To Mike's surprise, he heard a firm knock on the front door. Mike, checked his watch and it was just coming up on six am. He remembered that, he had told that livestock delivery driver, to check back with him about being hired at six am. “If this is who I think it is, at least he's punctual. That's a point in his favor, let's see if he keeps it. He even beat, that “Mex” Gonzalez, here. That's a point he'll keep. And he's white, another point to keep for him.” Foreman Mitchel thought. Foreman Mitchel rose and went to the door.

When Mike opened the door, before him stood, Chuck Hendricks, a 5'11” tall, muscular, 195lb, man, with close, conservatively cut, hair. He was clean shaven and sharply dressed, in western styled clothing. His jeans and shirt were starched and he had a well worn, cowboy hat on, with a dirty sweat ring on the outside and was wearing a pair of well worn cowboy boots, that were clean, if not polished. Just beyond him, on the porch rail, was a well worn saddle, with an obviously well used and cared for rope, hanging on the saddle's horn. Leaning against them, was a Winchester rifle and on the floor of the porch, was a western holster with a .45 cal, long colt, revolver inside of it. “I brought my gear, just in case, Mr. Mitchel. I hope that's alright, Sir.” Chuck said hopefully.

“Well, if I hire you, at least you're ready to go to work and you're punctual. That's two points in your favor. Come on inside to my office and we'll talk.” Foreman Mitchel said smiling, while ticking off two fingers.

“Yes sir, right behind you.” Chuck said confidently, removing his hat and closing the door gently behind him as he entered, following the Foreman.

Foreman Mitchel patted the back of a chair in front of his desk as he passed and said, “Have a seat and we can talk for a bit.”

After they had both taken their seats, Foreman Mitchel said, “Tell me about yourself, Chuck. How much experience do you have at working with livestock?”

“Well, Sir, I'm 25. I was born and raised on a small ranch in west Texas. I guess I started “working” at around ten years old. So, that would make it about 15 years, Sir. Give or take about a year or so, Sir. “

“My Dad lost the family ranch after he got Cancer, the medical bills were too high to keep the ranch and pay for his treatments, a few years back. So, I went to work for an outfit that trains horses to help out with the bills. He died, even with the expensive treatments.” Chuck said as he was looking down sadly at his hat.

“I just couldn't keep working out there, knowing that the ranch was gone. My old boss told me about the delivery of horses to a ranch with a new owner. So, I figured I'd offer to use my pickup and trailer to bring them out here and see if the new owners needed a good, experienced hand. I can rope, ride, herd cattle, sheep and even know a little bit about farming, Sir.”

“I sure could use the work and I'll make you the best hand that I can, Sir. I've got my own gear and the only thing I don't have is a horse with me, Sir. My trailer only holds four animals at a time, so it took two trips with a full trailer each trip.”

“My old boss, said if I get this job, I could have the horse of my choice when I come back to get the rest of my stuff, you can call him for a reference, if you want.” Chuck offered, hopefully.

“I plan to, Mr Hendricks. I too, grew up in the saddle. There's three things that I look for in my hands. The first is, experience. Judging from your gear and what you've said, you've got that.”

“The second is, honesty. I don't like or want liars or thieves among my hands. Liars can't be trusted and any kind of theft, causes way too many problems.”

“The third is, a hard worker. I'm a working Foreman and I work hard here. My work isn't finished when my hands get off for the evening. I work right along with my hands all day and often, late into the night, by myself, on the “business” end of running a ranch/farm. I expect and will tolerate no less, than hard work during working hours. What's your old boss's number? If he verifies what you've told me, you've got a job. At least, until you show that you don't deserve to work here.” Foreman Mitchel said seriously.

Chuck gave Foreman Mitchel the number and sat quietly, as Foreman Mitchel called and spoke to his (soon to be) former employer.

“Your old boss gave you high praise, Mr. Hendricks. You're hired. You can bring in your guns and leave them here in my office until we start the day, have you got a shotgun?.” Mike asked.

“Well, yes, Sir. It's in my truck. I didn't think I'd need it to work on a ranch, Sir. I use it for hunting birds and squirrel, usually.” Chuck said.

“After breakfast, you can put your clothing in the bunk house. You'll need your other gear right after breakfast.”

“I'm glad you're armed, Chuck. Take them with you today, you never know when a coyote or wildcat needs to be removed, permanently from the property. Swap out your rifle for the shotgun with buckshot. We're too close to the city folk for most rifles to be safe to use without some kind of backstop. The Boss don't need the headache of law suits, got it?”

“Yes, Sir. Good thinkin', Mr. Mitchel. I'll swap out my 30/30 for my pump and put my squirrel-burger loads in it.” Chuck said, smiling.

“Squirrel-burger rounds?” Mike asked curious.

“Yeah, the shot is too big to use on squirrels, it turns 'em into squirrel- burger. It's okay for pheasant and duck, though.” Chuck said with a sly grin.

“Oh, okay. Well, my hands should start coming in soon, it's almost 6:30 and the sun will be up in a bit. You can go on into the dining room and coffee should be brought in pretty soon.

Chuck did as he was told, brought his firearms in and laid them on the table where another holstered hand gun was laying. Then he went into the dining room, hoping for some coffee to be there soon and sat at the table.

Chuck was a little nervous and excited too, at getting hired. He smelled the aroma of coffee coming from the kitchen and just couldn't resist asking the cook for a cup. Besides, it's always a good idea to be on friendly terms with the cook on a ranch. Chuck knew stories about fellas pissing off their cook. It ain't no fun to ride a horse with a case of the squirts, he imagined.

Chuck got up and walked into the kitchen, led by his nose. The smells and sounds of breakfast being prepared for a large group of men by a single woman, were drawing him into the kitchen to see who was sounding so efficient and making the sweet nectar of morning,.. Coffee..

Chuck cleared his throat and was about to introduce himself, when the very attractive girl with her back to him held out a hand as if to stop him, while saying, “It's on the counter over there, Sir. I gotta pay attention here, nobody likes lumpy gravy.” as she rocked her head indicting the counter by the window with her head.

She was very carefully stirring something into a larger pot with one of those funny looking loops of stainless steel, bailin' wire on a handle, a whisk, he thought they called it.

Chuck could see that the girl had her hands full with breakfast preparation and did as she suggested. He went to the counter and rummaged around until he found the enamel-ware coffee cups that were surely for the hands, even though they looked like they had never been used.

The single electric coffee pot on the counter, looked as if it had seen better days but, had just finished percolating. Chuck shrugged, picked up the pot and poured himself a cup. Then, trying to be gentlemanly, he poured a cup for the girl that was, just then, mopping her brow with a towel and set it next to her.

The girl was busy tending to three large, cast iron, frying pans and barely noticed Chuck, as she set her towel down and grabbed the cup to take a large sip while fork turning a large skillet full of bacon.

“Damn! This ain't coffee! This is mud!” exclaimed the girl as she glared over her shoulder at Chuck. Then noticed that it wasn't her boss and softened with a smile.

Chuck had just finished taking a large sip himself and said, “Tastes like it's been sitting in that pot for days. I'll Just choke this down 'till you get some fresh coffee made, Ma'am, thanks anyway.”

“Oh! I thought you were the boss! That's his personal coffee pot,” Kelly whispered trying to save face with the handsome man she was now facing.

The attractive girl giggled, covering her mouth with her hand slightly and said. “Go rinse your cup out and get a good cup from the big pot, it's done enough to drink, anyway.”

“Is the boss' disposition better than his coffee?” Chuck asked sarcastically

“You'd know better than I would, cowboy. I'm new here too. You've probably spoken more with him than me. I'm just the cook and bookkeeper here. You fellas see him more than me, I'm sure. At least until all of the kinks of a new ranch get worked out. There's a lot of stuff to get sorted out, so I'm gonna be one busy heifer for quite a while too, it looks like. Now, you go on and scoot. Sit down at the table and wait for your breakfast, like a good cow puncher. Go on.. Scoot..” She said as she shooed him out of the kitchen, waving the tail of her apron, like some matronly cook in a western movie.

Chuck raised his hand, his cup of coffee, he had just poured and high step, tip toed out of the kitchen like a scolded child, chuckling all the way. He liked that girl, she had spunk and obviously took pride in her work. Besides, she wasn't at all bad to look at, rather nice to look at in fact, he thought.

Chuck decided that he'd really like to get to know that girl, as he sat at the table while the other hands filed in for breakfast.