rifle and paid the price. But they didn't have to pay it again. They learned the lesson and remembered, and it seems they passed the lesson on to their young as well, so generation after generation grew up with that knowledge. Seems strange that so many people aren't as smart as coyotes. The brutal lessons of history are forgotten, ignored, or even denied and hidden, so the same blunders and fatal errors are repeated over and over again.  

Fortunately, God is patient, and, here and there, a few folks awake and who heed the signs of the times. They paid attention to the lessons of the past that so many now ignore. They know what lies ahead. But even more they know Who is waiting up ahead as well. I saw a cartoon - an old man sighing that "Not only are those who do not learn from history doomed to repeat it, but the wise who do learn are helpless to stop then from doing so." Well, there is truth to that, but it is not the whole truth. For all of history repeats itself - including the reminder that God is still God and, ultimately, He is in control. Foolishness will reign supreme for a time, but it will eventually be exposed and the way opened to wisdom again. Thus wrote the prophets of old and their word proved true.

Out on the Rez I heard old stories of Coyote - a trickster in many ways, but one admired by the People for wisdom. My friend told me he never got a shot at one because they had learned how to stay out of range, and taught each following generation that wisdom. Maybe we humans could take a lesson from old Coyote.

Be blessed and be a blessing! 

Brother John 


The Rev. John Bruington is the retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He now lives in Colorado, but continues to write "Out Our Way." He can be reached for comment or dialogue at [email protected]


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