Theme: Unintended Consequences

One time Coyote went off into the wilderness a long way. The land was burning hot as he went without water. When he came to a large flat field, he was sick from thirst. Sitting down, resting on his knees, he looked as far as his eyes could see. Then he picked up a stick and dug with it to try to find water.

Suddenly he began to see a little water where he was digging. He continued digging and then it suddenly spouted up high, as if it would never stop! Thereupon he ran away, not because he was afraid, but in order to see from a distance. From a small hill he soon saw that the land below was filled completely with water.

At first he drank the water, but later it turned salty because it was the ocean....In the beginning the water lay still just like a lake, but soon he too a stick and made the water move in waves, saying, "Do like this! Make waves!" Then he walked up the hill a little way. The water surged up in high waves, breaking way over the rocks. Then he scratched a mark to set the limits to which the water could go, which is why the ocean rises no farther. After he fixed the high limit of the tide, he scratched another mark to show how far the tide would go out.

This is the version of a Pomo story told by Herman James in 1957 (University of California Press). This is the story that Dave Gordon chose to illustrate in his 118' x 30' mural on the side of the Oddfellows building at the corner of North Main and McKinley Streets in Sebastopol.

Dave says, "This design depicts Coyote contemplating his handiwork, waiting to see what will happen next as the waves begin to form. His stick is next to him on the sand. Coyote is the trickster in Pomo mythology and often the instigator of actions with unintended consequences. This story was told throughout the Pomo tribal range, from the coast to inland, including what later became Sebastopol....

"The idea of illustrating a Pomo story about the origins of the landscape has a bit of spiritual magic, a beautiful scene, and a story that comes from the very roots of the area."

Dave notes that Otis Parrish of the Kashaya Pomo has been helpful in providing feedback on this theme, and in participating in the communal painting process.