4. The Origin of Narran Lake

Old Byamee said to his two young wives, Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee, “I have stuck a white feather between the hind legs of a bee, and am going to let it go and then follow it to its nest, so that I may get honey. While I go for the honey, you two go out and get frogs and yams, then meet me at Coorigel Spring, where we will camp, for the water is sweet and clear there.” The wives, taking their nets and yam sticks, went out as he told them. Having gone far, and dug out many yams and frogs, they were tired when they reached Coorigel, and, seeing the cool, fresh water, they longed to bathe. But first they built a shade, and there left their nets holding their food, and the yams and frogs they had found. When their camp was ready for the arrival of Byamee the girls went to the spring to bathe. They plunged in, having first taken of their dresses, and which they left on the ground near the spring. Scarcely were they enjoying the cool rest the water gave their hot, tired limbs, when they were seized and swallowed by two crocodiles. Having swallowed the girls, the crocodiles dived into an opening in the side of the spring, which was the entrance to an underground watercourse leading to the Narran River. Through this passage they went, taking all the water from the spring with them into the Narran, whose course they also dried as they went along.

Meantime Byamee, unaware of the fate of his wives, was hunting for honey. He had followed the bee with the white feather on it for some distance. Then the bee flew on to some flowers, and would move no further. Byamee said, “Something has happened, or the bee would not stay here and refuse to move on towards its nest. I must go to Coorigel Spring and see if my wives are safe. Something terrible has surely happened.” And Byamee turned in haste towards the spring. When he reached there he saw the shade his wives had made, he saw the yams they had dug from the ground, and he saw the frogs, but Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee he couldn’t see. He called aloud for them. But there was no answer. He went towards the spring. On the edge of it he saw the dresses of his wives. He looked into the spring and, seeing it dry, he said, “It is the work of the crocodiles; they have opened the underground passage and gone with my wives to the river, and opening the passage has dried the spring. Well do I know where the passage joins the Narran, and there I will go.” Arming himself with spears and axes he started in pursuit. He soon reached the deep hole where the underground channel of the Coorigel joined the Narran. There he saw what he had never seen before, namely, this deep hole dry. And he said, “They have emptied the holes as they went along, taking the water with them. But I know the deep holes of the river. I will not follow the bend, thus trebling the distance I have to go, but I will cut across from big hole to big hole, and by so doing I may yet get ahead of the crocodiles.” On swiftly sped Byamee, making short cuts from big hole to big hole, and his track is still marked by the ridges that stretch down the Narran, pointing in towards the deep holes. Every hole he came to he found dry, until at last he reached the end of the Narran. The hole there was still quite wet and muddy, so then he knew he was near his enemies, and soon he saw them. He managed to get, unseen, a little way ahead of the crocodiles. He hid himself behind a big dheal tree. As the crocodiles came near they separated, one turning to go in another direction. Quickly Byamee hurled one spear after another, wounding both crocodiles, who writhed with pain and lashed their tails furiously, making great hollows in the ground, which the water they had brought with them quickly filled. Thinking they might again escape him, Byamee drove them from the water with his spears, and then, at close quarters, he killed them with his axes. And ever since at flood time, the Narran flowed into this hollow which the crocodiles in their writhings had made.

When Byamee saw that the crocodiles were quite dead, he cut them open and took out the bodies of his wives. They were covered with wet slime, and seemed quite lifeless, but he carried them and laid them on two nests of red ants. Then he sat down at some little distance and watched them. The ants quickly covered the bodies, cleaned them rapidly of the wet slime, and soon Byamee noticed the muscles of the girls twitching. “Ah,” he said, “there is life, they feel the sting of the ants.”

Almost as he spoke came a sound as of a thunder-clap, but the sound seemed to come from the ears of the girls. And as the echo was dying away, slowly the girls rose to their feet. For a moment they stood apart, a dazed expression on their faces. Then they clung together, shaking as if stricken with a deadly fear. But Byamee came to them and explained how they had been rescued from the crocodiles by him. He told them to beware of ever bathing in the deep holes of the Narran, lest such holes be the home of crocodiles.

Then he told them look at the water now at Boogira, and he said, “Soon the black swans will find their way here, the pelicans and the ducks. Where there was dry land and stones in the past, in the future there will be water and water-fowl. From henceforth, when the Narran runs it will run into this hole, and by the spreading of its waters a big lake will be made.” And what Byamee said has come to pass, as the Narran Lake shows, with its large sheet of water, spreading for miles, the home of thousands of wild fowl.