Coyote Susan logo in a cartoon drawing of an orange coyote wearing a red bandana with a turquoise spiral on its side and red accents

What’s in a Name? Why Coyote Susan, You Ask?

Everyone wonders, and it’s about time I answer

Coyote Susan logo in a cartoon drawing of an orange coyote wearing a red bandana with a turquoise spiral on its side and red accents
Coyote Susan logo created by author in Canva

What’s the Deal with Coyote Susan?

In the mid-90s, I chose the moniker Coyote Susan as my AOL email address. Way back then, many of us were uncomfortable using our real names. We thought deeply meaningful nicknames might protect us from getting caught in that newfangled thing called the World Wide Web.

We still valued privacy and wanted to protect it. Anonymity was our defense against thieves and bandits on the uncharted frontier of a rapidly expanding technology. Everything was happening so fast, right there in front of us on our gigantic monitors, in real time.

Protecting our identities seemed prudent.

And we had fun with it. My old boyfriend was thetravelczar. Another friend was screamingmimi. Another was browneyex2! If you’re old enough, I bet you remember a few of the more memorable ones.

As an outside sales rep, it was good for business. A great conversation starter and people remembered me because of my name. Everyone wanted to know why I chose Coyote Susan.

No, it has nothing to do with that movie … what was it called?

First off, no. My moniker has absolutely nothing to do with Coyote Ugly. Believe me, I’ve often regretted my choice because of the sheer number of people who bring it up when I give them my email address.

I purposefully avoided it until many years after it came out. Actually, it’s a fun movie with badass women. I was a bartender during college and yes, I’ve danced on a bar or two, but no, there’s no connection. The movie’s from 2000 and my moniker debuted in the mid-90s.

I put ‘coyote’ in front of my first name for a few reasons

I knew a cool dog who looked like a coyote. Okay, a little shorter and heftier than a coyote, but she had those piercing eyes and was loyal as all get out, like me.

I read lots of Native American mythology and knew about the symbolism of the coyote. Shamans who wore the coyote headdress used it to conjure the coyote’s curiosity, cleverness, persistence, and playful nature. All aspects I thought I possessed.

Yes, there’s also a devilish nature represented by the coyote. I can relate. We’ve all got the potential for mischief. God knows, I’ve caused more than my fair share of trouble.

The stories of the coyote as a playful trickster appealed to me. I don’t play tricks on people, but I certainly admire a playful sense of humor.

Think of coyotes as the medieval court jester of Native American mythology. As an English major, this intrigued me. I fashioned myself as a gal who could jest honestly with her monarch and keep her head about her shoulders. Without a clever sense of humor to temper the bitter truth, jesters could lose the king’s favor and maybe, God forbid, lose their heads.

Another type of coyote

Looking back on the decades since I became Coyote Susan online, I see an aspect of myself in the likable, yet infamous, trickster: Wile E. Coyote of cartoon fame.

I too have mistakenly blown myself sky high, dropped anvils on my fat head, and stumbled over cliffs into abysses of which I never expected to emerge intact.

Like Wile E., I knew the importance of persistence and perseverance. I too, am a survivor, but unlike my cartoon brother, I eventually learned from my mistakes.

Now I live to tell the tale in bits and pieces.

More reasons to like coyotes, and why I relate to them

While doing research for this piece, I found some interesting facts about urban coyotes, particularly in Chicago, my hometown.

Fierce in their hunting prowess, but not finicky, they’ll eat almost anything. Me too!

Coyotes are loyal. They mate for life, don’t cheat, and form strong family bonds. Both parents raise their pups and share in their feeding, often in a bird-like fashion when necessary. Not my style, but I admire their will to do what it takes in order to get their pups to eat. I’m fiercely loyal, and I don’t cheat.

Coyotes adapt. They now inhabit many urban areas across North America, and will quickly move to new dens to protect their band. While pawing around Chicago in my twenties, I moved my den over 13 times.

Studies show that coyotes are clever evaders. They secure their dens with many points of entry and egress. Video footage shows they will actually tip-toe to avoid predators. I’m a pretty good tip-toer myself.

After a big relocation, I’m adapting with a little help

Today, I am a transplanted northerner homesteading in rural Alabama with my husband and our dog, Buddy, who looks a lot like a coyote especially when his ears stand up.

Last spring, he bounded out of the woods, half starved and excited to get some food from me (a leftover hot dog). I fell in love with that wild, stray puppy, and he stayed.

He’s got those piercing eyes and a beautiful brindle coat. We often stop in the woods on our twilight walks and listen to wild coyotes scuffle around the ridge top.

Brown hound dog sits next to a swamp and looks back at owner.
Buddy on the edge of the swamp with not-so-coyote-like floppy ears. Photo by Author.

My husband is an interesting creature in his own right. He can fix just about any machine, which is a great quality on a homestead. He also knows tons about technical stuff and computers. All he asks is that I refrain from ordering anvils from the Acme Corporation and dancing on top of bars!

Man sits in front seat of RV, looking at his phone. Computer monitors on the dash and dog on an ottoman.
Yes, we live in an RV. Tech center on dash. Dean’s in the driver’s seat (har!). Photo by author.

Not yet the brave coyote-jester I’d planned on

When I started writing on Medium, I’d planned on being a lot more provocative in my writing. I wanted to say things most people are afraid to say in new ways that might get readers to think new thoughts, or at least see things from a different point of view.

In that respect, I thought the Coyote Susan email moniker worked as a Medium pen name. My married name, Susan Werner, is quite common and not very memorable. It doesn’t spark curiosity or reflect a clever, provocative nature like Coyote Susan.

Then big things happened

When the pandemic hit, we were making our big move from north to south and into retirement. It was fun and exciting, but also exhausting. I lost the desire to be provocative or stir things up. My heart wasn’t in it. The world seemed stirred-up without me adding to the mix. I wanted to be quiet, evade attention, and tip-toe for a while.

I needed time to hone my blogging skills and find my niche. I just wanted to write about homesteading on the old home-place in Alabama, living in an RV, and building a log home. I decided to use Medium as a way to catalog the adventure and practice blogging.

When we’re settled in the house, living in full-size rooms, and I have a proper office, I want to delve into more controversial issues — poke a few bonfires, channel my inner coyote-trickster-jester, and reveal how I used to be more like Wile E. than I’d like to admit. Maybe others can learn from my mistakes.

For now, I’ll keep exploring the homestead and write about our new life in our new state with our dog, Buddy.