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Friday, July 8, 2022

Linderman - How the Skunk Helped the Coyote - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Driving this past week I found reason to sing "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road."  The chorus repeats the title three times ending with "Stinking to high heaven."  Skunks rely on their smelly defense and have no reason to think cars won't see them and leave them alone.  They leave their burrows now that the weather is warmer and trot around in the dark.  Whether you see them or not, you sure might smell them.

This sent me hunting skunk stories.  I found a good one that even includes coyote and wolf from Frank Bird Linderman.  I also found quite a few crafts related to skunks, including puppets to help tell the story.

I'll give more about that after the story which comes from Indian Old-Man Stories; More Sparks from War Eagle's Lodge Fire.  It's the sequel to Indian Why Stories: Sparks from War Eagle's Lodge-Fire found at Project Gutenberg.  The story opens with the War Eagle frame, but really begins with "Once, long ago."

Photo by Bryan Padron on

Nowadays Frank Linderman would be called an activist for Native Americans.  Besides political activism he wrote and collected their stories.  He wrote as much in a letter to a friend, "I feel it a duty to, in some way, preserve the old West, especially Montana, in printer's ink, and if I can only accomplish a small part of that, I shall die contented."  Besides biographies and other works he produced six collections of tales like today's story.  Most can be borrowed from the Internet Archive.  Just this year his Kootenai Why Stories became public domain.  I hate waiting six more years for Old Man Coyote (Crow) (1932).  It can be "borrowed" online at the Archive, but I must wait to post it here.

Beyond the stories there are some great skunk crafts.

The Tucson Puppet Lady has a free pattern for a felt skunk hand puppet and her site has other skunk activities as part of her blog.  She also has a large selection of free paper bag puppet patterns.  In addition she sells patterns for felt puppets, animal and people.  The people are "Muppet" style people which are excellent, although I would suggest substituting vinyl for the mouth as felt there wears out very quickly.  Like felt, vinyl doesn't have a problem with the edges needing the extra work of most fabrics.

Another excellent site, especially for Early Childhood needs, is  

The skunks are cute and would work for a paper bag puppet, stick puppet, or finger puppet (that one is mounted on a toilet paper roll.  Her Cut&Paste section is packed with a huge number of animals.  She also has ways to use crafts to help little children learn their letters.  As a preschool mom, she's right on target for others using crafts with young children.

That should help you tell the story, just avoid the real skunks.  My dogs over the years have been dowsed in both homemade and commercial de-skunk solutions.  While it may make them almost scent-free, the smell always returns in rainy weather until it finally either wears away or you become "nose blind."


This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-

  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.

  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"

The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:        

         - David K. Brown -

         - Richard Martin -

         - Spirit of Trees -

         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but the late Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.

       - World of Tales - 

           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.

You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!

    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.

You can see why I recommend these to you. 

Have fun discovering even more stories

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