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Hunger Valley


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

East of San Francisco is a narrow valley opening to the bay of San Pablo.
In spite of its pleasant situation and fruitful possibilities, it had no
inhabitants until 1820, when Miguel Zamacona and his wife Emilia strayed
into it, while on a journey, and, being delighted with its scenery,
determined to make it their home. In playful mockery of its abundance
they gave to it the name El Hambre [Hunger] valley.

After some weeks of such hardship as comes to a Mexican from work, Miguel
had built an adobe cabin and got a garden started, while he caught a fish
or shot a deer now and then, and they got on pretty well. At last it
became necessary that he should go to Yerba Buena, as San Francisco was
then called, for goods. His burros were fat and strong, and there should
be no danger. Emilia cried at being left behind, but the garden had to be
tended, and he was to be back in exactly three weeks. She waited for
twenty-two days; then, her anxiety becoming unendurable, she packed an
outfit on a burro and started on the trail. From time to time she called
his name, and Miguel! echoed sweetly from hills and groves, but there
was no other answer, save when an owl would hoot. Rolled in a blanket she
slept on lupin boughs, but was off at peep of day again,
calling--calling--high and clear among the solitudes.

During the second day her burro gave a rasping bray, and a hee-haw
answered from the bush. It was Miguel's burro. He had come at last!
Leaping to her feet, in her impatience, she ran to meet him, and found
him lying on the earth, staring silently at the sky. All that day she sat
beside him, caressing his hand, talking, crying, bathing his face with
water from the marsh--the poison marsh--and it was not until sunset that
she could bring herself to admit that he was dead--had been dead for at
least two days.

She put the blanket over him, weighted it with stones, and heaped reeds
upon it; then she started for home. A wandering trader heard her story,
but years elapsed before any other settler entered Hunger valley. They
found her skeleton then in the weedy garden. The adobe stands tenantless
in the new village of Martinez, and the people have so often heard that
the ghosts of the Zamaconas haunt the place that they have begun to
disbelieve it.

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Previous: The Death Of Umatilla

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