Prospecting in the winter is as tough as it is during the summer months. One simply exchanges a broiling heat for frigid temperatures, as I very well knew.
The hill before me had a number of Pinion pine covering it and I wanted to see what might lay beyond it. While I didn’t expect much change in the scenery, I knew I was looking for that something that told me I might find a few gem stones, or a small gold vein.
What I didn’t expect was to find a coyote, tangled in a tree with a throwing-rope around his neck. While surprised at the sight of him, he was none to happy to see me as he bared his teeth as a warning not to draw any closer.
Once I understood what had happened to this coyote, I was instantly reminded of the poem, ‘The Belled Coyote,’ written by Bob Fletcher. It’s the poem on which Cole Porter based his 1934 hit song, “Don’t Fence Me In.”
So, I stood silently and watched him as he tried in desperation to escape the rope. He was having no success and it was obvious that he’d been at it for days, as his frame showed the gaunt ravaged of a slow starvation.
Realizing this, I felt for my six-shooter, thinking I should put him out of his misery, but the more I saw his struggle, the less heart I had to do so. There was something in his eyes and in his action that screamed survival and I couldn’t refuse the call.
Instead, I set about figuring how to release him from the predicament he had found himself tangled in. The first thing I needed was a long branch from one of the Pinions as I planned to use it to keep him at bay while I cut the rope from the tree he become entangled on.
As I knelt on the snow-covered ground, I could hear him issuing warnings in his guttural language. However the more I worked, ignoring his complaints, the more he calmed and the less he showed me his fangs.
Sizing up the rope, I knew I had to cut it as close to the coyote as possible, lest he end up getting entangled again. That meant untangling the rope from the tree or simply cutting it would be ineffective in the long run.
Knowing that my rescue of the coyote called for a different plan, I decided to withdraw from the tree and fetch some jerky from my pack. I tossed him a small piece, which he initially tried to run from.
Eventually, his nose caught scent of the meat and he began investigating it. After he gobbled it down, for the first time his ears perked up and he didn’t snarl at me.
After feeding him a couple of more pieces of jerky, I concluded that there was only one way to get him free – and that it involved perfect timing – because I might not get a second chance and worse, he could bite me. With my branch in hand, being dragged behind me, I worked myself up closer and closer to the beast, until I was about five-feet from him.
Offering jerky bits, helped alleviate his natural fear, as his hunger was far greater than his fear. Finally I tossed a piece of meat over his back and as he turned to retrieve it, I lunged forward with the branch and trapped his body to the ground.
To say he was unhappy is an understatement as he did everything he could to escape from where I had him pinned. Using the branch as a step, I held him tight to the ground and moved closer to where the rope embedded in his fur.
Then in a very uncharacteristic action, the coyote simply submitted as I quickly pulled the would-be noose from his neck and yanked it over his head. Then I sprung back, creating some distance between us.
The coyote jumped to his feet and raced off down the far side of hill. Laughing at how quickly he high-tailed it away, I shouted after him, “You’re welcome.”
Returning to the tree in which he’d been tangled, I set about working out how to unwrap the rope. It took me about 15 minutes, and once done, I began coiling it up, having realized I now had a new throwing-rope.
As I loaded my pack up, I saw my ‘friend’ had returned. I knew it wasn’t about coming back to say ‘thank you’ or anything like that – as coyotes, like dogs live in the ‘now’ – he knew I had food.
Then and there, I decided to leave him the rest of my beef jerky.