Runs with Frozen Coyotes

On Sunday, February 2nd 2014 I laced up my shoes to go for a run. It was the kind of winter afternoon when the sun can’t muster the effort to even produce shadows. The mercury (in my Iphone) was hanging in the low 20’s and while cold, it was nowhere near the windshield crackling temps we’d been experiencing. The rural road we live on was in the midst of having a small bridge replaced and as a result was closed to vehicle traffic. I set out as large cartoonish snowflakes began dropping. Running, like bowhunting, is another thing I do that gives the appearance of having precious little common sense.

Halloween was months ago running ninja!

At this same time, I’d also been on a year-long mission to kill a coyote. Like most guys, I wanted an article of clothing that I made out of an animal. Unlike most guys, I hadn’t the restraint to not follow this desire. My aim was to make a mountain man hat from the pelt. After some close calls toting the boomstick around in the field, I was still empty handed and getting desperate. I’d take a ‘yote by any means at this point.

That “any means” and my February run converged in an unholy synergy. My route for the day included some double backing up a mile long hill in order to make the mileage I wanted. My legs felt strong as I kicked down the increasingly snowy chip seal road. I’d like to think that the self-awareness of my appearance when I run is a sign that there’s still some shred of normalcy in my brain. Lycra tights and an Under Amour compression top are about as becoming on me as my turkey hunting ghillie suit. Functional, but not fashionable. Thankfully, since the road closure was in effect, I didn’t expect much drive-by judging. Turns out I’d be wrong.

Something else I didn’t expect on this run caught my eye at four miles in. Descending the long hill, in the scrub brush just off the shoulder of the road a bit of fur drew my attention. Outdoorsmen get this, my wife thinks I have visual superpowers, but really, when you spend days outdoors looking for particular animals, you can’t turn it off. Even when I’m a runner I’m a hunter. I slowed up enough for my eyes to make the silhouette of an expired coyote on its side, suspended in a mid-run gait.

Runners hate to stop. You know the guy bouncing in place at the red light? That’s me. But this was a jackpot. I eased off the pavement into the brush to inspect my find. It was a beautifully preserved road killed mature coyote with a thick black frosted winter coat. My thoughts immediately went to recovery options. The road closure meant I couldn’t get my Jeep in to pick it up. So that was out. Being a thinking man, I decided that I’d continue with my run while considering the options. I’d be coming back past this spot once more before I began the final mile of the run. I had some time to generate alternatives.

For all my best thinking during those interim miles, the only solution I could figure was to heft the dog and carry him back home. Remember I said that I’m a thinking man. I never made claims about the quality of those thoughts. In a fervor of zeal and ignorance, I scooped the flash-frozen coyote up under my right arm like an oversize hairy football and began to close the mile between us and home.

The route for the day.

After just a few steps the realization of how unwieldy carrying an extra thirty pounds of rigid asymmetrical weight became apparent. My right arm quickly fatigued, so I shifted it over to the left. This game of musical arms was sort of working. You might be asking, “Why not sling him over your shoulder like a normal person running with a coyote?” The thought had crossed my mind, but as quickly as it did, so too did visions of delousing sessions and me shaving my head bald. Keeping the parasites in that fur away from my hair was priority number two. Number one was getting home. Number three may have been taking a pee, but I can’t remember.

A half mile down, and a half mile to go, the physical exhaustion was kicking in, but it was about to be sophisticated by an encounter with another pedestrian out for a walk. He was headed the same way as I but on the opposite side of the road. I had a few moments to consider what I’d say when I passed him, since he would undoubtedly notice me. If I were in his shoes, what would I expect a dead coyote toting runner to say? Nothing brilliant came to mind so when I caught up to him and he turned to see me, all I got out was a solemn, “There’s a good reason for this.” and kept on running. On the internet somewhere are cell phone pictures of both mine and the coyote’s backside with a really clever quote.

Coyote Hat Cropped
In your face Jeremiah Johnson.

I made it home and after a few weeks, tanned and sewed up the pelt into a hat. It’s a trophy I can’t wait to wear once winter sets in again. I also can’t wait until a PETA sympathizer lays into me about the cruelty of killing animals for clothing. Maybe I could respond with a zinger about the dangers of making hasty and inaccurate assumptions? Who knows? What I do know is that just like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, I may have earned a new name. Anyone know if Runs with Frozen Coyotes fits on a driver’s license?