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The Coyote Laughed, by A. Taylor, E. Carpenter and G. Holbrook

Review by Ed Quillen

Wildlife – July 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Coyote Laughed – Relationships with Wildlife
by Adelina Taylor, Ed Carpenter, and Gay Holbrook
Illustrations by Gay Holbrook and Adelina Taylor
Published in 2000 by the authors
Call 719-655-2245 for purchase information

PUT A FEW CENTRAL COLORADO residents around a campfire or a kitchen table, and you’re sure to hear some animal stories: skunks, porcupines, bears, jays, deer…. The sterilizing forces of civilization haven’t yet conquered this part of the world, and non-domesticated animals remain a part of daily life, even in town.

Last summer I had to leave Salida before sunrise; while loading the car, I heard strange clicking sounds down the street, and soon saw half a dozen deer headed my way at a slow trot. Our dog is very good about informing us that there is a skunk in the yard, although I wish she’d just bark, rather than paw at the door when she’s got a green spot between her eyes after her nocturnal investigation of the black-and-white critter.

The Coyote Laughed is a short (54 pages) collection of animal tales, ranging across seven decades and thousands of square miles. Adelina Taylor lives in Buena Vista now, but grew up in Pitkin, and her lumberjack father had the family camped in many locations, most notably one where the pack rats drove them out. Ed Carpenter lives in Bonanza, but spent years on a core-drilling crew that ranged through the mountains, prospecting and coping with bears. Gay Holbrook, who’s married to Carpenter, has a keen eye for birds and insects, reflected in her fine illustrations and several anecdotes, including a memorable encounter with yellowjackets.

Some encounters are humorous, like the bear that hauled off a cooler full of soda pop. Others are sad, as with the big rainbow trout in Maid Lake — which got visited by dynamiters. They’re all told pretty well, in an easy conversational style. Here’s a sample, from Taylor’s adventures with bears:

That next summer, my friend and I who liked to pick black currants at Bon Ton, an old mining town at the eastern base of Cumberland Pass, left early so we’d have the whole day. We found abundant bushes, and after picking all day, we loaded our full buckets in back packs. Before heading down the road to Pitkin, we stopped by a clear mountain stream for a drink. I lay out flat and stuck my face in the water. My friend knelt beside me and scooped up handfuls of water. I raised my head, and fourteen feet across the stream at an angle, was a huge brown bear also getting a drink. I wanted to warn my friend but I found myself mute, speechless, dumbstruck — I couldn’t say a word. Finally I touched her arm and pointed. She stood up with astonishing composure and said, “Shoo-shoo!” The bear looked at us, blinked, and moved ponderously away, crashing willows as he fled….

My most memorable bear encounter was on a fall day when I worked at the Dinner Bell in Johnson’s Village. I arrived early in the morning, opened the back door, and walked into a mess. The night crew had opened and stored a truckload of supplies, but left all the cartons cluttering the back room. I couldn’t get to the main kitchen until I cleaned up the mess. I was furious as I carted load after load of empty boxes to a wire enclosure about 50 feet away on the alley. I was not being quiet as I let the whole world know how badly I’d been abused. When I finished I was exhausted and a little calmer. As I closed the screen door, I heard a strange creaking sound I couldn’t place. I stood there in the dark and watched in amazement as a huge bear standing full length, pushed the Dumpster that usually sat ten feet from the door, across the road until it was stopped by a building. Then the bear went down on all four legs and quickly disappeared. I went from window to window looking for the impressive animal, but it vanished quickly, leaving me to wonder if it was my imagination or real.

The Coyote Laughe made me think about how many animals we have around us here, from pikas and ptarmigans to coyotes and porcupines, and how much I miss by not watching them more often. We ought to take a little time out, not only to smell the roses, but also to watch the birds, and this short book is the next best thing.

–Ed Quillen