Hunger Valley

: 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.