Each year when the leaves turned to red and gold and were falling from the trees to be picked up and whirled about by the winds of Ah-wah-nee, a great feast was held in the Valley, to which came the neighboring tribes. As the time for this feast drew near the chief of the Ah-wah-nee-chees would send a runner across the mountains to the shores of Mo-no Lake, bearing to the Mo-no tribe an invitation to be the guests of himself and his people. This runner carried with him a bundle of small willow sticks, bound about with thongs of deerskin, and corresponding in number to the suns that must set before the day of the feast. For each sun that sank into the west while the brave made his journey he discarded one of these sticks.
One year when the time for the feast had arrived and the tribes were gathered about the campfires enjoying the generous hospitality of the Ah-wah-nee-chees, a young brave of Ah-wah-nee smiled upon a maiden of the Mo-no tribe. He saw upon her face and hands signs of the recent application of pitch and ashes, that she had put there as a sign of mourning for the death of her sweetheart, a Mo-no brave. But, she was young and fair, and the Ah-wah-nee-chee made every effort to win some response to his ardent wooing, but her heart was still sad with longing for her dead lover, and his advances brought no answering smile to her face. When the Mo-nos returned across the mountains to their home on the shores of Mo-no Lake, the maiden went with them.
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TENAYA CANYON AND THE OVERHANGING ROCK ON HALF DOME
Photo A. C. Pillsbury
After the maiden had gone the young Ah-wah-nee-chee was broken-hearted, and wandered about all winter, disconsolate and alone. But in the spring, when the flowers were blooming in, Ah-wah-nee, and The Great Spirit had melted the snows from the mountains, he made his way across to the shores of Mo-no Lake, and there, in the dead of night, stole the maiden from her home. That the Mo-no braves might not track her and thus return her to her people, he carried her for a great distance in his arms. Then he put her down and she walked obediently before him back to Ah-wah-nee, and to the o-chum that he had prepared for her. That she might be happy and content to stay in her new home he had furnished the o-chum with the robes of the grizzly bear, and the skins of the deer, with beads and baskets, ornaments and shells; with everything dear to the heart of the Indian bride.
Here for five moons he guarded her closely and then, thinking that she was content to stay, he left the o-chum to join the men around the campfire, as befitted a young brave. But, as he sat listening respectfully to the words of wisdom that fell from the lips of the old men, he was seized with a premonition that all was not well with his bride, and returned hastily to his o-chum, only to find that the maiden had fled. Hot with anger he gathered four or five young braves of his tribe and started swiftly in pursuit. As they neared the top of Pi-wy-ack (Vernal Fall) they saw the maiden hurrying up the trail. Increasing their speed they rushed toward her, whereupon she
plunged into the Emerald Pool and struck bravely out for the opposite shore. She soon reached the middle of the stream, but the rushing current was too much for her frail strength and she was carried farther and farther down until the hurrying waters whirled her over the fall and dashed her to her death on the rocks below.
Thus did a maiden of the Mo-nos prove her devotion to the memory of her dead sweetheart, and thus did the angry waters of Pi-wy-ack deprive a young brave of the Ah-wah-nee-chees of an unwilling bride.