It was the local pilots who first started noticing the construction work. Whenever they took off in their single-engine airplanes from the dirt runway just outside Eldorado, the tiny West Texas town about 45 miles south of San Angelo, they would see buildings being erected on a ranch 4 miles north of town.
Like many of the community’s 1,900 residents, the pilots had heard the story that the 1,691-acre ranch was being turned into a hunting retreat. At least that’s what the man who bought the property had told the real estate agent who brokered the deal back in November 2003. The man had said that he was a builder in Utah and that he needed a place to take his clients, many of whom were based in Las Vegas, for hunting trips. It was a strange story. Why would a man who could hunt elk and bear in Utah want to come to heat-baked West Texas to hunt for white-tailed deer and quail? Maybe, some townspeople speculated, this man’s Las Vegas clients were members of the Mafia.
A couple of months after the ranch had been purchased, one of the pilots, a retired engineer named Joe Christian,