NEARLY every people has its own version of the race of the Hare and the Tortoise. That current among the Pueblos makes the Rabbit the hero, by a trick rather cleverer than Æsop's.
Once the Coyote came where Pee-oo-ée-deh, the little "cotton-tail" rabbit, sat at the door of his house, thinking.
"What do you think, friend Pee-oo-ée-deh?" said the Coyote.
"I am thinking, friend Too-wháy-deh, why some have large tails like you; but we have no tails. Perhaps if we had tails like yours, we could run straight; but now we have to hop."
"It is true, ah-bóo," 1 said the Coyote, not knowing that the Rabbit laughed in his heart. "For I can run faster than any one, and never did any gain from me in the foot-races. But you,--you just hop like a bird."
The Rabbit made a sad face, and the Coyote said: "But come, friend Pee-oo-ée-deh, let us run a race. We will run around the world, and see
who will win. And whichever shall come in first, he shall kill the other and eat him." 1
"It is well," answered the Rabbit. "In four days we will run."
Then the Coyote went home very glad. But Pee-oo-ée-deh called a junta of all his tribe, and told them how it was, and the way he thought to win the race. And when they had heard, they all said: "It is well. Fear not, for we will be the ones that will help you."
When the fourth day came, the Coyote arrived smiling, and threw down his blanket, and stood ready in only the dark blue taparabo, 2 saying: "But what is the use to run? For I shall win. It is better that I eat you now, before you are tired."
But the Rabbit threw off his blanket, and tightened his taparabo, and said: "Pooh! For the end of the race is far away, and there is time to talk of eating. Come, we will run around the four sides of the world. 3 But I shall run underground, for so it is easier for me."
Then they stood up side by side. And when they were ready, the Capitan shouted "Haí-koo!" and they ran. The Coyote ran with all his legs; but the Rabbit jumped into his hole and threw out sand, as those who dig very fast.
Now for many days the Coyote kept running to the east, and saw nothing of Pee-oo-ée-deh. But
just as he came to the east and was turning to the north, up jumped a rabbit from under the ground in front of him, and shouted: "We do this to one another"; and jumped back in the hole and began to throw out dirt very hard.
"Ai!" said the Coyote. "I wish I could run under the ground like that, for it seems very easy. For all these days I have run faster than ever any one ran; yet Pee-oo-ée-deh comes to the east ahead of me." But he did not know it was the brother of Pee-oo-ée-deh, who had come out to the east to wait for him.
So Too-wháy-deh ran harder; and after many days he came to the end of the world, to the north. But just as he was to turn west, up sprang a rabbit in front of him, and taunted him, and went back in its hole, digging.
The Coyote's heart was heavy, but he ran very hard. "Surely," he said, "no one can run so fast as this."
But when he came to the west, a rabbit sprang up ahead of him, and mocked him, and went again under the ground. And when he had run to the south, there was the same thing. At last, very tired and with his tongue out, he came in sight of the starting-point, and there was Pee-oo-ée-deh, sitting at the door of his house, smoothing his hair. And he said: "Poch! Coyote-friend, we do this to one another. For now it is clear that big tails are not good to run with, since I have been waiting here a long time for you. Come here, then, that I may eat you, though you are tough."
But Too-wháy-deh, being a coward, ran away and
would not pay his bet. And all the brothers of Pee-oo-ée-deh laughed for the trick they had put upon the Coyote.
In a case which I knew of, years ago, this folk-story seems to have given a hint to human racers. A Mexican who owned a large and very fleet-footed burro, challenged a young Indian of Acoma to a ten-mile race. The Indian was a very famous runner, and the challenger depended on the distance alone to wear him out. In accordance with the conditions the rivals started together from the goal, the Indian on foot, the Mexican on his burro. For about four miles the Indian left the galloping donkey far behind; but he could not keep up such a tremendous pace, and the burro began to gain. About midway of the course where the trail touches a great lava-flow, the Indian dove into a cave. Just as the Mexican was passing, out came an Indian, passed the burro with a magnificent spurt, and after a long run reached the farther goal about a hundred feet ahead. Unfortunately for him, however, the trick was detected--he was the twin brother of the challenged man, and had awaited him in the cave, taking up the race fresh when the first runner was tired!
99:1 Poor thing.
100:1 A challenge of this sort, with life as the stake, was very common among all Indians; and it was impossible for the challenged to decline. This story recalls that of the Antelope Boy. Four days always elapsed between the challenge and the race.
100:2 Breech-clout, which is the only thing worn in a foot-race.
100:3 Which the Pueblos believe to be flat and square.