Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, November 07, 2008

Why I'm Not Afraid of Coyotes

by Kerry Blair

I was asked recently to speak on personal and family preparedness. “Good deal!” I thought. After all, I’ve been prepared for the worst practically my whole life.

“And what is the worst?” you ask.


When I was a little girl, growing up in the sparsely-populated Verde Valley, our closest neighbors were a pack of coyotes. They passed our house nightly on their way from their bedrooms on the bluff to their dining room down by the river. I sometimes saw them. I always heard them. I became absolutely convinced that one night they would jump in my window and eat me up. Don’t laugh. It was a legitimate concern. After all, I was young . . . plump . . . succulent . . . doomed!

Almost half a century later, I still remember how terrified I was of those coyotes, and how many hours of sleep I lost worrying over each night being my last. Perhaps that is why I remember my salvation so very clearly.

One night my grandfather came to visit. He sat on the side of my bed and said, “I hear you’re afraid of coyotes.”

“Yes!” I cried. “They’re going to jump in my window and eat me up!”

My grandfather nodded his understanding then got up and closed the window. (You’d think my college-educated parents might have thought of that.) Still, the glass was very thin, so I was only partly reassured. (Arizona coyotes are nothing if not tough, wiry, and determined.)

Seeing that I was still alarmed, Grandpa looked around my room until he found my shiny pink twirling baton. He put it in my hands and said, “Here, you can fight off a coyote with this.”

I figured I probably could. I was a pretty awesome twirler for a five-year-old. “But,” I said, “what if there is more than one? What if there are threeteen?” (Math has never been my strongest subject.)

“We’ll leave the door open,” he said. “You yell for help and I’ll be here before you’ve finished clobbering the first one.”

I’ve slept soundly ever since.

I didn’t understand why this plan was all I would ever need to feel secure until I had joined the Church and been through the temple. The endowment teaches us to look for types and symbols in all things. I realize now that my grandfather taught me a simple, but eternal, plan to save myself from every coyote in life. Every single one.

You’ve probably already guessed that I no longer fear those mangy things with four legs. The scariest coyotes come around when you’ve faced long-term unemployment and are about to lose your house. A worse beast is the news that your youngest son volunteered for a special assignment in Iraq, one that he doesn’t expect to survive. Coyotes certainly arrive when a doctor tells you that he removed a twenty-pound tumor from your only daughter and the prognosis doesn’t look good; or when you’re diagnosed with a crippling, life-threatening disease for which there is no cure.

Because we live in a world that is subject to natural disaster, pestilence, and death, in a time of uncertainty and surely gathering darkness, and because we agreed to strive under a plan in which even evil men have free agency, the coyotes are more numerous and more numbing than any other time in history. Fortunately, my grandfather’s plan always works.

First, you close the window. This is the physical preparation that helps keep fear at bay. You put aside a little money when you can. You store life-sustaining food and water. You keep yourself as healthy and fit as you can against the day that maybe you can’t. You get as much education as you are able. You learn to make, make-over, make do, and – gasp! – do without. In other words, you practice sound principles of thrift and industry as best you can.

But sometimes it’s not enough to shut the window. Those rotten coyotes will sometimes break in, no matter how well prepared you think you are. That’s why the rest of the plan is the most important: you grasp that baton for all you’re worth and you yell for Somebody bigger and stronger and older and wiser and much more all-powerful to help you out.

You’ve known since Primary that the iron rod is the word of God. The baton, then, is the scriptures – and every word that proceeds forth as scripture in these latter days. My husband made a list of every counsel President Monson gave in the last General Conference. I put it up on my bulletin board and sent it to my kids because these words can save our lives – spiritually and physically.

There have been times when the scriptures have literally saved my life. The challenges, the despondency, the despair – the coyotes – were just that bad. I couldn’t cope. But I found in the scriptures that the Lord had a plan for me, even when I didn’t know what it was. Learn of me, listen to my words, walk in the meekness of my spirit and you shall have peace in me. Sometimes the only peace in our lives is found in the Savior.

Seeking the Lord is, of course, that call for help. Sometimes we wonder why He isn’t there, forgetting that we haven’t called. We think that sure He knows our perils and needs before we do ourselves, so where is He in our time of need?

He is bound as we are bound. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you. Ask and ye shall receive. Seek. Knock. Ask. Our Father answers our prayers – always, always, always, always, always. But we can’t say, “Take it away!” and expect it to happen. (At least that doesn’t work for me.) We have to plead, “Please show me the way through!” and He will.

Oprah is a gajillionaire, Dr. Phil has his own show, and sometimes-shallow people are getting rich writing books of “secrets” because there isn’t a mortal in this world who doesn’t fear coyotes. Everybody looks constantly for some complicated magical formula that will keep them at bay. Even in the Church – where we absolutely know better – we tend to inwardly groan and roll our eyes when the counsel is always the same: organize yourselves, prepare every needful thing. Read the scriptures. Follow the prophet. Attend faithfully to your prayers for your flocks and fields and families. But, people, it simply isn’t any more complicated than that. There hasn’t been another plan since the beginning of time. We don’t need another plan because this one works. It’s the only thing that does.

In the last fifty years, coyotes have circled my house. They’ve yipped and howled in the distance, pooped in my flowerbeds, and scratched on my doors. Once or twice they’ve even broken a window and crashed into the room, but they have never yet eaten me up. They never will as long as I have an iron rod and an open door to my Savior.


At 11/07/2008 10:26 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

That was absolutely beautiful, Kerry. Thanks so much. You're an inspiration.

At 11/07/2008 10:38 AM, Blogger Taffy's said...

Wow! Good reading in a shaky time of history. THANK YOU

At 11/07/2008 10:42 AM, Anonymous pgk said...

A coyote told me a story something like this just the other day, but the people roles and the coyote roles were reversed ...

At 11/07/2008 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome Kerry, thanks for sharing!

At 11/07/2008 12:37 PM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

Beautiful Kerry. I love the analogy.

At 11/07/2008 12:49 PM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

Wonderful, Kerry. Just wonderful.

At 11/07/2008 1:04 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...

Hi Kerry:

So where does a double barrell Smith and Wesson shotgun fit into this?

I know what you're going to say. No fair Woolley using technology to escape trails, suffering, pain, and experiencing the terrestrial world as it was intended to be experienced. But if men weren't supposed to get sick we never would have been inspired to create a toilet. Am I missing something here?

Just remember, when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window (or loads a shotgun).

I love you Kerry. I love your writing. I love your inspired thoughts. I also think you should write an analogy about tazers and Psalms 46:10.

Where have you been lately? Running from Coyotes again? Which reminds me of another metaphor in your story which you decided not to elaborate, but which begs some elaboration. Okay. I'll do it.

The thin glass of prayer. So simple. So elegant. So apparently weak to the natural-man-eye. So powerful to the eternal-angelic-eye. How many Coyotes do you know that will jump through glass? They won't. A tranparent sheet of glass scares the living daylights out of those critters. Its a protection. A sheild. A cloaking device (okay, that's more of a Klingon Star Wars techno-analogy better suited to Rob or that other guy who writes on this blog when they talk about anonymously toilet papering their editor's home).

That thin pane of glass is a window to the soul, a refractor of light, a view on eternity.

I think your grandpa was right. That window did a darn good job providing protection. We just need to learn how to use it properly. Close the window. But never stop looking through the glass.

Love you,


At 11/07/2008 1:20 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I hope everybody knows how much I appreciate your comments.

PGK: Point taken. :) You'll be pleased to know that I have become one of the biggest coyote advocates in the county. Amazing critters, really. (And even in my terror-filled years, I would have never resorted to a shotgun.)

DGW: I just hate it when commenters come along and say things better than I do in the blog. Okay, no I don't! Thanks, as always, for your perception, insight and wisdom. Hopefully everybody will read your words and revise my thoughts in their minds.

As for me...well...I was going to tell you I've been busy with the Whitney Auction (which is true), but I've also started chemo again, so I've been indulging in way too much self-pity and not nearly enough time with dear friends. I think I'm back now. I really do.

At 11/07/2008 1:22 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I already commented on your personal blog where you also posted this blog. I love it.

At 11/07/2008 2:37 PM, Blogger David G. Woolley said...


I had a childhood coyote when I was five. How would you like this guy jumping through your window and eating you up? I never got a good night's sleep until I was 16. And then they released the movie and it started all over again.

This guy made it through Chemo and he didn't lose all his hair. So can you!

At 11/07/2008 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We hold onto our guns and religion here in Arizona, too. If it wasn't for the scriptures, revelation, and that thin window glass for protection, I'm sure most of my family would've already dug that bunker in the desert and armed themselves with more than a 12-guage.

You give me hope, Kerry. Without hope and the promise of tomorrow, what's the use of closing the window?

Please keep writing. The world needs you. I need you.


At 11/08/2008 1:03 AM, Blogger Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Kerry, I love that the ultimate weapon was a pink baton. There's something really wonderful in that.

What a beautiful post, and thank you. As one who sees symbolism everywhere, I can totally appreciate this.

Love you.

At 11/08/2008 10:11 AM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

My big childhood fear was electrical storms. I remember crying one night during a noisy one of those, certain it was the end of the world. Then my mother pointed out that even if it was, that wasn't necessarily something to fear. She taught me to see the beauty in the midst of that raging storm.

Kerry, I think you and my mother are kindred spirits. =)You are both unsinkable Molly Brown types who are wonderful, courageous examples to the rest of us.

Beautiful blog---one of those I'm saving to reread over and over again.

At 11/09/2008 4:46 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

That was so wonderful and inspiring. Thank you.


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