LIANE HANSEN, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

You've probably observed that owners and their pets begin to resemble each other. Well, we're about to take that a step further. There's evidence, 100 percent anecdotal, that humans and animals in the wild can also become like each other. This hasn't been scientifically documented mind you, but it has been musically documented. The tune is a subject of this morning's entry in our "What's in a Song" series from the Western Folklife Center.

We meet a man from Montana who's written a ballad of cowboys and coyotes.

Professor GREG KEELER (English Department, Montana State University-Bozeman; Composer, "Coyotes and Cowboys"): I'm Greg Keeler. I've been teaching in English department here in Bozeman for the last 32 years. I write songs and poems and paint pictures and stuff like that.

(Soundbite of song, "Coyotes and Cowboys")

Prof. KEELER: (Singing) Your coyote's a lot like your cowboy, misguided and damaged but free. In a life out of order, he'll be runnin' the border of what he's allowed to be.

As far as coyotes and cowboys go, there are a lot of things that are similar about the two of them as far as trying to survive in a type of life that was allowed in the past and was less and less allowed in the present.

(Soundbite of song, "Coyotes and Cowboys")

Prof. KEELER: (Singing) Your everyday coyote ain't right in the brain. When his pals and him sing it sounds like they're in pain. Hell, they don't have the sense to come in from the rain, and when there's trouble, he's always to blame.

What a cowboy is depends on his departure from social norms and standards because everything I know about the original cowboys was only - couldn't do much else. A lot of them and one of them can do much else is because they had messed up in one way or another as far as polite society.

(Soundbite of song, "Coyotes and Cowboys")

Prof. KEELER: (Singing) He's humble by day, and he's cocky by night. Don't be fooled by that smile. He's just fixin' to fight. He's not that concerned with what's wrong or what's right. If you think that he's jokin' he's ready to fight.

I bought bails to make ends meet for a couple of years when I first came here. I'd go around and I put - hang on a couple of inches in trucks. I take them to other places. And there are a couple of guys I worked with that looked at me as an emblem of - a symbolization they didn't want to have anything to do with.

(Soundbite of song, "Coyotes and Cowboys")

Prof. KEELER: (Singing) And your coyote's a lot like your cowboy.

You'd be sitting there thinking you were being one of the guys or, the one went on, and then they'd turned around, say what, what are you laughing at?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. KEELER: And other times they could be really funny.

(Soundbite of song, "Coyotes and Cowboys")

Prof. KEELER: There is something a little scary and threatening but at the same time admirable because either they can't buy into the status quo or they don't want to.

(Soundbite of song, "Coyotes and Cowboys")

Prof. KEELER: (Singing) And your coyote's a lot like your cowboy, misguided and damaged but free. In a life out of order, he'll be runnin' the border of what he's allowed to be. If his life's out of order, he'll be runnin' the border of what he's allowed to be.

HANSEN: "What's in a Song" is produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center.

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