Cheopi Cheho

(Church Cave)

I walk for an hour on four paws, I am a coyote and it is scary because the wolf she is much bigger than me. My fur itches, ohhh how good it feels to scratch with my back paw! ‘Madre Gris where is we go?’ Hesus asks.

‘We go to Cheopi Cheho (the church cave or sanctuary cave) that is what I’itoho named it and he named you also. From now until he changes you back to Hesus you are to be called: Ban or Ban Thak meaning Coyote or coyote sitting.’ Then Madre Gris wheezed which I take for her laugh. ‘It will take us almost an hour to get there, plus the time it takes me to hunt for such a large group. Maybe Javelina tonight enough meat for us all.’ Madre Gris rumbles deep in her throat.

She sets a fast pace, she has Brother Rook on her back and I have Coqueta on mine. ‘No biting please Coqueta.’ I ask.

A little squeak comes into my now pointed ear. ‘Sure Ban I do not like the taste of coyote, is at the bottom of my food chain.’ Coqueta replies.

Coqueta tells me about her mine cave and says that it is on the same mountain as Cheopi Cheho. ‘A long time ago, a hundred fifty years or so a Tohono O’odham came to the town of Tucson at fiesta time. He had a bag of gold nuggets he wanted to trade for supplies for the next year. He told the trader that when he had killed a deer in the

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Baboquivaris Mountains he had to chase it till it dropped. There was a loose boulder beside the fallen deer. Inside was a mineshaft that led to a chamber far below ground in which there were buckskin bags of gold nuggets and coarse gold, mine tools, and a small shrine to the Lady of Guadalupe and several bars of gold.

When the Tohono Indian found the chamber an unbelievable swarm of bats escaped from the tunnels. He thought they were Mexican brown bats, but they were vampire bats along with the hovering spirits of long dead Spanish Conquistadors. Grabbing only a few bags, he fled.

To the trader it was a story to good to be true but that did not stop him from leaving Tucson the next day to head to the Babboquivaris. On the way he met the old Tohono, who told him he had caused an avalanche to hide the mine the Tohono O’odham nation did not want Mil – gahn (white man) to ever see it.’ Coqueta finished her tale in a whisper, telling me she would give me the long version after she feed and slept.

Madre Gris wove a very crocked path between cactus, mesquite trees and cottonwood trees as well as rocks and boulders. Suddenly she went on point (meaning she had spotted prey near by) we all stopped far behind her. Madre Gris let out a barking call and a yowl and disappeared into the night. Several minutes went by with the sounds of the hunt in the air. Finally, we heard something like a pig squeal in the distance, then a loud cracking sound like breaking bones! Madre Gris gave a beckoning call and the Pup told us to follow him into the brush.

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It looked like a pig but it was not, lying limp and lifeless I could see no blood only a slight smell of the coppery substance even with my now super smell. The Javelina is a Collared Peccary a pig like creature but not of the pig family. It looked like a small, very hairy pig, with bulky body perched on short legs with dainty three-toed hooves. Its hair is long and bristly, with spiky ruffs around their necks and on top of its head. It was also very stinky, and then Madre Gris said I was to carry it in my mouth.

Even Coqueta left me as I picked up the heavy stinky thing! ‘Thanks Coqueta for the company.’ I barked, but just then, Brother Rook began walking up my back saying prayers for the ‘departed Javelina’. ‘Do you say prayers for all prey, Brother Rook?’ I asked.

‘Awk, I do indeed Ban. Feel it’s my duty to the departed to say a few words fer im.’ Brother Rook bobbed his head as he spoke.

I hurried to catch up with the rest, as I could not ask my question with my mouth full of stinky Javelina. Now we were going up a slope of the mountain and I knew we were close. Then after going up for ten minutes, Madre Gris stopped in front of an egg shaped slab of rock bigger than any of us. She put her shoulder against the fat end of the rock and it made a grinding noise. When she had pushed it half way into the dark of the cave or hole or whatever it was, she stood aside for us to go in. I immediately noticed a funny smell. Madre Gris was talking with Brother Rook in a low growl.

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Then Brother Rook flew out the entrance and we sat or laid in the dark with all its smells. It only took a few minutes for Brother Rook to come back with some kind of rock in his beak. ‘Stand back don’t know how big a bang I’ll make.’ Said Brother.

Bang was not the right word! A whoosh and a BOOM is what happened next, with a terrifying flash of yellow light! Then it settled down to a large flicker of yellow light that made every nook and cranny visible inside. ‘It is a natural gas leak which will give us light all the time, there are cracks above us which let the gas or smoke out. I will now close the entrance so no neighbor gets nosey.’ Rumbled Madre.

A level place far away from the gas light was what I wanted. Ban, Hesus was ready to dream of having only two legs again. Brother Rook he finds a hole like a large rock had fallen from it to make his nest at the top of the wall from the gas light below. Madre Gris and pup lay next to the egg door ready to greet any unwelcome guest. Coqueta has flown into one of the large cracks at the back saying she wanted to explore. She is looking for a connection back to her mine, the way she went is large enough for any of us to follow at least from this end. I drift off to sleep with an image of Long Fang hanging out of the Saguaro chatting with the Cinco Piquitos. Five little beaks indeed, what is my part to be in their lives.

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