“The Great Tiger”
“What do you mean I do it wrong? All coyotes hunt.” Rodney defended himself when his best friend George Coyote accused him of being “too cruel” when he hunted. Rodney was right about one thing. All coyotes and in fact, every living thing hunts for its food and that is the way God created the world to be for now. There is a whispered belief in the coyote community that a world will be one day where all creatures would be at peace together and God would provide all the food and nobody would have to hunt or be hunted but that’s not the way it is now so Rodney knew his instinct to hunt was not evil.
But Rodney had a love of the hunt that was far more intense than any other coyote he knew. He lived for the hunt. But it wasn’t just hunting that he loved. He loved to corner a rabbit or small animal and see how terrified it was and make it stay like that instead of using the methods his mother and uncles taught him to hunt quickly and efficiently. No, to Rodney, the stalking and “playing with” his pray was exciting.
“That’s what I am talking about.” George said. It’s kind of gross Rodney so why don’t we hunt separately for a while.
George’s scolding and change so he couldn’t hunt with the pack upset Rodney but he considered them all to be just weak and not as good as hunting as he. So he hunted alone. “I might as well hunt alone.” He said to himself since he was the only one still talking to him. “I am the only real expert at it. Who needs the pack anyway when I WHOOP…………”
Rodney felt himself falling and then there was a THUNK. The “Thunk” was Rodney hitting the bottom. Rodney had toppled down a steep incline that dropped off at the end about 20 feet from the bottom. He stood up and looked around. It wasn’t a pit like the hunters use to capture wild animals. It was a ravine that used to be a dead end canyon but it had been closed off after a rockslide. Three of the walls were sheer slick wall that went up 20 feet before there was a ledge which then sloped up to where Rodney had fallen from. The fourth wall was solid rock from the landslide and unclimbable.
Now Rodney knew what the pack was for. Suddenly he was terrified at being trapped at the bottom like this. Rodney was trapped. He paced from end to end of the tiny space he had to himself and tried his best to figure out how to escape but no good. He yelped for help but no good. He was starting to panic. He knew very well that he could starve to death in this pit without anyone even knowing he was here. “This couldn’t get much worse.” Rodney said to himself pacing and trying to leap up the walls only to fall with a painful YELP!
Then it got worse. Night began to settle in. As Rodney strained his eyes to see if anyone was coming to help him, he saw a huge shadow pass over the ridge. Then that shadow moved down the embankment and settled in on a very wide flat bed of grass right above the 20 foot rock wall. Rodney froze in place but did not make a sound for fear of what it could be. He hunkered down in fear trembling and finally fell asleep.
Before Rodney opened his coyote eyes, he heard the rumble. It was like a loud roar of one of the human engines but different. It was an animal. And it was coming from where that dark shape was last night. It was almost like a purr but very very loud. Slowly he let one eye open and then he squeezed it shut in terror. It could not be. But he forced his eyes open and it was true. What sat on that ledge was as large as a small rhinoceros but it was covered in a smooth matt of stripped fur that could only belong to one being. They said it was a myth, something someone made up to scare little coyotes but there he was. It was Havohej, the Great Tiger. He stared directly at the tiny coyote with piercing eyes but he did not blink. And he was purring.
“Wake up little one.” The mighty tiger spoke. Rodney reluctantly opened his eyes and stood to face his doom.
“Are you Havohej, the Great Tiger?” He said with his voice quivering.
“Yes and I know you. You are Rodney, the cowardly coyote who makes his hunt a game of terror for those he finds, who finds cruelty to be fun and a way to take joy where there is none inside you.”
“Are you going to kill me?” Rodney said his voice seeming squeaky and small more like a mouse than a predatory coyote. Suddenly a mighty roar burst from the chest of the powerful cat. The roar was so startling and powerful it blew Rodney off his feet and he hit the wall opposite where Hovohej was laying.
“Truly you deserve to be killed and eaten. Justice would even call for terror to enter you before your doom. But redemption is a more powerful law than revenge.”
Then Havohej did something Rodney did not expect. He rose and walked with huge cat strides to the loose rock where the landslide had occurred. He looked at the stones piled there and then he crouched and released a massive roar 10 times more earth shattering than the first one. Rodney just put his head between his paws and whimpered at the cat’s terrible anger. But instead of leaping to the pit to destroy the tiny coyote, something else happened. A huge stone was loosened by the roar of the Great Tiger. It teetered in place and then suddenly, it toppled into the pit giving Rodney a perfect stepping stone to escape. Havohej returned to where he had been laying and turned his back on Rodney and laid his head down showing that he was not watching.
Quick as he could climb Rodney was up and out of the pit. He stood at the top of the incline looking down at the mysterious beast. He started to run away and join the hunt for he was very hungry but something stopped him and he went back. He began down the incline toward the huge cat and then he sat in front of Havohej straight up, ears perked and stared at the wide face of the sleeping Tiger. Finally one eye of the cat opened and he said “What is it you want little coyote?”
“Why?” Rodney asked. It was all that needed to be said. Hovohej raised his powerful regal head and looked into the eyes of the little beast and then he spoke.
“Hunting is noble and to be done with dignity and grace. You have heard the law of the jungle is survival of the fittest. That is incorrect. The law of the jungle is mercy. It is that way because the law of the creator of all life is mercy. He gives mercy to us, his creation and to his chief creation, mankind when he sent his son to redeem this fallen place. So too, I gave mercy to you and you give mercy to others. And every act of mercy you give will be as though you are the servant of the most high himself. Go little coyote and live in mercy, live in peace and live in the grace of your creator. Do this and you will never go hungry.”
With that, Havohej stood and leapt seemingly straight up and disappeared into the jungle. At that moment, he knew that the Great Tiger did not come to destroy Rodney. He came to teach him, about his creator and his son who died even for a lowly coyote. He came to teach him how to live in the image of that great creator. Instead of death, Havohej gave life and instead of becoming a meal, Rodney became a beloved member of the jungle society not because of his great skill at the hunt but because of his great mercy.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. [Luke 6:32-36]