According to Me… The Wile E. Coyote Parable

When I was young, my parents let me get a puppy. I remember the day I went to pick him out. There must have been seven or eight rolly-polly, barrel tummy pups to choose from… and I picked the dumbest one. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I thought he was the cutest and cuddliest. It didn’t take me long to figure out the dump part though.

My mom ended up naming the puppy “Wile E.” after the coyote in the roadrunner cartoon that kept running over cliffs and getting blown up. My puppy’s first stunt upon arriving at his new home was to flip nose over rump off the porch. The four foot drop didn’t bother him much. He got up and wagged his tail like he’d earned applause. That was the first but not the last of his misadventures.

Wile E. was fond of chasing things, cars, rabbits, ground hogs… and skunks. One hot summer morning, he got sprayed all over by a skunk. I went out to feed him around noon and got my first whiff of heat intensified skunk-sprayed dog. Talk about make your eyes water. I knew my parents would be ticked, so I didn’t mention it to them right away. Instead, I prayed nightly that the smell would dissipate. Unfortunately, God had more important things to do than make my dog stop stinking, and my mom found out a few days later. She wasn’t fond of Wile E. at that point, so she told me I needed to talk to my dad about it.

Here’s the thing about talking to my dad about anything. He worked crazy unpredictable hours, and he was as grumpy as a grizzly bear most days. I dreaded telling him, and when I did, he was not pleased. His words were, “That dog is going to get his first bath today.” Something about the way he said it conveyed the impression my dog was going to be executed not bathed. But what’s a kid to do but tag along and hope to intervene if the situation escalates.

So Wile E. went into the back of my dad’s pickup truck, and my dad and I got into the front. We drove about five miles into the hills and stopped near the small river running through them. Wile E. immediately jumped out and found a jackrabbit to chase. When my dad yelled for him to come back, he obeyed with his tail between his legs. What happened next came as a complete shock to me. My dad picked Wile E. up and threw him ten feet out across the river.

It seemed to happen in slow motion. My dog sailing through the air on a collision course with fast running water. I remember thinking, does my dog even know how to swim?

That experience has become my personal parable. Maybe it’s just me, but I sometimes find myself feeling like I’ve  been thrown through the metaphorical air. I know I’m going to hit water sooner or later. The question is, will I sink or will I swim. Sometimes the water is moving faster than other times. Sometimes I’m tired and it’s hot and I feel I just don’t have the energy to swim to the bank. Sometimes it seems like it’s all a recurring nightmare, I’ve been here too many times before.

Perhaps you’ve felt something similar and know in the end, it’s up to you to keep you head above water whatever the circumstances may be. If we manage it, we’ll make it to the bank and live to fight another day. Sometimes that’s as close to winning as we’re going to get for awhile.

The ending for my dog that day was a happy one. My dad tossed him into the creek half a dozen times, and that was enough to kill the skunk smell. So we got back into the truck and drove home. I think my dad bought me a seven-up to celebrate our success.


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