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Once Old Man was traveling around, when he heard some very queer singing. He had never heard anything like this before, and looked all around to see who it was. At last he saw it was the cottontail rabbits, singing and making medicine. They had built a fire, and got a lot of hot ashes, and they would lie down in these ashes and sing while one covered them up. They would stay there only a short time though, for the ashes were very hot.
“Little Brothers,” said Old Man, “that is very wonderful, how you lie in those hot ashes and coals without burning. I wish you would teach me how to do it.”
“Come on, Old Man,” said the rabbits, “we will show you how to do it. You must sing our song, and only stay in the ashes a short time.” So Old Man began to sing, and he lay down, and they covered him with coals and ashes, and they did not burn him at all. “That is very nice,” he said. “You have powerful medicine. Now I want to know it all, so you lie down and let me cover you up.”
So the rabbits all lay down in the ashes, and Old Man covered them up, and then he put the whole fire over them. One old rabbit got out, and Old Man was about to put her back when she said, “Pity me, my children are about to be born.”
“All right,” replied Old Man. “I will let you go, so there will be some more rabbits; but I will roast these nicely and have a feast.” And he put more wood on the fire. When the rabbits were cooked, he cut some red willow brush and laid them on it to cool. The grease soaked into these branches, so, even today if you hold red willow over a fire, you will see the grease on the bark. You can see, too, that ever since, the rabbits have a burnt place on their backs, where the one that got away was singed.
Old Man sat down, and was waiting for the rabbits to cool a little, when a coyote came along, limping very badly. “Pity me, Old Man,” he said, “you have lots of cooked rabbits; give me one of them.”
“Go away,” exclaimed Old Man. “If you are too lazy to catch your food, I will not help you.”
“My leg is broken,” said the coyote. “I can’t catch anything, and I am starving. Just give me half a rabbit.”
“I don’t care if you die,” replied Old Man. “I worked hard to cook all these rabbits, and I will not give any away. But I will tell you what we will do. We will run a race to that butte, way out there, and if you beat me you can have a rabbit.”
“All right,” said the coyote. So they started. Old Man ran very fast, and the coyote limped along behind, but close to him, until they got near to the butte. Then the coyote turned round and ran back very fast, for he was not lame at all. It took Old Man a long time to go back, and just before he got to the fire, the coyote swallowed the last rabbit, and trotted off over the prairie.