The Eye Juggler

There is an old man, with long, black braids. He stands there, beside that tall cedar tree, singing a song. As he sings that song, what should happen..., his eyes pop out of his head. He continues singing that song and his eyes go up the side of the tree to the top branch. There those eyes look to the east. Then they turn and look to the south. The old man with empty sockets in his head continues that song. From the top of the tree the eyes look to the west. And then the eyes turn once more and look to the north, the fourth direction.

As the old man with long, black braids sings that song, who should come along the path there but Coyote, down on his luck. He sees the old man standing there and decides to pay him a visit. He's been out there in those hills a long time. But as Coyote gets a little closer he realizes that there is something odd about this old man. He's seen some strange things out there in those hills but nothing like this. The old man is singing his eyes to the sky!

Now Coyote, who's been down on his luck, realizes a good thing when he sees it. If he had this trick, he could go to town, stand on a street corner and sing his eyes out. He could juggle his eyes, and become . . . an "eye juggler!" He would certainly become rich then. That's what Coyote is thinking.

By now the old man with the long, black braids has completed his song, and his eyes have come down the side of the tree back into his head.

"Old man, teach me this trick," Coyote says.

"This is no trick, but a way of seeing the world. When I send my eyes to the sky, I look in the four directions and only the four. In that way I show respect to that which I see. Never try to see too much," the old man says.

"That's fine, but teach me the song anyway," Coyote says.

Well, the old man with the long, black braids has a difficult time saying no to anyone, so he agrees to teach Coyote how to sing his eyes to the sky. And it turns out that Coyote is a pretty good student and he picks up that song.

But once more the old man with the long, black braids says, "when you sing your eyes to the sky, look in only the four directions. Never try to see too much."

"Sure, sure," Coyote says, and he's off. With that song, Coyote is eager to try out his new trick. He goes that way, into the forest and searches for a tall tree. No short tree will do. He searches here and there, trying out all the trees around. None will do. Over that hill, there he goes, now along that ridge, further into the forest Coyote wanders, looking for the tallest tree.

After a long and exhausting search, the perfect tree is found. It towers high, touching the clouds. Coyote begins singing that song, the one I told you about. And what should happen..., his eyes pop out of his head and go up the side of that tree. It works! From the top of the tree the eyes look to the east, to the south, to the west, and finally, to the north. "I'm going to be famous and rich. I'm going to be . . . an eye juggler!" Coyote says.

At the end of the song, the eyes come down the side of the tree and back into Coyote's head.

It's late, and you don't want to get caught in that forest at night. It's dangerous. So Coyote begins walking back to his camp. He goes that way. Then this way. But everything is so strange to him. Did he come this way or that? He goes to the top of a high ridge and looks everywhere. Nothing is familiar. He's lost! What's he to do?

Then Coyote remembers his special song. "I'll send my eyes to the sky again, and they'll see a way back home." Coyote sings that song. Just as before his eyes pop out of his head, and go to the top of the tree. One eye looks this way, the other that ways. In all the directions those eyes look . . . , and then some. And they see the way back to the camp. He'll be safe now.

So the song is sung to its conclusion. It's sung . . . , and nothing happens! The eyes remain fixed at the top of the tree.

He must've left out a word from the song. So very carefully, Coyote sings that song again. But when the song ends, the eyes are still in the top of that tree.

It's a hot afternoon, and the sun is beating down on those exposed eye balls, and they begin to swell up.

Coyote tries climbing the tree. But he can't see so well, and about half way up he misses a branch and falls to the ground.

Flies in great numbers are landing on those exposed eye balls.

He searches around on the ground and picks up a stone there and that stick here, and throws them to the top of the tree. But when they fall, the eyes remain there, and the stone and stick land on the head of . . . Coyote!

The crows have found those eyes and are about to have a little afternoon snack.

Coyote lays there, at the base of the tree, crying huge tears from his empty eye sockets.

Just then, Mouse runs across Coyote's face. Maybe he's after a whisker hair for his nest. But as Mouse runs across the face of Coyote, the tail of Mouse falls into the open mouth of Coyote and Coyote immediately closes his mouth tight on the tail of Mouse. Coyote pulls from his mouth that which he's captured. That Coyote is quick!

Now how many working eyes does Mouse have? And how many does he have? "Mouse, younger brother, give me one of your eyes, or that'll be it!" Coyote says.

Now Mouse thinks this over. He's a family man, with several wives and lots of kids. He has responsibilities. His life is very valuable. So very carefully, Mouse pulls out one of his eye balls and hands it to Coyote. True to his word, Coyote lets Mouse go.

Now that eye ball is pretty small. But Coyote puts it into one of his empty sockets. It fits alright. And what should happen . . . , he can see!

One slight problem. Every time Coyote moves his head, ever so slightly, that eye ball rolls around and around inside that head, and everything looks wobbly and blurred.

But the first thing Coyote sees is Buffalo standing over there. How many working eyes does Buffalo have and what size are they, and what does he have? So Coyote takes out his rifle and goes over to Buffalo. "Buffalo, younger brother, hand over one of your eyes, or that'll be it!" Coyote says.

Now Buffalo thinks this over. And just like Mouse, he's got several wives, lots of kids. He's a family man, with responsibilities. So very carefully he pulls from his head one of his eyes, and hands it to Coyote. True to his word, Coyote lets Buffalo go.

Coyote tries to put the eye in, but it's a pretty good size. He turns and twists, but is just won't stick. It falls to the ground, and gets all dirty. Coyote brushes it off and tries again, and again. It just won't stick. So he goes over to a tree and begins pounding his head against the eye ball against the tree . . . , and eventually it sticks! But that eye ball just hangs there . . . , half out. And the other one, well, it just rolls around and around and around in that head.

There goes Coyote. You'll certainly recognize him if you come across him in that forest there.

* * * * *

This Cheyenne story is often told to help explain why some people just don't see . . . eye to eye! The story's theme is, of course, about differing ways of seeing the world. With the Eye Juggler setting the tone, I invite you to an adventure in eye juggling.


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