The ong was a big bird, bigger than the houses of the white man. Its body was like the eagle’s, and its wings were longer than the tallest pines. Its face was that of an Indian, but covered with hard scales, and its feet were webbed. Its nest was deep down in the bottom of the Lake, out in the center, and out of the nest rushed all the waters which fill the Lake. There are no rivers to feed the Lake, only the waters from the ong’s nest. All the waters flow back near the bottom, in great under-currents, and after passing through the meshes of the nest are sent forth again. Every plant and bird and animal that gets into these under-currents, and sometimes the great trout that are swept into the net-like nest are there held fast to furnish food for the ong.
He ate everything, he liked everything, but best of all he liked the taste of human flesh. No one ever heard or saw anything of such poor mortals as were drowned in these waters, for their bodies were carried to the ong’s nest and no morsel ever escaped him. Sometimes he would fly about the shores in quest of some child or woman or hunter, yet he was a great coward and was never known to attack any one in camp, or when two or more were together. No arrow could pierce his feathers, nor could the strongest spear do more than glance from the scales on his face and legs, yet his coward’s heart made him afraid for his toes had no claws, and his mouth no beak.
Late one fall, the Washoes were making their final hunt before going to the valleys and leaving the Lake locked in its winter snows. The chief’s daughter was sixteen years old, and before leaving the Lake he must select the greatest hero in the tribe for her husband, for such had been the custom of the Washoe chiefs ever since the tribe came out of the Northland. Fairer than ever maiden had been was this daughter, and every unmarried brave and warrior in the tribe wished that he had performed deeds of greater prowess, that he might be certain of winning the prize. That last night at the Lake, around the big council fire, each was to recount to the chief the noblest achievement of his life, and when all were heard the chief would choose, and the women join the circle and the wedding take place. For many years the warriors had looked forward to this event, and the tribe had become famed because of acts of reckless daring performed by those who hoped to wed the chief’s daughter.
It was the morning of the final day and much game and great stores of dried trout were packed ready for the journey. All were preparing for the wedding festivities, and the fact that no one knew who would be the bridegroom, among all that band of warriors, lent intensest excitement to the event. All were joyous and happy except the maiden and the handsome young brave to whom she had given her heart. In spite of custom or tradition her love had long since gone out to one whose feet had been too