CHAPTER IV. INDIAN LEGENDS OF THE TAHOE REGION
The old woman watched him from the top of the rock. Many times she feared lest he should find her, and she covered the baby more closely.
At last when he had given up the hunt, she saw him take a great basket and set it down in the road. Into this basket he put great bunches of elderberry roots, and as he put each bunch in, he gave it a name - Washoe, Digger, Paiuti, and so on. Then he put the lid on tightly and went off through the forest.
The old woman watched till the Evil One had gone. Creeping quietly down, she came with the child - she was a little girl now, not a wee baby any more - and sat down near the basket.
Presently there was a murmuring in the basket. "Oh, grandmother, what's that noise?" said the little girl.
"Never mind," said the grandmother, "don't you touch the basket!"
But the little girl kept teasing, "Oh, grandmother, what's in there?"
And the old woman would say, "Don't you touch it!"
The old woman turned her back just one minute and the little girl slipped up and raised the lid ever so little. There was a great whirring noise; the lid flew off and out came all the Indians. Off through the air they flew - Washoes to Washoe land; Diggers to Digger land; Paiutis to Nevada - each Indian to his own home.
The story given above is the one told by Jackson, but his wife, Susan, tells the same story with these essential differences. In her narrative there is no Evil One. The old woman scolded the young people for playing, but they are not all killed. It is the old woman herself who took a Paiuti water-bottle and after filling it with water, took wild seeds and placed them in the bottle, naming them the different Indian tribes. The seeds swelled in the water until they were as big as eggs and out of these the Indians hatched like chickens, and began to fight. It is the noise of the fighting that the baby hears.
As in Jackson's story the baby lets them out, but it is the wind that carries them off to their various homes.
HOW THE INDIANS FIRST GOT FIRE
The Indians were having a "big time" in a great log cabin. All the birds were there too, for in those days the Indians, birds, and animals could talk to each other.
They were dancing all around the room and all were merry as could be. They had a huge wooden drum and, as they passed this, the dancers kicked it to make music.
Now, among the birds who were there was a big blue-jay. He was a very saucy fellow, just full of mean tricks. When he came to the drum, he kicked it so hard that he broke it all to pieces. Of course this caused a great commotion. Every one was so provoked by his rudeness that they threw him out of the door.
It was raining hard and the impudence was soon washed out of Mr. Blue-Jay. He begged at the door in vain, and at last he huddled up on the branch of a tree, thinking himself greatly abused.
As he sat there, suddenly, far off, he saw a strange light. Now the Blue-Jay has an infinite amount of curiosity, so away he flew to investigate, quite forgetting his troubles.
It was fire which the Indian god had brought down to earth. The Jay got a piece and soon came flying back to the great cabin where the dance was still going on.
When he called now at the door, saying that he had something wonderful to show them, they knew that he was telling the truth. They let him come in, crowding about him to see this wonderful thing. They did not know what to make of this strange new thing. Lest anything should happen to it, they dug a hole and buried the fire most carefully.
Tired out with the night's dancing the Indians all went off to rest, leaving the birds to watch the precious fire. But the birds were tired too, and it was not long before they were fast asleep. All except the owl. He was wide awake and he, being very wise, knew that the fire must be put in a safer place. He went out and calling the yellow snake, the rat, and the little "hummer" bird, he explained what he wanted them to do. The snake was to worm his way in under the logs and wait there till the hummer-bird brought him the fire. The rat was to go in and chew all the birds' wings so that they should not be able to catch the little hummer. They were all so fast asleep that the rat was able to do this very easily.
All went just as they planned. The snake took the fire and hid a little spark of it in every buckeye tree. And there the Indians found it when they needed it. For rubbing a piece of cedar and buckeye together, they very quickly make the spark, and produce fire.
A LEGEND OF LAKE TAHOE
The following legend was published some years ago in Sunset Magazine. It was written by Miss Nonette V. McGlashan, who heard it from a Washoe squaw. The story was told with strange gestures and weird pathos: