Tuesday, April 29, 2008


The only time I have seen a real coyote was in the parking lot of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ. My cousin Lynn, who lives in Tucson, acted as though it was almost an every day occurrence. She reacted as I might have, had it been a raccoon going through the garbage at a Minnesota State Park.

The coyote that I saw was smaller than I expected, more like a medium-sized mongrel dog than a wolf. He walked stealthily between the parked cars with his head and tail lowered, eyes slyly shifting from side to side, disappearing into the desert scrub as quickly as he had appeared on the concrete. He looked thin and hungry and I wondered, “Is he tracking a rabbit or some chicken nuggets?” I grabbed my children’s hands, fearing for their safety.

I saw a dancer portray another kind of coyote on stage last weekend in Border Crossing at the Ritz Theatre in Minneapolis. Jennifer Ilse brought to life the trickster coyote, popular in folklore. She did not slink, but held her head high. She drummed a native beat with her feet and spoke with the cunning of a survivor coyote, one who has used her wits to adapt. Mothers should hold their children tightly in the face of this animal, as well.

Ilse’s coyote earns her living transporting human cargo. She is a smuggler of illegal immigrants at the United States-Mexican border. Ever the trickster, she entices groups of migrants to relinquish their life’s savings and follow her, exploiting their need and promising things that she cannot deliver. My daughter is one of her desperate followers.

This is a tragic story of our time, well told. I recommend it. Performances continue this weekend, Thursday through Sunday.

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