Waxing Poetic Over the Wail of the Coyote

My insistence that coyotes have a right to eat, too, has brought a flood of support for that cunning creature.

Marjorie Kemper of Glendale lives on a hilly slope back of Forest Lawn, and over the years, she writes, the proliferation of houses on the heights has driven the coyotes down to hunt domestic animals and scavenge fallen fruits and garbage.

"Frankly, I wish them luck. I should think in this era of a million laws and municipal codes and home owner associations and Big Brother in all of his unlovely guises that everyone would identify with the coyote, that symbol of harassed individualism. I know I do."

Mary Peate of Westlake Village thinks my word howlin g is inadequate to describe the coyote's song: "Indeed, I don't think one word could describe the sound they make. There is a variety of noises--a series of short barks; a chattering chich-chich-chich sound; a high-pitched wailing and screaming; and when they're in pursuit of their prey, a combination of screeching and cackling, followed by the most daunting sound of all--abrupt silence."

Ruth Kelley of Canyon Country writes that coyotes have taken so many of their cats that they have finally given up on cats, "and are enjoying the now proliferating quail, mockingbirds, doves, jays, hummingbirds, sparrows and miscellaneous 'tweety-birds.' "

She encloses a poem written by her 80-year-old friend, Emma Lent:

I hear you, out in the windy darkness

Hurling your challenge against the wall of night

Defying traps and poisoned bait and guns

Taunting the house-bound dogs

I hear you. I applaud your affirmation

Freedom and hunger are better than chains

And a mess of pottage

Mrs. Kelley also encloses a prize-winning short story she wrote for children, telling of their last surviving cat, Cleopatra, who outwitted the coyotes for eight years, until a flood washed out her runways and hiding places and she was finally caught.

Kathleen Collier of La Habra grew up in the mountains "where their nightly serenade was a normal, if not somewhat mysterious and deliciously frightening, part of my childhood experience."

To retain that experience she has written what she calls a "written photograph--something I could always have should the time ever come when their cry faded altogether."

The beseeching cry

Of the coyote

Reaches out across the city night

Begging me to remember a once was

When the only accompaniment to his song

Was the soft breath of the wind in the leaves

And the only light to his path

Came from a compassionate moon floating

Amidst far away worlds

As gently I was coaxed towards sleep

By lyrics which enfolded me in all the mystery of creation

Delving deep inside me

To touch the furthermost borders of my soul

Such poetic sentiments tend to offset the meaner view of reader Bruce Lowry: "Of course coyotes do not have to eat. Coyotes have a perfectly logical alternative. They can become extinct. . . ."

Hal G. Evarts of La Jolla quotes a passage from "The Yellow Horde," a novel written in 1921 by his father, Hal G. Evarts Sr: "He listened to the first night sounds of the foothills. A coyote raised his voice, a perfect tenor note that swept up to a wild soprano, then fell again in a whirl of howls which carried amazing shifts of inflection. . . . Wild music to the ears of most men, the song of limitless horizons freighted with a loneliness which is communicated to man in a positive ache for companionship. . . .

"It moved Collins to quiet mirth . . . the first clamorous outburst of the night. He read in it a note of deep-seated humor, the jeering laughter of the whole coyote tribe mocking the world of men who had sworn to exterminate their kind. 'The little yellow devils!' Collins chuckled. 'Men can't wipe 'em out. There'll be a million coyotes left to howl when the last man dies.' "

There are rogue coyotes. Dell Kendall of Glendale chastises me for doubting that coyotes carry off small children. She reminds me that a little girl was seized from her doorstep and killed by a coyote in Glendale only a few years ago, and that the story was widely publicized.

I'm sure that girl's family can hardly sympathize with my sentiments about coyotes. All I can say is that children are not as much in danger from coyotes as from drive-by shootings.

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