LINDEN, Texas - After moving to Imlay from Texas in 1942, I started hounding my father for a horse. There was so many wide open places to explore, and I preferred riding a pony to the mountain rather than walking. One day sister Sylvia excitedly told me dad was down at the railroad corrals and loading chute, looking over the mustangs that had been captured and corralled that day. You could have played cards on my shirttail as I headed for the corralled mustangs. Dad was dickering with Sam Fancher about a stocky dun that he was interested in buying for me. I climbed up on the fence and had a look, and instantly fell in love. Not with the ugly dun stud, but a beautiful tan colored slender filly with a white star on her forehead.

Dad offered Sam twenty dollars, and they shook on the deal. I still have the hand written bill of sale for the transaction.

Sylvia said name her Star. I said no, I'm naming her Nancy. My fifth grade girl friend was Nancy Olsen, so I named her Nancy. Sounds kinda foolish now, to me as well as you, but a twelve year old boy sometimes does foolish things.

I set about breaking her, and it turned out an easy chore. First we made friends, then when she got over her fear of me, I put the saddle on her and left it there for the day. The next day I climbed on, fully expecting to get bucked off. She did not buck, but stood and quivered for awhile, Finally she started walking, and I set about teaching her to rein. Within a week, we were roaming the hills and desert, and chasing coyotes when one spooked and ran. Whenever that happened, I just held on for dear life, as she needed no guidance from me in chasing coyotes.

One day Mrs. Lamb, who had corrals next to ours, came and said your pony is gone. She said Nancy was acting real frisky, ran and jumped over the corral fence. I couldn't believe it, since the fence was five feet high. But Nancy was gone, headed westward into the setting sun. I fully expected to never see her again. To say I was heartbroken was an understatement. I was devastated. It turned out to be a long and lonely summer.

She was spotted by a buckaroo, running with a herd of mustangs on the mountainside west of Humboldt House. The buckaroo told me they were going to corral that bunch of mustangs in the fall, and I would get my pony back. I was full of anxiety and worry. You can imagine my apprehension.

When they rounded up those mustangs, I was at Humboldt House waiting for my beautiful pony. When the herd came into sight, Nancy was running alongside the big black stallion. The rest of the herd was straggling far behind. The buckaroos had run them by relay for about ten miles. That night she was back home, in our Imlay corral. Dad had added another board on the fence top.

The winter was bitter cold, and I rode very little that winter. In the spring we set about exploring the hills again. We had some excitement that summer. I tried to ride up a canyon southeast of Imlay. She refused. I got off and tried to lead her up the canyon, She refused. On returning to Imlay, I was telling Henry Thacker about that incident. He had me point out the canyon. 'That canyon is full of mountain lions,' he said. "She sensed the danger, being a mustang." She could smell them, he informed me.

Another day I decided to explore a small low lying hill down by Mill City, not knowing it was commonly called "Rattlesnake Mountain." Suddenly I heard a lot of loud buzzing, and thought it was locusts. Nancy became frantic, and it scared me because of her fright. I got off and led her back away from the rattlers. We never ventured to that hill again. Just looking at it brought goose bumps to me.

That summer Bob Martin and I rode our horses to Willow Creek for a Thacker family weekend gathering. It was late Saturday afternoon when Bob suggested we leave the horses for the night, and come back next morning for them. That suited me fine. The warm pick up cab lulled me to sleep. See you tomorrow, Nancy. Or so I thought.

Next week, part two. "A Boys First Love."

Roy Bale can be reached via email at