In the central part of California is a wide level plain about 300 miles long, extending southward from the Sacramento River. This area of about 20,000 square miles is walled in on three sides by the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges.
At one time, the Mariposa Indian tribe occupied a large portion of this land. Today, only remnants of the tribe live along the western slope of the Sierras.
Long ago, a Mariposa tribesman named Soho lived in a pleasant canyon with his beautiful wife, Ule, whom he loved very, very much.
They made a comfortable home in a hillside cave with a thatched cover over their doorway. Soho covered the thatch and the doorway with animal hides to keep them warm in stormy weather.
Nearby, their fenced garden provided them with bountiful supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables. Beyond the fencing, their domestic animals roamed freely on good grazing land. Besides horses and a few cows, they had goats, rabbits, and even wild deer joined the herd occasionally, probably for protection from wild coyotes and foxes. Toward evening, the domestic animals gathered beneath the thatched shelter Soho had built for them. He was continually enlarging the sheds as the numbers of his stock increased.
The animals gave them a plentiful supply of meat and hides for their food and clothing. Members of other tribes stopped by to trade with Soho on their migrations north and south. Consequently, Soho and Ule were content with their home location and with the success they experienced with their crops, stock production, and trading. They agreed that they could not have been happier with their lives.
Suddenly, Soho's beautiful Ule became ill. Without any warning, she died. Soho's grief overwhelmed him. He felt very, very sad, crying aloud and wailing to himself. He could find little comfort in his daily living--even his friendly animals were neglected at the end of the day. He could neither eat nor sleep.
In despair, Soho walked to his wife's grave and lay there beside her mound for three days and three nights. During the fourth night while he was crying for his wife to come back to him, he noticed a very bright star directly overhead that spread light everywhere. What did it mean?
Then suddenly Soho felt the ground shake like an earthquake. The earth on top of his wife's grave moved! His wife arose from the grave! She stood and brushed sand and dirt from her clothing!
Soho stared at Ule in silence, because a Mariposa superstition claimed that one who speaks with a ghost will soon die. As Soho continued to stare speechless, Ule floated swiftly away toward Toxil, the place of the setting-sun. Soho ran in pursuit of her with tears of joy overflowing his eyes at seeing his wife again.
Ule turned and motioned Soho to go back, go back! She told him that she was going to Tib-ik-nict, the home of the dead--he must not follow her.
But for four days and four nights Solo pursued Ule, until they reached a large roaring river. She stepped onto a light bridge, fragile as a spider's web, and started to cross over.
Soho cried aloud and beckoned frantically for Ule to come back! She turned, stretching her hand toward him as a sign of comfort. He sprang forward onto the bridge, but she would not let him touch her. Together they crossed the long bridge where good spirits can cross easily. Bad spirits somehow unbalance the bridge and fall off into the water. Later, they turn into pike fish that must swim back to feed the living people.
At the far end of the bridge, Soho saw a warm, fruitful land with happy people from all parts of the world. They seemed to live peacefully together and there seemed to be plenty for everyone.
Ule told Soho to observe everything closely, because he must return to the Mariposa tribe and tell them all that he had experienced before he died on the fourth day.
She guided him back over the bridge and said good-bye, until his return. Soho ran fast to his home and reported to his tribe all that he had seen and heard. At the fourth sunrise, Soho's friends came to find him dead, as Ule had foretold. They wrapped his body in a cowhide and carried him to the sacred burial ground, placing him beside the mound where Ule had once lain.