Big Long Man’s Corn Patch
As soon as Big Long Man got back from the mountains he went to his garden to admire his corn and melo
ns. He had planted a big crop for the coming winter. When he saw that half of the corn stalks had been shucked and the ears stolen, and that the biggest melons were gone off of the melon vines, he was very angry.
“Who stole my corn and melons?” he muttered to himself. “I’ll catch the thief, whoever he is.”
He began to scheme. The next day he built a fence around the garden. But the fence did no good. Each morning Big Long Man found more corn stalks stripped.
At last he thought up a scheme to catch the thief. He gathered a great ball of pine pitch and molded it into the shape of a man. He set the figure up in the corn field and then went to his hogan.
That night Skunk came along to get a bit of corn for his dinner. He had heard from Badger that Big Long Man was away in the mountains. He squeezed his body under the fence and waddled up to a clump of corn. He was just about to shuck a fat ear when he noticed a man standing by the fence. Skunk let go of the ear of corn in fright. He could see in the moonlight that the man was not Big Long Man. He waddled over to the fence and spoke to the figure.
“Who are you, in Big Long Man’s corn patch?” asked Skunk.
The figure did not answer.
“Who are you?” said Skunk again, moving closer.
The figure did not answer.
“Speak!” said Skunk boldly, “or I will punch your face.”
The figure did not say a word. It did not move an inch.
“Tell me who you are,” said Skunk a fourth time, raising his fist, “or I will punch your face.”
The figure said not a word. It was very quiet in the moonlit corn field. Even the wind had gone away.
Plup went Skunk’s fist into the pine gum face. It sunk into the soft pitch, which is as sticky as glue, and there it stuck. Skunk pulled and pulled.
“If you don’t let go my hand,” he shouted, “I will hit you harder with my left hand.”
But the pine pitch held tight.
Plup went Skunk’s left hand. Now both hands stuck fast.
“Let go my hands, or I will kick you,” cried Skunk, who was by this time getting mad.
The pine gum man did not let go.
Plup, Skunk gave a mighty kick with his right foot. The foot stuck too, just like the hands.
“I will kick you harder,” said Skunk and Plup he kicked with all of his strength with his left foot. Pine gum man held that foot too. Skunk struggled but he could not get loose. Now he was in a fine plight. Every limb was held tight. He had only one more weapon, his teeth.
“I will bite your throat,” he shouted and he dug his teeth into the pine gum throat.
“Ugh!” he gurgled for he could no longer say a word. His tongue and teeth were held fast in the pine pitch.
The next morning Big Long Man came to his corn patch and there was Skunk stuck onto the pine gum man. Only his tail was free, waving behind him.
“Ah!” said Big Long Man. “So it’s you, Skunk, who has been stealing my corn.”
“Ugh,” replied Skunk. His mouth full of pine pitch.
Big Long Man pulled him away from the gum figure, tied a rope around his neck and led him to his hogan. He put a great pot of water on the stove to boil, then he took the rope off of Skunk’s neck.
“Now, Skunk,” he said, “go fetch wood.”
Skunk went out into the back yard. Just then Fox happened to pass by. He was on his way to Big Long Man’s corn patch. Skunk began to cry loudly. Fox stopped running, and pricked up his sharp ears.
“Who is crying?” he said.
“I am crying,” said Skunk.
“Why?” said Fox.
“Because I have to carry wood for Big Long Man. He gives me all of the corn I want to eat, but I do not want to carry wood.”
Fox was hungry. He knew that if he stole corn he was liable to get caught. “What an easy way to get corn,” he thought. “I would not mind carrying wood.”
Out loud he said, “Cousin, let us change places. You go home and I will carry wood for Big Long Man. I like the job. Besides, I was just on my way to steal an ear of corn down at the field.”
“All right,” said Skunk. “But don’t eat too much corn. I have a stomach ache.” He felt his fat stomach and groaned. Then he waddled happily away. Fox gathered up an armful of piñon wood. He hurried into Big Long Man’s hogan. Big Long Man looked at him in surprise.
“Well, well, Skunk, you changed into a fox, did you? That’s funny.”
Fox did not say a word. He was afraid he might say the wrong thing and not get any corn to eat. Big Long Man took the rope which had been around Skunk’s neck and tied it around Fox’s neck.
Fox sat down and waited patiently. Soon the water in the big pot began to bubble and steam. At last Fox said, “Isn’t the corn cooked yet, Big Long Man?”
“Corn?” asked Big Long Man. “What corn?”
“Why the corn you are cooking for me,” said Fox. “Skunk said you would feed me all of the corn I could eat if I carried wood for you.”
“The rascal,” said Big Long Man. “He tricked you and he tricked me. Well, Fox, you will have to pay for this.” So saying he picked up Fox by the ears and set him down in the boiling water. It was so hot that it took off every hair on his body. Big Long Man left him in the pot for a minute and then he pulled him out by the ears and set him free out of doors.
“Don’t be thinking you will ever get any of my corn by tricks,” said Big Long Man.
Fox ran yelping toward his den. He was sore all over. Half way home he passed Red Monument. Red Monument is a tall slab of red sand stone that stands alone in a valley. On top of the rock sat Raven eating corn that he had stolen from the corn patch. At the bottom was Coyote holding on to the rock with his paws. He was watching for Raven to drop a few kernels. He glanced behind him when Fox appeared. He did not let go of the rock, however, because he thought Fox might get his place. He was surprised at Fox’s appearance.
“Where is your fur, Fox?” he asked over his shoulder.
“I ate too much corn,” said Fox sadly. “Don’t ever eat too much corn, Coyote. It is very painful.” Fox held his stomach and groaned. “Corn is very bad for one’s fur. It ruined mine.”
“But where did you get so much corn, cousin?” asked Coyote, still holding on to the rock.
“Didn’t you hear?” asked Fox. “Why, Big Long Man is giving corn to all the animals who carry wood for him. He will give you all you can eat and more too. Just gather an armful of piñon sticks and walk right into his hogan.”
Coyote thought a moment. He was greedy. He decided to go to Big Long Man’s hogan but he did not want Fox to go with him. He wanted everything for himself.
“Cousin,” he said, “will you do me a favor? Will you hold this rock while I go and get a bite of corn from Big Long Man? I am very hungry and I do not dare leave this rock. It will fall and kill somebody.”
“All right,” said Fox, smiling to himself. “I will hold the rock. But do not eat too much.” He placed his paws on the back side of the rock and Coyote let go. The next minute Coyote was running away as fast as he could toward Big Long Man’s hogan. Fox laughed to himself, but after a bit he became tired of holding the rock. He decided to let it fall.
“Look out, Cousin Raven,” he shouted. “The rock is going to fall.” Fox let go, and jumped far away. Then he ran and did not look behind. He was afraid the rock would hit his tail. If Fox had looked behind him he would have seen the rock standing as steady as a mountain.
Presently, along came Coyote, back from Big Long Man’s hogan. He was running at top speed and yowling fearfully. There was not a hair left on his body. When he came to Red Monument he saw Raven still sitting on his high perch nibbling kernels of corn.
“Where has Fox gone?” howled Coyote who was in a rage.
Raven looked down at Coyote. “Fox?” he said. “Why, Fox went home, I suppose. What did you do with your hair, Coyote?”
Coyote didn’t answer. He just sat down by the foot of the rock and with his snout up in the air waited for Raven to drop a few kernels of corn.
“I’ll get Fox some other day,” he muttered to himself.