Lt. Mitchel spent the next few hours reading his standing orders packet which contained all of the government's compiled data on the property he was officially the Foreman of. He would be in charge of personnel, maintenance and ongoing ranch business.

There was a smaller packet inside of his SOP(Standard Operating Procedure) orders for, to his surprise, another facility which was on the property or had been. According to the information on the packet, illegal dumping of concrete from demolition had obscured the entrance and was believed to have collapsed the facility.

A storage facility of emergency rations for troops in the event of a national emergency need had been placed on the property, years ago. There was no inventory of stored rations, However. They were thought to be lost and he determined that this would be his second priority of business. He wanted to ascertain, if indeed, the facility was no longer usable. There was a notation at the bottom of the single, letter sized, paper within the envelope. It read; facility thought to be collapsed and no longer viable, due to illegal construction dumping, dated 1960.

Mike left and closed the spiral stairway in the private study, that his orders told him was his Commander's private office, within the big house. He left the office, closing the door securely. He walked through what would be his office, for the rest of his posting here and went outside, to take a look at the compound he was in charge of. He walked out to the stables and barn area at the northern end of the Home Of The Future compound. His first priority was to survey the property, checking fences, water holes, springs, ponds, crops and livestock. For that, he would need a good mount.

On reaching the corral, Mike opened the gate and stepped inside. He didn't know any of these mounts and used a ploy an old friend of his father's had taught him about horses. He walked confidently into the center of the corral, where several horses, unsaddled, were being held, prior to use or being stabled for the night. The horses scattered on his entrance, running to the far end of the coral, milling around there and watching him, carefully.

Mike walked up to the training post, adjusted his hat, held his head high and waited, arms crossed.

Before long, a mustang paint, came over to him, walked around him, snorted several times, shaking and bobbing it's head. Mike didn't move or give any indication of noticing the horse at all. Before long, the mustang walked up to Mike, dipped it's head and stood in front of him. Mike adjusted his hat down in the front and nodded to the horse slowly. Mike patted the horse on the side of his head and stroked his jaw, getting to know the animal. He began stroking the animal along his sides, on his back and flanks, judging the animal's reaction.

Mike judged that, although the animal was spirited and challenged him in the beginning, it was a sturdy, hardy animal and seemed to agree to being his mount.

Mike left the corral, went into the barn, got a nice saddle from it's stand and a saddle blanket, before returning to the corral fence. Once there, he placed the saddle on the fence, laid the saddle blanket over the saddle and returned to the barn/stable. He grabbed a bit and bridle, poured a partial bucket of grain from one of the gunny sacks on a table, stood the sack back up, to prevent spillage and returned to the corral.

Mike fed the horse some grain, put the bit and bridle on, put the blanket and saddle on the horse and was in the process of tightening the saddle cinches when a male voice, spoke to him from the fence. “Carlos, calls him, Pico”. Says, he can be difficult to handle. You the new Foreman?”

Mike pulled the cinch tight and noticed that the horse had inhaled as he had pulled the cinch strap and thought, “You, sneaky mother-fucker.” as he kneed Pico in the ribs, hard. Pico exhaled and Mike pulled hard on the cinch, tightening the saddle. “He's spirited, that's for sure. Yep, I'm him alright. You tend the horses?” Mike asked.

Mike knew that some spirited horses will inhale while being saddled, so that the saddle isn't solidly tight and was likely to slip, dumping the rider sideways off the animal, often during a galloping turn. Not the best of times to be dumped from the saddle of a running horse. Mike had learned that as a youth, the hard way. His right shoulder still gave him a bit of trouble in cold weather.

“Sorta, I'm Chuck, Chuck Hendricks. I just brought these in from west Texas. I haven't been here long, got hired to bring in a couple of trailers full of horses. Carlos said you folks might be lookin' for hands. Are ya?” He asked, curious.

Mike said, "I've got important work to do but, if you feel like waiting around until around sunset, once I get back and talk to the rest of the hands, I might be willing to hear you out on why I might need your help, Mr. Hendricks. Gotta check the ranch first, ranch work ain't never done, Mister.”

Mike put his gloves on, took the reins, put a boot into the stirrup and climbed aboard Pico. Mike quickly determined that Pico was at least rein trained and would be good enough to do a fence line check as a mount. He'd check to see if Pico was cutting horse trained, while he was out checking the fence line. Mike subtly checked the horse's knee control knowledge, deciding that the animal at least had the general idea of being knee controlled for turns. Then he rode to the gate, dismounted, opened the gate, leading Pico through by the reins, tied him off to the fence and made the gate secure.

“There's some paperwork to sign and stuff for you to accept delivery, Mister.” Chuck Hendricks said.

“Okay. Bring the paperwork inside and we'll get this done, I got work to do.” Mike said, taking off his gloves, stuffing them into his back pocket and gesturing for Chuck to follow him as he stalked to the house.

Mike made an on the fly decision as he was entering the house, headed for his office. He decided that he'd go ahead and check on the lost, hidden storage of emergency stores. He'd need the keys or codes for the entrance as well as it's location particulars. Therefore, now was a good time to get the needed items and information while attending to this bit of ranch business.

The storage facility was supposed to be located to the north, and was reported to be virtually concealed by a large rock formation originally. There was also a large mound of dirt between it and the road. Mike intended to find it and see just what was stored there. The notation also said that, illegal construction demolition dumping, of large concrete sections, was believed to have collapsed the interior of the storage facility.

Mike sat at his desk and waited for Mr. Hendricks to hand him the papers he was to sign, along with the ownership papers of the horses he had transported to the Bradford Ranch. Mike checked the papers for eight horses in total, six of which, were trained for cattle and sheep herding on the ranch.

One was a stallion of good lines for cattle herding, and one was a mustang mare for breeding. Two horses were paints, one being the mustang, now dubbed, Pico by the Hispanic, undercover, SFC, Carlos Gonzalez, who was an experienced farmer and rancher from south Texas originally. Pico and the other, paint mustang, were supposed to be experienced livestock horses. There were two more Morgan geldings that were trained for cart or wagon and two untrained mustangs for training in whatever way the owner wished.

Mike was impressed with the trainers and sellers of the outfit that was supplying the horses. All the animals were tattooed, chipped and registered in a search-able database. Each animal had a Veterinarian certified data sheet and folder with all necessary paperwork that might ever be needed for the animal. And too, this young man had something about him, neat, orderly, in a word disciplined. Mike liked that.

Mike signed the bill of receipt, took the folders and filed them in a cabinet next to his desk. Mike stood, looking steadily into Chuck's eyes and shook hands with him, in the cowboy way of finalizing a deal saying, “If you want to come back in the morning around six am, I might have time to talk with you about work, if you're interested.” Mike said as he picked up some keys, a manila folder and the saddle bags that were hanging on the back of his chair, preparing to return to his work.

As he was just about to see Mr Hendricks out, he noticed a .12 Ga. Pump shotgun and 30/30 Winchester in a double saddle holster, hanging on the wall above a western holster, full of ammunition in it's bullet straps around the back, with a .45 long colt revolver inside, laying on a buffet table, against the wall below. He put the saddle bags over his shoulder, as he approached the table.

Mike paused long enough to put the holstered revolver on, checking it's draw and that it was loaded. Then he opened a drawer in the table, took out a hand full of 30/30 rounds from a box and a couple of hand fulls of .12 gauge shells from another, putting them in the saddle bags. He took the double holstered long guns from the wall, laid them on the table, checked their load outs and re-holstered them. Then he escorted Chuck Hendricks back outside.

Once outside, Chuck went to his truck and trailer, sensing that the Foreman had finished with him for the day. He had given him an offer to discuss being hired early in the morning, though.

Chuck Hendricks had known Foremen like him before. No nonsense men, they work on a strict schedule and are generally strict task-masters. Men like them are tough guys to work for but, usually fair and payed cash on payday.

Chuck had decided that since his per-diam payed for his motel and meals. He'd stay the night and have a good home cooked meal of meatloaf, at the greasy spoon diner down the road, he loved country meatloaf. Then he'd get some beer, watch a movie on cable, get some sleep and meet Foreman Mitchel early in the morning.

Mike walked over to Pico and hung the double long gun holsters from the saddle, put the saddle bags across Pico's back, behind the saddle, took out a map from the manila envelope, studied it for a second or two, folded the map, put it in his shirt pocket and climbed into the saddle. Mike put his gloves back on, stood in the saddle, looking to the north, sat back down and rode off to the north at a canter, without so much as a word, to anyone.

Mike rode for about a quarter of a mile due north, surveying what he saw, pausing at the top of every hill, to stand in the saddle and look around, before turning to the northeast a bit, heading for the north east corner of the center section of the nine mile, square grid of property.