LINDEN, Texas - Bob Martin and I rode our horses up to Willow Creek that weekend, and decided to leave them there for the night, and ride them back to Imlay the next morning. When we arrived the next morning, Bob's horse was still in the corral, but my little pony was nowhere to be seen. Immediately I knew she had jumped the fence and was gone. Once again my heart sank to the bottom, expecting to never see her again.

Everyone there, Henry and John Thacker and the Harmon gang, tried to console me for my loss. You will get her back, they all said, when we round up the mustang herd in a few months. Still, I worried, thinking she was out there alone, and worried about the mountain lions and other dangers. My hope was she was with a herd of mustangs. She would be safer that way.

When it came time to round up the mustangs, I was there, along with the buckaroos. The day before the round up, Bill Harmon rode up the canyon a couple miles to check on the herd, and came back with good news for me. Your filly is with them, he said, I knew he knew her well, since he had kept her hooves trimmed for me since day one.

Ardath Thacker, Bob's mother, suggested I walk up the canyon and could possibility get a rope on Nancy. So I took a rope and lit out. When the herd became aware of my presence, they spooked and ran. I yelled to Nancy, and she stopped and waited for me. I tried to get the rope on her, but shekkept shying away. Finally, she turned and ran, and caught up with the herd. That's okay girl, I thought, we will have you safely in the corral tomorrow.

The next day I was on the highest gate post there. I watched the buckaroo's guide the mustangs toward the mostly hidden corral. They came thundering into the narrow gate opening, Nancy running alongside the Stallion. As they entered the gateway, she was pushed into a huge gate post, running at full speed. I heard the thud, heard the crunch, heard her scream, and watched as she skidded to a stop, other horses running over her. She lay still, breathing heavy, frothing at the mouth. Her left rear hip was much lower that it should be.

"Her hip got knocked down," said John Thacker. "Maybe we can put it back in place:" They tied a rope on her leg, pulled and pushed and worked for a long time. "Someone go get Sam," someone said. "He is not a vet, but maybe he can fix it." "Sam went to Reno, and won't be home till tomorrow," Henry said. All the men present were feeling bad, watching me, and knowing how I must be hurting. My father went and got his pistol, and started to shoot her, till I saw him and put a stop to that. "She will never be able to run again," he said. "The coyotes or mountain lions will get her." Maybe so, but you are not going to shoot her, I wailed

They made sure there was plenty of water and hay, and we left her there to hopefully mend. About a week later, someone was there, and reported back to me that she was gone. Again, I expected to never see her again.

A few years went by, we left Imlay, moved to Lovelock, then left Lovelock and moved to the thriving community of Tungsten Mine. I was riding the school bus from the Mine to high school in Lovelock.

One bitter cold snowy morning as the school bus came over a hill, just before the mighty Humboldt River, a herd of mustangs ran across the road in front of us. They thundered off in the distance, and bringing up the rear, a long ways behind the herd, was a beautiful mare, limping along with her broke down hip, and a small colt running by her side. The bus went over another hill, and they were gone, out of sight. And that, folks, was the last time I saw my first love. I was so proud my father had listened to me and did not put a bullet in her that day.

Roy Bale can be reached via email at roybale3mail@yahoo.