'Coyote's Wild Ride' | Ep. 158

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(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Who do you think of when you hear the word “leader”?

The president or prime minister of a country, maybe? How about the principal of a school? Or the coach of a sports team? Or the conductor of an orchestra?

Whatever they’re in charge of, the strongest leaders are the ones who think about the people they're leading, and how they can motivate and inspire them.

But in the story we’re about to hear, we’ll meet a wannabe leader who only thinks about himself!

Our story is called “Coyote’s Wild Ride.” Versions of this tale come from the Paiute peoples of North America, who traditionally lived in the area that now makes up Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah.

Voices in this episode include Erika Rose, Dawn Ursula, and Alan Tudyk, star of Resident Alien, now in its second season on SyFy. Alan has lent his one-of-a-kind voice to nearly a dozen Disney films, including Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Encanto.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by supervising producer Amory Sivertson. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Coloring Page

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes, click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

You can tell your own origin story about how something came to be the way it is today – like how the stars appeared in the sky, why summer follows spring, or how hedgehogs got so wonderfully prickly.

Pick your subject, then make up a story about why it is the way it is. Then tell your story to someone you have fun with – and ask them to tell you a story, too!

Musical Spotlight: The Pedal Steel Guitar 

With both hands, both feet, and both knees all moving together to bring this instrument to life, composer Eric Shimelonis (pictured here) compares playing the pedal steel to knitting a sweater while flying a helicopter – at the exact same time! (courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
With both hands, both feet, and both knees all moving together to bring this instrument to life, composer Eric Shimelonis (pictured here) compares playing the pedal steel to knitting a sweater while flying a helicopter – at the exact same time! (courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

The pedal steel looks like a guitar built into a table. You sit down at the “table,” then you activate the strings with finger picks on one hand, while changing the length of the strings by moving a heavy steel bar over them with your other hand.

The instrument evolved from Hawaiian lap steel guitars, and now has many variations. In addition to two full necks with sets of ten or twelve strings, the modern pedal steel can have as many as nine foot pedals and eight knee levers, each of which allow you to bend different notes and create different chords. Hearing those bends as they happen is part of the instrument’s dreamy and twangy sound.


NARRATOR: Long, long ago… before humans roamed the earth… the world was ruled by animals. And the animals were ruled by Eagle.

All the animals looked up to Eagle with admiration and adoration. Well, all the animals…

COYOTE: Awwwwww, Eagle shmeagle!

NARRATOR: … except for one.

The pointy-eared, bushy-tailed wild dog known as… Coyote.

COYOTE: Yup! That’s me! And come on! What’s the big deal about Eagle anyway! I mean, sure, she has strength. She has speed. She has a beak so sharp she can tear flesh off the bone. But look at me! I’m quick! I’m nimble! And I’m clever as all get-out! Countless stories have been told about my legendary, wily tricks! Including this one! So take that, Eagle!

NARRATOR: Now… if you’ve ever seen a coyote in the wild, then you know that he has multicolored fur. Most of his body is a light tannish-brown, but his back – and the tip of his bushy tail – are as black as burnt toast.

He’s also what we call crepuscular: instead of staying up all day, he tends to come out only at dawn and dusk.

COYOTE: But wait a minute, wait a minute! My fur isn’t multicolored! I’m a light, tannish-brown from head to tail! I’m also not that other thing you said. What was that word again?

NARRATOR: Crepuscular?

COYOTE: Right! I’m not crepuscular! I wake up in the morning, and I go to sleep at night!

NARRATOR: So you’re diurnal.

COYOTE: Yeah! Oh, wait a minute! Is this going to be one of those origin stories about how those two changes came about?? The fur thing and the – remind me one more time…?

NARRATOR: The crepuscular thing.

COYOTE: Right. The fur thing and the crepuscular thing?

NARRATOR: You guessed it! This is going to be one of those origin stories.

COYOTE: Ha! I knew it! Told you I was clever as all get-out!

NARRATOR: One bright afternoon, as Coyote lay on a patch of grass, lounging in the midday sun, he began scheming about how he might take Eagle’s place as chief of the animals.

COYOTE: Let me see… what if I do something to really impress the other animals? Something ultra-mega-super-spectacular that’ll wow them so much they’ll be begging me to take over?! Then it'll be my time to shine! To have my day in the sun! To – (gasp) wait a minute! That’s it! The sun!!!

NARRATOR: Coyote leaped to his feet.

COYOTE: I will ride the sun across the sky! And the other animals will watch in wonder as I travel from east to west on the back of my blazing chariot! What could be more ultra-mega-super-spectacular than that?

NARRATOR: Coyote knew that every morning, the sun rose behind the Great Mountain in the East. Then it rode across the sky until evening, when it set behind the Great Mountain in the West.

So one day, after the sun went down, Coyote set off on a journey to the Great Mountain in the East. With nothing but the moon and stars to light his way, he trekked up narrow trails…

COYOTE: (trekking up narrow trails)

NARRATOR: …he scrambled across scattered stones…

COYOTE: (scrambling across stones)

NARRATOR: …he bounded over big boulders…

COYOTE: (bounding over boulders)

NARRATOR: Until, at last, he finally reached the top.

COYOTE: (delighted laugh) Ha ha! The sky is still dark! I’m so quick and nimble I managed to make it up here before sunrise! Now I just need… to wait.

NARRATOR: Coyote waited…

COYOTE: (singing)

NARRATOR: …and waited…

NARRATOR: …and the moment the sky began to lighten up just the teeny-tiniest bit, he took a deep breath…

COYOTE: (deep breath)

NARRATOR: …then a running jump…

COYOTE: (taking a running jump)

NARRATOR: …then he soared through the air…

COYOTE: ( soaring through air)

NARRATOR: …and landed on top of the rising sun!

COYOTE: (delighted laughter) Ha ha ha!

NARRATOR: When the Sun felt Coyote’s paws, it immediately froze in its tracks! 

COYOTE: Um, okay, I’m gonna stop you right there. How can the sunfreeze in its tracks” – your words – when it’s a burning hot ball of gas?!? Ya ever heard of something “freezing” and “burning” at the same time?

NARRATOR: Actually, that’s a good point – you are clever as all get-out, aren’t you? So how about if instead we say, um, “the Sun came to a halt”?

COYOTE: That works!

NARRATOR: Great! So the sun came to a halt… and called out to its unwanted passenger.

SUN: Coyote!!!!! What in the blazes do you think you’re doing?!?

COYOTE: I’m doing something ultra-mega-super-spectacular to impress the other animals so they’ll make me chief! I am riding your back across the sky!

SUN: Not if I have any say in it! Look, Coyote! I have a job to do! It’s up to me to rise and shine!!! To dawn the day!!! And you’re making me late for work!

COYOTE: Sorry, Sun, but I’m not going anywhere! Either you take me with you across the sky, or you sit here forever!

NARRATOR: The Sun knew it couldn’t leave the world blanketed in darkness. So, grudgingly, it gave in.

SUN: (grudgingly) Alright… fine. I’ll take you with me. But fair warning, my furry friend. Things are going to get very heated!

NARRATOR: What do you think will happen next? Will Coyote succeed in wowing the animals with his ride across the sky?

We’ll find out after a quick break!


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “Coyote’s Wild Ride.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, Coyote was determined to replace Eagle as chief of the animals by impressing his fellow creatures and doing something amazing.

COYOTE: Something ultra-mega-super-spectacular, you mean!

NARRATOR: Right! Something ultra-mega-super-spectacular! 

So in the dark of night, he climbed to the top of the Great Mountain in the East. And the moment the sun began to rise, Coyote leaped onto the fiery orb’s back!

COYOTE: Alright, Sun! Let's blaze!!!!

NARRATOR: As the sun lifted into the sky, it wasn’t long before the animals on earth caught sight of Coyote riding piggyback! But instead of thinking he was  ultra-mega-super-spectacular… they thought he was ultra-mega-out of his mind!

ANIMAL 1: What is Coyote doing?!?

ANIMAL 2: Is that wild dog really riding… the sun???

ANIMAL 3: What kind of fool would do something like that???

ANIMAL 4: How long do you think he’ll last up there?!?

NARRATOR: The only animal who stayed silent… was Eagle. She just kept her glittering golden eyes fixed on Coyote, and didn’t say a word.

Meanwhile, back in the sky, the sun was creeping higher and higher… and Coyote was getting hotter and hotter!

Coyote was a wild dog, of course. And dogs, you may know, don’t perspire; they don’t sweat. Instead, if they need to cool off, they pant! So as the sun continued its path across the sky, Coyote…

COYOTE: (panting)

NARRATOR: …was panting up a storm!

COYOTE: (panting)

NARRATOR: Not that it did much good.

COYOTE: (as he pants) Oh man! I’m so hot I could fry an egg on my rump! Uh, Sun? You don’t by any chance have some water, do you? So I can cool off?

SUN: Coyote! Has all the heat gone to your head?!? I am a fiery ball of gas! If you wanted water, you should have hitched a ride with a rain cloud! Not me!

COYOTE: Okay, fair point! But at this point, I’m so thirsty I could drink a –

NARRATOR: Coyote stopped short.

COYOTE: (intense sniffing) Wait a minute. (sniffs some more) Do I smell something burning?

NARRATOR: Coyote whipped his light, tannish-brown snout this way and that as he sniffed…

COYOTE: (sniff)

NARRATOR: …and sniffed.

COYOTE: (sniff) Oh yeah! Something’s definitely burning. And I think it might be… (realizing) me!!!

NARRATOR: Indeed, the fur on Coyote’s bushy tail had caught fire and begun to smoke! And as the desperate dog scrambled to put out the flames…

COYOTE: (trying to put out the flames)

NARRATOR: …he saw that the tip of his tail was singed! And had turned from a light tannish-brown… to black!

COYOTE: Oh noooo! (distressed moan)

NARRATOR: But that wasn’t all.

At noon, when the sun rose to its highest point in the sky, it also rose to its hottest! Coyote felt his body grow warmer and warmer, until…

COYOTE: (sniffing)

NARRATOR: …he smelled that smell again, and saw that the fur all the way down his back had turned every bit as dark as the tip of his tail!

COYOTE: Oh no! My fur is as black as burnt toast! Just like you said it would be! Why didn’t anyone tell me this part of the origin story would be so unpleasant?!?

NARRATOR: As the sun got closer to its destination – and Coyote got closer to passing out – he came to a decision.

COYOTE: As soon as this nightmare is over, never again will I come out during the hot, bright hours of the day! Instead, I will become cre-peeeecre-pohhhcre-pooo… Aw shucks, what was that word again?

NARRATOR: Crepuscular?

COYOTE: I will become crepuscular! I will only come out at dawn and dusk!

NARRATOR: And indeed… that’s exactly what he’s done ever since.

NARRATOR: But that’s not where our story ends.

COYOTE: (super relieved) I’m so glad you said that! I thought you were going to leave me up here forever!

NARRATOR: Oh, of course not!

NARRATOR: After what felt like the longest day of Coyote’s entire life, the Sun finally reached the Great Mountain in the West.

COYOTE: Thank goodness!

NARRATOR: Without wasting a minute, Coyote leaped off the sun and landed on the cool, shady ground. As he lay there in an exhausted, overheated heap, his keen ears suddenly picked up…

NARRATOR: …a sound!

COYOTE: Are those… wings…?

NARRATOR: Then he heard…

EAGLE: Coyote…?

NARRATOR: …a voice.

EAGLE: Coyote! Are you alright?

NARRATOR: Coyote lifted his head. And who should he see standing above him but the chief of the animals! In other words…

COYOTE: (seeing who it is) Eagle!!! What are you doing here?

EAGLE: Well, I saw that stunt you pulled today, Coyote. And I figured you’d want some of this.

NARRATOR: Eagle extended one of her talons. In it was a cool, clear cup of water.

COYOTE: Oh, thank you, Eagle! Thank you! (guzzling down water)

NARRATOR: After Coyote swallowed the very last drop…

COYOTE: (finishing drinking)

NARRATOR: …Eagle fixed the bedraggled dog with her glittering, golden eyes.

EAGLE: You know, Coyote… I know why you did what you did today.

COYOTE: You do…?

EAGLE: I do! You wanted to do something ultra-mega-super-spectacular to impress the animals! So they would make you their chief!

COYOTE: I did…

EAGLE: But let me ask you something. Why do you think you should be the one who leads the animals?

COYOTE: Well… like I’ve been saying throughout this whole story… I’m quick… I’m nimble… and I’m clever as all get-out!

EAGLE: Fair enough. And why do you think I’m the one who leads the animals?

COYOTE: Well… like I said at the very start of the story… you have strength… and speed… and – what else did I say? So much has happened since then!

NARRATOR: You said she has a beak so sharp it can tear flesh off the bone!

COYOTE: Right! That’s it! It’s disgusting, but true!

EAGLE: Well, Coyote, it’s true. I do have all those things. And this beak is wicked sharp; you should see what I can do with a freshly-caught rainbow trout! But listen, my friend. True leadership is about more than strength or speed, or quickness and cleverness. It’s about honesty! And fairness! And dedication to serving the ones you lead! Being a leader isn’t about impressing others, Coyote. It’s about improving their lives! Making them better! And now that I think of it…

NARRATOR: Eagle spread her wings.

EAGLE:that might be the most “ultra-mega-super-spectacular” thing of all.

NARRATOR: Then she lifted into the air, before vanishing into the night sky.

COYOTE: That is ultra-mega-super-spectacular!

NARRATOR: Well, as you might guess, that was the last time Coyote tried to overthrow Eagle as chief of the animals.

But it wasn’t the last time he got into mischief. For generations, people have told stories about this crepuscular, black-streaked creature who prided himself for being quick, nimble, and clever.

COYOTE: (clearing his throat) Ahem…!???

NARRATOR: (with a smile) As all get-out.

COYOTE: Yeehaw! Ain’t it the truth?!

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Rebecca Sheir Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



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