We recently picked up one of those fascinating historical pamphlets of local lore at the Hangin’ Art Gallery, History of the Jocko Valley Road Names, originally published in 1977 by the Arlee Historical Society. Among the many engrossing nuggets, one in particular stood out since it concerns White Coyote Road, along which the Garden of 1000 Buddhas is being built. First, it’s explained that while the road is named after Nicolai White Coyote, he and his family actually lived far to the south. But then it continues:
“It does happen though that a focal point in the [Pen D’Oreille] Indian Coyote legend is located near the road on a flattened-out butte which runs between it and Dumontier Road to the south. This odd formation represents the heart of the dragon which Coyote succeeded in killing before he [the dragon] had destroyed all the animals in the Jocko Valley by swallowing them alive. By using great cunning Coyote voluntarily entered the dragon-monster’s mouth, and traveling down to his heart, pierced it with a larch pole which he had taken in with him. Later he threw the pole down and it took root, to grow on the top of the butte until 1918 when some unwitting person cut it down for firewood and brought a curse of misfortune upon himself by so doing. In the legend, the belly of the dragon was the Jocko Valley, his jaws were the bluffs between Ravalli and Dixon, and his tail was the Coriacan Defile (Evaro Hill). After all the animals were freed from the dragon’s stomach…Coyote tossed the heart away with a mighty heave which landed it on the side of the mountain above Agency Creek where it is still plainly visible today. Old timers watch the heart up there to check the water run-off because when the snow is gone from it high water is over.”
Here’s a very different version of the story, with very cool details.
It’s an honor to be creating this sacred garden in a place already so deeply blessed with Coyote’s wisdom and clever skill.